The Self-Help Conundrum

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you’re fucked; therefore, the next logical step in the process must be un-fucking yourself - a concept not lost on those suffering from panic or any mental health disorder.

There's so much disparity within the world of self-help. The range of problems is as vast as they are complex. Some self-help gurus are so confident in their methodologies irrespective of the issue presented to them; you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re a prophet or some shit with ego's comparable to that of Kayne West.

Society is primed and ready to attack almost immediately after we spring from the womb, and the midwife cleans up that gruesome mess from our helpless bodies. Most of us are lucky enough to experience the unconditional love and pampering from our parents, with the comfort of a breast on standby, to solve all our worldly problems or a pat on the back giving us permission to go forth and spew all over any sucker within our range. The good ole days!

In the majority of cases, when we are released into the wild, it's the subtle yet negative experiences that become deeply rooted in our consciousness that cause so much trouble in later life. In due course, that mess the midwife worked so hard to clean-up (before wrapping us up in a blanket and handing us over to our beaming mother's whom for some reason, after the nine months of torture we’ve just inflicted upon them, can’t wait to cradle us in their arms) becomes internalized through multiple variables compounding over time into a real fucking mess. One that’s impossible to see and far more difficult to clean up. Fear trumps faith due to a lack of self-love or self-belief, and soon pretty much all that negative self-shit becomes deeply ingrained in our DNA, with no midwife in sight to clean it up.

And so, an industry rises from the ashes like a phoenix from the flames in the name of Self-Help. An industry as complex and confusing as the female mind where every professional has an opinion. An opinion usually biased towards other professionals and their particular field. This leaves those suffering even more confused as they scour the internet desperately in search of help. Eastern philosophies clash with Western science, and a battle ensues rivalling that of Biggie and Tupac. Admittedly less violent but equally sinister.

Can we not all just get along and see the benefits of both instead of picking apart the flaws? A hybrid approach can work wonders in the healing process and gifting someone their life back. Fuck, some of the most beautiful people walking the earth's surface are of the mixed race variety!  

As easy as it is to fuck someone up, the un-fucking process is far more complex. This is where some of that spinach Popeye got his hands on would come in handy. From a can, not that organic shit you find in supermarkets today. If that doesn’t resonate with you, tip a bottle of red wine on your beautiful cream carpet and try restoring it to its former glory. You need Popeye's brand or in other words, somebody with both the skills and track record in helping those with your specific condition. A super-hero. Not a bullshit artist.

That probably means avoiding the likes of these dicks (below) who have the audacity to claim they can 100% eliminate one's anxiety forever in six sessions or fewer. Bold little bastards, I'll give them that!

*(Exhibit A) 100% guaranteed - hilarious!

Perk Up:

Self-Help is clearly an industry not to be taken lightly. It can be as equally vicious as it can be liberating if you don’t exercise caution in your quest for freedom. It's not all bad. There are thousands of self-help professionals whose sole purpose is to help improve one's standard of living, operating with integrity and a track record to prove it. 

It’s not all champagne and caviar either with such master manipulators (Exhibit A) in the business. The same way the pharmaceutical industry depends on us needing drugs and the alcohol industry relies on us being piss heads. The self-help industry's success is dependent on us being desperate and vulnerable. Sorry, fucked!

Often with those who suffer from an anxious disposition, fear shows up in the pursuit of perfection which we all know is unattainable. Fuck, the probability of this article getting one million shares or me clicking my fingers and magically providing bread and fish for all is far more realistic. That pursuit of perfection can be a death sentence leading to years of self-exploration and equating to thousands of dollars, euros, pounds (whatever your currency) in self-help. With the only tangible results being overwhelming frustration (which isn't actually tangible), and new problems popping up every week as you struggle to find solutions. 

Fuck perfection and start to embrace your imperfections.

As difficult as it is, when seeking help you need to be pragmatic in your approach and methodical in your research. If not, you just might find yourself in a self-perpetuating cycle similar to Snoopy chasing his tail. However, wave a biscuit under Snoopy's nose and he'll soon start wagging his tail again.  

The choices we make count so ensure you have your best interests in mind. Ask questions, listen intently, and trust your instincts.

It’s hard work this panic stuff, and the work required to free yourself can be far more difficult and stressful than the shittiest jobs out there. Most of us have to hold down one of those bastards also. So many have to go to war as lone soldiers when we should be enjoying some butter on our popcorn with a glass of Scotch while kicking back to Billy Connolly and laughing hysterically as he tells yet another fantastic joke!

It’s easy to lose all rationale when those bastard hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, wreak havoc on the nervous system solidifying in our minds the belief that our hearts could detonate faster than a provoked skunk is willing to pass gas. 

Unless you hit the jackpot, don’t rely on one thing to cure your anxiety as you'll more than likely be let down. Take a hybrid approach, because for most there is both physical and emotional pain. All are linked, and none should be ignored. While Doctors get Ph.D., we should get the entire alphabet after our names for defeating our demons. Most, if given a choice between a panic disorder or spending their days artificially inseminating cows, would opt for the latter. I know I would have gone for the cow fisting option! While it's not easy, it's not as difficult as you might think it is. Yes, it's a grind, but once you start to appreciate the beauty of life again, you'll see there isn't a job on this planet more rewarding. 

Think of the term Self-Help and what it means to you?

It implies helping oneself. This took me some time to get my head around. Whether it’s books, shrinks, courses, or other professionals - they are simply there to assist you in your growth. You can’t pick up a book on confidence, read it and expect to be more confident. Even if it comes with a guarantee on the back, you’ve got to put in the work!

You'll go nowhere without ACTION. My journey was a long one as I never got that. That action can be so small starting out. Nothing is achieved in this life without it; you can’t even win the lottery unless you buy a ticket. 

False Pretences:

I was desperate. More desperate than The Bachelor / Bachelorettes are for fame (not love). If someone made me a promise or a product came with a guarantee, I was sold. I had nada to lose but money, and I had zero chance of making the money required for a happy existence if I couldn’t fix myself. This is why so many so-called ‘self-help gurus’ can capitalize by preying on the weak and vulnerable. It’s easy to sell to a desperate soul (see Exhibit A).

Marketing is all about manipulation and making us feel we need a particular product or service. The snowboarding industry is one of the best in the business. Every year they release new boards with rocker poppers, slime walls, and all the latest and greatest progressive technology to ensure your snowboarding game is elevated to the next level. Sold! Zero fucks, it’s a passion. I still find myself drifting towards the snowboard park expecting magic to happen only to realize nothing's really changed from last year as I land firmly on my head yet again (I may have identified the source of my problem!). Gillette is another example. For as long as I can remember their blades have been revolutionary in removing every follicle from a man's face. It seems they can always identify another follicle their predecessor missed as their new product comes with the same reinforced promise. Only, this time, it has 27 blades and under no uncertain circumstances will you find a better shave than this Ferrari S Fusion Mach 27 Turbocharge with nitrous lube thrown in for an extra smooth glide! We all know this is bullshit, but who cares? It’s a fucking a razor!

My problem with some self-help professionals (Exhibit A) and the industry, in general, is that they make bullshit promises and guarantees, with many depending on you continuously returning for your money. But, this isn’t a swanky new razor from Gillette, a shit hot snowboard from Burton or Marilyn Monroe from God (You know - The Lynx Effect). We’re dealing with a human mind here. It’s ethically and morally wrong to be a prick in this business. If you’re not moving forward, you’re stagnant or falling further into the abyss discovering more shit than most would care to know! Ignorance really is bliss. You need someone on your side with your best interests at heart. Someone that wants to get rid of you, not hold on to you.

I’m of the opinion that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the best forms of therapy to help with panic disorders as the basic premise works on the client moving forward by taking actionable steps towards a brighter future while being far less reliant on all the shit that unfolded in the past. 

As cliche as it sounds - this is your fucking life! Others prefer a more traditional therapy which is precisely why research on different therapies and practitioners is paramount to your success. If you don’t like the person, don’t hang around. I saw a psychologist once who asked me was I suicidal? At the end, she tried to book me again. I politely declined for fear that she'd push me over the edge!

Story Time:

I received a call in a nightclub, pissed. It was one of my best friends laughing down the phone telling me to get writing my best man speech (I didn’t even know the prick was going to propose - he was far too young). Meanwhile, my water felt like it was constantly on the verge of breaking as I had one year to prepare to face one of my greatest fears head on - Public Speaking. There was no backing down, only the devil himself could save my soul by gifting me a slot in hell. I was so petrified I’d have a panic attack while speaking, my ‘self-help’ bill ran up to about 2k for this one. 

Hypnotherapy worked fuck all except for that short-lived rush after paying for help in the hope that something in my mind had shifted. What did work in preparing me for the speech was exactly that, preparation. I put myself through two public speaking courses which scared the shit out of me, but the lady who ran them was incredible. It was equally reassuring to be surrounded by others trying to overcome a similar fear. 

It required ACTION and proved to me that I could stand up in front of an audience, and speak if I had to without my heart beating at a cosmic magnitude and my head on standby to deploy with brain bits going everywhere putting everybody of their food. While most leave this shit to the last minute, it would have been my own death sentence bestowed upon me, by me. So, I prepared as manically as I have danced to the beat of the drugs in Ibiza. Practice, practice, practice - Jesus if I had this work ethic within me when I was a youngster, I might have been a starting QB in the NFL. 

I prepared so much I couldn't fuck up. If I did, there was no hope for me, and it would have been the worst possible outcome in life to date (a ridiculous concept in my head). On the big day, my nerves were amplified as every fuck-wit in the place seemed to do everything in their power to ensure I now also had to worry about unwelcomed bowel movements, irrespective of the fact that they too would most likely be shitting themselves in my position. But, they could afford to act like James Bond. All they had to do was get pissed and heckle.

Thankfully, my preparation upheld. To my surprise, my fear quickly evaporated as I took to the mike with no notes required. The only mishap came when I called half the congregation ‘muckers,’ which apparently they didn’t like! 

Afterward, as my expectations so often are in this game of life, far too high (lower yours). I had expected an incredible feeling of liberation and ecstasy to come over me. Forget Everest; I had just scaled fucking K2 only to feel like I had conquered some poxy hill in the West of Ireland, without as much as a snowflake in sight. Two grand and a year of my life for that? As much as I love him - I'm not sure I like anyone that much! Normal service resumed as my muscles contracted and the alcohol flooded my bloodstream ensuring I fucked up my post-speech performance and was laid out on the bathroom floor spewing my guts up without even making it to midnight. Not to worry, that was expected - Ridicky was back!

Identify the area you need to work on the most and find those who specialize in these areas. It might be dating; it might be OCD; it might be phobias, PTSD, social anxiety, or depression to name a few. What do you need help with to live a life free from debilitating stress and worry? 

It can be a long rocky road this anxiety shit, so please carry out your due diligence and do the proper research on any courses you might take or shrinks, coaches, hypnotherapists, etc. that you might see. Taking short cuts rarely works when it comes to your mental health and the sooner you get it tackled, the sooner you can prosper.

There’s this term in psychology called progressive desensitization, which basically means, take your time. Start in the shallow end and slowly make your way to the deep while paying fuck all attention to what others are doing around you. When the day comes to take a leap of faith, you'll know it. Until then, baby steps, baby!

Most of us are a little fucked up, and maybe that’s ok. We’re all just products of fucked-up societies. Plus, perfection is boring. 

Identify the areas you need to work on to ensure you can create memories and live out your dreams instead of dying with them. Life can be amazing. Don’t let any fucker get in your way when it comes to living yours.

*I have no doubt their methodologies have helped some people. However, I am 100% sure their claim is complete bullshit.