Ever since I was a child I had issues with my behaviour and mood. As I entered into my teens this started presenting itself as intense anxiety, with regular panic attacks and outbursts of violent behaviour. I had no idea that what I was feeling wasn’t normal.
To escape this negative pattern, I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. This soon became an addiction, which despite several attempts I wasn’t able to shift in my early twenty’s. More abnormal behaviour and outbursts led me to start looking into what was happening in my mind. I was incorrectly diagnosed by my GP as Clinically Depressed and was visited as an outpatient by the local mental health team after having some low mood, suicide attempts and self-harm.
Unfortunately, the support from NHS was not enough and after a couple of particularly nasty incidents I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder. At one time I spent a couple of weeks in psychiatric care to help break that pattern of behaviour.
What is the best way to overcome any form of addiction? Replace it with something else. When I gave up my life of drinking, drugs, poor diet and negative attitude I replaced it with exercising. Later this became cycling training and my love affair with nutrition started because I needed to lose weight. I didn’t realise it at the time, but nutrition would become one of the cornerstones of maintaining my mental stability.
As the weight came off and my cycling legs came back (they had been missing around a decade!) I soon found myself becoming a strong cyclist. At first my determination and motivation came from wanting to prove to myself that I could do it, that I wasn’t a failure and that it was possible for someone like me to be a productive member of society. Later, when I was introduced to time trialing, that became wanting to beat myself.
I worked hard and I studied a lot. I leant how to convert a decade of coaching and people management experience, from a food retail environment, into one relevant to the cycling industry. My business was founded upon my belief that everyone should get a unique, yet outstanding client experience. This saw my business grow faster than I could ever expect and today it operates in 10 different countries, with an amazing team of people around me who help guide it.
One of my proudest days was being able to go professionally into cycling coaching and support myself. I had figured out exactly how to maintain my mental health through exercise (training), nutrition and having my business as a purpose to work hard remaining stable. Life was good again, I even managed to taper off the medication which had helped me find stability when I was first diagnosed.
Yet, something was missing. In analyzing my life I could time every severe manic episode with the breakdown of a romantic relationship and such in the five years I worked on myself and transformed from an overweight addict into a functioning member of society, I had hidden away from any romantic attachment. I had allowed myself to become a recluse, unable to communicate my issues and hiding that I had a mental disability, mainly due to the stigma attached to it.
I had the opportunity to spend a winter in California with some good friends. Sadly, my trip wasn’t plain sailing and I spent one of the longest periods of my life swinging between mania and depression. I had to learn to talk to people about my problems. This felt incredibly hard to begin with. Thoughts like ‘what will they think’, ‘can I trust them’ and ‘what if they use it against me’ filled my mind. But the saying is true, practice makes perfect. Not long after I had told those first handful of people was I recording a video that I shared on Facebook, which was viewed by tens of thousands of people.
One of the first people who I talked to was a women who I had met through a nutrition business I we involved in. We actually met on a video call with 10 other people in November 2015, I remember looking at her and smiling, a smile lit up her face. In turn this made me smile more, and so did she. We met in person in Phoenix at a conference March 2016. We spoke frequently between that time and when I visited her in Northern California December 2016. We had our first date January 1st 2017 but had very limited time together due to VISA restrictions. We fell in love via Facetime.
Noelle has become my rock, my muse, my inspiration. She taught me to love myself, to meditate and made me feel supported. With all aspects of my life complete; training, nutrition, relaxation and support I have finally found inner peace. No doubt this will be tested in the future, but for now I enjoy the tranquility of un-medicated good mental health.