Let me introduce you to Foggy. You may remember Collingwood my imaginary friend from my childhood. Well Foggy is sought of my imaginary friend from my adulthood, only he is not as nice and helpful as Collingwood.
Generally his conversations with are often very negative, he has been known to call me useless, stupid, an idiot, lazy, you get the picture. Foggy is my Black Dog. He is that nagging voice at the back of my mind. No doubt most of us have a Foggy, some are more vocal than others, and some of us are able to tune him out.
Foggy has only recently been given a name, in fact up I didn’t even acknowledge his existence. I thought the all that negativity was the real me and I hated myself. The happy friendly Matt that everyone saw was just a show.
I was typical of many people I suppose as I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had poor mental health. I didn’t want to think of myself as Mental. I was possibly afraid that I was mentally ill. Therefore my mental ill health manifested itself as back pain or shoulder pain. The pain I experienced was real however. If you tense your back, neck, shoulders and jaw for 13 hours a day it will hurt, and if you dehydrate yourself with 20 fags a day. I was a mess. It was impacting on work, when I was there I was not performing and often I was off sick. I was not an easy person to be around. That made me worse and I hated myself even more.
My recovery started when I was listening to 5 live, Mark Ramprakash was being interviewed about his depression. It hit me like a sledgehammer, I started crying and couldn’t stop. It took me another 6 months to tell my GP, and then he started me on medication. That took the edge off things, but I still was not confronting the problem. I just made Foggy a bit groggy. I was on the medication for a year. Just at the end of the medication I started my coaching qualification. That opened my eyes to positive psychology, and I started to learn about optimism. A few months later I started working with a friend on a Mental Health Awareness day, he is a Mental Health Trainer, and his explaination of mental health and mental illness raised my self awareness even more.
I then sought out my own coach, and named Foggy (and drew him). I then stopped fighting Foggy, and in fact I grew to quite like him. In fact now I love him.
See Foggy has only had my best interests at heart, the same as Collingwood. They are after all both me. Collingwood bigs me up, and tells me how great I am, which is nice but not always helpful. Now Foggy tells me I can’t do things or that I should be careful. The problem is that I tried to keep Foggy quiet and shut him up, so he would get louder and more abusive eventually drowning out Collingwood. The more he did that the more I fought him, and the stronger he got.
Now I appreciate both, I need Foggy’s realism to keep me safe, I need Collingwood to help me succeed.
It took me 40+ years to realise that feeling bad is just as valid as feeling good and we must never try to avoid negative thoughts, we should listen and take note, after all we are wiser than we think.
Don’t get me wrong Foggy still goes off on one most days, in fact most mornings he calls me a useless bastard, but now I dont try to stop him, I let him rant for 2 minutes then he shuts up. We are not morning people.
If you are struggling don’t suffer alone, talk to someone.
Writing this has been part of me looking after my mental health. It works, I have just realised that I have acknowledged that I love myself, which is a life first.