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 Martin's own words, he talks about how he's managed his anxiety and depression after a diagnosis.

Martin Quinton is the Co-chair of the LGBT+ Network for the Environment Agency, based in Manchester.

Hi I’m Martin. I work for the Environment Agency as a Customers and Engagement Specialist and I also Co-chair our employee LGBT+ Network. I’m 35 years old (ouch that hurt to type), gay and live in Manchester. I’ve have been privileged to be asked by the LGBT Foundation to talk about what men’s health means to me. When I was asked to do this the timing was quite hilarious as I’d only just got back from a holiday in Cornwall where I’d devoured numerous Cornish pasties, scones with clotted cream, ice cream, lashings of cider and spent most of my time lounging on a beach! (With a fleece on as it wasn’t that sunny unfortunately). I digress, so you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that I’m no health god. Joe Wicks, the body coach, has nothing to worry about competition wise from me! However, now I’m back from my excesses of my holiday I’m back to my usual healthier (ahem) lifestyle.

I tend to think about my own personal health in 4 categories: physical, mental, sexual and healthy eating. They all work in balance with each other and are all very important. I don’t see any sense in exercising like crazy but then chucking loads of junk food down my neck (although I do like to partake in a bit of trash food now and again as you’ve already spotted with my pasty obsession). I eat healthily, fruit and veg, I’ve cut down on the amount of meat I eat as there are so many tasty veggie and vegans options out and about in Manchester eateries now. I try and exercise at least a couple of times a week for about 30 mins and vary the activities so I don’t get bored and try and keep it fun. I go swimming, hiking and go to the gym if I don’t have time to do anything else and go to classes as well. I practice safe sex and get tested regularly as I feel it's important to take control of my sexual health.

Mental health however for me is especially important as this can have a massive impact on my physical health. I suffered with undiagnosed mental health issues throughout my late teens and early twenties. I was treated for the physical symptoms rather than finding out what the root cause of these problems were. I was suffering from panic attacks, which at the time I didn’t know what they were and they were terrifying. Over time they gradually got worse to the point where they were quite debilitating and I couldn’t leave my home. My parents didn’t know how to help and it was affecting them and my friends also as they were worried about me. I lost my appetite, had restless and disturbed sleep, felt exhausted, I felt numb most of the time except when I felt panicky and anxious and it felt like it was never going to end.

I was eventually diagnosed by GP with suffering from acute anxiety and depression. I think one of the reasons it took so long to figure what was wrong was because I was nervous discussing it with my doctor and as a bloke I potentially down-played how I was feeling. Once I was diagnosed it was a huge relief. I thought I was going mad. I had a name for what I was suffering with, no more blood tests or beta blockers, and at last I could set about trying to do something about it. It has taken time and I’ve had to try different things to work out what helps but I rarely have panic attacks now. Medication, exercise, healthy eating, not drinking too much have all helped. Alcohol is a depressant and sometimes I could feel very low the next day with a hangover and quite panicky too. The breakthrough though was through counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, yoga and mindfulness techniques which helped to calm me down and break my cyclic destructive thinking habits. I organised some of the counselling myself, some of which I received at the LGBT Foundation which I’m very grateful for, fantastic service they offer, and some I got through occupational health at work. It gave me a safe space to discuss and explore things that I felt I couldn’t speak to anyone else about including my struggles with my sexuality.

I think men in general are less open about their feelings and it’s really important that during men’s health week we talk more about men’s mental health. Especially in the LGBT+ community as we are more likely to struggle with mental health issues due to the discrimination and bullying that we can receive. I’m in a much better place now, I still get anxious from time to time but I recognise the symptoms, I understand myself better and can manage it more effectively. If you’re struggling with something speak to someone, you’ll feel better for it. Look after yourself inside and out. Now pass me another Cornish pasty someone (only kidding), they do vegan ones now don’t you know!

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