Sunday 25 September 2016

#MindYourself: Brent Pope's words of wisdom for his younger self, crippled by anxiety in 'letter to myself'

Published 19/11/2015 | 02:30

Brent Pope
Brent Pope

On the outside my life always appeared successful, I guess to many people it still does. When I was young I was popular, good at sports and well-educated. I was the class clown, and the sad thing was that internally I couldn't make myself laugh.

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I possessed no self-confidence, no self-esteem in the way I looked, in the way I acted, I couldn't enjoy my achievements, and my feelings of panic and insecurity were often terrifying and always irrational. But that is often the case with mental health difficulties, they are irrational.

When I get panic attacks or become crippled with anxiety it's like a wave of negative thoughts invade my head and I can't really explain it. They convince me that my thoughts must be the truth, that they are the only outcome.

Even though over the years I have been taught to bombard them with positive affirmations often it is too late, I am experiencing a terrifying panic attack again.

I feel that all my life has been a failure, I will die alone, homeless, unloved and unfulfilled. I sweat profusely, I shake, I can't breathe, and I feel I am going to die, but it's all irrational.

Even though I feel that it may never pass it always does, sometimes it can be brief, other times I wonder will it ever leave me alone? But I cope, I find a way through.

I was talking to a beautiful young woman in St Patricks Hospital recently. She had the scars of self-harm, physical evidence of her frail mental health. For years she had been trying to tell her mother that she "did not know why she felt a certain way", she just did.

Her mother spent years trying to figure out what her daughter was telling her, often becoming angry and frustrated which is completely understandable. One day she just hugged her daughter tight and said: "Darling I don't get it, but I get you."

It made me cry. Sometimes just having someone listen is enough, to know that they don't actually need to try and understand, because how could they? They just need to love you and be there for you.

I have a journal and it may seem silly, but every day I find five things that I am grateful for. In the morning I look at my list from the day before and say to myself "yesterday was not a bad day, today can be even better."

.Empathy towards others by acts of selflessness and kindness makes you feel warm inside - even when you're feeling low, sometimes just being kind to others can show you what you have to give.

After all these years the best advice I can give is be happy in your own skin. We are all unique, wonderful human beings. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone everyday and the things you once found difficult will become easier. Decide to love and appreciate yourself. Change the in and you will change the out.

Irish Independent

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