Alex's Story

My story

Over the last year, I have faced many different challenges regarding my physical and mental health. I have decided to write and share my story to inform and hopefully enable people to understand more about mental health in conjunction to physical well-being. My main intention here is to hopefully outline physical and mental illness in more of a general sense and raise awareness for some of the topics that I am about to discuss.

Back in November 2016, I found out that I had Chronic pain. This was targeting in my mid to lower back, along with my right leg and foot. This came about through serious sport and work injuries that I sustained at a reasonably young age. There will be some people reading this who have a direct connection to chronic pain or may have some basic knowledge on the topic and there will definitely be some who haven’t heard of the term before (I was the same) and therefore I will put into context how it affected and affects me.

Some days I would struggle to get out of bed or even get to sleep in the first place, there were plenty of times when putting my shoes and socks on would be the hardest part of my day. Too often I was unable to move properly and freely for long periods of time, therefore I would struggle to attend important aspects of my life such as; University lectures or even something as simple and less important like walking to the shop. My appetite wasn’t the same and didn’t usually feel hungry or want to eat, so ultimately, I started to lose a lot of weight unnecessarily and became ill on many occasions. It was affecting pretty much every part of my life, most of the time it was all I could ever think about and I would often have to prepare myself for spending long periods of time in a great deal of pain.

As a footballer, I spent a lot of time using my body and putting a lot of strain on it. I refused to give up playing the sport that I loved but it would always have negative impacts on me.

This was still a busy time for me being in my second year at Uni, I didn’t prioritise dealing with the pain to begin with because of my work load and desire to continue my “everyday” 21-year-old life.  I suffered the consequences for a while after, this due to my inability to handle the situation like I could and probably should have.

The pain was certainly causing serious physical issues and there were people who would often ask me: “is it really that painful?” or “does it hurt?” so for anyone still wondering, I hope that I have cleared that up for you now. I was never too annoyed at questions like that because it was difficult for anyone to truly understand, but because of how differently I had to start going about my life, it started to affect me psychologically. My confidence, self-esteem and self-awareness started to drop off for the first real time in my life. I knew that I wasn’t able to carry out the same simple everyday activities like the people around me and therefore I became very depressed and anxious about the problem I was having. To boil it down, my body was falling apart and it would only be a matter of time before my mental state followed.

The year went on, I began to doubt myself more and more and I had to make big lifestyle changes due to the chronic condition. I wasn’t quite able to pursue my hobbies and interests the same and my grades started to slip. This all along with still trying to deal with the pain, I was placed in a very difficult situation and bad way. Because of the life changes I was going through and the troubles I was having, I started to change personally and become a very different person.

I began to develop strong symptoms for a Borderline Personality Disorder, which is a very common thing to happen amongst chronic pain sufferers. Now it might seem obvious because of the name of this mental illness, but as you can probably tell, this started to have a very negative effect on my personality. Slowly but surely, the condition was starting to erase parts of my identity and some of the factors that made me who I am, this was replaced with frustration, paranoia, lack of understanding, depressive thoughts, neediness, naïve thinking, desperation and because of this, I started becoming a different person. I began to drink alcohol more than I usually would and it was probably beginning to become rather evident from an outside point of view, that there something was very wrong.

The situation got worse for me as it went on, my behaviour became odd at times and I started handling certain scenarios in the complete opposite way to how I would normally. It got to a point where I started to lose control completely, I would say and do things that I didn’t believe in or mean and I would pursue aspects that I didn’t even want to pursue, this was because my emotions and intentions were no longer under my control and therefore my brain was very scrambled and confusing me into different opinions and beliefs. There were barriers in the way of me reverting back to my life experiences or knowledge and so I dealt with certain situations in childish and confusing ways. I simply wasn’t the person I was for the 20 odd years leading up to this point.

I started to become and feel very weak, not that there’s anything wrong with feeling that way from time to time, but I acted on it in negative ways. I was no longer in full control or aware of the what was going on around me and you’d be right in thinking that things aren’t looking too great here or he really doesn’t have much going for him, but the biggest down side was that I was unaware of the disorder I was developing. I was in a very intensive personal battle with myself and I had no idea it was happening.

I began to cause myself big problems, I wasn’t as socially active or efficient because I couldn’t connect with others in the same ways as I once could and I wasn’t able to build on good relationships in the right way. This all together caused me to have very negative effects on the people around me due to my mood and ways that I dealt with certain situations. It got to that point of where the issues that I started to create in my life were too problematic, I had to seek further help. Getting to the stage of when it really starts to affect other people is definitely a strong indication of when things have gone too far and it needs to change. I understood now that the chronic pain condition along with the personal strain I was under and putting on myself, had caused me to suffer from identity issues through a personality disorder. I realised that I had really begun to lose my mind and control of what I was doing.

I had acknowledged the early signs of the disorder and why they were occurring. I had to come to terms with everything that had happened and understand that it was right to get the correct help and advice when I did. The realisation and breakthrough came after persistent experimentation in to the physical aspect of my condition. I started to manage my pain much better because of the way I began to handle the issue. I had found the right way of relieving the serious pain through the correct exercises. Activities such as: swimming, cycling, walking, running, general gym work and fitness program, a better diet and sleeping pattern along with more positive ways of thinking, really allowed me the chance to turn it around and swing things back the other way, this has allowed me to control the condition instead of it controlling me.

I no longer have to take medication or pain killers regularly and I am now able to live my life more freely again. Because of handling chronic pain in a better and more suitable way, it allowed me to see what was going on more accurately and identify the mental difficulties I was having. Again, with the right amount of intensive help and treatment, I have managed to revert back to the person I was before the last year and re develop clear and accurate ways of thinking again. I am back to pursuing my interests and hobbies, I am very much back on track with my studies and my self-belief, confidence, ambition, awareness, right attitude and positivity is all what it once was. I still know that there will be difficult times ahead with regards to my chronic pain but I am confident that it will be nowhere near the level it has been this last year in terms of the psychological implications.

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