After getting support for his PTSD and anxiety, Jack’s mental health was improving, but something was still off. It was in transforming his mindset that his life really changed...
Sitting on the edge of my bed one night in 2013, it felt like a particularly dark one. It wasn’t the first time, and it definitely wouldn’t be the last, where I said both physically to myself, and mentally, that I didn’t want to wake up the next morning. If life was to continue like this for me, I didn’t want to be a part of it.
Fast forward six years and things couldn’t be more different. I’m beyond grateful that I finally reached the light at the end of a very dark, and sometimes lonely, tunnel.
Growing up with a single parent wasn’t always easy; my dad left when I was just six years old. I couldn’t totally comprehend the enormity of the situation, and although I never had a happy relationship with him, I never expected this. This experience and situation had a lasting effect on me for a long time to come.
Overall, primary school and my childhood was a happy time – I never really wanted for anything, and had a nice circle of friends. But everything came crashing down to earth when I started high school in 2009.
It was apparent from the off-set that I was different in some way – I wasn’t openly gay then, and certainly hadn’t found myself. Realising I was different and not like the other boys was a pretty damaging experience. I wasn’t close to accepting anything – at the time, I just wanted to fit in, to be like all the others.
The bullying wasn’t instant, but as the years progressed it got worse and worse, to the point where I’d dread going in each day, as it never seemed to stop. I felt powerless and wanted to be somewhere where I was accepted, where I wasn’t tormented for something I couldn’t control.
Although the bullying was never physical, I think verbal can be worse sometimes. When you go somewhere every day that doesn’t make you feel good, where you feel you can’t express your true self, it’s not long before it has a knock-on effect on your mental health, and sadly, that’s what happened for me.
Between 2009 and 2010, when I was around 13, it started with anxiety. I’d be constantly on edge, and scared of the smallest things. Because of this, most days I’d feel so tired, exhausted even, I made no real effort with my schoolwork because I had zero motivation. I didn’t have any real friends either. Upon reflection, I can see now that the reason for this was down to the wall I built up; I didn’t speak to people about my mental health or the way I was feeling, which resulted in me being isolated a lot. I would spend lunchtimes with my sister; she was my best friend in school, and a comfort.
My mental health got to its worst place in 2010. In the summer of that year, my house got broken into. It was very traumatic, and although initially I felt OK, the feelings were delayed, and didn’t surface until a few months later. Then just before Christmas, my nan passed away, which nobody in the family saw coming. It honestly felt like the world had ended. I can’t even put into words the emotions I felt.
As 2011 progressed, it was clear I wasn’t OK. I developed obsessive behaviours where I’d constantly check locks, look outside my house to make sure nobody who I considered a threat was there, along with being unable to leave the house to even go to the shops – it all happened so fast and felt so extreme. I would cry pretty much daily, and was convinced I had OCD. But after a doctor’s appointment it turns out it wasn’t that, but something else...
I used to think that I’d never find the light at the end of the tunnel, but I did, and you can too
I was officially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with anxiety. I never relaxed, I felt constantly on edge, I developed a neck twitch and honestly, things weren’t good at all. I didn’t recognise the Jack I saw before me.
I received counselling around this time from the NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which helped a lot, and I slowly started to develop strategies to improve. My mind was in such a destructive place that I had to take baby steps. With time I began to recover, which I realised when I finally stopped doing the obsessive rituals, and took it as a sign I was improving.
Things progressed well in the coming years. I started college, and away from the previous years of bullying, I started being myself. It was such a strange yet freeing feeling at first. I came out to my mum in 2014, which felt like the biggest weight off my shoulders. I’m beyond grateful I was accepted for the person I am.
Although I was doing fairly well, my mindset hadn’t improved. I was always a negative person, and would be instantly sceptical when anything good did happen. It was self-sabotage at its finest, but you don’t realise that in the moment, do you? I was always chasing the external, obsessed with spending money on clothes and material items to fill the empty void. But I was fighting a losing battle – if only I could have seen that then.
Fast forward to 2016 and my life changed forever. In June of that year I was in bed with a bad cold and temperature. Something strange happened; it was like an out-of-body experience where I heard what sounded like me speaking. It was a healthier and happier version of me, who said that I needed to change. I can only describe it like something clicking within me, for the first time in forever, I stepped back and reflected. I could see how damaging my thoughts were, how unhealthy my mindset was, and I knew that something had to give.
Did anything change overnight? Of course not, but little by little, my life began to change for the better. At that point, I couldn’t even look in the mirror without hating what I saw, so I started researching self-love. I knew I needed to love, accept and embrace the person I am, which gradually began happening.
My mental illness had been affecting me physically, and I’d been experiencing IBS, but as my mental health improved the IBS became more manageable. Now, three years later in 2019, I can happily say that it hardly affects me at all – changing my mindset and working on becoming my best self has made such a difference.
There aren’t any fast-track passes to recovery – it’s been daily work and those negative thoughts still pop up, but now I don’t believe them like I used to. It’s finding what works for you – I meditate daily, visualise what I want to achieve, write monthly goals and eat healthily. Of course, this way of life isn’t for everyone, but for me, it both saved and changed my life in every possible way. I’m now a mental health advocate, and my biggest achievement so far is that I now have my own self-published book, Being the Best You, which details my experiences.
If there’s just one takeaway I can give anyone reading this, know that no matter how dark times get, how it can feel impossible, I used to think that I’d never find the light at the end of the tunnel either, but I did, and you can too. I now see I have a purpose; I have to turn all of this into a positive, as a tool to help others, because when it comes down to the very core of it all, we all deserve happiness.
Jack’s book, ‘Being the Best You’, is available on Amazon now.
Rachel Coffey | BA MA NLP Mstr, says:
Jack’s inspirational story is one of growth, realisation, and change. He had to deal with many challenges in his young life, and so often when that happens we just try to get through the day. But this doesn’t give us the chance to process what is really going on. For Jack this surfaced in his PTSD. Importantly though, Jack sought help. He began to grow stronger, realising he was in charge of his own mind. Changing our mindset and the way we think really can – and does – transform lives. Jack is now on a positive path, sharing his story and helping others in the process.