Luke who has suffered with panic attacks, explains why he is competing in the Lisbon triathlon.
On 18 May 2019, I will be participating in my first triathlon in Lisbon ‘Challenge Lisboa’ to support Mind raise awareness for mental health. Challenge Lisboa is one of the fastest triathlons in the world, and anybody who knows me won’t be surprised this is the one I picked.
"I hope that by raising money for Mind I can help those that are struggling in silence."
Mental health can strike all of us at any point in our lives. I hope that by raising money for Mind I can help those that are struggling in silence not knowing how they will simply get through the day, let alone enjoy all that life has to offer. I also want to help remove the stigma around mental health, making people aware that having a bad day, having a panic attack or even feeling down is actually normal. You are not the exception and you are not alone. My therapist taught me something that will always stick with me: ‘Sometimes you will have bad days, we all do, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t’.
For me, living life up until 18 came easy. I coasted through school with good grades, had a big network of friends and family, and I was always involved in every social / sporting event. Luckily throughout my story none of this changed, which I am thankful for because I hurt a lot of people by making bad decisions along the way and everyone has stuck by me. For that I will always be grateful.
When I was 19, I moved to Geneva to work as a financial advisor. On the first night I got to Geneva I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance in a country I barely knew with the symptoms of a heart attack. I was later released from hospital at 2am and told I had a panic attack. It was the scariest experience of my life. I was starting my new job at 8am and somehow managed to turn up with a brave face (something I never had to do before, I had never had to fight with my emotions).
During this time, I also got in trouble with the Police (nothing too serious but resulting in a fear of tight spaces and sirens), my Dad divorced my Mum and left to live in America causing me anxiety and my sister showed signs of poor mental health. From the age of 13 my sister required several in-patient stays in hospital suffering from a series of mental health conditions. Fortunately, she is doing well now due to a combination of medication, talking therapies and her determination to get better.
From 19-24 I struggled with frequent panic attacks. Rather than finding out why, I just went with it in silence, embarrassed that people might perceive me as weird, weak or abnormal. I felt an overriding sense of fear with most of the things I did.
"What had been a panic attack in Geneva had now become a far bigger problem with debt and, daily stresses."
I constantly made bad decisions. I would gamble and drink whenever I could as it gave me a release which led me to a lot of selfish decisions that deeply impacted my loved ones. I tried to speak to professionals, take medicine, meditate, I always had positives thoughts around changing my bad habits, but however hard I tried I couldn’t break the cycle of bad emotion leading to bad decisions. What had been a panic attack in Geneva had now become a far bigger problem with debt and, daily stresses all because I chose to cover up my feelings.
"I kept thinking I could fix things myself. But I couldn’t and eventually had to make changes to my life."
I kept thinking I could fix things myself. But I couldn’t and eventually had to make changes to my life. The biggest was seeing a therapist and cutting out all the negative crutches I had put in place to make myself feel better.
I am by no means great every day, but through the positive changes I have made I now find myself struggling maybe once every couple of weeks, when before life was a daily struggle for me. I want to scream and shout as loud as I can to tell everyone that although you might not have found your solution yet, with the right help you can lead a life full of positivity and self-fulfilment. I am fortunate enough to say that I have received the help I needed through a mixture of things and I am now in a position where I can begin to help others. By raising £5,000 for Mind by putting my body through a race that could have only been looked as a dream 24 months ago makes me incredibly proud.
I hope that my story encourages others to recognise our mental health is important and struggling is not something you should be ashamed of. We all struggle at some point in our lives. By speaking out I hope I help others in some small way.
First and foremost, I am doing this for myself and my amazing sister. But, to everyone out their struggling, I am doing this triathlon for you too. You are not alone, and I hope that together we can make an impact on those around us.
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