Jaimal Patel

'A Three-Minute Conversation Changed My Life Forever'

As part of Leicester City’s support for Mental Health Awareness Week, lifelong Foxes fan Jaimal Patel shares his personal story with the Football Club.

- Foxes fan Jaimal discusses his story during Mental Health Awareness Week
- The campaign (10-16 May) aims to drive conversations and end the stigma around mental health
- Please click HERE to read more about this year’s initiative 

The 37-year-old, a Season Ticket Holder at King Power Stadium, discusses the struggles he faced during last year’s lockdown period, and how talking to his employer about how he was feeling helped to change his life.

He is now campaigning to end the stigma associated with mental health and wants more men to open up and speak out about their wellbeing.

Taking place from 10-16 May, the Mental Health Awareness Week campaign is a nation-wide effort focusing on achieving good mental health, while aiming to drive conversations and discussions around the subject.

He said: “For me, initially, the pandemic was a good thing as I thought ‘great, I can work from home every day, spend more time with my family and just step out of my bedroom and straight into my office’ but then in early May 2020 I got caught up in this spiral and the day-to-day routine of lockdown wasn’t a good thing for me.

“I’d get to my office space in my house at 9am and then, before I could blink, it was 6pm, so by the time I knew it I hadn’t left the room all day and was just surrounded by the same four walls.

“I kept going and going though, and then after a while I reached a point where I just couldn’t switch off. 

“I honestly didn’t know what was wrong with me. I couldn’t think properly, my eating patterns were wrong, and my sleep was all over the place – I was lucky if I was getting two to three hours a night, and at best it was broken sleep.

“My mind was in overdrive, and there were occasions when I had to put my head out of the window just to breath because I felt like I was suffocating. It was really bad, I’d lost just under a stone of weight in a week and I started coming out in rashes. It was really scary.

“I remember my wife saying to me ‘listen, something’s wrong with you’ and then all of a sudden I just burst, I had to leave the house and walk out. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and as a man I was thinking ‘come on, there’s nothing wrong with you, sort yourself out’ so I was just telling myself that I was alright and I needed to keep going, but I was far from alright. 

If you’d have said to me 12 months ago that I’d be doing meditation and yoga now I’d have just laughed in your face, but being in that present moment, focusing on myself and not worrying about tomorrow or thinking about the past has helped me so much.

Jaimal Patel

“My energy levels were absolutely on the floor because I was having so little sleep, so I just reached a point where I had to call my manager to say that I wasn’t okay. 

“It was a very tearful conversation and I just told him everything about how I felt. It was the best thing I’d done, and I felt amazing afterwards. 

“It was like a pressure valve being released and my anxiety levels just came right down. I was on the phone for about three minutes, and it’s remarkable how such a short chat can make such a difference.”

Jaimal explains that he was suffering from burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, which occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

He adds: “The road to recovery then started after that call because what I had was burnout. I’d reached a point where I was doing so much and just not giving myself that time to rest, and I just couldn’t cope anymore. 

“I took four weeks off work, and my employer was amazing with me. They gave me the support I needed, along with counsellors, friends, and my wife. 

“Just talking to people made me feel so much better and it felt like the weight of the world had just lifted off my shoulders. I really can’t stress enough how important it is for people just to tell someone about how they’re feeling. 

“It’s been a journey for me, and I’ve managed to find coping mechanisms to help me throughout this period. Watching Leicester City has been an escapism for me, I’ve also bought a kick boxing bag and find that really beneficial, as well as starting to do meditation and yoga. 

“If you’d have said to me 12 months ago that I’d be doing meditation and yoga now I’d have just laughed in your face, but being in that present moment, focusing on myself and not worrying about tomorrow or thinking about the past has helped me so much. I’ve found a purpose in life now, and that is to be present and help other people.”

Asked to discuss what he thinks triggered his burnout, Jaimal replied: “After speaking to my counsellor, I realised that my routine was wrong. My pre-lockdown routine was regimented, I’d wake up in the morning, go to the gym, get showered, go to work and then carry on with the rest of my day. 

“But when I didn’t have that freedom of travelling or commuting, I abused that time and didn’t take the opportunity to look after myself. I’d get up at 8.30am, brush my teeth and then, before I know it, 9am hits and I’m at my desk. 

“Like I said, the next thing you know then is that it’s 6pm and I’d think ‘wow, I’ve not left this room, I’ve even eaten my food in here’ and that isn’t good. 

“Daily habits make a really good routine, and it’s all about figuring that out. I now do certain things at certain times to help me, such as getting up early. Instead of waking up at the crack of dawn to travel an hour to work, I’m now going for walks in the morning and getting some fresh air. 

A three-minute conversation changed my life forever. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I have lived through it, and picking up the phone to my manager and talking saved me.

Jaimal Patel

“I feel really good for doing so, and I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been, both mentally and physically. I’m currently in the process of working on my own campaign. I want to share my message and my story to try and get more men to talk openly about how they are feeling.

“It’s not right that some men don’t feel like they can talk about their emotions and feelings, and more needs to be done to tackle this.”

Jaimal is now urging more people to talk about their mental health and to reach out for support if they are struggling: "If I hadn’t have talked to someone, I dread to think where I’d be right now, it could have gone really bad for me. 

“My anxieties and stress levels were off the scale. It’s difficult to explain, but I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. It was the lowest part of my 37 years on this planet, but on the flip side, it was also the best part because that one period of struggle has made me who I am. 

“The task we all have now is tackling this horrible stigma that is associated with mental health. There’s a stigma that men have to be masculine or that we have to be okay all the time and that a human can’t show their true emotions to people. 

“This was how I felt for months, and I couldn’t control what I was thinking. I wasn’t eating properly, wasn’t sleeping, was snappy and my two young kids were thinking what the hell is wrong with my dad?

“I was affecting so many people around me by not telling someone how I felt. I didn’t get it at that point, but now I’ve gone through it and am passionate about the subject, I want my message to be shared.

“A three-minute conversation changed my life forever. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I have lived through it, and picking up the phone to my manager and talking saved me.

“There is someone out there who wants to listen to you. You are not alone, and we will end the stigma associated with mental health.”

Please click HERE for more information about Mental Health Awareness Week.

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