Twenty sixteen was the year I turned twenty five. It seemed like a good time to take a look at how my own years as a twenty something were going.

I wasn’t happy with the results.

I wasn’t happy at all.

The terrible twenties

As a teenager I felt indestructible. I could fall asleep whenever and wherever I felt like it. I’d never broken a bone and had survived fine without glasses, braces or any real growing pains. Leaving university I assumed I could carry on coasting through life and that things would, naturally, continue going well for me.

I’d been working full-time for over a year before I burnt myself out.

I didn’t even realise what was happening until afterwards.

It had started subtly; I’d find myself losing my balance and walking into things. Soon I was having sleepless nights worrying about the littlest of things. By then I’d turned toxic and snapped at anyone including colleagues, friends and family. Especially family. In the space of three months I’d slipped into a depression, lost a fifth of my body weight and turned into a shivering wreck that couldn’t drag himself out of bed in the morning.

I spent most of my time crying.

World Mental Health Day

I recovered from my ordeal and learnt a lot about myself.

I was diagnosed with IBS and told it could be triggered by stress. The nurse explained that whereas some people will faint when they have a panic attack, I’m the type of person who will physically feel pain from tensing up so much. I realised I was much more of an introvert than an extrovert and that it was ok to want time away from other people. I learnt that there were other people who identified as sensitive.

However I’m posting this today, the day after World Mental Health Day, because depression, anxiety and IBS aren’t like chickenpox. You don’t catch them, rest for a while and then feel safe in the knowledge that you’ve beaten them. You have to learn to live with them.

Something I recently forgot.

A change

Earlier in the year, as the days drew closer to my twenty-fifth birthday, I realised I was slipping again. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I knew I wasn’t happy. I wanted to shake things up. I had only recently moved back in with my parents and I didn’t really want to jump back into another contract with a landlord. This left me with the other forty plus hours of my week to change, so I left my job.

It was terrifying but I would have enough money to last me for a month or so. A large travel agency were hiring at the time and I was slowly talking myself into applying. It was in another country which would give me the opportunity to re-invent myself.

However it was only a few days into my rehabilitation programme when a friend from university introduced me to an idea he’d had and two awesome people ready to make it a reality. They were looking for a developer to run the tech side of things.

One thing led to another and we became co-founders of an actual real business.

Almost now

I’ve been working on our MVP now for four months. I get to plan and schedule my own workload, start work whenever I want or take the day off if I feel like it.

I should feel great.

And yet during even this short amount of time I:

  • have been ill twice
  • barely walk five thousand steps per day, never-mind the recommended ten
  • bought two books
  • read none
  • stopped making notes
  • still haven’t written an article to go on my website
  • am usually still in bed hours after I said to do #dailystandup
  • have stopped losing weight – my scales still tell me I’m fat
  • have started snapping at people again

And then two weeks ago, for the first time in years, I cried.

Present day

I need to make some fundamental changes to my life.

I used to think I could leave my job, start working from home and just adapt naturally to a healthy lifestyle.

I was completely wrong.

These are the things I’m working on:

Get a better diet

The pains in my stomach went away when the stress did but I still feel terrible after eating crappy food. My appetite still hasn’t fully recovered and I regularly find out I’m hungry by becoming dizzy instead of my stomach telling me.

Things are starting to improve though, I’ve been trialling Huel’s Vegan mix without any issues and Kam’s been slowly introducing me to the world of Veganism. Both are healthier and just generally better options than the rubbish I used to eat.

Grade: getting better

Plan: order more Huel, stop eating junk food, eat at least three times a day

Drink less alcohol

Alcohol is absolutely no good for me and I know this. I’ve cut down the amount I’ve been drinking as it gives me stomach cramps for a few days but I still drink it too frequently.

I need to have more willpower and self-control and stop myself from drinking three or four pints in one night, especially if I haven’t eaten, as it interrupts my life for too long afterwards.

Grade: going to a stag-do this weekend

Plan: wait until I hear myself say “I’m never drinking again”

Get some exercise

I currently do no physical exercise and I work from home. I occasionally walk the dog but not very far. I can get out of breath walking up a hill. It’s no wonder I’ve been ill twice in the last few months.

I felt great the last time I ran every day and now I work from home I have absolutely no excuse not to go.

Grade: embarrassed

Plan: go for a run every day

Stop smoking

Cigarettes have been my escape for way too long now. They cost a fortune, fill my body with crap and yet I’m still addicted. I need to learn some self-control.

Grade: disgusted

Plan: stop smoking cigarettes, put a nicotine patch on if I need to

Read more

I have a whole bunch of books I haven’t read. I must have saved thousands of things to Pocket that are still in my queue. I even bought a book to help me plan my work that I still haven’t finished; I started working instead. I find reading involves concentrating and so I’ll often pick a video game over a book when I want to unwind.

I need to schedule some time to read. I love doing it so it shouldn’t need dedicated time set aside but if I don’t I’ll put it off for other things or just carry on working.

Grade: terrible

Plan: set aside some time read, read instead of watching tv or playing games, buy something from the fiction section

Get better sleep

I fell into a bad pattern once I moved back in with my parents and it got even worse since I started working from home. I’ve turned into a night owl because I get less interruptions after my family’s gone to bed. This means I can still be typing away at two or three in the morning, making mistake after mistake after mistake. It also makes it difficult for me on days when I’m with people on normal time.

I haven’t used the alarm on my phone since I started working from home and I definitely feel better now that I’m getting enough sleep. I don’t get that cloudy, heavy head that I used to. However my lack of exercise during the day means my body doesn’t get tired and together with the lack of a disconnect between working and going to bed I struggle to get to sleep sometimes. I don’t have this problem when I go out for the day or do a lot of traveling.

Grade: wrote most of this at night, hours after everyone else had gone to bed

Plan: start doing some exercise and go to bed at midnight, no matter what

Be more mindful

I find myself rushing a lot of the time. At one point I’m pretty sure I believed the more hours I put into work the quicker I could get it all finished. I obsess and stay up late working on something when I should have gone to bed, gotten up earlier and completed it quicker and/or to a better standard. I get irritated easily when I’m trying to work. I can let a hangover ruin a day because I can’t focus.

I was introduced to guided meditation by an app. For the first time I found it possible to control my moods, focus better and reset myself without having a full night’s sleep. I used to use my time running or doing yoga as meditation, however I stopped doing both when I moved home.

Grade: easily dis… squirrel!

Plan: get some exercise and start writing more

Write more

I signed up to Marc’s 30 Day Writing Challenge in April with every intention of joining in. I knew roughly what I was going to post about but on the very first day I bottled it and couldn’t find my voice. This was down to one of the worst side-effects I’d had from burning out.

I lost a lot of confidence during my depression and for a while all I’d end up writing was sad, mopey, depressing stuff, and I didn’t have the balls to post it online. I stopped going on social media, stopped responding to notifications and stopped messaging people in general. I had information overload and had to power down. This made it really difficult to get back up on the soapbox and start communicating again, as if nothing had happened.

I’ve come to the conclusion though that this reboot isn’t going to be done by the time I finish writing this, in fact now I’m at the bottom of the editor I can see my first draft was saved six months ago. It’s going to be a process that involves a hell of a lot of work – all of which I’m going to record, here, on this very website.

Grade: almost posted the first article on your website that’s been online for six months, well done you

Plan: schedule two hours every Sunday evening for writing, start on that backlog of posts you’ve already made, conjure up 500 words every day

If you’d like to get in touch, about what I’ve written above or anything at all, I’m on Twitter or you can send me an email.