Our mental health journey.

Hey, it’s Oscar (Oz if you prefer) and Nell here, co-founders of Bear. We are both loud, outgoing, very smiley and confident people. However, we both suffer from mental health difficulties. 

One of our main goals when we started Bear was to create a platform to be open and honest about mental health, with a view to eliminating the stigma around it. Since the beginning we have always spoken about mental health, and been open about some of our own experiences, however we have recently realised that we can do a whole lot more. So with that in mind we are going to start keeping a  journal. Sent out to our community once a week, giving you some insight into our minds. We will share our highs and lows, and the odd thing that helped us along the way. It will be unfiltered, stream of thought kind of stuff. We can’t say that it will always make sense, but we can promise that it will always be honest. It’s not going to be us giving out mental health advice, it’s simply going to be us talking to you and if you want to talk back to us, we would love to hear from you! If you want to receive our weekly journals you can subscribe at the bottom of this page. 

To start we are going to give you a bit of background and some more info about our mental health challenges:

Oscar/Oz:

If my life could be a phrase: "So, I’ve had an idea."

It was 5 years ago. I was 21, had just co-authored an award winning book, owned a growing small business, and had just been on TV teaching celebs to fish.  Things were looking pretty good for me. My reaction? I moved to Denmark. Why? I was totally terrified of the potential failure that could coincide with my new found success. Moving to the land of Lego was an easy way to get away from it all, in search of what I thought I wanted: an easy life. 

So I’m in Denmark. I'm living with my then-partner. In her parents house...and I'm working in a shop during the day; a pub a night. Pretty standard stuff. Very normal. There are many words you could use to describe me, but normal is definitely not one of them. I was pretending to be something that I'm absolutely not, and looking back, had been doing so for the previous 6 years. In an attempt to fit in with a community where I felt uncomfortable, I had lost who I really was, and did not like who I had become. I was totally lost. 

I felt very alone. I was in a foreign country. I felt life didn’t make sense anymore. Those 3 ingredients spiralled me into a pretty deep depression. One of the biggest problems was I didn’t really know how to deal with my emotions, so I just kept trying to ignore it. It didn’t work. I had a number of breakdowns, and started to self harm, which for me meant secretly eating a lot of really sugary food to the point that I would nearly vomit, and smoking as much as I possibly could. Although not what would be traditionally considered self harming, it was for 3 reasons: I actively pursued things (and in excess) that I knew were very bad for me; I consciously did them as a form of punishing myself; I knew they were pushing me further away from a balanced lifestyle. My binge eating disorder/self harming activity is still something I do to this day and am working hard to manage. Obviously one of the outcomes from eating a lot of crap food was that I put on a lot of weight, and then felt even more shit about myself, so ate more...less and less balance. At the time I wasn’t really aware of the depression, but now I can reflect on how deep it sank. My life mostly consisted of working, crying, eating, with the odd little panic attack thrown in for good measure. Far from ideal. To make it even worse I was hiding it from the people around me and had very few people who I felt I could talk to about it, and even then, wasn’t giving them the full story. The only thing I knew did make a difference was being outdoors and spending time fly fishing. The more I did those, the easier life became. 

Denmark, for the most part, was not good for my mental health. Luckily on a visit back to the U.K., I had made a new friend who encouraged me to move back and work with him. Which I did and it was the best decision I ever made, as not long after moving back, I met Nell and my life changed completely. Whilst I was aware of some of my mental health issues, and knew that getting outdoors helped with them, it was only through many late nights and long conversations with Nell that I really started to understand my own problems in any depth. Life, slowly, began to become good at that point. I was doing more creative work again and had re-ignited my entrepreneurial spirit. I stopped force feeding myself and got fit (note I don’t say healthy here because I also control my eating and can go on fad diets in the extreme - something I’m only now noticing). I still had a bunch of underlying negative stuff, but life was going good and that made up for it. It was a good bandaid. 

8 months later things took a turn for the worse. Although my understanding of my mental health issues was far greater, they were still very much lingering in the background and all it took was a couple of things going wrong and a move away from the countryside and into a city to send me spiralling backwards. This time it was arguably worse. The reason it was worse wasn’t due to the situation being worse, far from it, I was living with the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The reason it was worse was because I felt safe so it enabled me to start to process a whole plethora of shit. It was brutal. Also I was starting a new business (Bear) which brings its own challenges. I can remember a few occasions where I ended up in a a ball on the kitchen floor uncontrollably crying for no apparent reason. I was having quite serious, regular panic attacks which I started to take medication for. I also began secret eating again, smoking a lot, and being really nasty to myself. It wasn’t much fun. 

I saw a psychologist, which wasn’t really my cup of tea, and tried a number of other things to make me feel better. But it wasn’t until we started going on more trips to the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District that I realised how much of a difference being in nature made to my health. So Nell, with complete support, quit her job and we moved to The Yorkshire Dales.

Since moving to Yorkshire I have come off medication, and feel a lot more balanced. However, like physical health, mental health needs to be maintained. Issues are unlikely to simply just disappear. I still have a bunch of things I struggle with and am continually working to understand them and find new ways of coping with them. This is why I am writing this journal, to give you an insight into those issues and the coping mechanisms that I have found work for me. I hope that this might be of use to you, or to someone you love.  

You can contact me anytime: oscar@bearmade.co.uk

Nell 

Most commonly used phrase: oh god, what now. 

Mental illness has always been a very prominent part of my life. I grew up with a father who had bipolar and who became an alcoholic in my mid teens. I was confronted with his illness and the seriousness of his depression many times, and unfortunately when I was 24, he committed suicide. 

My own mental health journey started a couple of years prior to this. I had always struggled with anxiety and depression in some form, but it took me a very long time to accept that I had these things, as I was so afraid I’d be like my father. It wasn’t until a friend of mine, after trying for some weeks to get me out of bed, suggested that maybe it was time for me to get some help and maybe try some medication. Two months after starting medication (to early for me to see major effects) my beautiful father died. It happened two days before my final major exams. Safe to say I didn’t cope super well. In fact I went so far as to completely dissociate from it and push everyone away and focused on finishing university. I made the decision to stay on anti-depressants as I was concerned what would happen if I came off them at this stage. 

The two years following my fathers death were the worst. I used alcohol as a numbing and coping agent - which invariably led me to hysterically crying, curled up in a cupboard. I ended a 9 year relationship and then entered a severely toxic, emotional abusive relationship which caused my anxiety to become so uncontrollable that I developed psychogenic vomiting (where you get so anxious that your body makes you sick without your control... very awkward in social situations). And started my career as a vet in a very very stressful internship with an abusive boss.

It took me finding myself on my white kitchen floor with a knife, considering hurting myself, with my anxiety telling me how hard it would be to get a blood stain off the white floor and ‘you’ll never get your deposit back’ and ‘you’ll have scars’; before a voice inside me said enough. I bought a ticket to England that night. I was running away to my grandmothers house with my dog.

Two months later I landed in the U.K.. I was still horrifically depressed, was having full body adrenaline reactions and panic attacks to any situation that had a whiff of confrontation, but I was here. The first two weeks I spent alone - for the first time in my entire life I was completely alone. This was the best and worst two weeks ever. I ate a lot of flapjacks (Thanks granny) and watched a lot of the Nanny, AND big one for me, made an appointment with a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with high functioning anxiety and depressive disorder with psychogenic vomiting, put on the right medication for me (a lot of anti anxieties as I was not coping with even basic things like feeding myself or sleeping without a panic attack) and started making steps to lower my stress and heal. With more time to myself, and finally evolving to enjoy time alone, I began to explore what simple things brought me a sense of calm. I remembered that my whole English family, but particularly my grandfather, loved fly fishing. Memories started to come to the fore of him teaching me a little when I was younger. So, I decided to start again. It made me feel closer to him and closer to the natural world. Fly fishing is a fully immersive sport. It throws you into nature and forces one to calm one's mind. I also started to fall in love with a local coffee shop, and painting.

I’d been in England a month and was in this little coffee shop painting, when a man, his dad and his dog walked in. We all ended up chatting and I was introduced to Oscar, ironically a fly fishing guide. We became fast friends and spent that summer falling in love with nature, fishing, the outdoors and, much to Oscar's glee, each other. 

Two years on , we now live in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales continuing to explore the natural world we both love. I have been off all medication for over a year. I still battle with anxiety and still occasionally vomit when extremely stressed (though thankfully this is much less of an occurrence). I still have demons and negative triggers that I have to work on and overcome, but this journey isn’t a quick one. It is worth it. For me the most important thing has been to create an environment around me (people, place, activities) that is safe enough for me to process these stressors. The outdoors has provided me an avenue to lower my anxiety and help me tackle it more effectively when it inevitably does occasionally rear its head. Like I said: this journey isn't a quick one. But it's about moving forward with each sunrise, and taking the positive lessons from the day before.

You can contact me anytime: nell@bearmade.co.uk

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