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Priority one: MENtal Health

by admin

So this was me last Saturday night. Scared, super emotional and stressed beyond measure. And I don’t ever want to feel like that again.

I was at home on the couch watching the idiot box with Grace, feeling very much a stuffed pig after over indulging in both dinner and a second helping of Chocolate Mousse. I’ve been trying to shake a wheezy cough over the last few weeks and I think the combination of this and a bursting belly left me struggling to catch my breath. I was getting worried. I was pacing. I was making it worse.

I dug out an old Ventolin Grace had from a few years back and smashed four tokes on that bad boy, hoping to clear my airways and let me catch a breath. Now I’m not saying I’m stupid or anything, but I am. I wasn’t aware that the active ingredient, albuterol sulfate, mimics closely the effects of adrenaline on the body. So when I broke out in to a cold clammy sweat, my fingers and toes began tingling, the dizziness and nausea kicked in and Grace told me I looked really pale, I panicked. Which of course made everything worse. I didn’t know what was happening. In all seriousness. I thought I was having a heart attack. I have never been that scared.

Grace ran next door and got my brother (thankfully they were home) and together they bundled me in to the car and took me in to emergency. Side note: super proud of how well G handled the situation. Level headed, action orientated, reassuring and calm. She’d make a great paramedic! (which I’d encourage her to do if they ever decide to pay them properly πŸ™„)

Anyway, feeling like a bucket of shit gone cold in the shade, the nurses and docs probed me with both questions and needles alike while I tried to wilfully slow my racing heart.

Turns out I wasn’t having a heart attack. Turns out it was a combination panic and anxiety attack. Talk about feeling like a bloody goose. How embarrassing. Here I was, 49 something years old, have my own house, two great kids, a stable job that covers the bills, a supportive family and friends and a mild cough, having a fucking panic attack.. Over what? Why? Idiot.

But I now know that this is the wrong way to think about things. I 100% am stressed out every minute of every day for a multitude of reasons and that is simply a fact of MY LIFE. Yes I have a stable job and my own home; but every week I have $20 left for anything not in my super tight weekly budget. No dinners out, special treats or holidays allowed. Yes I have great kids; but every day I worry about not being the parent I should be, that I don’t have enough time to give them the parent they deserve, that I am not making the right decisions for their future, that they rarely see happy Dad these days. Yes I have supportive family and friends; but the guilt of relying on them to help me get through the day to day of running a family is a constant dark cloud of inadequacy, as is the feeling of failure that I can’t do everything for my little family.

And my health. It’s not what it was and I’m getting older. I haven’t ever been concerned for my wellbeing, I’m your typical 10 foot tall and bulletproof Aussie bloke. (5’9″ tbh πŸ˜‰) She’ll be right mate. Just a cough. Just some crook guts. Just a dizzy spell. Β “Just” is the worst adverb for a health concern but it’s also hard to shake the lifelong dismissiveness us guys apply to our health.

For me, I think the trauma of us finding out about Renee’s cancer from a seemingly benign lump on her neck and how quickly things spiralled out of control from there, has changed this dismissiveness of health concerns to one of fear and leapfrogging to worst case scenario. Just a cough is lung cancer. Just a crook gut is bowel cancer. Just a dizzy spell is a brain tumor. Just a panic attack is a heart attack. Just A Dad is just a bit messed up!

Now this may sound like a pity party to some but hear me out. I totally understand and acknowledge there are huge numbers of people in horrible, untenable life situations. That in comparison I have literally nothing to whinge about. Stop complaining Chris, suck it up and get on with it, this is life and you are by far one of the lucky ones. And I agree. But guess what: This IS my life and if it affects me this way then fuck you – who are you to judge. Perhaps I am talking to myself here. Perhaps not.

The important thing is that I am finally acknowledging that this IS how “I” FEEL, that “I” don’t think it feels right and that is ok and is not selfish. That my concerns and worries are valid, need immediate attention and aren’t to be belittled in my or anyone’s opinion simply because there are others doing it tougher. We all have our own battles and battles they are.

Soo..

I am going totally against the male-grain here and have booked myself in for a long consult with my GP, to which I will arrive with a list as long as my arm of concerns that I would like addressed. I can’t control what is wrong with me, but I sure as shit CAN control what I THINK to be wrong and can start by ruling out things that can be tested. It will be frank and open chat and I won’t be dismissive. And yes, I will be asking to initiate a mental health plan and referral so I can start dealing with, well, everything.

I have written in this public forum for many years now, have been raw and open with my musings and opinions. What I haven’t done, however, is taken action beyond putting pen to paper. Hopefully this part of my journey, which I will journal here on JAD, is not only healing for myself, but can inspire other men who may be trying to tough it out on their own to take action.

Guys – your feelings are real. Your concerns are valid. Your MENtal Health is your top priority.

Peace, love and mung beans ✌️

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