People often look at me, the life that I live and the work that I do and immediately think - ‘he’s got it together’, mental demons are a thing he ‘once had’.
The honest truth is, I live with them and I’m impacted by them more than you think; every single day.
I mostly speak of the depression I encounter, the head noise that spirals out’ve control with thoughts and ideas on Suicide; that is daily.
One that I haven’t spoken a great deal about because it hasn’t impacted on me as much over the years as it has recently, and that’s anxiety & panic attacks. This year my anxiety and panic attacks have been rearing its ugly head.
Recently I have been having panic attacks, some more severe than others mainly due to the control and management strategies I quickly put into place when I feel them coming on.
People notice the amount of travel I do, mostly by plane because of the distance and remote areas. What people don’t understand and aren’t aware of, is that I have been having panic attacks every single time I get on a plane. Every single flight, I sit in my seat to prepare for the journey ahead. Every time I sit on a plane, I am all but convinced this will be my final time on earth.
That’s when my head begins to spiral.
The way I explain anxiety, is a case of the ‘what ifs’ - what if this happens, what if that happens. Recent bouts have been bought on by, ‘what if’ the plane goes down. The head begins to spiral out of control.
Episodes of anxiety recently I have been reduced to tears. Sitting on a plane, sobbing, wiping tears from my eyes desperately trying to bring my mind to ease.
Of late it had been racing thoughts of my family. What if I never see them again, what if this plane goes down and I never get to see my family, my kids, the people I love and care for the most; what if I never see them again.
Every week, sometimes everyday, I am on a different flight to a different location touring as a mental health motivational speaker with #TheEnemyWithin, so you can imagine the amount of times in recent months, these episodes of anxiety or ‘what ifs’ have been frequent and debilitating.
When I get overcome by this immense negative thought process, it can bring me to tears - not so much the fact that I can’t stop it, more so the emotion behind the thought - that I may never see my loved ones again, that this could be the very day I meet my ancestors, the ones who have passed before me; this could my last day on earth.
In the moment, I need to remind myself to be present; present physically which will help me achieve mental presence. Mindfulness.
My ‘go to’ is rubbing my index and thumb together. This brings my attention to the fingerprint of each finger, rubbing together, with pressure this brings a heat between my fingers - again this physical movement brings attention away from the racing thoughts of my mind; the thoughts of my mind trying as hard as they can to distract me to a negative way of thinking. Whilst I am rubbing my fingers together gaining presence, I also practice a fantastic breathing technique I have spoken about in the past 4,7,8. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds & exhale for 8 seconds.
Using this particular practice which was given to me by fellow advocate in USA, brother and brilliant man Kevin Hines - this technique is said to not only slow the mind but decrease heart rate among other positive things.
As my head slows, I begin to regain control of my thought process and remind myself of another tip I live by, ‘control the controllable’ the truth is, I have no control over flying the plane, the weather or any other variable that may affect the flight path - the only things I can control; are the things I can control.
Having the positive thought process, doesn’t make it any easier to get through, but it is a strategy that works for me and with patience and trust; I know things improve those tough times. I learn to love each second of each moment in a present state of mind - this brings clarity. But it is super tough to deal with and hard to implement; it takes consistency.
I’m my moments of clarity I always come to realise, if this is my last day, then this is my last day - I have to trust that there is a bigger plan and purpose; until and when such day arrives, I just continue to live present and do the best I can with each and every moment of every day.
My management strategies with my suicidal ideation, depression and anxiety, the one thing I have learnt is that, the mind is an incredibly powerful tool when used correctly; it can lead us into the darkest of corners and beat us into submission, or it can empower, lift and lead us into a brighter next moment.
Which are you choosing to let your mind do? Lead you into the dark or lead you to the light.