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World Mental Health Day: Living with Annie and Lola

Estimated read time: 12 minutes

Today is World Mental Health Day. To mark that, we’ve got a very personal and very powerful account of what living with anxiety and loneliness is like. It’s a great read, so please take the time to go through it!

*A version of this blog originally appeared on Ant’s Facebook page.*

I have the “pleasure” of anxiety and low mood for company (let’s call them “Annie” and “Lola” for the purpose of whatever this is).

It’s not every day, thankfully. Annie just worries about and questions EVERYTHING that may or may not happen and, well, Lola is just a bit of a miserable bitch…but they come to visit every few days and I stupidly/reluctantly let them in nonetheless.

Sometimes they spend the night too, which is nowhere near as exciting as it would usually sound in any other context! I find I can usually kick them both out by midmorning/early afternoon, which is a huge achievement in itself.

For those already struggling to relate to what I’m getting at with this…if you have kids and you’ve tried to get them ready to go out anywhere, then it’s a bit like that – it’s a simple little thing that you have to do in stages (then redo stages 3, 5 & 6 because they need a wee, then have lost a shoe & put their coat on inside out) so it all takes a million times longer than it should.

*If you don’t have kids then watch someone you know who does have them try to get said kids out of the house an FEEL OUR FRUSTRATION!!

Once they’ve finally “effed off”, I can get on with my day…

This might be something as mundane as getting some housework done or catching up on some TV shows (Knightfall, Forged in Fire and GBBO by the way…don’t judge me on the last one, you know you secretly watch it too!), or it might be something more creative to help get my brain thinking and working the way it should; writing always helps me – it can be short stories, poems, thoughts and ideas, anything that gets me focused and motivated.

FOCUSED and MOTIVATED; these are two BIG issues with Annie and Lola. At least they are for me. Finding something that you enjoy which gets your brain working in creative ways is a HUGE help for me. It might not just be writing, although that’s my “go to” (I’ve also recently enrolled in a creative writing course to help not just with my “issues”, but to also (hopefully) push towards a change in career – but I’ll get onto that in a bit).

Another thing I’ve found therapeutic recently is upcyling. I’m currently converting a cupboard/drawer unit into a wardrobe for my son…I’ve been doing it for the last month mind, but in my defence the weather decided to take a turn for the worse shortly after I started it and light in my garage is a bit pants…that’s the excuse I give to my wife anyway! (reminder – hide this from wife).

But when I have been spending time on that little project it’s been great – I’m thinking about what I can do to make it look as good as it can, as well as it being an ACTIVE activity!

Which brings me on to my other “go to” – the gym!

I can’t emphasis enough just how much going to the gym has helped my mental wellbeing. When I have the opportunity to go on a regular basis I feel like a completely different person. I cope better with stressful situations, my head is clear(er), I can concentrate on thoughts and projects a lot better and I actually have the motivation to do the things I want to do. If I miss out on going to the gym for a couple of weeks I really start to notice a downturn in my mood and then the worries and self-loathing start to kick back in – with those unwanted visitors are at my door again…and once again, I let them back in.

It can feel like a vicious cycle, one which is incredibly difficult to get out of, but making some changes can really help to break out of that!

I mentioned that I was pushing toward a change in career. My current job doesn’t give me any “job satisfaction” whatsoever and I’ve become a bit dejected with progression opportunities over the past couple of years (I have to take some responsibility for that of course, and I do, but it can feel as though my past achievements there are often overlooked).

Whilst I really enjoy the company of my colleagues and have made some really good friends there, the line of work I’m in simply isn’t what I want to be doing and it gets me down. This then leads to me not having the want or the will to do the job I’m paid for and have to really struggle through each day. That’s not what I want five days per week, and it’s not what an employer wants from their staff – no one wins! I’m sure this is the case for many people, so please don’t feel the need to break out the world’s smallest violin section for me just yet!

I’ve been signed off for a month & half or so currently but the looming reality of having to go back to something that gives me zero satisfaction is, quite frankly, terrifying! OK, maybe “terrifying” is a slight exaggeration (queue those violins…?), but it triggers my anxiety is the point I’m getting at.

Anyway, the only way to rectify that is to try and move into something new and that’s entirely down to me. The other option of course is to suck it up and carry on, but I know that will lead me right back to where I am now & where I was two years ago!

*Soooo…anyone need an amateur writer for anything…? (hint hint…)

I probably digressed a little on the “work” front there, but my point (in a longwinded way) is again that, in my experience, change is often required to “fix” the problems when it comes to anxiety and low mood. I changed my lifestyle by drinking less, going to the gym more, leaving my band to give me more time with my family (maybe getting back into music would actually help me now the kids are getting that bit older?!).

Writing helped me, being creative has helped me and now pushing myself and taking those baby-steps toward a new career which I enjoy WILL help me…and keep those morose idiots on the right side of my doorstep!

For anyone taking the time to read this and getting this far first of all “THANK YOU” (I realise now that I don’t half waffle on…) and if you’re also relating in any way to the things I’ve mentioned or described, don’t be afraid to make those changes in your life – make sure you’re accommodating the things that YOU need to get better – to be happy.

Small steps with little achievements each day to keep you moving in the right direction. My next step is to push my writing and to make a decision on my current work situation – whatever the decision may be, I know it won’t be an easy one (and the thought of change is daunting), but I know I’ll do the right thing for me and my mental wellbeing and, in turn, my family.

Since writing this blog (and thanks to it and all who shared it) I was contacted by Coventry University and have now signed up as a “Service User”. I will now have the opportunity to share my experiences with anxiety and low mood, as well as my experiences with the services available to help those who suffer from them; services which the students are training to have careers in. This was all rather out of the blue, but it will provide me with the opportunity to put the insufferable Annie and Lola to good use for a change!

So keep pushing on with the things that give you some form of comfort and happiness – you never know what opportunities may arise because of them!

You only get one chance at life, so you may as well make it the best you possibly can…even if that means taking the odd risk to achieve your dreams and happiness.

Thanks and much love…

…except for you Annie & Lola, you can fuck off!

*Be sure to check out Ant’s clothing company right now*

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