Poor Mental Health, Freelancing & Me

Let’s call poor mental health what it is: an absolute shit house.

Apologies for the language, but it is. It’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time, but it’s been manageable – until February and April 2022, the latter of which turned my life upside down to the point where, well, I could see the upside to taking my own life (I didn’t, and wouldn’t).

But that thought was there.

I’m not arsed about SEO and all that gubbins in this article because I want to talk about:

  • Poor mental health
  • How my recent breakdown occurred
  • What I did to find balance
  • Why freelancers are high risk for poor mental health

So, if you’re here for how I cleverly pull depression, panic, and anxiety into a story about how I turned my breakdown and subsequent therapy into a £12-million copywriting empire, you might want to stop reading now.

 

Ignoring the signs of poor mental health.

I’m going to level with you, I had a mental health blip in February 2022. I suffered a really quick onset of depression that affected my ability to read and write.

It. Was. Weird.

And it affected my work, ultimately costing me my main client.

I’d been unwell for a while, I was struggling with work and it came to a head when I couldn’t write a webpage for the client. What I wrote was littered with errors and oddities that made no sense. And it happened because I was suffering from severe anxiety and depression, and even though it read weird to others, it made perfect sense in my mind.

And I ignored it.

I took a week off, felt okay then carried on as normal.

It was just a blip after all, right?

Wrong.

Ignoring those early signs and symptoms of poor mental health led to something much worse.

 

The much worse.

What I’m about to tell you, most of my family don’t even know in this detail. I’m going to tell exactly what happened, the causes and then what I have done to work on overcoming it.

Some of this will sound weird. But honestly, I don’t care. Poor mental health is something a lot of people don’t or can’t talk about, and I hope my story helps anyone reading this who is struggling to find help.

Here goes…

I suffer from unwanted and obsessive intrusive thoughts.

We all do.

Ever thought about pushing someone in front of a train or bus and felt shocked by it?

Course you have, we ALL have.

The only difference between you and me is that you probably shake these thoughts off, whereas when I have unwanted intrusive thoughts, I obsess about them. Pretty much, it’s OCD. And where many people wash their hands or do some physical ritual to rid themselves of these thoughts, mine is verbal.

When I have really poor mental health, I talk about them.

And talk.

And talk.

That’s what happened in April 2022 and what led to a major breakdown.

Not only was I bombarded with thoughts almost 24/7, but these also set off anxiety attacks and depression to the point that I wanted to run screaming out of the house. I couldn’t watch TV, I just had to talk and talk and talk about the weird, unwanted, untrue shit going around my head to my wife.

And she had to listen to it every night for weeks on end.

Not only was my mental health fucked, but I was severely destroying my wife’s too.

 

Why unwanted intrusive thoughts are so bad.

Unwanted intrusive thoughts affect you because they are the WORST thing you want to think about. You can’t just do something else or think about something else. They’re immediate and you cannot stop them. And because they are horrible, you panic all the time.

My intrusive thoughts?

That I don’t love my wife.

One evening, while Elaine was booking a restaurant for our trip to Vienna, I wasn’t giving her my full attention, and a voice in my head appeared and said: “You just don’t care.”

BOOM!

My brain imploded, and from that moment, and for weeks afterwards, my head was flooded with:

  • You don’t love Elaine
  • You’ve never loved Elaine
  • What if you don’t love Elaine?
  • The last 13 years have been a lie, you’re a fraud
  • You resent her
  • Leave Elaine, you feel nothing

All the time. Non-stop.

Luckily, Elaine has suffered from severe mental health problems over the years and immediately said: “This is depression. This isn’t you.

Many people would have just left because that’s what the brain tells you. I 100% believed it. YOU would 100% believe it. There’s no, “Oh, just ignore it,” about it. You believe the rubbish it says without question (which is baffling when you finally get clarity).

And the more you fight it, the worse it gets.

I had panic attack after panic attack because these thoughts were scary and had come from nowhere.

What the hell?!

 

Deciding to kick intrusive thoughts in the balls

Even though I was sitting in a park hyperventilating, telling my wife I think I might have to leave her because my brain was telling me I didn’t love her, she sat calmly holding my hand, encouraging me to look for a therapist who would help.

I actually thought, “Fuck this!” from the very beginning. I wasn’t prepared to live like this, with this turmoil. I had to find out what it was, where it was coming from (though I had an inkling into some of it) and how to get back to feeling like myself.

I also looked at my life since COVID and noticed something.

My life was stagnant.

  1. I get up
  2. I work
  3. I watch TV
  4. I go to bed

And that’s it.

Every night of the week, with very little activity at weekends.

I knew from the moment my brain collapsed that I wasn’t going to put up with this, and within a day and a half, I decided to start kicking this thing in the balls.

 

My road to recovery.

Poor mental health is something I’d battled in the past, as were unwanted intrusive thoughts. I’d had something similar between 18 and 22 and received Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It worked then, but I needed a different approach this time.

So, I found a therapist specialising in Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), otherwise known as Tapping Therapy.

Tapping therapy is where you tap acupuncture points on your head, face, chest and body. And I chose her because she also specialises in past trauma.

I won’t go into details, but I’ve held on to a lot of hurt, anger and resentment from past relationships, things people have said and things I’ve done that have left me feeling shame and guilt. And I know this because they’ve been in the back of my mind for a long time. The main issue from my past happened 15 years ago, but there I was, still making it hurt me all these years later.

My therapist has helped me uncover some truths about my past that I’ve denied for years. And by opening up about them, admitting certain things to myself and forgiving myself for mistakes I’ve made, it has set free a shitload of anxiety and guilt that has helped me to move on.

Not only have I seen a therapist, I’ve also:

  • Danced around my bedroom three times a week to rid myself of adrenaline
  • Took up Mixed Martial Arts twice a week
  • Found a Yoga instructor who does two sessions per week at lunchtime
  • Walked a lot more
  • Done more meditation
  • Ran a few times (badly!)
  • Started Reiki therapy
  • Bought a colouring book
  • Started working in cafes two mornings per week

I reduced my working hours, and at one point, I only worked one hour a day.

But I’ve thrown everything at it.

Oh, and I’ve also started a course of anti-depressants.

Not only that, I read up obsessively about my condition and bought a new book with the latest research called Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts by Sally Winston & Martin Seif.

poor mental health

And it was life-changing.

I read it cover to cover twice in a week.

The book pretty much says unwanted intrusive thoughts get stuck and hurt so much because they are the OPPOSITE of who you are, your values and what you want. But the only way to recover is to stop fighting them. To have the thoughts but breathe normally.

To even bring the thoughts up yourself and repeat them over and over in the mirror because you have to desensitise your brain to them.

And within eight weeks of my life and marriage feeling like it was ending?

I’m pretty much me again but a better version of me.

I now have more hobbies and interests than ever before, I feel more fulfilled and I have techniques and support to help me combat my depression, anxiety and intrusive thoughts.

 

What was the reason for my recovery?

I haven’t fully recovered yet, but everything above has helped: The hobbies, the support and the therapy.

Depression comes in many forms and for different reasons.

I think mine came because, in January, I made a decision.

I told my wife I wanted to stop living in the past. Stop living with these hurts I’ve carried. I bought a Vision Board and wrote down everything I want in the future (which sits in front of me as I work every day). But, this decision to get over my past and move forward was fine in theory, but I was doing nothing about it.

So, first came the mini-breakdown in February that I ignored.

My brain was telling me: “We can move on and move forward, but you have to do something!

And because I didn’t, I had a breakdown.

Without poor mental health, I would have continued as I was. Now, I have more hobbies than ever. I have a host of techniques I can use to reduce anxiety and stress. I no longer have those thoughts about my wife (and if I do, I can identify them without having any emotional reaction as I’ve desensitised myself to them).

My therapist said the change in me in the time we’ve worked together is astounding and that she’s never had a client work so hard outside of session or do so much to get better.

I hit rock bottom and immediately decided I was not going to live like this.

But this isn’t about congratulating myself.

This is about helping others, and although I love being a freelancer, we’re a high-risk group for depression, anxiety, and a host of mental issues.

 

Why freelancers are at high-risk for poor mental health.

I love working from home. I don’t miss working with people, but even I have fallen foul of depression by making myself a recluse. A study has found that 64% of freelancers have suffered from or feel poor mental health has affected their work.

And we’re high-risk for many reasons:

  • No guaranteed income
  • No guarantee where the next job will come from
  • The stress of running your own business
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Negative feedback
  • Imposter syndrome

When you run your own business, all the pressure is on you. If you don’t find a way to release that stress, that’s when things go wrong. Also, working from home makes it easy to fall into a routine that leaves you feeling unfulfilled. And before you know it, your hobbies and interests get lost, and you end up doing the same thing repeatedly.

But that’s not to say that if you’re reading this and you’re not a freelancer, you can’t suffer from depression.

Poor mental health can happen to anyone, and I want you to know you are not alone.

 

If you need help, speak out.

If your mental health is at the bottom of the bin where all those smelly juices fester, speak out.

There is no shame in having poor mental health.

Not everyone can take action and change everything as I did. My GP and therapist said it’s rare when depression and anxiety are as bad as I had it to even get out of bed. But there are people and organisations who can help.

Reach out to a loved one, family, friend or colleague.

You will be surprised by how many people contacted me when I announced I was taking a break from social media to look after my mental health. About 40 people sent me DMs and emails. And a large slice either suffer or have suffered severe mental health issues.

I got texts from people I didn’t even know had my number telling me to stay strong and who checked in on me every day to see how I was doing.

Therapy isn’t for everyone, and it can feel scary at first, but it’s a game-changer.

If you’re not ready for that and need somebody to talk to, these services are there for you:

  • The Samaritans on 116 123 (it’s free!)
  • Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line
  • SANELine on 0300 304 7000
  • CALM on 0800 585 858

You can also download an app to your phone called Insight Timer, which is full of wonderful meditation and relaxation audios to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. You can even try Tapping Therapy, which is what I do. And one of the best ways to do that is to watch and follow the Brad Yates YouTube channel.

He has hundreds of videos that can help you with anxiety, depression and, hell, public speaking if that’s an issue for you.

Yes, I know Tapping sounds like new-age nonsense, but believe me – it works!

This was and is my story. I’m still in recovery and will be for a while to come.

Believe me when I say this: People understand more than you realise.

You will find much support and comfort by discussing your mental health problems openly. And it can give you the strength to finally stop letting it rule your life and give you the power to get the help you need.

Tell somebody today.

To quote Lord of the Rings, “Let them be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

Until next time

Matt

 

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freelance copywriter in liverpool, Indeliblethink Copywriting, copywriter matthew drzymala

Written by Matthew Drzymala

Hey, I’m Matt, a freelance tone of voice copywriter in Liverpool (though I’m originally from Manchester).

I specialise in writing laid-back, chatty copy for businesses who want to sound like somebody with a pulse runs their business – not a robot.

I’m also a comedy author, when I get the bloody time.

2 Comments

  1. Gill Lindsay

    Thank you so much for sharing this article. It means a lot. I am sure it will help many people and I certainly have taken some points from it already. It is so lovely that your wife understood what you were going through and recognised the signs. I am pleased to see you have found things to help you and look forward to hearing more about how your recovery is going.

    Reply
    • Matthew

      Thank you, Gill. It’s a long road, I’m still having blips but what I would say is is that I notice anxiety more at the moment. My therapist said I have probably lived on a high level of stress and anxiety for years, and when that comes down, I will feel anxiety spike more because I’m now operating at a much lower level of anxiety.

      I’m so much better than I was in April, but I have to be aware that I di my techniques, hobbies and therapies so I don’t slip backwards into old habits.

      Reply

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