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Joe’s Story: What I would say to my 17 year old self


“I can’t remember the exact moment I decided that I wanted to get up and get help, but I am so grateful that I was still here and able to make that decision.”

When I was young, I can’t remember a time when my brain wasn’t in overdrive. I can’t remember being calm. I just remember this constant feeling of worry. Always panicking about how I was coming across, what people were thinking about me as I passed them in the street, forever worrying that something was going to go wrong.

At the time I presumed it was just part of being a human, and I guess I didn’t really think it was a major problem.

Fast forward to being 17, and the endless years of worry, stress, and what I now know as anxiety, finally took its toll. At 17, I thought my life was over. I thought I’d let everyone down, that I was a burden, and I spent the following year and a half lay on the bed in my grandparents’ spare bedroom, wishing somehow, that I could go to sleep and just not wake up.

I can’t remember the exact moment I decided that I wanted to get up and get help, but I am so grateful that I was still here and able to make that decision. My angel of a mother got in touch with Manchester mind, and I started to go for weekly counselling sessions. Even the experience of just talking, telling someone how I felt, and them being so understanding, made me feel like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. And with that weight lifted, it meant I could start moving forward.

Over the next number of years, there were many highs, and an incredible number of lows. I’m not going to lie and say I never go back to that place, because I do. Maybe far too often. But each time I become better and better at dealing with it, I get quicker and quicker at bringing myself back to a place of comfort.

This is the thing, it doesn’t get easier, life doesn’t rid its self of the tests, the stress and all of the problems, but you do get better. Although I wouldn’t change any part of my journey for the world, I do wish I could go back and talk to that kid who thought his life wasn’t worth living. Assure him that everything will be okay. That there are so many people who are better off because you’re in their life. That he doesn’t need to be perfect and to not put so much pressure on himself.

On Friday 13 November 2020 I ran 100km… For a number of reasons.

One of them was to help raise money for the most incredible charity that is Manchester Mind, that do such unbelievable work in the city I adore. Another was to remind that kid that lay in his grandparents’ bedroom thinking his life was over when it hadn’t even actually begun, that he’s still here, and he’s capable of more than he could’ve ever possibly imagined.

Running to me is symbolic of betterment. Of self-development. Of doing things you thought were not possible. There’re not many things that bring me as much joy. This is coming from someone who in high school pretended to be seriously injured from rugby training, so he didn’t have to do the “12-minute run” in P.E. (sorry Mr. Dooling).

If you’re struggling, if you feel like everything is too much, if you can’t see a way out. I get it. But believe me, it doesn’t always have to be this way. And whilst this is not me saying, that just because other people have felt the same, that you should automatically feel better, you can take peace in knowing that it is possible, because so many others have done it, and I know you can too.

“You can accomplish the biggest task in life by disciplining yourself to take it one step at a time. Your job is to go as far as you can see, and you will then be able to see far enough to go further.” (Brian Tracy)

Don’t think too far ahead. Just about what is directly in front of you. Your task for the day might just be to get up and have a shower. It might be to make your bed. It might be to go for a 10 minute walk around the block.

In isolation and to the average person these things seem insignificant. To someone who is overwhelmed by the worries, stresses, and fears that life often causes, they can help produce a sense of achievement. Give a small glimmer of hope and provide that boost they need to get on the path to feeling better.

And when you can’t have a good day, it’s okay to just have a day.

Not everyday is going to be plain sailing. Not everyday is going to be full of joy and happiness. However, doing whatever we need to do in order to get through those days, allows us to be here to experience the ones that are.

There’s often a lot of focus about what the person in the situation can do to help themselves, what often doesn’t get spoken about is the toll it takes on their family members, the people that love them. They often are at a loss to know what to do, what to say. Whether they’re going to do “more harm than good”.

My advice would be not to worry about anything else apart from being there. As hard as it is, show up each day and be seen. You don’t have to know the exact right thing to say, because if we’re honest, there’s not many people who really do. Just love them unconditionally.

It may be a day, a week, a few months, or a year, but I promise there will be a time when that person is ready. And they’ll need you. So please, make sure you’re still there.

There is still time to sponsor Joe via his Justgiving page.


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