My mental health journey – Why I have become an ambassador of Back Onside

By Callum McFadden – @football_cfb twitter

Mental health is a subject very close to my heart. For most of my life like many others I’ve always tried my best to look out for those I know who have battled mental health.

Up until last year it’s not something I had to deal with directly. I’ve had my challenges in life my parents split when I was young, I lost my dad at 14, lost a very close family member to leukaemia at 15 and a very close relative of my best friend at 16. All deeply upsetting and unsettling moments in my life but although they were moments that I did at times struggle with and cry a lot over, I still felt in control.

However, last year for a spell of 2 months all of that changed and my world turned upside down. My full time job is teaching and it’s a job that I absolutely love. Teaching the next generation is an honour that I take incredibly seriously and as a male I am also fully aware of the need for positive male role models in my sector – primary teaching. Especially as many young people may not have a positive male role model in their life for a range of circumstances out with their control.

However, last September I began to feel uneasy, horrifically unsettled and most worryingly unlike me. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my family, my girlfriend, my friends, teaching and the sport that I admit am I obsessed with football with all of my heart.

Although, for that 2 month spell last year, I lost all of my sense of happiness, determination and sense of perspective on the world around me and myself. I became withdrawn and quiet – very unlike me – and found that I didn’t have any real passion towards anything that I love – for me that was the scariest feeling as I didn’t know what was causing it.

Never did I think I would have to seek advice or help as I’ve always tried to ‘man up’, ‘get on with it’ and ‘keep your problems to yourself’ like many of us do and were brought up in a world especially here in the west of Scotland where that is what we are ‘supposed’ to do.

That only worked for so long for me and last year I went through the toughest spell of my life to date and knew that I had to seek help. It was a step that I was incredibly worried about as I was scared those close to me would think I was ‘mental’ considering that I have absolutely everything my life that I need to be very happy and grateful as mentioned earlier – an incredible family, the absolute best friend and girlfriend anyone could ask for and an amazing group of pals behind me.

I told my two closest confidants – my mum and my girlfriend – that I was struggling to cope and they supported me in seeking some support and encouraged me every step of the way. Upon seeking support, I was told that I suffer from anxiety and that I would need support to help me control my anxiety rather than the let the anxiety control me. Something that at the time of seeking help seemed improbable and to be honest impossible in my mind.

However, I am now 6 months on from what I can safely was the toughest battle of my life and can honestly say that seeking support was best thing I have ever done. I am now in a place of unbelievable happiness and joy. I now have a range of support strategies to help me out with my anxiety and I am now in full control of it more than ever and am backed up with incredible support from those I have mentioned earlier. Without those closest to me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today as they really are the best bunch of people I could ask for in my life.

Recovering from my battle with mental health is the main reason I set up Football CFB. Working within football and sports media has always been my dream and although I had the grades at high school to take it forward many around me warned me without knowing anyone within the industry it was a dream destined to fail. So I neglected my dream and moved on from it.

Or so I thought…

After my battle I reached out to three people within football and society who I look up to and admire. Daniel Geey, Alastair Campbell and Phil Brown. Alastair and Phil have been very open with their mental health battles and have given me incredible advice on how to combat mental health issues and are always there for me to chat to. Furthermore, Daniel responded to an email that I sent him about his work during my struggles by asking if he could call me and discuss my passion for football as my email showcased that passion.

He told me that I simply had to set up my own football blog and podcast and go for my dream. At first I was reluctant but after a few chats with him, I was more convinced and determined than ever. In 8 weeks, my articles have had over 500,000 impressions on twitter and the podcast has had over 10,000 listens which is beyond my wildest dreams. I am also incredibly lucky to now call Daniel, Phil and Alastair friends. Their support and advice has been invaluable and I will never forget it.

That brings me to Back Onside. Throughout my struggles, I was aware of the incredibly inspiring work that Back Onside do and from afar reading the stories that they shared on twitter helped me fully appreciate and understand that I am not alone and that it’s okay not to be okay.

Their work is absolutely inspiring and I want to help them promote positive mental health and that’s why when I was asked to become an ambassador I immediately agreed. The figures of suicide in young males is far too high and deeply concerning.

I am 24, I’m a full time primary teacher and also now a football writer and broadcaster albeit via my own platform who loves the game at every level. Maybe I’m naive but having struggled myself with mental health and sharing potentially things in common with young males struggling I want to play a part if I possibly can to help others out there struggling and let them know that they are NEVER alone and that it really is okay not to be okay.

My email is always open to those struggling – footballcfb@gmail.com – and I will do my upmost to promote positive mental health and help those in need. Here’s to happy and healthy 2020 and beyond.

Callum.

Please check out my written articles here – https://cfbfootball.com/

Please check out my podcasts here – https://anchor.fm/footballCFB

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