Today is Mental Health Awareness day and I think now is the perfect time to talk about what path led me to creating Battle of Mind; what I have experienced in my life that led to a complete breakdown, being clinically diagnosed at high risk of suicide, not wanting to not be alive in 2011 and how I managed to start to change my life around by taking tough changes that involved great sacrifice and still, even though in a better place, suffers on occasions with depression and anxiety.
As a young child I was fortunate to have a very good upbringing, taught to be kind to everyone I meet and for that I was always genuine, warm and open.
Teenage years I got severe acne (clinically the highest level of acne on my back and a high level on my face) to a very high level which I was bullied about and due to the nasty names I was called, destroyed my self-esteem and confidence. Eventually, I had to take tablets that dried my skin out and made my face flaky and again, others would be disgusted at my skin and be cruel enough to laugh and joke about it even though it was totally uncomfortable, itchy and embarrassing as a teen to cope with.
At school, I did have a few good friends but never really felt like I fitted in with the group and so eventually lost touch with them as they went to art college and I chose to find work until I knew what I wanted to do.
Art Student – 2003
Three years of working I decided to go to art college and wow, were those the best years of my life! Art college was the best year of my life. I finally felt like I fitted in with the other creatives and I was loving what I was doing, drawing and painting. Life had hit a ‘bliss’ period and the only way was up especially when I got accepted into university to study Architecture, it was just getting better and better!
Architecture – 2004
Architecture is more of a science than an art and I only found this out once I had started the course and by that stage I felt it was too late to change my degree to Graphic design. The degree itself was very stressful, expensive and the tutoring was quite poor. I felt like I wasn’t really being taught how to design buildings, draw or make models but instead just having my work judged constantly whilst never being taught technical drawing to become an architect.
To make things worse I had met a woman whilst at university, who had just finished her degree and found a job working in a bank whilst waiting for me to complete my degree. Unfortunately, she began to have problems in her work being bullied and accused of stealing money (she was a cashier) when I was trying to focus on my degree and also live a normal relationship because as she told me, ‘she stayed in my hometown for me and sacrificed her career for me’.
Overbearing relationship – 2004
I realise now that that my ex gf was using a lot of my time doing ‘normal’ couple things like going shopping, dining out, date nights and also going with her on the bus to town spending at least three hours three times a week in town, ruining my chances of getting a good degree because I was using time I should have been studying doing things for my partner at the time.
I would have done anything for her and I supported her through all her workplace bullying ( of course anyone would who cares enough would support someone they care about ) and when she had problems with her teaching profession and didn’t like it, this relationship was very high maintenance but at the end of the day I chose that relationship over making sure I got a good degree so I only had myself to blame and I also realise that now.
Ex gf mother has critical operation in my final year of architecture – 2007
It was the final year of my degree and her mother decided to have an operation to reverse her colostomy bag and hiatus hernia, an operation that had a high chance of fatality. As the operation began it took a turn for the worse and with her mother being from the south of the country and my university in the north I was left with a dilemma of supporting my gf or completing my degree with 2 months to go.
It was an added pressure, I had been there for her through everything and I had already spent a lot of money,time and effort trying to become an architect as well as sustain this relationship I had invested so much of myself in. I thought to myself, what would her mother want and I thought it would be best to complete my degree to the best of my ability so I could give her daughter the best life in the future.
Unfortunately, her mother unfortunately, passed away.
I tried to complete my degree but the final project was a disaster! My tutors knew I was having a hard time personally and so allowed me to re-sit the project to get a degree that they knew I was capable of.
It was something my ex-gf never forgave me for and I felt the wrath of my decision for a few years later.
Recession May 2008 coincides with graduating as an architect
I graduated a year later than I should have due to the stressful situation that unfolded the previous year. I wanted to ensure I had the best chance of becoming an architect so chose to undertake a course in 3dsmax9 whilst not at university giving me a possible edge over the competition and managed to complete my degree in May 2008…coinciding with the recession and when a recession hits the banking and building sectors are the two sectors to be hit hardest first.
I couldn’t believe it, wherever I looked there was no part 1 architect jobs in my hometown and not even in my next closest city of Manchester. All the struggle, money and effort to achieve something great had backfired due to an economic collapse in the greed of people.
Financial Cost of degree and relationship
The cost of getting a degree isn’t cheap (£14,000 at the time) and I was devastated when I was unable to get architecture work, even with my extra qualification in 3dsmax9.
My ex gf said I wasn’t looking hard enough for work after just 2 or 3 months of looking and threatened to leave me if I didn’t try teaching.
Firstly, I never wanted to be a teacher and secondly, after all my gf and I had been through at the time and she was threatening to leave me because of something out of my control was heartbreaking and I think she was acting this way because of the decision I took over her supporting her with her mother.
She would always say ‘my mother had a man take advantage of her and she lost all her money, I won’t let that happen to me‘, it was almost like she was living her mother’s life because of what she had said to her in the past.
Deep debt, losing hope…try teaching – 2008
As I kept looking for work as a part 1 architect I lost hope I would get a position and so listened to my gf and applied to become a teacher of IT.
At first, the experience went well, my lessons were successful and I felt good knowing I was helping people develop but I did notice some bitchiness in the staffroom going on which was something I didn’t agree with, albeit it, I chose to ignore it as I was just a student teacher and shouldn’t involve myself in other people’s business until…
I had my second placement where I met two awful mentors and whom compounded my feelings of failure.
Psychological mind games led to breakdown – 2009
These two mentors were not kind, they refused to help me with things I struggled with, they would ignore me, make me lie to the children, make me be strict in order to make the pupils dislike me when that wasn’t my style and say inappropriate things as well as assigning me three times the amount of work any of my fellow university students were doing making me feel like I couldn’t cope even though I was doing three units of work and my university friends were undertaking just one!
I managed to survive this teaching placement but I had just experienced my first workplace bullying, they held all the cards and I was unable to defend myself, they could do anything they liked because it was down to them whether I passed this stage of the degree or not.
I eventually had my first breakdown at this stage, I never wanted to be a teacher and now I was being psychologically bullied. My life had hit an all time low.
Kept thinking of the things the cruel mentor had said – 2009
As I moved away from this placement and onto the next I Had a bad first lesson in my next placement and I was devastated , I felt maybe those mentors were right. I had forgotten about my first placement and how good I was.
One day on a bus into my teaching practice – 2009
I sat there on a bus, not wanting to go in…thinking about the worst first lesson I had …back into a school environment…I never wanted to be a teacher, I felt forced to by my ex gf and I had no money left…at this point, it was the first time I felt like I didn’t want to be alive anymore and got off the bus, phoning my mother, telling her I’ve had enough, I don’t want to be alive anymore.
I had lost my way in life and I had become totally out of control.
Fight through masters degree – Mid 2011
I think as an apology from my university for sending me to a school that was shutting down I got sent to a private school where the support was excellent and the pupils well behaved but my mind was totally damaged from knowing I no longer wanted to teach, financial problems, not doing my true calling and a relationship that had become dull, unsupportive and unloving.
For the remainder of the teaching degree I had to push myself to go into the classroom every day, even though they were all good pupils and the teachers were also good hearted I didn’t want to be there but I had no idea what I was going to do after the teaching degree, debt was mounting and I had no hope of a career…it started to become a worry, £28k worth of educational debt and nothing to show or aim for…
Worked for my father as a builder…in schools!
After I graduated from teaching in July 2010 I did finally feel some relief I was out but also holding a deep pain in my heart that I felt lost…it had been three years since I graduated as an architect so it was unlikely I could return to that industry. Teaching (in England) was out of the question after my experience of the profession and here I was…doing a small temporary job I didn’t need a degree for, I did every summer for the last 6 years with a huge debt on my head and an inability to pay back my debts.
It seemed my life was already over before it had began, the risk of completing a higher education hadn’t paid off and the relationship that relied on me heavily was also taking its toll.
Final Breakdown – Summer 2011
6 years on, after I had huge optimism securing my place on the architecture degree , 21 years of age at JMU my life had now hit rock bottom.
2 degrees I was not going to use, a debt mountain and a relationship that was not fulfilling either. Everything in my life at that point had gone wrong other than my family that I loved deeply and had given me great support and a good young life.
I sat on the sofa of my flat one morning…waiting to go out for work when I started realising what my life was and what I had become. My thoughts began to race and I began to panic.
My heart beat fast, sweating, my mind racing and rocking back and forth.
All I had tried to do was better my life by educating myself and I had instead destroyed my life. I just wanted to start again and I kept telling myself I wanted to as well…I started thinking of ways to end it all, I believed in the afterlife and so wasn’t afraid of the idea of dying.
The only one thing that kept me back from taking action on my suicidal thoughts and that was the thought of my family taking the pain of what I had to feel every day since the disappointment and failures of both degrees, the huge debt and a relationship that was failing ( or already had failed).
Went to the GP
As my family were the only things keeping me alive at this point in time I phoned them up to say how I was feeling and immediately my mother picked me up and took me to her house and made an appointment to see my GP… I was mentally exhausted but wrote down everything I was feeling and why I felt it and to do this day I still have that piece of paper of all the problems I was facing.
After listening to how distraught I was, crying uncontrollably in the GP’s office about my life my mother wouldn’t let me go back to my flat. She told me to stay with them until I was mentally better and so I did, I lived with my parents for 8 months but on boxing day ( the day after Christmas day for those who don’t know) for 4 months into my recovery process my ex gf left me as ‘she couldn’t take it anymore‘.
Although a shock at first I began to feel a sense of relief as she had been such an overbearing responsibility with finance and time whilst trying to do my first degree and then secondly, the reason I even tried teaching in the first place and by the end of seven years, we were just not good for each other anymore.
Recovery began Jan 2012
8 years on from the time I undertook my first degree in Architecture I was juts beginning my recovery.
I knew finding a career was important to finding peace of mind and I was so highly educated that I knew somewhere in the world would want the skills and knowledge I had amassed over a long ten year higher education ( including my art education) and began to learn Spanish to expand my work opportunities and further my skills in web code and graphic design after starting to pick up these skills up from my time on my degrees.
I then met a woman on babbel.com from Colombia who helped with learning Spanish and I met her in the city that would eventually become my saviour, London.
It was my first time to the city and at this point my depression and anxiety were quite high but I really wanted to meet her so I took my first journey to Euston.
Colombian girl was my first step to recovery
We got on fantastic when we met back in Feb 2012 but a while later she had to return to Colombia. I did visit her once and even met her family who were all fantastic. I did all this whilst I was still taking citalopram and my anxiety was quite high but I got to a point in life where dying and the opinion of others no longer scared me or bothered me and neither did the unknown, I just wanted to live a happy fulfilling life, this was the key to getting my life and mental health back.
Colombia gave me drive
After returning from Colombia I realised our relationship was going to be hard to sustain. I thought about how I could stay with her and knew I had to get work, fast! So as soon as I got back I started applying for jobs all over the country and lord and behold, within a week, I got a job in…
…London, 200 miles away from my hometown!
Moving to London on citalopram
I took the brave step of moving to London when I was still depressed and suffering anxiety because I was a lot better than I was a year ago and I knew this job had the capability to change my life in a positive way. It was either take the job and try and do it to the best of my ability or stay in the house making no progress so I chose the latter.
I had no money at the time so I had to borrow some from my parents in order to be able to move but it was the right choice. Eventually, my Colombian gf and I unfortunately, decided it wasn’t going to work due to the distance and other complications so we parted ways but eventually I met a woman who is now my wife and I have also kept the same job for several years and made huge improvements in my mental health and finances as well as travelling more often to different countries, so much different than 4 years earlier.
Not every day is a happy day, that is life
I’ve lived in London now for over three years and it has been quite an experience.
I never dreamed I would leave my hometown, I dreamed of helping my hometown a greater city, one reason I undertook architecture and definitely not leaving whilst I was ill, but it was the thing I had to do in order to find myself and my health again.
After experiencing so many hardships, bad luck, and ill mental health from 2004 to 2011 I had gained a deep understanding of how it feels to hurt mentally and emotionally. Experiencing many disappointments and what comes with those experiences.
I also know what deep depression and anxiety feel like and also what I did to keep them both under control.
Why Battle of Mind?
Battle of Mind was created because I realised more and more people must be suffering these forms of illnesses but with no understanding of where to find help or what you can do to try and improve your mental and emotional health, I myself was given tablets and 5 hours CBT which simply wasn’t enough for someone who was on the edge and so I wanted to create a website of resource of ideas, places, therapists, techniques, strategies, events and a place to give hope that, with time, things can and will improve as long as you fight through the pains and find the right strategies that work for you.
Battle of Mind is only 6 months old but I am hoping it can continue to grow into a powerful tool for those who need it most.
More than this…bad mental health has really affected my family
There is so much more to my personal situation but I wanted to condense it as much as I could with it being world mental health awareness day.
The picture above is of my younger sister who has had to deal with the terrible condition of anorexia as well as depression and anxiety over the last few years and she has also had a very difficult path at the exact same time I was during my degree but hers was at school.
I hope one day she might also be able to write for this website to help others with similar problems but I know whatever she does she will help inspire so many people.
She is such a kind soul and would never hurt anyone yet she suffers because of her kindness towards others.
I am not just saying this because she is related to me, if I had known her another way I would think the same you are unlikely to meet a more genuine honest and kind person.
My older sister also had challenges of her own due to working conditions but I cannot say more than this due to the legalities involved.
Why talk about all this?
I wanted to show that things can improve no matter how bad things are and gain some understanding that you are not alone and that things WILL improve with action.
When bad things happen to us we can either accept it or get up and refuse to accept it and fight back by either finding your own techniques or getting help from professional therapists and doctors to guide you along your path and learn that this doesn’t have to be permanent, you can learn how to manage your mental health just as you can your physical.
I hope by the founder of Battle of mind sharing his own story might inspire you to know that even when things are really bad they can still improve and turn around.
If you would like to share your story. techniques or strategies for improvement please contact us via the guest blog post page. Thankyou.