For Men's Health Week 2017 we asked comunity members to share their thoughts on the term 'Healthy' and how they look after their health.
In Greg's on words, he talks about how he's supported his physical health and the impact that has had upon his mental health.
Now that I’m a proper grown up, more often than not when friends ask me, ‘How are you?’ I like to give them a genuine answer. I’m not talking about intimate GP-levels of detail or anything, but rather than say, ‘Oh yeah I’m fine thanks’, when actually I might not be, I might instead say, ‘You know what, I had a pretty rough time with my anxiety last week but I’m feeling way better today, how about you?’
Talking about health and well-being is such a big part of achieving health and well-being. Talking can mean reducing stigma about sexual and mental health, for instance, or sharing sources of help and information, or worries about unusual or troubling illness. I like to think that, even though the LGBT community suffer disproportionately in some areas of health and well-being, we’ve also led the way at having frank and honest conversations about those things. It’s no mean feat either, as health can be a thorny topic. Whether you’re a lesbian navigating reproductive options, a sexually active person wanting access to PrEP, or a trans person wanting to begin hormones, very often we’re faced with gatekeepers to health who may not be from the community and suddenly a ‘Queer Life 101’ is in order before we can even get through the door. Talking reduces isolation though, and the health of the community depends on the health of the individual.
Speaking of individual health, a couple of years ago I had a bad cycle accident and smashed my collarbone in several places. I was overseas, scared, didn’t speak the language, had metal pins put in and taken out leaving behind a huge scar. On returning home I had limited mobility, intense pain and a worrying fondness for morphine and codeine. I was housebound for a while, out of work, stressed and in pain. I put on weight, slept erratically and worried an awful lot. I had huge support throughout, from friends and family and the NHS. When I eventually began my physio I was daunted by the long road ahead. A friend of mine advised me to incorporate some beginner’s yoga into my physio regime. Yoga then became the ‘one good thing’ that I was able to recoup from my horrible accident. Going to yoga classes I also experienced meditation for the first time and started meditating daily. My anxiety, which had really come to the fore after my accident, gradually subsided. I then became braver with the challenges I took on, personally and professionally, and suddenly I wasn’t in financial debt every month and worried less about that. I started cycling again (just commuting, and very carefully!) and I lost my hospital weight and even got a bit fit. It took an accident to kick start all of it, but the benefits of good health spread out into every area of my life and I get the benefits of that daily.
Here’s some advice though: don’t wait until you fall of a bike in Malta. Take some small steps to improve and maintain your health. Change happens quickly and something can become a habit (good or bad!) in 3 weeks or less. Don’t be afraid of challenges, and when you take them on don’t do it alone, find a friend to take it on with you, get an app, join a class, sign up for the 10K. I never ever ran then got a running app and took loads of sponsorship donations so I just had to go through with it! I quit eating meat 15 years ago and have never missed it. I quit smoking about 7 years ago after multiple failed attempts and it was the best decision I ever made. I can’t even remember those few itchy days of withdrawal now but the benefits of it last forever. Find a physical activity you like. I don’t play sport and I hated PE, but I love to cycle (despite everything!) and swim, and my gym visits are only 25 minutes long so I never get bored. Gym improved my sleep and my general mood. I don’t care about getting muscles or anything, that’s never gonna happen! It just means I can eat whatever I want and the mental benefits of regular cardio are not to be underestimated. Why should you wake up worried?
The benefits of new health habits might be something entirely different to what you expect. Take up swimming and your libido might explode. Take up yoga and your backache might vanish. Give up smoking and your insomnia might fade. It’s fun to find out. Have a self-care day when you need it too. I put mine on the calendar and treat it like a work meeting: it can’t be moved or cancelled and my phone is switched off. When it comes to the real health issues that need medical intervention, get informed and find a doctor or health adviser that you like. I used to be scared of asking questions, now I’m the opposite: I write down what I want to say so I don’t forget and I make sure I know what’s been said before I leave. Nothing that’s happening to you hasn’t happened to someone else. And keep talking!
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