Updated: Apr 2
Hassan Ul-Haq is a media graduate, visual and audio producer, a writer and trainee teacher. This week he's sharing his relatable experiences with anxiety and depressive episodes in the hope of helping others.
1) Hey Hassan, how are you?
Every day above ground is pretty good Jem.
2) How are you really?
Not bad. For me, I try not to think too much about what’s ahead. Once you do that, that’s where the anxiousness starts. I started to disconnect myself from that notion.
3) At what age would you say you began to understand what mental health is?
I don’t think there was ever a starting point in terms of mental health. In recent years, having friends and peers at uni or in the arts go through various degrees of mental health problems, you start to analyse yourself and even how you deal with things. But if I had to pinpoint, it was probably Nirvana and the grunge bands of the 90s- how they were so expressive and in particular their struggles with mental health.
4) Why do you feel it's important to share your experiences with others?
Whilst I can say that my experience has always been on and off, I am very open and honest about my experiences. Any opportunity to have a discussion on a subject like mental health, if it helps others, then that matters to me.
5) What's it like to be you?
You'd probably have to ask my family and friends that, but if I had to really think about it, I’m passionate and honest and supportive and if I can do anything to help others, I will do my bit.
6) How long have you experienced mental health issues and what are they?
I feel like it started in school, like so many of us. Bullying plays a massive part in regards to someone’s mental wellbeing. Bullying hit my anxiety in a way I'd never really felt before, but when I went to college I loved the freedom and the expression of being me. I felt happy and content. When I started university things started to change. The environment was different and I felt I had to conform to what others wanted me to be. I wasn’t happy and I felt shit at times, especially with friendships and relationships which led me to some depressive episodes that would get channelled into anger.
7) For someone who has never knowingly experienced anxiety, how would you describe it?
A feeling that is so uncomfortable and you feel like you can’t even breathe. It isn’t nice.
8) How does having anxiety interfere with your life?
I think when I analyse its impact on my life, I'd often feel it when something challenging would happen, for example, working with a band or recording a podcast. I question whether or not I’m able to deliver or whether I'm good enough to do it. You feel you’re trying to be the best but aren't achieving it, and that’s something I’m slowly but surely moving away from. I am good and I don’t need the voices in my head to tell me I’m not.
9) How does depression feel different from being sad?
You feel you’re in a state in which you cannot see a silver lining and nothing can get better.
10) Have you ever tried to hide your depression from people? If so, how did that feel?
I have and it isn’t healthy. You wouldn’t hide the fact that you've got a broken arm or a bad back, so why hide your depression? You should talk to someone about it and find avenues to help you deal with it.
11) Did you have any anxiety about doing this interview today?
If you asked me a year ago or even two years ago, possibly. But I’m at a point in my life where I’m being more open with others about my feelings and emotions, so answering these questions feels quite therapeutic.
12) Have you found any coping mechanisms which help you to control your anxiety?
Fresh air and exercise, but I’m normally jotting and writing stuff or planning a project. Occupying the mind to be creative is super helpful.
13) If you're feeling depressed, what can someone else do to support you through it?
I think just hearing someone is super important. Whether you agree or disagree, all anyone ever wants is to be heard and that is what matters.
14) How does it feel when someone believes what you're experiencing?
I will have to get back to you on that one (laughs).
15) Do you believe that it's possible for people to update their views on mental health issues and become more understanding?
Definitely! We live in a time now where we’re talking about mental health, but it leads to the ideas of what we are doing to facilitate and help those in need. There has to be better services and unfortunately, due to cuts, it’s difficult. I know friends who have been on the waiting list to just speak to a therapist. So I believe things need to change for the better.
16) If you're going through a period of depression, do you have any coping mechanisms to help you through?
Oh definitely, I find various ways of expressing myself.
17) Tell me more about how you express yourself...
So I’m a writer, I occasionally write audio dramas, short stories and I love writing poetry. I find these ventures help me to get a lot out of my mind. I’m also really into podcasting and hope to release my own next year. The reason being is because it’s all conversation based and that’s where the real change begins.
18) If someone is reading this today and is struggling with their mental health but hasn't yet reached out for help, what would you like to say to them?
You’re not alone and if you ever need to talk, just do it. It can be scary but I honestly believe that when we begin those conversations things do start to change.
19) What is your biggest personal goal mental health wise?
I wrote various poetry pieces on my experiences and I got to write an audio drama on mental health – which have all been well received.
20) How do you feel after doing this interview today?
That it was needed, and reflective of how I feel. I hope I was able to do my bit to help others.
Thank you so much Hassan for completing this interview and sharing it with others today. I'd like to take this moment to let you know I believe you, I hear you, I see you, and I guarantee I'm not the only one. You've definitely done your bit to help others. Keep expressing yourself and looking after you because you're important.
You can follow Hassan's creative ventures on his instagram: @hassan_ulhaq97
Hassan's audio drama on mental health can be found here: https://www.mixcloud.com/I_Appear_Missing/i-appear-missing-episode-1/
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, please REACH OUT. You can go to the 'SUPPORT' page on this website where you'll find contacts waiting for you to get in touch.