Over the last 12 to 18 months, Richard, 42, has been living with anxiety. This gripped his life in a way that he never thought possible. During his struggles, Richard called us, at the Sanctuary, for support overnight. Now, on his road to recovery, he’ll be blogging about his experience of living with anxiety and the epic cycling challenge he’s set himself for the coming year.

Twelve months ago I returned to work after a six month absence due to anxiety. My GP, when I first went off from work, didn’t give me a diagnosis and I felt as if they didn’t really care. I felt I was being forced back to work when I wasn’t really ready to go back. I left that appointment and went straight to another practice and asked to get another opinion. Once I finished telling the new GP how I had been feeling he gave me a diagnosis of “General Anxiety Disorder.” I had never heard of this before, but it came as such a relief. I couldn’t really hear anyone in the room, my wife or my GP as I was focusing on what he had just told me. I knew then I could concentrate on getting better, I had finally been told what could be wrong with me. The sense of relief that came over me, I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe it.

That was 12 months ago, I am now feeling better, the medication is being reduced and, above all, I am riding my bike with a big smile on my face.

The 12 months prior had been hard, but this last 12 months have been even harder, not just for me, but for my wife who has“lived with my anxiety” along with me. My behaviour, my mood and my anger, at times, has affected her more than it has me. No one thinks about those around them, those who care and love them, and how depression and anxiety can affect them as well as the person who lives with it.

I once described it as “suffering” now I say “living.”

I don’t suffer from it I live with it. This is part of the way I have tried to “heal” myself, by admitting that I have anxiety and not trying to hide it. I think this has been part of me for a lot longer than I could care to admit. I used to go to the pub every night, act the fool and be the one the loudest voice so attention was focused on me, so I would not be alone. That was then, this is now, in between the two periods, I got married, bought a house and became a dad.

It was those three things that set me on a downward spiral. I suddenly had two other people to look after, I was the one they looked up to, I was the one that they depended on. I have a big house, a mortgage and everything I always dreamt of. I was brought up in a loving house, a council house, with my mother, grandma and sister. We never had that much money but we were happy.

Suddenly, here I was as “the man” of the house, the one who thought he had to do everything. I didn’t’ and I don’t, but that is how I felt. I am the one who has to do everything. I couldn’t cope with the responsibility. I didn’t think I was good enough for any of it, my wife, my daughter and my new house. I now know it’s not all mine, it’s ours – it’s our house, it’s our marriage and our daughter. But that’s how it felt to me. The responsibility was overwhelming, I can’t do any of this, I’m not used to spending this sort of money renovating a house etc.

However, that diagnosis, that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was not the end or the beginning or the middle, it was another section of my life. It was the next chapter, the story of my life took another twist, let’s see where this goes to.

It went to my best mate, the person I was best man for and he was for me, the person who is always up for a laugh and a pint with was undergoing chemotherapy and cancer treatment. A drunken night in Durham ended up with a bunch of idiots deciding to cycle from Whitehaven to Sunderland.

Plans were made, training was undertaken, but not by me as I didn’t like my bike. I just couldn’t swing my leg over and get my foot on the pedal. Here was me, the person who used to cycle about 160 miles a week to and from work and on a weekend. That bike, that can just stay there, I don’t like you. But I made a commitment to my friend, he nearly died, he might not have been here. We might not see in months but then we do and pick up a conversation like one of us had just gone to the bar 10 minutes earlier. I had agreed to do the ride but I’d already beaten myself, I’d read about the route, I’d read about the one big hill, that awfully long steep endless hill, Hartside Pass. Nope I was not riding that hill, I cannot do it. The anxiety had gripped me once more. I worried about it, I couldn’t sleep because of it. What is one little hill, it’s nothing, my mate nearly died and had got this far, he had trained, he was ready, he did it, as did all the others. I crawled in the van and didn’t ride all of the second day. I failed, I beat myself up about.

That was in June 2017, but 6 months later and I am much better. I feel positive about myself, about everything. I like to ride my bike again and I’ve bought a new one, so I’m ready to go again.

I’ve set myself goals and targets to help me deal with one issue at a time.

I’ve challenged myself to beat that hill like I am learning to live with anxiety – tick one box at a time. I’ve set myself goals and targets to help me deal with one issue at a time. If that issue can’t be dealt with, then I put it to one side, find the next thing to deal with and don’t dwell on the situation. I think positively about what it is you want to do and how you could possibly deal with it.

I have a sport tracker app on my phone, I set targets and interval training on the app. Yeah, like that was a good idea! That was removed quite quickly. Why did I do that? Because I wanted a quick solution and I wanted that fitness straight away, but that’s not how you get it – it’s not a quick fix, just like dealing with my mental health issues. I can’t just make it go overnight. So with my learning in place about how to deal with things how to rationalise and think positively I have started from scratch.

My target, June 2018, my goal, ride that demon hill and get to the other end in Tynemouth. I will ride like the wind and be strong, physically and mentally. Come and join the ride with me, come on my journey, we can learn to ride together, we can learn to deal with our issues, deal with what is in front of us, deal with what is behind us, if we can’t let’s find another way to train, to banish the demons, and go again. I know I will, can you?

My anxiety journey has begun, I don’t know if it will ever end, but I know I can at least try to ride that hill.

You can follow Richard’s story and support his journey to recovery by visiting his JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/richard-crewe1