Mindshackles
  • Personal stories of reclaiming life from mental ill health
  • Jack: shot at the future

    You didn’t really know how to react with people.  Now, if I ever feel bad, I won’t ever close myself off, I’ll talk. That’s the difference I think.

    I come from a little island called Guernsey which not many people know about. When I tell people, I have to explain to them that it’s not some exotic island near the Caribbean, it’s just a little island, north of France. It’s a safe place to live, the crime rate there is quite low. Growing up, I never really had any problems. I went to a private school which offered a lot extra curricular activities so sport [was] definitely something I was really interested in as I was growing up. When I’m in Bath, I’m always looking forward to going back to Guernsey, to be honest, because it’s home and it’s completely different to anywhere over here.

     

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    Growing up, I used to play for a variety of different teams, the athletic team, the Guernsey golf team, the football team. Name a sport, I’m probably enthusiastic about it. When it came up to choosing where I wanted to go to university, Bath was the obvious choice because, it’s ridiculously renowned for its sporting success and the facilities here are amazing. I didn’t really have a second choice, it was either Bath or nothing.

    When I was seven or eight, my grandad took me up to the driving range with a mini set of golf clubs and told me to start hitting balls and putting. Since then I just really took off and it’s been something I’ve been doing every year. Golf is one of those things where you can drop everything, you can play it anywhere in the world and each time you are faced with a different challenge, each shot is different, each putt, each wind direction, it’s all completely different and it’s just something where you can really get away from reality, in a way. You put everything else on hold, play golf and just chill out with your friends, really.

    It’s fun, it can be competitive, it can be anything you want. It helps that I’m actually not that bad at golf, either. It’s not as stressful as if I was rubbish *laughter.* I don’t wanna sound too arrogant or whatever but I can hit the ball around the course, luckily enough.

    I didn’t get my grades for Bath and I was looking for another place to go. It was the day after results day, I was feeling a bit hung over actually, *laughter*. [I was]  in my front room at home, I got a call from someone at the early admissions office and they told me that even though I didn’t get my grades, I got in, which was great. I was ecstatic. It definitely brightened up my hangover for sure.

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    Despite the course being great and everything, at the start, I really struggled. Guernsey is a homely place and completely different. I got really homesick in my first year [it was] quite hard to settle. Last year, I closed myself off a bit and I sort of started to have these symptoms of anxiety which were quite surreal, because I’ve never really had that sort of problem before. At first it was weird, like heavy headaches and stresses about things and then it got worse to having awful panic attacks and cold sweats and having really bad heartburn, these awful symptoms. I found it hard to deal with at the time ’cos I didn’t know what was happening. It got gradually worse and then it led on to me being depressed.

    Luckily enough there’s great support systems in Bath. A guy called Anthony, he’s been my personal tutor and he’s been great, he’s always looking out for me, emailing me to make sure I’m all right and if I want meetings, that sort of support system is really important. Without it I would have really struggled. Not just me, I’ve heard [of] other people who have had problems, stresses a bit of anxiety, depression and all that stuff. [The university have] always been like, ‘What can we do to help?’  I’m lucky in that respect. In terms of my uni life, at the moment, it’s going good. I’m looking to get a 2:1 hopefully. I’ve got my dissertation coming up. That’s really important. The title is ‘How sport and physical activity affects your mental health and depression.’ So that’s something I’ve been really interested in. I’m looking into some elite sport at the moment. Johnny Wilkinson suffered from depression and anxiety, I’m reading some of his autobiography and analysing that. I’m comparing people’s experiences to mine [to] find out a bit of a broader view.

    During my third year, I sort of made my room my safe place. Sometimes, I couldn’t go out of my room, I couldn’t, literally, physically, go onto the bus up to uni, it was that bad. I’d get awful panic attacks on the bus up when it was really busy. I remember once, I was at a lecture, I got to the door and I was like, ‘I can’t go in.’ Walked straight out. Its been a quite surreal experience really. Imagine taking off on a plane, on a runway and it never lifting up, so you’re on an endless runway. That feeling of trepidation and proper anxiety.

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    I had really strong support from my family and my girlfriend and my friends, but it’s still something which I think about now, even though it’s nowhere near as severe. My mum was like, ‘If you ever want to come home, just tell me.’ The problem with Guernsey is, it’s not just a train [ride] away. It’s like a flight, or a boat. There’s always that mental barrier.

    I sort of realised, ‘I need to do what I did before.’ I was always going to the gym. I was always playing golf. Why not put those things back into my life, rather than closing myself off from what was normal to me before? So I started to go to the gym. and that helped. Not too much activity, I just wanted something easy to get it off my mind. Go for a swim, go for a run, lift a few weights, nothing too strenuous.  I used to go and play golf all the time. I thought I’d try [to go] back to what I thought was important to me [to] get through what [was a] really hard time. It helped a lot. Even though something like golf is a lot of time just walking around and not really doing much, you’re always thinking about your next shot. I wasn’t thinking about myself and my feelings, I was thinking about how to beat my friend and get it in the hole essentially, it put my mind on different things.

    In the back of my mind I’ve still got that thought that it’ll come back or, I have some bad days but nowhere near as bad. Now I try and keep myself in a routine. I get up at a certain point, I try and get enough work done and I get to the gym, keep myself occupied and surround myself with the right people. I think the social part is one of the most important because when you’re with people and you’re having a good time, you’re not really thinking about yourself and what’s wrong. I’ve always been very open about my problems which I think’s been important as well. It’s a bit more active in your rehabilitation, really. It is important  to understand yourself but other people’s support is definitely just as important.

    At the time, my friends, people that I lived with, I didn’t see much of them because I was always in my room just trying to understand what was wrong. They knew something was wrong but they never really knew how to be around me, which was quite difficult. My girlfriend was always very worried, she knew something was wrong and I told her about it. That was quite stressful because I never really wanted to upset her or make her think that she did anything wrong. It was just something that happened and no one is ever to blame but it was hard because it just … You didn’t really know how to react with people.  Now, if I ever feel bad, I won’t ever close myself off, I’ll talk. That’s the difference I think.

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    My aim [is] to become a secondary school PE teacher, hopefully in public schools, because that’s where I come from originally. It’s where I’ve had really good experiences with sport and I think that’s the best place to go for sports development. This time next year, hopefully, I’d be half -way through studying to be a teacher so I’d be going into schools and learning how to get the best out of young people. I think teachers are quite under appreciated but, at the end of the day, they’re doing everything for you to improve and develop as a person. It’s quite holistic, it’s quite rewarding. A year ago I was probably sat thinking, ‘This is the worst time in my life, how’s it gonna go?’ Now I’m thinking, ‘What’s my next step?’ so it’s completely different, like it’s amazing how a year can change things.

     

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