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Poor Physical Health... And Its Mental Worry Trigger

By Richard BrindPublished 6 years ago 8 min read

So mental health is what we call a tent pole topic in 2018. More and more campaigns, blogs, Facebook pages proliferate, all encouraging people to open up, be honest, and just simply listen to others’ mental health concerns more. Although at the same time it is, of course, worth pointing out the advice one often receives is to stay away from photo-centric social media, lest we become envious, upset, or anxious that our lives don’t measure up to the lives of others.

Men, in particular, are known for being very closed off about these things (unless you have read Part 1 of this blog). For instance, I saw a Ford advert (Don’t ask me for which one, you’ll know how I feel about cars at the moment) recently that showed two men in a car with an elephant and a tagline to the effect of: “don’t ignore if your mates are acting different," followed by details of both the car and a mental health hotline. You never imagine mental health will affect you and once you see it up close you see it for the challenge it is.

You'll be aware that Swedish music producer Avicii recently died at the shockingly young age of 28. It was known that he had suffered from stress and overwork, as well as battling alcoholism and other issues brought upon by relentless touring. It seems even escaping the touring treadmill was not a true escape and his death has been ruled as a suicide.

And another story has broken in the last two weeks; I have never followed any of the music of Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit, but I have been following the recently unfolding news story of their lead singer Scott Hutchison. On Wednesday 9 May, he was reported missing. A mad scramble ensued on social media with their followers (71,000 I believe), Hutchison’s family, the band, even a suicide hotline wading in. On Thursday 10 May, a body was found on the banks of the Firth of Forth. On Saturday, I picked up a copy of the "I" newspaper and discovered the body had been confirmed as Hutchison’s. He was 36.

This is very real. Something worth having a conversation about. Depression is almost not a "disease" or "illness" anymore, but more like a "virus" that spreads everywhere. But again, if people talk about it and accept it, it can be a force for good. In a recent interview, actor and all-round hilarious dude Ryan Reynolds opened up about his decade’s long battle with anxiety. From someone known for his quick wit and his acclaimed performance as Deadpool, this does come as a surprise. Though not really a shock. One can easily see this as a coping mechanism, to get him through the pressures of his work, like anybody else’s. A great sense of humour develops from such a place as this. (Reynolds says in the article that he uses the Headspace app which I also have on my phone, so it’s nice to know we have that in common.)

This ties in with a theory I have that the more depressed you become, the better you become at hiding it. Our humour and our desire to deflate tension and shift attention away from us kicks into the extent that we do seem to be joking more and finding those vagaries and absurdities in life more often. I’ve noticed this with myself. My driving instructor—who I will refer back to a fair bit—and I always had a fairly typical teacher/student relationship, but during the harder times in my lessons, I do believe that my guard came down easier and that I was able to smile a little more. By this point, no one would know if they didn’t ask “are you feeling alright?” so eventually you simply have to tell someone.

So here are some of my own experiences of late. I mentioned my driving lessons and the worry they were causing me that I was not cramming revision and theory in wherever possible at the mercy of other things that onlookers would see as less important (my music) and that I would see as very important (my music). This has happened before, and does happen to a lot of us. We become our own onlooker, our own judge, we say “so and so wouldn’t like us doing that” even if so and so is no longer having any impact on our life or never did or should have done in the first place. It’s like we’re replacing that person because we felt that person was needed in our lives.

But that isn’t true at all. And the inevitable happened. I got sick. Severely physically sick. Strong stomach pains. Fatigue. Loss of appetite. Overall weakness and inability to do keys aspects of my physical job. This is the second time I’ve been ill in the last couple of months, but on that previous occasion, it was a bacterial infection. This time it was a flare up of Ulcerative Colitis, a condition I’ve been living with January 2014.

And it was gaining momentum. The less I could control it the more I worried. What if my work suffers? What if I can’t go back in? What if I am declared unfit for work? It’s hard to describe these feelings to you on a page, but this was my worry and anxiety feeding back into my illness. A pretty deadly combination.

To make a long story short, I ended up in hospital a few weeks ago, for all manner of tests: blood pressure, heart rate, and x-rays. I had to be hooked up to a drip to replace the fluids I’d lost. But I will say I was glad to be in the hospital and found aspects of it relaxing and enjoyable. Why? Well because once I got to the hospital after being in incredible pain and having a rising temperature for the few hours prior, when actually got seated in the hospital I began to relax as I knew I would be getting the treatment I needed and deserved.

I slept ok, was able to eat and drink fairly well, and I did get my own room in the hospital in a fairly quiet empty ward. And they didn’t need to keep me overnight but they did so that I could speak to the IBD specialists in the morning. And I’m glad they did. I’d made enough NHS 111 calls during that arduous week to prefer talking to someone face to face.

I left later in the day with a new course of medication that I needed to give time to take hold. The thing about Ulcerative Colitis, in particular, is that there are no specific dietary requirements (anxiety and mental health probably do actually play bigger roles in a flare up) so other than sticking to a "healthy diet" it’s all based on your own judgment and how you react to certain foods.

But I had been slipping in my diet. More snacking, more sweet things (and I am having to control that now that my appetite is coming back). Less fruit, veg, and fish. Or at least the fruit I was eating I was enjoying less. So I’ve made a few changes. I’m aiming for more "meals" a day. I’ve reached a peak of 6, but usually just made it to 4 or 5. This has seen me cut down on my snacking to a degree, and allowed me my main aim of managing portion sizes.

And this can be simple and easy. Instead of having a soup for lunch with 4 slices of bread, I have half a soup with 1-2 slices of bread. I have the rest later. Find something you can fashion into a meal; like a sliced banana with pancakes and a drizzle of honey for a second breakfast. The doctor at the hospital did agree that smaller meals are easier to digest.

I think we all eat too much, regardless of our actual weight. A friend and I have a running observational joke where we often pick up on the fact that I eat faster than he does and he drinks faster than I do. However, it has crossed my mind recently as a genuine problem. It’s been pointed out to me that I eat too fast and shovelling both mouthfuls in quick succession can’t be much help to your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

On the subject of too much, again I was with a friend recently and we had a huge burger that was amazing, but looking back on it, it is perhaps one of those items on the menu that you see and think “I NEED to have that!!” without any real thoughts on whether or not you’ll be able to manage the whole thing or whether you may feel ill afterwards. I’m going to relate this back to being a MAN. And that when you’re with other male friends, there is the stereotype and the expectation that you will eat a LOT of food. In big portions, more than anyone else in a competitive way of necessary, because you’re a MAN, and anything less than a huge meal and a dessert, and you’re a pathetic WOMAN.

Peer pressure I suppose is what I’m getting at. I remember being with another friend at Handmade Burger Co, trying one of their—at the time—new desserts, an Apple Crumble Sundae. Again sounds and looks amazing written down on the Menu. But to my tastes, it was very sickly sweet and hard to finish. When I pushed it away, indicating I was finished, he started to edge it back to me over the course of the conversation, coaxing me to eat it when I had no intention of doing so. Just that statement of “you’ve got to have a dessert.”

Little things like that, that I shouldn’t like to get to me. But maybe blame Man Vs Food or Epic Meal Time. But again it's a largely psychological thing really. "Your eyes are bigger than your belly."

The fact is if it’s too much food for someone in my condition, which is likely, I shouldn’t eat it. Not that I want to get all that graphic, but so often have I piled down a mammoth meal in minutes, only to find myself in the Gents two minutes later, often remaining in there for 10-15 minutes. The food settling in my stomach for a while would be more normal I think.

Bringing this back to what I said in my last blog, though my mood is still quite low at times, it’s something I can work through, and I am noticing my physical health improving. This steers back (and god, not steering again) to doing always what is best for you, instead of saying “I’ll do this thing that’s against my instinct” because it’s the norm, or what someone would want/expect, or the way you’ve always done things or “it’ll be ok later.”

I hope you’ve learnt something from this, even if only to treat the here and now of your life with respect.

Thanks for reading.

At the time of posting this blog, I am happy to say that things have been improving in my physical health, which I feel sure is boosting and stimulating my mental health. Soon enough I’ll post some details of how I’ve ensured to document my physical health and its improvements.


About the Creator

Richard Brind

Musician/ Music Techie. Contributing to the BEAT sub-feed of VOCAL. I'd like to think I have something to say about Music and pop culture.

PSYCHE/MOTIVATION contributions possible too.

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    Richard BrindWritten by Richard Brind

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