Let's chat: World Mental Health Day
09 October 2023 10:00
World Mental Health Day is coming up this week, so we sat down with Mark, Sport and Faith Coach here at Sportily to chat about his journey with mental health.
If you are struggling with anything similar or any aspect of your own mental health, please do find a trusted friend or adult to speak to. At the bottom of this article, we have listed a selection of mental health charities and how you can contact them.
When did it start?
Mark: 'From as young as I can remember I struggled with my mental health. Body image seemed so important when I was younger, and I didn’t feel like I fit in with social norms at school. I often found myself comparing how my school uniform looked on me vs my friends, it always seemed to fit them better. This led to me developing Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) which resulted in me excessively exercising, obsessively watching my diet and avoiding social situations due to fears I had about my physique.'
How did that affect you as you got older?
'In 2017 I had a severe breakdown, was diagnosed with OCD and became very unwell to the point of needing to be hospitalised on several occasions.
Through this period I felt that life was completely dark, hopeless and empty. I even stopped doing the things I used to enjoy such as hanging out with friends and my martial arts.'
What kept you going during this period?
'Two quotes that greatly helped me through this season were ‘When you’re going through hell keep walking’ (Winston Churchill), and ‘The most courageous thing I ever did was keep on living when I didn’t want to.’
I found that both quotes reminded me that mental health recovery is a journey. It doesn’t change overnight, and you need to keep walking. There were many days I wanted to give in, but held onto my faith in God believing that He would walk with me through my valley. I constantly reminded myself that better days were ahead and that I was not in this fight alone. I remembered I had to take every day hour by hour not even day by day, and I was determined to be courageous in the face of fear.
In 2019, I decided that I would keep fighting my illness even if it meant walking through hell. I had tried many therapists, medication and other treatment options – but nothing seemed to be working.
I knew I had to keep fighting my illness because this battle was not just about me. Sadly many of my friends passed away due to their struggles with mental health, so I wanted to fight on for their memories and to be a light in other people’s darkness. I can truly say today I’m so glad I made that decision because life is so different now and I’m incredibly privileged to be able to walk with others who are struggling in similar ways with their mental health.'
'In 2021, I was admitted to the National OCD and BDD Ward in London. Whilst there, my therapist massively helped me, got me on an upward recovery trajectory for the first time in years and gave me the roadmap to get my life back. I left the hospital in 2022 and with the help of God and my Christian faith, I have continued to invest in my mental health and today am doing much better. Knowing God loves me and is always there for me has been significant for me.'
What key message helped you through this difficult time in your life?
'My encouragement to anyone facing a mental health battle, whatever it may be, is that there is hope. You may not see it right now, you likely don’t feel it but remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are so many of us on the journey with you.
I’ve always found being around others on the journey has helped me massively. Whether that’s by meeting them in a hospital setting, mental health community group, social media platform, or even just talking to my friends. My friends have been lifelines for me in the most difficult of circumstances.'
'I wish I could end this article by saying I’m 100% recovered and well now, but that’s not my story. I still take medication, need therapy, and have good and bad days – but I’ve learnt coping strategies to help keep me well and recognise when I need to reach out for help. I’m still trusting God that one day I will be completely healed of my OCD illness, but I’ve determined whether that day comes or not – this battle is not just about me. This battle is not just about you. We’re in this together and there’s a whole world out there that needs to hear your story too. Will you join me in this fight?'
If you'd like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need help, you can use any of the charities listed below by clicking on the logos: