And there we have it, the beloved beard has been sheared off once again.
The temptation to leave it as a whopping great ‘Walrus’ ‘tache – à la Merv Hughes circa 1993 Ashes – was very high but that would be cheating.
Every year I ask myself why I do this. It always shocks and disappoints me how young and immature I look after removing my facial fuzz, while my head also gets colder a lot quicker without it.
But an incident just three weeks ago provided a stark reminder as to why Movember is so important to me.
Having successfully come through CBT at uni and made huge improvements in my mental health over the last two years, I suffered my biggest knock back yet as I fell victim to my first panic attack since November 2015.
It came shortly after I had started a new job that involved very, very early mornings and a lot of commuting (six hours a day). All of these alone would have been enough to set me off in the past, but I have come on so far that none of them even elicited a shred of worry beyond what any normal person would experience.
So what was it then?
Honestly? It was nothing more than an unsettled stomach.
It sounds pathetic but there we go. I guess the travelling had started to get the better of me and really knackered me out and when the anxiety started coming on due to the dicky tummy making me feel different to normal I just didn’t have enough in me to fight it off.
It lasted just over an hour and I can safely say it was one of the longest sixty minutes of my life. What made it even worse was that I was on the train home, surrounded my grumpy commuters whose sole objectives were to get a seat and get home before everyone else.
I had the works – sweats, shakes, the lot. But worst of all was the gripping fear. It’s really hard to describe it but the best way I can put it is that you cannot think of anything else except what you fear is going to happen to you. All other thoughts go out of your head – you’re just worrying, panicking and wanting to do anything to make it stop.
And I mean literally anything.
It’s no surprise that anxiety and depression are so closely linked. When you’re going through three, four, five of these attacks of varying degrees per day and spending the rest of the time worrying about when the next one will begin, it gets you down.
You start by feeling desperate for it to stop and wanting to get back to normal but when it becomes a daily routine all you want to do is just give up. All rationale and thoughts of others go out of the window – you just want it to end. It’s horrible but it’s true.
Fortunately this is now very much a rarity for me and I was able to spot what was happening and able to control the fear thanks to my treatment, as well as being able to tell myself that it was going to end and I would be fine within a couple of days.
But I’m in the minority – so many people still don’t understand what a panic attack is or how to spot one. That’s why Movember is so important to me. Earlier this year I wrote a piece in which I urged for more education in relation to mental health and I believe this campaign plays a pioneering role in helping to produce this, alongside their incredible work for men’s testicular and prostate cancer.
Unlike the way in which they are often depicted on TV, severe anxiety and panic attacks aren’t always easy to spot. Of course if someone is having their first and they are unaware of what is going on then they definitely can be, but there are also so many people who like myself who are used to them and will do anything to hide what is happening.
But the signs are still there – sweating, shaking, desperation to go somewhere cold, agitation – it’s just they can be much harder to spot if the knowledge isn’t there, which for many it isn’t yet.
Don’t get me wrong, things have already improved and there are many people out there who could and would help if needed. Yet still we choose to hide the fact we are suffering, but why?
Simple – it’s embarrassing. As much as I want comforting, I also don’t want to make a scene and ruin everyone else’s day by having to look after a stranger who is ‘just having a panic attack’.
This is another area that also needs to change. Not only do we need to be made more aware of the signs and symptoms of potentially mental illnesses, we also need to make it something we accept is a problem and are comfortable to talk about as a society.
I don’t want to feel embarrassed asking to open the window because I am suffering a panic attack. I don’t want to feel embarrassed asking if I can work from home in order to recover from an episode (note my boss was fantastic and had no issue with it, I was just scared to ask). I don’t want to feel embarrassed that I have an illness.
Getting people to grow a hideous piece of facial decoration is a perfect example of what I believe can be done to encourage people to talk about mental health. It may be fun and silly but it also removes inhibitions and makes individuals more open to both teach and learn things they may not have otherwise done.
So when I’m looking in the mirror, grimacing at my face, I always remind myself that is important for me to do so in order to help people like myself who have a mental illness get the help and understanding they need and deserve.
Join the cause, ‘Grow a Mo’ and help the millions of men (and women) around the world – you’ll never know how much it means!
You can visit my Movember page here – https://mobro.co/willmoulton?mc=1