Male Mental Health: My Boyfriend Opens Up – Part 2

Back, but not for long… After I graduated from Uni, I suffered from what is becoming an increasing problem. Post Graduate unemployment. Now, this was something that was very different from the classic break up. I’d had experiences of heartbreak before then so I knew that although I was going through a tough time, eventually I would start to feel better. I managed to really knuckle down in my final year and graduate with a First-Class Degree, which is still to this day probably my best or at least my favourite achievement because of the work that I put in and the struggles that I went through. I came back out fighting and managed to achieve what I set out to do from the beginning. I remember the day I found out like it was yesterday. I grabbed one of my good mates and a big bag of cans and drank in the sun from about midday and I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time.

Then the reality set in. I needed to get a job. Now whilst I was at Uni, I had my eyes on the prize, which was getting a first, and as a result, I didn’t put aside any time to look for jobs. What I’ve failed to mention was that my degree result came at a price, mainly in the sheer number of hours I slaved away in the library without any days off and levels of stress and anxiety that I’d not experienced before. I put so much pressure on myself and anything other than me achieving my goal would’ve felt like a failure. It was a long slog and so when I graduated, I gave myself a good few weeks of doing virtually nothing just to recharge my batteries.

Post-Graduate Unemployment

After the well-deserved break that I took from being the responsible adult that, to my surprise, I’d actually started to become I actually started my job search. I thought to myself I’ve got a First-class degree, I’m going to have job opportunities coming out of my arsehole. Wrong. I would spend hours and hours on a job application to not even get the courtesy of a reply telling me to fuck off. Nothing. Now when this is repeatedly for an extended period of time it really knocks your self-confidence. It wasn’t just one or two, it was getting into three figures. Now when this happens you start to question yourself and wonder why you’re not good enough, which was something that I wasn’t expecting to happen at all. Also with the lack of responses I was getting, it was hard for me to pinpoint exactly where I had been going wrong. Should I have gone to a better Uni? Is it because I hadn’t done a placement year? Should I have achieved more outside of academia? These were all the questions I was starting to ask myself as to why I was failing.

Eventually I just randomly got a phone call from a recruiter who was recruiting for recruiters (recruitment inception) and although this really wasn’t something that I was looking to do, I felt with the little success that I had so far, I couldn’t really turn it down. I went to a few interviews that they lined up for me and I went in woefully underprepared. I went to each different company and got turned down by a number of companies for a variety of reasons. Now some of these companies seemed better than others but eventually, I realised that one of the reasons I was interviewing so poorly was that my heart really wasn’t in it and I’d quickly realised that this was something that I didn’t want to do with my life. In some ways, I was subconsciously self-sabotaging and that, along with the anxiety of the interview process, was always going to be destined for failure. So back I went to square one, politely declining the opportunity of anymore more interviews from the recruiter.

But did I feel better? Did I feel wiser for the experience? Absolutely not. I found the process mortifying. People were being offered to these companies like cattle, with there being dozens of other people like me in exactly the same situation and I remember getting to the final stage of one interviewing and being absolutely traumatised at the prospect of me actually getting the job at this company that I knew I would absolutely hate. And so I came back feeling as if I’d interviewed terribly and it had also dawned upon me just how competitive the graduate job market was.
So there I was back at the start and I felt like all I’d done was waste a whole load of time. So, what’s the logical thing to do? I started running away from my problems. I would be procrastinating and playing games all day, basically anything other than facing my problem head-on. I’d wake up and think ‘oh I’ll just play on my PS4 for an hour, so I wake up a bit and then get started’. Then four or five hours would pass. ‘Ok I would start my job search, but I can’t do it on an empty stomach’. Another hour of making and eating food would go by. After that ‘I need to wait for my food to go down before I start’. In that time, I’d invariably started playing on my PlayStation again and before I knew it, it would get to a time where there was no point in me starting. I had turned into a fully-fledged bum. No job, living at my parent’s house and not even really putting the effort in. Great for my self-confidence.

It was a horrible situation where the results i.e. how many job leads I got was directly affected by my output i.e. how many I applied for, which was horrendously low due to my extraordinarily high levels procrastination, only making my anxiety worse. Eventually, I confronted the fact that I was running away from my problems and actually started applying again. I knew that in this situation nothing was going to happen unless I made it happen. Yes, I might get another phone call from a recruiter out of the blue but the likelihood was that it was going to be another job that I didn’t really want, so gradually I started to slowly start applying for at least a few jobs a day.

This might sound like things started to move in the right direction, but this wasn’t necessarily true. There was another element that had started to come into play. Just before this, I had started experiencing terrible sleeping problems due to the anxiety that I was suffering from. I was sleeping around four hours a night max and I would wake up in the middle of the night in a panic. This meant that I rarely ever got back to sleep and I began feeling like a zombie all day every day. This all became a vicious cycle where my anxiety was causing me sleeping problems, my sleeping problems were causing me to not function properly, me not being able to function properly was causing me to perform terribly in phone interviews, me doing terribly in phone interviews meant I wasn’t getting a job and me not getting a job was causing the anxiety. This meant that I’d experienced for the first time, the feeling that there was no way out. I felt as though the more I wanted it, the more I cared, the worse my anxiety was getting and the more damage I was doing to my chances of getting a job.

Feeling Isolated

Another factor in this whole equation was that I was basically alone at the time. I was in a long-term relationship, with Aysh graduating the year before and already got a job down in London. Also, I was one of only three of my friends who actually graduated that year, with my other friends either previously taken a year out so still at Uni, had a gap year, or were doing a masters. They were both busy a lot of the time as well, so I ended up basically sitting in my room all day every day with the occasional quiet pint every week or so. These two still probably will never know how much I relied on them during this time and they wouldn’t have realised how grateful I was just to get myself out of the bedroom that was beginning to feel more like a prison cell. I literally felt at times like I was starting to go insane.

With a bit of perseverance and dedication to the cause, I actually started getting some sort of movement with a couple of jobs that I was genuinely interested in. This would temporarily improve my mood, but I would begin to start picturing myself in the job meaning that every rejection only hurt that bit more. But I soldiered on. I knew in the back of my mind that it was a numbers game and the more I applied for, the better chance I had and at the end of the day, I only needed one. I was self-analysing and looking at what I was doing well and what I was doing wrong with applications and interviews and felt like I was improving.

Out of the blue, I got a call from one of the jobs I applied for asking if I was available tomorrow for an interview in London. I said yes and made sure it was in the afternoon so, even if I didn’t sleep well, I could at least wake up a bit before I went. I read the job advert again and it was a job that sounded like it could be something that I was interested in. So I did my prep the day before and went down to London the next day. The interview went surprisingly well considering how badly some of them had gone previously. This was the first job interview where it sounded like something I was really interested in and I’d really got on well with both of the guys who interviewed me. I got told that they would get back to me in a week or two so I got the train back feeling good about how the interview had gone, but not wanting to get too attached to the job as I knew it would be another crushing blow if I got rejected again.

Then it happened. The very next day I got a phone call telling me that I’d got the job and they wanted me to move to London in the next two weeks. It was like the dark clouds just faded away and vanished. I went from an emotional wreck to landing my dream job in a heartbeat. I can’t even explain the way that I felt, it was just sheer joy and relief. All of those hours wasted on dead end applications felt worth it. It was the happiest I’ve ever been in recent memory and this is the job I’m still currently very happy in. I stuck at it when I was at one of my lowest points and my persistence had paid off.

So, Where Am I Now?

Believe me, moving to a city where you don’t really have any family or friends and have no idea whether the job is going to be what it said on the tin is a very stressful experience. You have the thought that you could hate the job, get fired or a whole host of other things going through your head. This is just naturally how I am though. I’m a worrier, I’ll always try and prepare myself for the worst possible outcome and it never ends up being that bad. Then you have the added pressure that you’ve just signed a contract to rent somewhere for a year with expensive London prices, which makes you feel kind of trapped. These were all things which made the first few months of my job really stressful. The sleeping problems continued but as the months passed, the more secure I felt and the more I began to enjoy what I was doing. I now feel very confident in what I’m doing and feel like I’m a valuable employee, but to be honest I’m just happy to be happy.

My Advice

So there, those are my two worst experiences in dealing with mental illness. My advice to anyone who goes through anything similar to me would be to first seek help when you need it. This can be professional help or someone that you can fully trust. Someone who’s actually going to be bothered about your problems and not going to judge you. This doesn’t mean making them your agony aunt. It means reaching out to them when you really need them. This also means that if anyone comes to you for help, take the time to listen about what they are going through. This doesn’t just mean face to face, but through your phone as well. I saw an interview with another person who had been on Love Island who Mike had tried to text two days before he committed suicide and she had never replied. She started to cry inconsolably when talking about it and imagine how you would feel if, god forbid, that happened to someone who you had aired. Obviously, everyone’s probably been guilty of not answering a phone call or text at some point and it’s almost certainly not the sole reason that Mike did what he did. But sometimes when you’re in a bad place, even just having a normal conversation with someone can make you feel like you’re not alone. If someone has taken the time out of their day to think about you and tried to contact you, at least have the decency to give them some sort of response. It never feels nice when you try to reach out to someone and they can’t even be bothered to reply.

Secondly, I’d say you should take a really long look at what’s causing your mental health problems. You need to understand what’s causing your problems and what you can do to help yourself. A lot of people start engaging in self-destructive behaviour when in reality positive behaviour leads to a positive mindset. Thirdly I’d say to never give up. I’ve been in some very dark places in my life, a lot more than what’s in this blog post, and looking back I’m so glad that I never gave up. I’ve always managed to bounce back and some of the happiest times of my life have happened not long after I’ve been in these places.

Finally, and in my opinion, the most important, learn to love and accept yourself. I have more flaws than I can count, and I love every single one of them. Sometimes I wish that some of these weren’t there, but no one is perfect. Loving yourself means the good and the bad because that’s who you are. This is not in a vain way but more of you being content with who you are. Remember that there’s always someone happy with less than what you have.

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