Hello my loyal readers! Some of you might be wondering where I’ve been, alternatively some of you following other social media platforms might be wondering where I haven’t been given my recent travels.
Whichever bracket you fall under, the biggest reason for my disappearance is that I’ve been exhausted.
I’ve been pretty busy of late – particularly as far as traveling goes and I have been a bit overwhelmed at how busy I’ve been. It has been enjoyable but as someone who’s an introvert I crave that space to refresh and re-energise and my little free time hasn’t afforded me that luxury of late. Consequently I’ve embraced those small windows where I’ve had a bit of free time and I’ve sacrificed blogging. I just haven’t had the energy for it once travel, football, social plans, work and everything else has been over with.
The good news is I’m hopeful that I’ll be a bit more regular on the blog again, however before jumping back in to it with a travel inspired post I thought I’d focus on something a little more mental-health focused given that it is apparently mental health awareness week.
One of the big causes of the growth in mental health issues is in the “importance” of social media and how much of a detriment it is having towards people’s health. I’m quite fortunate in that the pros of an online environment or experience outweigh the cons for me. However it appears to be a growing trend that the cons are doing more damage than the pros for many other people.
People, particularly young people, suffer from comparing themselves to other people’s “perfect lives” or suffer from those “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) moments that look incredibly more attractive than our own circumstances. Happy families, loved up couples, business-folk driving around in Ferrari’s, non-stop travelers such as myself. Everyone has it better than you, right?
I try to make this point every so often because I’m quite conscious that I’m living the perfect lifestyle online. I enjoy sharing my travel photos, I enjoy sharing my ‘highlights’ but this idea that my life is enviable is one I struggle with. We all have our insecurities and shortcomings in life and I certainly have my own.
So in the spirit of being a bit more transparent and vulnerable, here’s a dose of reality from social media boy.
I’ve somewhat covered mental health topics on the blog before but the biggest and most over-whelming response I had to any blog post was Sickboy’s tale of anxiety. Sharing that was nerve-wrecking but the response overwhelmingly supportive. I couldn’t believe how many people read it or had mentioned it over the family-weekend-get-together which fell on the weekend I posted it.
One of the big points made in that post was how daunting solo travel was and how getting past those fears helped rid me of the worst of my anxiety. I’ve traveled solo many times since and I’m commended for my ‘bravery’ which I can understand, I stand by the reality that your first solo trip is incredibly nerve-wrecking but the reality is once the first solo trip was out of the way I’ve found it incredibly easy.
The bigger fear or insecurity for me is probably the opposite – putting yourself out there to find company to travel with. I’m not opposed to sociable activity but I’m actually a bit of a recluse and somewhat of an outcast.
Do I travel solo through choice or do I ask someone to join me and end up going solo anyway because they can’t make it. Rejection! (HA!)
“Did you not know they hate you? Idiot!”
“but there’s hundreds of entirely plausible reasons they said no..”
“The most likely being they hate you!”
Don’t get me wrong, I know that I have friends and loved ones and everything else but there’s always been that nagging insecurity that I don’t fit in. Be it school, college, work, social groups, family get-togethers or whatever – I’m the oddity of the group. The quiet one, the boring one, the.. you get the point.
I’m not suggesting it’s logical. Insecurities, paranoia or self-doubt rarely is. I do have this internal argument with myself in which I reassure myself and pick myself up but that insecurity has always been there. Infact it was probably a huge cause of how my anxiety started.
I spent the best part of my teenage years locked away (not literally!) in my bedroom and had become the ultimate recluse. From the age of 14 to 20 I had no real friends and subsequently no social life. You’d be forgiven for thinking I was depressed but I was happy – genuinely for the skeptics among you.
I had friends in Texas, Massachusetts, Lancashire, Essex or countless other places around the globe. The internet deprived me of that loneliness and I immersed myself in countless online platforms. Habbo Hotel, Yahoo Pool, Xbox Live etc etc – I made friendships for life in those years but I was about as much a recluse as could be.
Then I started work at Sainsbury’s and it was the same old. I don’t fit in here, do I? It was all a little bit clique-y and consequently for what was probably the first year of my job I only had colleagues, not people I considered friends. I generally had a better relationship with the customers opposed to anyone I worked with.
Then the next batch of recruits came in and things changed! There wasn’t that same clique and I started making friends – people outside of the internet that I could actually see face to face.
You’d think having no friends would be worse but there was a comfort and safety in being a recluse, I was largely dependent on my own company and became comfortable within that. Making friends was harder. I had something valuable I now didn’t want to lose and as I started seeing these friends outside of work the anxiety kicked in.
“Don’t fuck it up you loser!”
I spoke in my sickboy post about the physical aspect of the anxiety but that’s how it was. To some extent you manage the mental side of mental illness but when it becomes physical illness too there’s nowhere to hide.
The last thing you want to be doing when meeting friends is throwing up at the sight of them. I can remember getting a bus over to a friend’s house on one occasion and having her meet me at the bus stop only to be throwing up within seconds of getting off the bus.
“Lovely to see you, bleurgh..”
For someone that struggles making friends it’s not ideal throwing up in the company of the few that take pity on you. From there the anxiety just spiraled. Every social occasion, job interview, first day, whatever resulted in the same ritual of planning around the inevitable sickness.
“Try not to throw up in the company car park before going in for this interview, okay Jason? They’re probably not looking for that..”
That sickness chapter ended with Sydney (2013), the solo trip that helped build my confidence and rid me of the worst (physical side) of my anxiety. I started traveling more and have sustained friendships and relationships and whatever else since then but there’s always been that lingering self-doubt or insecurity in terms of fitting in.
With the exception of the football community I’ve always felt like an outsider and it’s why I’ve always said football is my biggest passion, even ahead of travel. Additionally it’s why I take exception to those calling it “just a game” who’ve never experienced the community aspect to it or the belonging that comes with it.
There’s nothing quite like it and I recently said that THAT night in Amsterdam was probably the best of my life because the outpouring of emotion and jubilant celebrations that followed the game is a moment I’ll never forget. I probably hugged 100 random people out in Amsterdam and they don’t care what your background is – just that you’re Spurs.
Getting back on track, I know that self-doubt and lack of belonging is in my head and ridiculous but it’s not something that is easily turned on and off.
With that introduction comes perhaps my low-point of 2018. It was the year I turned the big 3-0, as some of you’ll know I celebrated my 30th birthday by spending 30 days in the USA.
That’s all well and good, amazing memories and all that, but I live in England. I still wanted to celebrate my birthday here, despite not enjoying being the centre of attention. Ordinarily I’d happily forego birthday plans but it was a biggie, a little more special and I had to do something with people on this little island too to mark the occasion.
Perhaps surprisingly I enjoy social outings but I’m not really a plan-maker. I’m happy to hang out and do things most of the time but it’s usually as a result of someone else organising something – a trait I’m trying to work on improving and actually being a bit more proactive in making plans.
Anyway, I wanted to keep it simple and sent out open invitations for an afternoon / evening down at a local pub/restaurant on the river (literally). A huge beer garden, warm summer day and an “all welcome” approach. Perfect!
“Nobody’s going to come. They all hate you, you loser!”
That little voice in my head was shot down. The only way I was going to get past this illogical insecurity / self doubt was to head it face on. That’s the sound advice everyone gives you right? “Face your fears”.
Of course the fairytale ending is you face that fear and you’ve overcome it afterwards. All I had to do was put myself out there and there’d be an outpour of love and happy memories to look back on.
Sadly life doesn’t always go to plan and the turnout was actually quite disheartening. I’m grateful to the few who came out but there were far fewer people than I’d anticipated. It stung.
I’d been carrying the disappointment all day and I don’t think it was until I’d put Ross in to a cab later in the night that the weight of it hit me. I was up for a boogie, up for extending the evening a bit longer but I was just sat in this club alone and felt empty. There were other people in the club of course but I was sat celebrating my birthday on my own. I was craving for a familiar face to walk through the door of the club to make me feel less alone and change the end to my night but it wasn’t to be. I felt emotional and it killed my night.
“Don’t cry here man, just get home.”
Which I did. I grabbed a taxi home, curled up in bed and shed a few tears. That pesky insecurity had got the better of me, feeling like I’d taken a slap in the face and almost validating every self-doubt I have. Admittedly I’d had a few beers but it’s very easy to overthink in the early hours of the morning and enhance that doubt in yourself.
I analysed it, I questioned everything, I even took to Facebook and bitterly culled a few people which was somewhat therapeutic if I’m honest. I then had another cry and eventually I slept.
In the immediate aftermath it perhaps left a little emotional scarring but I picked myself up, dusted myself down and reassured myself as I often do.
In the many months since I’ve contemplated posting this story multiple times in a multiple of different ways and been reluctant to hit that ‘post’ button. I don’t think there’s any way to have written this without it seeming a little guilt-trippy which is definitely not my intention!
The reality is there are numerous reasons and circumstances which didn’t go in my favour on that particular day. From commitments to finances to emergencies to whatever, there are plenty of factors that played a part and deep down I know is no reflection of how loved I am. A lot of friends were out of town and had other arrangements and that’s life. I completely understand that.
So please don’t feel:
1) Guilty. If you’re reading this there’s no resentment on my part.
2) Pity. I don’t need your pity either.
As I said the purpose of this post was more to offer a dose of reality and transparency on my part – this month in particular which has been busy. I am conscious that my life often LOOKS perfect but this was a way of showing I’m as messed up as everyone else. Everything looks perfect on the internet but we’re all dealing with our own problems.
Potentially not everyone is comfortable being as vulnerable and open with their issues but just because you’re not reading it, like you are here, that doesn’t mean people aren’t going through a rough period.
Personally I’m in a good place right now, I probably wouldn’t be posting this if I wasn’t, but I thought it important to share a brutally honest and vulnerable side to my life and low-point to my 2018. Fortunately things change quite quickly and I had a good few reminders through the rest of the year of my place and importance in the world following that. They could be seen as seemingly insignificant moments to others but moments or celebrations I was included in that reminded I’m not forgotten about or insignificant.
Anyway I think I’m done rambling, apologies if you endured all of it! Given it is mental health awareness week I’d like to end by reminding you that you can message me any time you’re struggling and need a chat.
Alternatively the following organisations all do a good job of helping those struggling with mental health and you can get in touch with if you want to talk to someone a little more anonymously.
That’s a wrap! Next time on the blog will be back to the travel stuff and specifically part 2 of my Bavaria trip (Sep 2017). If you want to remind yourself of part one you can here: A trip to Memmingen!
All the best!