Guest Author: Living with Anxiety and Depression

This week and next week, we are pleased to have information submitted by a guest author. While from Dublin, Ireland, Matt Keenan addresses serious topics that impact millions of individuals. Matt is the host of the LAD Podcast, a new series on Spotify.

Meet Matt Keenan

My name is Matt Keenan and I’m from Dublin, Ireland.  For years I have struggled with mental health and never really understood what was actually wrong.  I have been through general counseling, bereavement counseling, and anger management.

None of which really seemed to help.  So fast forward to February 2021 when I had a breakdown and decided that it was time to see my doctor who diagnosed me with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and prescribed me antidepressants. 

Between March and August 2021 the dosage of the meds was increased 4 times.  This literally made me feel nothing.  It was like I was walking around in a dream, my memory suffered, my sleep suffered, and work and family relationships suffered. 

I then started to see a psychotherapist for depression and after a couple of weeks, we realized that I don’t suffer from depression, I have GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and then everything started to fall into place.  I spent the next six months trying to come off the medication that I believe I should not have been prescribed.  I now continue to see a counselor and work on recognizing and controlling my triggers.  

Understanding your Mental Health

If I could give anyone who suffers from or thinks they might be suffering from a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. it would be this.  Please, go and speak to a mental health professional first.  The reason I say this is because Anxiety and Depression have similar characteristics and can be misdiagnosed (as in my experience) by a GP (General Practitioner) or family Doctor.  This is not their fault, and I am not trying to belittle GPs in any way shape, or form.  Here in Ireland, I can see our health care system is underfunded and overworked. 

You don’t get much time with your GP when you make an appointment to see them and as a result, in my opinion, this definitely isn’t enough time to be properly diagnosed with a mental health illness.  Again, I don’t see this as a failure in the Doctor, but more a failure in the support available for Mental Health. Should you, however, go and see a mental health professional, these amazing people are trained specifically to look at mental health disorders, it may take, like in my experience, more than a couple of sessions to get to the root of the problem, but will fully get there.  At which point then, should you and your counselor feel that medication is an option then you have more information to bring to your GP. 

Understanding Triggers

External events or certain circumstances that cause uneasy or uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as despair, negative thoughts about yourself, and anxiety are known as “Triggers”.  In the case of Anxiety, these triggers can cause the “Flight or Fight” response to kick in.  This response is our body’s way of telling us that we could be in danger, and the feelings that come with it, increased heart rate, dilated pupils and tense muscles, are our body’s way of preparing us to either run or stay and face the “danger”. 

Reacting to Triggers is normal but not understanding them or not responding to them in the right way can cause them to spiral.  Every one of us has emotional triggers, though these will vary from person to person, so understanding your own is key.  Some examples of triggers might be, rejection, helplessness, loss of control, disapproval or criticism,  feeling unwanted, and insecurity. 

It is important to listen to your body and mind when your triggers arise, increased heartbeat, sweaty palms, dizziness, or feeling shaky.  When you notice these feelings, try to step back away from the situation you are in, and take a moment to understand what has happened in this situation to make you feel the way you are feeling right at that moment in time.  This is easier said than done, but by allowing yourself to be aware, always, of your body’s reactions and physical symptoms, this does become easier.  

The Anxious LAD Podcast

All of the above can be looked at as a “General discussion on Mental Health” but actually, I  am talking to all the men out there.  As men, we have to live with societal stigmas of mental health, comments like “Man up”,  “big boys don’t cry”, “Act like a man” are terms that have been thrown at us all of our lives. 

These comments ultimately make you believe that showing emotion or being vulnerable are not the behaviors “Men” are meant to display. So we hide them, we bury them and we react with aggression and tempers.  We don’t know how to verbalize our internal demons because society has never given us a chance to learn the tools we need to cope.

I had to sit back and look at my situation and by understanding my issues and coming to terms with them, I have done a lot of research on Men’s Mental health and the societal stigmas and expectations.  It is from this that The Anxious Lad Podcast show was born. 

The Podcast sets out to look at men’s roles in societies now, to talk about men’s mental health, and to show the world that for men, it’s okay to not be OK.  It’s okay to have and be open about mental health problems.  How does it differ from other mental health podcasts?  I talk about real-life examples, I don’t discuss the illnesses with professionals, but rather, interview real people with real stories.  Only by getting more men to talk about mental health then more men will talk about mental health.  You can find me on Spotify,  the Anxious LAD Facebook page.

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