Ben works for an assessment centre for young men coming into care, and also works part time at Exeter Phoenix Centre. He got involved in the City Fit Club to improve his mental and physical health.
“I wanted to get back into fitness. My mental health had been quite bumpy but not too severe – when a friend mentioned it to me, the idea of getting back into fitness sounded attractive, and I was self-aware enough to realised I needed some encouragement.
“I was probably in my late teens when I had my first experience of poor mental health, and it’s stayed with me on and off throughout the years. Over the years I’ve learned to deal with it, enhancing my wellbeing through exercise, good diet and not drinking too much.
“I’ve recently seen a therapist as over Christmas my mum passed away – I was just keeping afloat through exercise. but had some anxiety issues I didn’t have the time or money to really address. I was trying to support the house, work etc so I could keep up, but over Christmas it got worse, so I realised I needed to ask for help, otherwise it can get pretty dark.
“Luckily my poor mental health in the past meant that I was able to see it for what it was. It doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, but luckily having had that experience I was able to recognised the signs in myself. I went to see the therapist at the DAS, and he asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted someone to throw down the rope so that I could pull myself back up.
“My experience of mental health so far has been that throughout my 20s I was waiting for life to begin, so that I could wait for everything to feel right and everything to feel good, but what I’ve found out is that for me, it’s about at the start you make yourself uncomfortable for a bit by doing things that are difficult – that’s the bit where someone hands you the rope; then you’ve got to push yourself that little bit to climb back up again and then crack on with it.
“The most important thing to say to someone is ‘When you’re ready, I’m here.’ When things are really extreme and really bad, you want people there but you don’t necessarily want to interact with them. The best thing that I’ve had when things got really dark, was probably just being around people – not having to talk but knowing they loved me and I loved them, and that was ok.
“Without people around me I wouldn’t have had the ability to bounce back again and wouldn’t have had the desire to push through it. There’s nothing like having a group of people around you who will listen.”