Our challenge changed things. It helped us to realise that anything was possible; no longer did even the biggest and most unbelievable of events feel unachievable. Walk 30 miles? No more taxing than walking to the shops. Cycle 250 miles? No different to cycling to work.
However, when faced with the prospect of everyday challenges much closer to home such as work and family – the unbelievable suddenly seems much easier to complete.
Like we’ve said before, we don’t want to make this blog solely about us – it can all quite quickly get a bit self-involved. We can though, help put a few things into context.
Which is why, when I learned I would be made redundant the day I learned I was to be a dad for the first time, it helped me realise a few very simple things.
To truly win the battle over anxiety and mental stress we need to have the basics covered. We can practice things such as mindfulness techniques or CBT therapy to alleviate some of the symptoms but if the basic elements of life are not in place it can become an impossible situation to control.
Seven or eight years ago, whilst working as a youth worker, I got to learn about something called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a psychological theory which explains the basic needs of human existence. Often simplified in a pyramid, the bottom and most important section denote the basic needs of human survival: air, water and food. Just above that is the need for security, both personal and financial.
When added to my own set of circumstances, the thought that in a time of austerity we would be unable to adequately provide for a child became utterly terrifying. I mean, we would have got by, things would have worked out fine, but then thinking clearly in a time of panic was never an easy thing to do.
Still, in a time of poverty, political instability and humanitarian crisis, talking about your own redundancy seems increasingly futile. However, applied to our modern world, hemmed in by rising costs, increasing competition and the weight of expectation, it all becomes relative, leaving you with the increasing feeling that you are out of control, staring into the abyss of personal destruction.
People will tell you that you that you will be ok, that things will work out. It is at this point that you switch off, your mind wondering away into a dark chasm of self-loathing, convinced that despite the insistence that it is the role has been made redundant and not the person, you have been found out. It has finally been discovered that you are an imposter who, for many months, has quietly convinced a group of individuals that you are more than a walking, talking pile of deception.
We have been led to believe that life should take a linear path: birth, childhood, school, university, work, family, pension and death. Anything that interferes with that pattern, especially in our modern world of societal expectation, is increasingly viewed as erratic, almost unforgivable.
Redundancy then, in the light of this, is the modern world’s version of a bout of leprosy. You have fallen off the metaphorical path, tainted by a career disease that is viewed almost as disgustingly as that most famous of medieval diseases.
If you happen to work in a large organisation and people find out, they might do one of two things: stay well away for fear of being associated with the failure disease or eagerly catch you up as you walk down the corridor to pat you on the shoulder like you have some terminal illness, something painful – possibly leprosy of the face.
For weeks you sit and stare into space, internal conversations milling through your mind like the sound of chainsaw picking its way through a dense rainforest. Each strike of the chainsaw against the bark comes with it another reminder that you have lost control of your own destiny – adrift in a sea of panic and confusion.
To give any fuel to what is already a brain filled with anxiety is like giving an out of control bush fire the oxygen it needs to burn down homes.
Redundancy then, at a time when life demands uniformity and normality is one of few things, possibly along with ill-health or family tragedy, that has the potential to destroy the work taken to keep the worst ravages of overthinking in check.
With my own situation now fortunately sorted, would I recommend any advice to anyone going through similar experiences? Well, yes. Try not to overthink. However, that’s like asking a patient with a back problem to not complain of backache.
I would though remove anything from your life that you cannot control. The news, although it obviously pays to be informed, is designed with the very intention to make us nervous and anxious so that we are easier to control when the inevitable ‘big decisions’ have to be made. It isn’t needed; concentrate your efforts on tangible things that keep your mind occupied without the capacity to feel worse than when you started – unfortunately that means getting high or drunk are out of the question.
Rigorous exercise, cooking, reading interesting literature, digging holes, planning challenges; they might sound like basic answers to complex issues but to regain your mind, a mind that is incredibly powerful, you need to divert its attention. It might be temporary but for some temporary is necessary.