“Sound mate, you?”
Updated: Oct 16
“I’m sound mate, you?” is probably the biggest and most common lie I’ve told in my life. Not just to other people, but to myself.
I’ve suffered from mental health problems pretty much all of my adult life, particularly anxiety. Anxiety can control almost every aspect of your life, if you allow it to.
For those who don’t know, I’m your average pub-going, football-supporting, ‘Jack the lad‘ type character who makes a living as Podcaster, Sports Journalist and Radio Producer. I know what you’re thinking. “What have you got to worry about?”
The answer to the question is nothing. The reality is everything.
Being a lad who knocks about in the pub and in and around football grounds most of the time, it’s not the easiest of things to say “Ay up mate, I’m struggling”
In actual fact, I don’t think I’ve really ever done that.
This is where asking how your mates are is so important. You often see in the mainstream media and on social media that the lads that act the clown and make people laugh are the ones who are going through the most pain.
I‘m referring to ‘lads’ a lot and I realise that. This isn’t a sexist approach to my first published piece of work since leaving university - this is deliberate. The stats around mental health issues in men are scary; particularly suicides.
In my experience, I’ve always tried to make people laugh and have a big smile on my face, even when inside, I’m crippled by anxiety. To be able do this I almost have to lie to myself that everything is okay. That and alcohol. Alcohol is always involved.
For me it’s almost become my comfort blanket away from anxiety - a safe haven away from worry and depressive thoughts. No racing heartbeat, no sweaty palms, no worrying about whether I’ve done my fucking tax return at 3am in the morning.
When I’m sat in the pub acting the clown with a pint of Carling, the mist clears and I feel normal for a bit. Truth is, no medical issue has ever been resolved by nipping down the local and downing eight pints. You wake up even more depressed and anxious and want to drink again. Bit of a viscous circle, really...
My mental health and my relationship with drink has cost me quite a bit really; a few jobs, some opportunities and the thing that kills me the most is that it’s cost me an awful lot of friendships.
Recently, within the last four years, I’ve gone from doing some labouring on a building site and bitting and bobbing to getting an opportunity at BBC Radio Derby and doing a degree in Football Journalism and from that I’ve worked with and for some people who to this day, give me goosebumps when I talk about it.
I reported on Frank Lampard’s second game at Derby, I’ve interviewed Tyson Fury, I’ve worked for and alongside lads I grew watching on Soccer AM. The funny thing is, this all came from me trying to prove to people that I WAS someone. My whole career to date has been one long exercise to justify myself. Constantly trying to fill a gap my brain thinks is there, but in reality, there’s nothing to fill.
Your brain plays tricks on you. Often, the anxiety comes before the issue I then become anxious about. It seems that my brain has now trained itself to go into anxious mode as a default. The brain then has two choices, fight or flight. It thinks you’re in some kind of danger and you either:
Fight; being aggressive and having arguments with people for no reason
Flight; you just fuck off and bury your head in the sand, waiting for the horrible feeling to pass.
Don’t do either of these. Get up, have a shower, get dressed, clean up, wash the pots, make your bed. Get up and do something active and occupy your brain with something other than the shit it wants to tell you.
Anxiety and depression don’t exactly go hand in hand with Journalism in many respects. It’s a cut throat, labour intensive, high pressure profession. Things can get on top of you and you have to tell someone - in any walk of life.
The amazing thing is the amount of creative people that have mental health problems. It’s extraordinary the people that I have worked with who suffer, they suffer from these horrible things and they can go on the radio and on the telly, put on their clowns make up and make other people happy.
Just think about that, dedicating your life to making other people’s lives happier, while your own is miserable. That. Is. Mental.
The best thing I’ve ever done is talk. Talk to someone who wants to listen and help. The feeling of getting stuff off your mind is better than a pint, a jäger bomb, spending £40 on other stuff to escape your thoughts. Because they’ll still be there when you wake up, talk it out and get the root of what’s causing how you feel.
If you start to talk, you’ll be amazed at how many reply “Yeah, me too. I’ve suffered”
It’s 2020, we’re going through unprecedented times and we’ve got to look out for each other. Haven’t seen your mate for a bit? Ring him. Someone put something out of character on Instagram? Message him. If someone reaches out? Help them.
I’m the clown in the pub, I do a podcast happy and laughing and I work at radio station bouncing around like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh and I struggle. Check on all your mates, even the ones who are smiling.
We‘re all in this together, let’s do what we can, eh?!