I suppose I will start with introducing myself. Firstly my name is David Landles I work within Balfour Beatty Regional Scotland and Ireland business within the HSES function. I am married to my lovely wife Jane and we have 2 beautiful girls Rebecca and Chloe. These guys are my world, my rocks.
I have no background in counselling or psychology, but I know me, just like you will know yourselves, so surely we know how to look after ourselves mentally and physically (our wellbeing), or we think we do.
I can give a bit of advice on my own journey and knowledge I have picked up on this journey (which works for me but may be different for you as an individual) look for the things that works for you. We are all unique in our own way as human beings. I had to start to get to know me and start to love me again, to help myself and my ability to cope with my day to day life, my home life and my work life , which may hopefully help you or help you help others.
My negative thinking mind and mental health illness (mixture of anxiety and depression) nearly destroyed me as a person and my family to boot and still tries day in day out, it basically consumed me and turned me into a person I did not like to look at in the mirror.
I gradually over the years became withdrawn from everyone, moody, angry , defensive, lethargic, skeptical, lacked trust in myself, other people (even the ones closest to me), basically stripped me of my confidence, my ability to cope/function as a normal human being but ultimately in my mind failing as a husband and a father to my girls. I had and still do to a point have some of these traits I picked up along the way through negative thinking, as I trained my mind for so long this way it doesn’t just automatically change overnight.
Nowadays though the difference is I can challenge and work hard on me and my mind as I have a lot more knowledge on my mind function and how to be the best I can be for myself and my family. I owe it to myself to get me back to my compassionate best and I owe it to my family and people that care for me.
I am certainly not going to be all doom and gloom all through this blog. I started today with positive mental attitude and I will finish today with a positive mental attitude. My objective here is to empower others to freely speak out safe in the knowledge that it is a massive part of our wellbeing to do so and such a strength and certainly not a weakness where we may need a bit of support. Lift the burden.
I promise it will feel amazing – talk to someone, anyone, your GP, family, friend, colleague, I promise it will feel amazing and a huge step on your journey to good mental health and managing your wellbeing. I remember speaking out for the very first time and the weight that was lifted off my shoulders was like someone taking two massive railway sleepers off them, all because someone listened to me with an empathic ear, without all the answers to help, I just needed someone to listen as I had been dragging this around for years.
This is where I sought professional support; it was for me to put in the work to change my thinking patterns. I also realised through this journey that it was strength in numbers, when the mind is training you to have negative thoughts, it is desperate to keep it hidden, keep you isolated from the world, to keep you consumed. Kind of like a bully it doesn’t want you to have supporters as it’s harder to bully people in numbers.
Remember this – A problem shared is a problem halved. The next part is getting the support and knowledge on how to help ourselves get to being our compassionate best and ultimately find the formula to happiness.
Happiness is wealth.
For many years I was a mind reader, always reading people’s thoughts and comments, and yes you guessed it they would always be negative, never positive. For this I now take note, reflect and ask myself of the evidence I have to support the negative belief and funnily enough I never usually have the evidence and they may have meant something positive or nothing at all. Once again the mind determined on keeping a negative thinking pattern. Remember we are what we think; everything we do begins with the mind so try to think and act on positivity. I know how hard that is when we are feeling low but believe me it will get better if we take the right steps.
I would be in a room of people and put on my ‘face’ not actually able to show to the world the anxiety felt deep in my stomach (our stomachs are usually always a good way of identifying anxiety). My stomach was like a cement mixer going round but no one could see it, I want the chair I am sitting on to swallow me up, but no one can see it. Everyone is happy, laughing , joking, yip I am joining in but believe me it is a mask, all I want to do is get out of there, get to my house, back to the safe haven.
In work situations I would on a daily basis force myself to get ready and get out to work (stomach always churning) where I would want to turn back for home and not want to face people at work in case they could see right through me. I had no choice I have to earn money to provide for my family, pay the mortgage etc. Once at work, projects etc I would battle with myself to go in and communicate with people, fundamental part of my job. It was sapping the confidence from me.
Again I thought people would see my weakness or what I thought at the time to be a weakness. They probably could but people fear asking someone how they are feeling as they think they may assume responsibility. They will ask about physical health but not about your mental health.
I beg of you to ask, One tip, what do 99% of the time people say when they are asked how they are (I’m fine), dying inside but not telling you. Try asking where you see possible signs someone needs support by example using open questions, how are you, I have noticed you have been a bit quieter today than normal etc. leads people to give an explanation which might just help open up the conversation.
There may be nothing or just need to vent but at least you have asked. I am sure no one has ever been hurt or offended by being asked how they are. People assume they will assume responsibility, you don’t, and all you need to have is an empathetic ear and ability to point them in the right direction for professional support as you would with something physical needing professional support, a broken leg etc…
I would use alcohol at social occasions to give me more confidence but funnily enough it would make my anxiety worse. I like to refer to this as throwing fuel on a fire, using a depressant when depressed is not the best coping mechanism. That’s not to say nowadays I don’t have the odd tipple, massive difference being here I am now happy and content in my life and don’t use as a bad coping strategy. I gained huge amount of weight, comfort eating, shutting myself away from the world, trying desperately to keep it together and put my face on for my family, especially my kids. I felt like a complete failure as a father, a husband and as a human being.
My lowest point, but a major positive turning point, which I remember as if it were only yesterday, I was sitting with my hands on my head weeping in the bathroom and my oldest girl hearing me and coming into the bathroom by my side and cuddling me saying it will be ok Daddy we will help you. I hadn’t even realised they had come home. Could you imagine how that feels as a father when your 5 year old little girl is saying how she could help you, I am meant to be there to protect her and look after her.
This in a way saved me and is when I sought help and spoke with my GP truthfully for about the 3rd time. On previous occasions over the years I would go to the doctor and not fully bring myself to tell them the full truth, it was so hard to get everything out, I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me as a person, never realising that my mind was consuming me.
I was always a happy go lucky person, friendly , bubbly and confident, comfortable in my own skin, one day at a time my thoughts and mind through one life event and another began training my mind into a lot of negative thinking patterns. I would procrastinate so much after the first couple of visits on what I should be doing and also not really getting results as I hadn’t given enough effort or the right information. This time I was determined though. I had to get it right and I will from now on.
I remember the GP prescribing me anti-depressants and referring me to a councillor for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment. This is where I started to learn more about myself and things I could do to manage my wellbeing with the tools the Councillor had given me to work on. I have been using our CIC support function within the business which has been amazing and has helped so much on my journey. Our thoughts become who we are. Positive thoughts breeds’ positive action, same way negative thinking breeds negative action or no action.
I will certainly not go through life with no knocks as we all probably will, but at least now I can keep my good mental health bar high to be able to take these life knocks and when it’s time to put into practice my new wellbeing tools into action then I do. Our life knocks are specific to each individual and important to remember a crisis to you may not seem a crisis to me and vice versa, doesn’t mean to say it’s not a crisis. What we need to know is how to cope, what to do to keep ourselves in good mental health.
I have a daily routine which starts and ends with positive thoughts. I lay down with my eldest and we tell silly jokes to one and other at night so I know she is thinking happy thoughts when she is drifting off to sleep, as this can have an effect on how she will awaken the next day. I go to bed early (sleep is important), and clear my mind through rhythmic breathing – apparently we have over 70,000 thoughts a day, so clearing your mind is a good option sometimes. I think of things to be grateful for and write down 4 things that I have done that day that I should be proud of, something I have made a difference with.
Sometimes it’s a struggle but you get there with this.
I wake up early and take time to be thankful. Thankful for the breath in my lungs, thankful for my own health, thankful for my family, for all the good in my life. I have a nutritional cleansing drink and head to do some physical training (around 5am, I know it’s early but it sets me up for the day). I was daunted by going to the gym, we all get fear when we initially start something new but once you do, you will reap the rewards. It’s my pill my anti-depressant. Try and get involved with groups, I know that can seem daunting but come out of the comfort zone and connect with others who have a common goal.
The best thing for me by far nowadays is the difference it has made to our family life and I suppose in a way I am thankful a little that I had to go through the mill to learn this new found knowledge on how to be truly happy and train this brain of mine in a positive way. My girls and I are going to have a great life.
Remember we are what we think.
So strive to think positive thoughts every day.