Women Today listen again: Emjays, Gracie Barra, male mental health

On the programme today: - 

we were joined in the studio by Mark Rossiter and Karina Blakely from Emjays; find out more about their meal delivery, diet plans, meal prep and more via their Facebook, website (www.emjays.im) or by calling on 626909, or email info@emjays.im. They also have access to a nutritionist should you wish for somebody to point you in the right direction;

- also today, Christy caught up with Conrad Roberts and Lucy Southward from Gracie Barra IOM on the completion of their recent Women In Charge self defence course; 

- we heard a very honest and open account of male mental health issues from one local man who found a way through his own challenges and bravely shared his story online in the hopes it might help someone else (you can read his full post below)

and we heard about the extraordinary actions of a TV reporter who risked her own life to help a racehorse - watch the video here

If you missed any part of today's programme you can listen again for the next 7 days at this link.

Tomorrow we'll be finding out about the latest health campaign End PJ Paralysis and will be joined by the band 'The Bobbleheads' who will be sharing their latest single with us. Tune in from 2pm!

BRUCE's STORY (in full).

When I talk about my mental health, I do it to help others, I don’t do it to show how bad I was or ask for sympathy, I do it to show that you don’t have to suffer in silence any longer. My story, I hope it will help one person to pick up the phone and ask for help.

Part One: The Dark days.
I look back and I can’t tell you how hard it was, this weight that drags around with you, every single second of every day, I remember days when I really thought my head would exploded with my thoughts. I look back and remember walking into work and saying to myself one more step, one more step because I could have turned round at any time and gone back to bed, I was fighting all these thoughts and could not make sense of why, struggling to get out of bed, exhausted by the night sleep, waking up at 2 in the morning, every morning, with terrible thoughts, I could not switch off, having a shower and just standing there, wondering why, getting dressed, absolutely shattered before I’ve even started the day, taking my son to school, smiling at all the other parents dropping their kids off, returning home and sitting on the sofa, with no motivation, no enthusiasm to do anything, knowing that I had to somehow get myself to work, one more step, one more step.

Walking through the door in work and the fake smile would soon reappear so no-one would know how I was suffering. I don’t know how I managed to get through the day, trying to be nice to customers, when you couldn’t be bothered, just trying to get through every hour without breaking down, this sense of nothingness, returning home to pick my son up and instead of doing dad things, playing footy, going to park, I would fall asleep on the sofa, not able to even think about entertaining him. My partner would come home and we would argue about nothing, I would lie in bed at six o’clock just wanting everyone to leave me alone, my thoughts, my horrible life going round and round in my head.

THIS WAS EVERY DAY for about 2 years, my mental health destroyed my self-esteem,self worth, self-motivation, destroyed everything, I had no desire to do anything, avoid of emotion and feelings, I just felt numb, in fact I felt like nothing, dead inside, I constantly had this strange feeling in my head, not a headache but just something not right, like a weight in my head.

Eventually I spoke out, I had to, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I knew I shouldn’t feel like this but didn’t know why. I hid it from my friends, my family, my work colleagues, they couldn’t see past my lying facade, it was like a mask.

The day I called the doctor saved my life, I completely broke down, tears flowed like a waterfall, I have never ever cried so much in my life, the doctor referred me, I knew this was the first day of getting my life back. If I hadn’t picked up the phone to my doctor, I’m not sure I would still be here to write this message.

Part Two: My road to recovery
My life had become one big mental struggle, suicidal thoughts entered my head daily, crossing the road was one of the worst things, thoughts entered my head about just stepping in front of a car/van any vehicle. When driving I would have thoughts about crashing and hoping I would die. Walking up past Port Jack one evening, looking over the side and thinking why not, no-one is going to miss me, my life was not worth living, that’s what my brain was telling me.

My physical health was fine, yes I’d turned to drink to try and get rid of these horrible thoughts but it actually made me worse.

Mr partner one day asked me whether I should speak to someone about “you know, your state of mind” I told her where to go, I don’t have a problem I’m fine.

The thing was my mental illness had become normal, my suicidal thoughts became just a daily routine, me feeling exhausted, lonely, inept of emotion was just me, it was just part of my daily struggle. Every time I was invited out by my friends I would come up with an excuse, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it but I hid the fact that I was struggling.

I couldn’t talk because it meant that I was admitting I was failing in life, I’m a man, I’m strong, I need to stay strong for my family, my sanity.

THIS IS THE WORST THING I COULD HAVE DONE

By keeping everything to myself, not showing it when speaking to people, manifested my thoughts, over thinking and procrastinating was the worst, it just made my life hell, my thoughts just went round and round in my head, I had no release so it was all I thought about.

The night before I called my Doctor, I was in a hotel room, I’d split from my partner the week before, I’d paid for a week stay, I’d tried to sleep in the back of my car, parked on the Prom, I couldn’t, I checked into a hotel on the front, shut the room door and just thought, this is it, this is where it ends, I stood by the window and was ready to end it, I couldn’t go on, one more step and it would be over.

I don’t know what stopped me, I couldn’t take that step. I thought about my dad who had taken his life at 44, did I want to be like him, part of me was saying yes but something was also saying no you’re better than this. I managed to make it through the night, I didn’t sleep and if I did I can’t remember that I did.

0830 I made the call, I need to see a doctor, I was lucky that I could get an appointment that morning. I called work and said I was sick.

I sat in the waiting room, can I do this, I have to do this I kept telling myself, one more step, it was the most important step of my life.

When the door closed behind me, the first words that came out of my mouth were “I’m struggling I can’t go on feeling like this” I broke down, I look back and I know it was all my emotion pouring out, I had nothing left, I knew it was the end of feeling this way, I had admitted I was struggling, this wave of emotion rushed over me. I was uncontrollable.

This was the start of me getting my life back, I was referred to Cronk Griangh immediately. I left the Doctors completely empty and exhausted.

I had admitted it, I had taken that step, the step that I should have taken two years before, I had crossed that line, one small step which was the biggest step of my life.

I had four sessions at Cronk Griangh, they deal with people who have suicidal thoughts, or attempted to take their life.

The first thing I had to admit to myself was I needed to be honest with the way I was feeling, I needed to tell the truth, if I hid anything, I wouldn’t get better.

I was by this time given antidepressants, I hated taking them, the stigma that comes with them is you’re mad, you’re insane, you’re weak. The first few weeks you don’t feel anything, you feel worse but when they kick in, it just gives you a platform to stand on, to feel ok, to take the edge away from your thoughts. They’re not magic pills, your thoughts, your problems don’t just disappear, they just give you “a pick me up” to try and get you through.

For the first time in my life I had asked for help and I was being treated for my mental illness, an illness that I had probably lived with for 15 years.

This was the first step in my recovery....

If you are struggling, If you know of anyone who maybe struggling please please please talk, pick up the phone, don’t suffer in silence.

Part Three: Therapy, Medication and support
So having spent time at Cronk Griangh, I was then referred to a therapist at the hospital, again I was lucky, I was initially told there was a waiting list of 6 months and I wouldn’t be seen till the summer, then I received a letter saying we have an opening to start in a couple of weeks.

I had to take it, I didn’t want to wait another 6 months. It’s a strange feeling, you want help but then you start thinking why, am I that bad.

I’d lived with this illness for so long, why do I need help now. I was very apprehensive, not sure what I was going to get out of it and how it was going to help.

Being quizzed from a total stranger didn’t really fill me with hope, for me to open up to my closest friends was a no go but to open up to a total stranger and give your darkest thoughts, no way was this going to work.

As I said I was taking antidepressants, it had taken the edge from my thoughts, I didn’t feel as suicidal as I had before, they had given me a platform.

I won’t go into details about what I discussed but I can safely say I didn’t leave any stone unturned, I cried, most sessions over ran because I had so much to say, people that know me know that I don’t talk that much, so to be talking for an hour without any real prompts was definitely surprising.

Once I started I couldn’t stop, in the eight sessions I had poured my heart out, I shared everything, every thought, every feeling, in fact it left me quite emotional bare, I had never bared my soul like this to anyone, not even my family.

At this point in my life I was a single dad and I had to provide for myself and balance work with sharing custody with my two kids. It was very hard, I didn’t have a lot of money, I was scrapping by, I would only have the heating on when my kids were with me, struggling to eat, I lost weight. I didn’t really have anyone apart from my family across to talk to.

When my kids weren’t with me I started to go walking, just taking myself out of my empty flat because I really didn’t want to be there on my own, just to waste time and so not to have the heating on. I’d taken part in the Parish Walk previously, finished at Kirk Michael and Andreas so I was happy walking, at that time I really didn’t think it was having any benefit apart from keeping me out of the flat.

I started to feel better for talking, I started look to the future rather than looking back, part of the therapy is to accept your life, accept that somethings don’t go your way, you make mistakes and they can define you, if you let them, that had happened to me.

I was juggling a lot of emotional baggage, talking was massively helping, no one was judging me or trying to control me just taking on board the way I felt about certain situation that had happen in my life.

What I would say is therapy helped me but it could of been a friend listening, I just needed to talk, let everything out, I just needed someone to listen and not judge me. It’s so difficult for men to open up with regards to how they are feeling. We don’t talk about our feelings down the pub or at the football, it’s just not done. We hide our feelings and emotions. I still hadn’t told my friends I was having treatment for my mental health, I was just keeping a low profile, I felt at the time that it was an embarrassment for me to be seeing a therapist.

After the eight sessions I felt better, I felt I had moved forward and that I was completely better, I was cured. The therapist was happy to not see me and I was mentally strong within myself to be ok with my thoughts.

I had turned the corner I wanted to do something to prove I was back. I decided to put in for the Parish Walk again and hopefully complete it. I was 39 and I gave myself the goal of completing it before I turned 40.

Every night I trained for an hour, 4-5 miles then would have the weekend off with my kids, just doing dad things, playing, mucking about and playing footy. I was happy, things were looking good for me, I started to run, as part of my Parish training, I never run unless a ball is in front of me. I eventually ran for four miles non stop, I don’t think I’d done that since I was 15. I did yoga, i did planking, I toned up and I felt really good about myself. I started to go out with my friends and felt really good mentally.

June came around and the Parish Walk, I felt physically great, I was the fittest I’d been since my teens, mentally I was also in a great place. I’d picked my support team for the day, my equipment, gels, food, etc, taken advice from people who had finished. Picked my number up and was really confident of finishing, they say if you visualize your goal you will succeed. The night before I kept thinking about the finish, walking down the Prom. I hoped, I knew I would finish.

Saturday morning, the morning of the Parish, I rang my mate who was supporting me for the day, no answer, rang again no answer, I thought no problem I’ll just go over everything, making sure I not missed anything. Anybody who has completed the Parish know it’s a military operation, you have to cater for everything situation, weather, food, drinks, clothes, gels, headlights, plasters, medication.

After another 15 minutes of trying I called my other mate and he came and picked me up and dropped me off at the NSC, everything was going wrong but I had to put that to the back of my mind. I just kept thinking one more step, just concentrate on the walk. We started at 8 and I had no idea whether my support was going to be with me or not, I couldn’t wait of course, so leaving the NSC on that sunny morning I had no idea whether I would be able to finish or not. Luckily by the time I reached Union Mills he had been in touch and put my mind to rest.

I’d worked out before the race where I should be at certain times of the day and worked out that if I kept at a pace of around 4 miles an hour, I could finish in a time of appx 21:00. That was my goal, having had the early trauma I was now settled into my walking and start to relax and enjoy the walk. The Parish is a wonderful event, people come out of their houses to cheer you on, people giving you drinks or bananas to keep you going. I started to tick off the parishes and eventually got to Peel in a good time of 7 hours and 24 minutes, perfect for my finish. Obviously after this station you are basically left on you own, luckily my support was with me and I felt really good, talking to people on the way, general chit-chat and keeping spirits high.

Further parishes came and went, Kirk Michael, Ballaugh, Jurby, Bride and I was still feeling good, still on a good time, the weather was good and had no problems with my feet, which in previous walks I had. I got to Andreas 1 hour quicker than my previous attempt, it was still light and my pace was really good. I looked at my phone at this point and some fantastic messages of support from my friends and my brothers. It really inspired me, to know so many people were wishing me well and following my progress, it felt amazing, I had a big smile and had to keep the tears back. As a treat my support had bought me some doughnuts which I wolfed down.

I went through Lezayre and then on route to Ramsey, Maughold came and went, missed out on a hot dog but still on a good time, the longest stretch was upon me and midnight had come and gone, my support had swapped over and I was on the night shift. On approaching Laxey I had started to slow, I was actually placed 89th at Maughold but I had started to tire, it had started to rain and my thoughts were starting to get the better of me. Things were starting to annoy me, walkers had to started to pass me and I knew I had slowed, I had a thin rain jacket on coming into Laxey, it was pouring it down, mentally I was shutting down, not thinking straight, I was so focused I couldn’t really see anything around me, one more step, one more step. Another friend had come out to support me, 0130 in the morning, he couldn’t sleep knowing I was still out there, it gave me a big boost. By the time I reached Lonan, I was shaking, I was drench, wet through and cold. I had a massive go at my support for not giving me my big rain jacket and I had started to lose it, physically and mentally. Walkers I had seen earlier in the day were passing me, it was becoming increasingly tough, I wasn’t sure if I would make it. I kept going, one more step, walking in the dark, wet, cold, exhausted having walked 80 odd miles and not feeling great.

Eventually I reached Onchan up the whitebridge road , the rain had stopped and my thoughts had started to visualise the finish, it was light and I was still going, my support had gone ahead to meet me on the Prom. Someone had said to me that when you come round Port Jack to finish your first Parish Walk, you lose it, you burst in to tears because you know you’re going to finish.

Well I would liked to say that that didn’t happen to me, I’m a man I don’t cry, as soon as I turned down Port Jack I burst into tears, like a baby.

I had a massive smile on my face and tears of joy streaming down my face, I thought about how far I had come, I couldn’t hold it in, I reached the Prom and finished the Parish Walk in 21 hours and 10 seconds. I’d done it, hugged my support crew and burst into tears again. Elated, exhausted but immensely proud of what I had achieved.

Without my support network of friends and the crew I had on the day I couldn’t have finished the Parish. It meant more than anything, I know people do these things for charity or family members who maybe suffering but I had done this for myself and I was over the moon.

It just showed me that with the right help, the right advice, the right encouragement, the people around you, friends and family it made the journey a lot easier. Apart from my kids, this is my biggest triumph, to overcome my illness and to be on the finishing line.

If you are suffering from any form of mental health please talk to someone, it may save your life.

Part Four: Highs and Lows
So after the Parish Walk I thought I was cured, I thought my depression had gone, well that’s not true.

The thing with depression is it’s always there, yes I was feeling so much better, I had achieve something I had set my mind on for about 4 years. I was over the moon, a few months later and I started a new job and I was back with my ex. We’d moved into a new house and everything was going well.

I then hurt my back, a bulging disk, I was in agony, I couldn’t walk without me being in severe pain. I was put on medication, pain killers. I had stopped my antidepressants by this time and these tablets totally whacked me out. I tried to carry on working but was in real pain. The Doctor who scanned my back said I had two choices, operation or rest for 9 months. I’d heard a few horror stories about back operations so choose to get better with rest.

That didn’t really alter my mental health initially, I had to give up football and tennis, so I became less active, getting out of a chair was so painful, not sleeping properly. I had sciatica, the pain in my calf was like someone had stabbed me, I couldn’t feel my big toe, I had started to drag my foot slightly. It was tough, I stopped going out, I started to put on weight.

Personally I was going through a real tough time with my eldest daughter, not her but with her mother. It really affected me, I found it tough to take, I won’t go into details here but I was stopped from seeing her for 3 months, no contact at all, no texts, no Facebook messages, no phone calls. Nothing. I had to go to court after 6 months to fight for the right to see her. She was 13, it totally pulled me apart, my depression had come back, I totally slipped back into my ways. I can’t imagine not having a relationship with my daughter and it was so hurtful, yet I couldn’t do anything about it.

After the court had dismissed the case, I found it difficult to find that balance again with my daughter, I felt that I was being watched, I was treading on eggs shells. It affected me big time, I was not really enjoying being a dad, it was like someone was challenging me, the way I was, I would never hurt any of my kids, yes they can be bloody nightmares at times but I would never ever hurt them. If I had to tell her off then would I be brought back into the courts, I started to shut myself away again, overthinking and wondering why me. The pain came back, the sleepless nights, the anguish, no energy, no motivation, no emotion. I was depressed again.

The thing that had changed for me was the company I then worked for was a high street bank, now they have private healthcare and are supposed to manage their staff, if any problems arise, when I knew I started to struggle again, I went in to see my line manager. She was brilliant, I cannot thank her enough for the support that she gave me through my second bad bout of depression.

I decided to take time off work this time, my physical health wasn’t really any better and obviously I had gone backwards with my mental health. I was back on antidepressants and I was referred to another therapist. I was back talking about what had happened and struggling to hold everything together, the difference this time was I wasn’t suicidal, I was struggling but not back to where I was in my darkest days. I needed answers to why I was back in the therapy room, I look back now and I know I didn’t find the answer, yes it was great to talk but I felt the second therapist never really got to the bottom of why I was struggling again.

I returned to work on a phased return, I know I wasn’t right but had to return to work, it’s fine being at home but your thoughts start to affect you, I had started to meet my friends for lunches and started to let them in on why I was struggling, they all helped me get back to normal. Obviously my family were brilliant and my mum checked in daily on the phone to make sure I was ok. She was very concerned.

Going back to work made me more determined to not hide my mental health, I said I wanted people to know why I was off, I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed, I was actually telling people I wasn’t well and I was off with depression. It actually felt really good, I didn’t have to hide away or lie to anyone anymore. I had read up on mental health and understood a lot more of what I was going through, I knew I had continued support from work and my friends, that to me was massive.

I suffered my third bad bout of depression six months later, I was working in Ramsey and on my way into work I started to feel really anxious, going over the mountain I had my first real bad thought since my darkest days, I tried to put it to the back of my mind but it wouldn’t go away, I arrived in Ramsey and went to work.

I lasted 10 minutes, setting up I had a panic attack, I’d never had one before, I stopped what I was doing and stood on my own, I then couldn’t move, I couldn’t move, I just stood there, a colleague came up to me and asked me to do some work, I said “I can’t I can’t do it, I dropped and just burst into tears, she knew what was going on, she said to me to take my time and take myself outside, go for a walk. I couldn’t I rang my manager and told her I was having a panic attack. Again she was brilliant, she let me go home and she rang me the next day, the good thing about it was she understood, she knew how to handle what I was going through, she kept an eye on me on my return and even though I said I fine to return, she had questioned it, she knew I wasn’t right.

This time I was put in touch with a clinical psychologist, sounds dramatic and it was. I knew as soon as I had my first appointment that I knew I was going to get better.

The therapists before were very much softly softly, how you feeling, tell me about how you have felt.

This was different, straight to the point, no messing, I think she said I’m going to get in your head and find your trigger, what’s your trigger. I’d never been asked before, to me I was depressed that was it. Obviously I was open and honest and when talking she would say that’s not it, I did assessments, she picked up on little things, which she knew was triggers, she started making me think of how I behaved, my thought process when things weren’t right, my control, my anger points. It was totally harsh but each week I couldn’t wait to go back. It was like she was in my mind looking for clues, every time I told her something, she would say right let’s concentrate on that, broaden that out, tell me the situation you were in at the time, I started to answer my own thought process and understand why I reacted. The sessions were brilliant, I was understanding my mental health, my triggers. I was actually laughing and smiling when I was coming out of the sessions. I totally understood how my mind was working, I started to put things in place and my mental health improved rapidly. 
I recommend a clinical psychologist highly, unfortunately she’s now retired or I would pass on her number.

This was 15 months ago, I haven’t had any set backs, I feel I can handle my thoughts and the way I act in certain situations, my depression is at arms length.

I know my limitations, I know when to let things go, my favorite saying now is “ it is what it is” that doesn’t mean I don’t care but it puts things into perspective.

Depression is horrible, your brain turns against you, I don’t wish it on anybody, it’s debilitating, it ruins not just your life but the people that are closest to you.

If you have followed my story and feel that you need to talk please talk, I cannot emphasize this enough, I can ask you to talk to someone but you have to firstly admit that you have a problem, I know how hard that is, once you’ve taken that first step the others steps will follow, one more step......