Firstly, I've been saving this topic for quite sometime, ironically I've been quite anxious about putting it together and getting it out there. I feel like now is a good time though to start writing and talking about how me hosting quizzes actually tackled the problems I have with anxiety / panic attacks and more recently, depression.
It is quite a sensitive subject to write about for most people (mental health not hosting quizzes) so I am going to be detailed in some places and vague in others, it's what I'm more comfortable with discussing but I aim to explain to you how it worked for me and how it MIGHT be able to work for you or others. I obviously can't say for one second that it will help you, I understand that mental health is different in everyone and I am not here to try and write a self help book / blog. This is simply the story of how I found something that helped me cope, that coincidentally turned into a career for me.
I first experienced my first panic attack in 2005, I was 23 years old and I was sat watching Fantastic Four in the cinema. Anyone that knows me would know that I wouldn't leave that cinema for any reason, it was a superhero movie and that would be exciting for me. All of a sudden I started to get a really sharp pain in my head and it made me panic a bit. I couldn't shift it, I started to feel light headed and like something was seriously wrong so I had to get up and walk out with my then girlfriend at the time. I couldn't go back to the cinema at all, I was terrified that there was something seriously wrong with me. We went to A&E and they simply diagnosed I had had a migraine and a panic attack. I was given some codeine and I was on my way. Over the coming weeks, I kept experiencing the same things and eventually went to the doctors about it. They explained that I was having panic attacks and was given a trial drug and some tranquilizers of some sort and to see how I went. I was also referred to a therapist too, something I had never done before.
The first lot of drugs didn't work well for me so I was moved on to others which were better. I started to see the therapist and we had worked out together that the reason for my anxiety was because of a death in my family. My Grandma had died just 6 months earlier and it's something I had never experienced before. I suppressed a lot of my feelings at the time of her death and it seems that months later it had manifested as something else. Unfortunately, this was how I was now hard wired and the same thing happened with every, other, death in my family. It would happen, I would suppress my feelings, I would console the rest of my family and later on I would suffer with great anxiety issues. Later down the line my anxiety had manifested into heart palpitations, chest pains and dizziness.
Around about 2010 I decided to try my hand at stand up comedy, something you would never really expect someone of a nervous / anxious disposition to try. I felt that it might help me tackle things head on, force me into an uncomfortable situation so I had no choice but to just deal with any anxious thoughts or feelings I had. It worked, I was a nervous wreck every time I was about to go on but it put me in a headspace where I had NO other choice but to just do it, or I would fail. Doing stand up comedy is where I met my wife, we both shared a love of comedy and we both wanted to really make a go of it. We even helped each others writing for quite some time. The problems we faced though were the travelling aspect of it. We couldn't devote our time to travelling around the country as much as we needed to, to really make a go of it.
I decided to try and seek out a pub quiz to host as I felt that this would still tick the boxes of standing on a mic in front of a large room but it would mean that I wouldn't have to travel so much either. I started running the quiz at The Actress and Bishop pub in Birmingham and it became a successful night. What's more I could, every week, without fail, have an opportunity to put myself in an uncomfortable position and force myself to have to deal with any anxiety I was feeling. From hereon I could train my brain to think that if I could have a panic attack whilst I was hosting a quiz and still deal with it whilst carrying on the quiz, I can do it anywhere. It helped, it made me realise that my panic attacks were no longer controlling me and what I do but I was controlling them.
Eventually I came off the medication and my anxiety sat to one side whilst I got on with things and began setting up my own business hosting quiz nights. Until recently, when they unfortunately resurfaced again. The reason this time? Sleepless nights and stress caused by having a baby. I hate to say it as I thought I was stronger than that but yes, having a baby did bring them back. Annoyingly, Harrison (our son) was not even that difficult to look after, he very quickly got into a good sleeping pattern but the irregularity of the sleep and working hours became a bit too much for my body to cope. I went back on the medication I had finished years before and sure enough I perked up and was back on my feet.
So, this is where we get to the part of depression. Now, I don't really want to talk about what's causing the depression, actually, let me correct that. I don't want to talk about what I THINK is causing the depression as this is something personal I am going through right now but it is family based. I had never experienced depression before but after coming across another piece of bad news, I found there to be times when I felt a little dark cloud looming over myself. Immediately after reading endless articles on both anxiety and depression I identified what it was and decided to do something about it.
So I've switched medication now and whilst I don't want to be on medication my whole life, I feel this is the start of a recovery. I have also signed myself up to have therapy this time along with learning various techniques for meditation.
So that's present day. Like I said at the start I don't think this is a method that will help everyone but it might just be a bit of inspiration for someone looking to try something to get themselves out of that hole. Tackling anxiety head on, made me feel like I was the one in control, not the anxiety being in control of me. Having that feeling and achieving that, made me feel greater than anything could at the time. Maybe it's like facing your fears, if you have a fear of spiders, maybe spending time with spiders and realising that they aren't as scary as you thought is the way of tackling that. Facing what makes you anxious or depressed might just be the key to tackling that too.
Someone recently said something to me that keeps resonating with me, and I love it, even though it doesn't necessarily help directly, it helped me understand the feelings I was having: "Anxiety is the fear of the future but depression is your dwelling of the past". It is possible to have both, but you need to figure out what is causing both and then tackling it head on, to make you feel more in control of your own thoughts.
I would love to hear comments from people that have gone through or are going through similar things. Please leave me your comments below.