Movember is an interesting month! Seeing lots of guys with dodgy moustaches makes me smile. But Movember means something more to me than the Moustache challenge and the other activities the Movember Foundation organise. It is one of the few organisations to prioritise the health and wellbeing of men. Men get a bad rap in society these days, sometimes for good reason, and it’s certainly true that men have historically dominated in society, creating rules and regulations that have benefitted them. However, I am glad to see things are changing and we are becoming more equal as a society.
“…how do we support men who make mistakes to deal with them in a healthy way?”
How do we support men who make mistakes to deal with them in a healthy way and, as a society, support them to make good choices? And importantly, how do we help them avoid further destructive behaviours, including suicide, which is still the biggest killer of men aged 16 – 45. Men are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women and at least part of the reason is our ability to deal with difficult situations.
I have a huge passion for Men’s Health. Although it is being recognised more and more, especially over the past couple of years and with the focus on mental health and wellbeing of late. But I still see a lot of men unable to deal with their issues, mainly down to inadequate social networks, or at least social networks where they can talk about things that really matter and when they are struggling.
Despite having great social networks and being open to talking about my issues with people, I experienced this in 2011/12, and it literally changed my life.
I made a couple of mistakes in my relationship. I have very high standards for myself and I didn’t meet them. I pride myself on being someone that other people come to for advice. Unfortunately, the advice I would give to others, meant nothing to me at the time and I began lying to everyone around me. Instead of talking about the issues I was facing, being honest with people around me and giving myself an appropriate, but not excessive, hard-time, I went in hard on myself. I lied to my friends, family and work colleagues. Every time I tried to snap myself out of it, I failed. I spiralled over a period of months, putting a face on every day at work, laughing with my colleagues and crying in my breaks. I started to smoke, purely to punish myself. I would smoke 3 or 4 cigarettes in a row until I was sick whenever something would happen to trigger me.
“I was hurting people I cared about but still couldn’t do anything to change, I was paralysed.”
I spoke to a couple of lovely people about what was going on and they reassured me that I wasn’t a bad person and tried to support me. But I was trapped by my decisions and unable to see a way out. I was hurting people I cared about but still couldn’t do anything to change, I was paralysed. I ended up praying for something to intervene; anything; a job somewhere else, illness, nervous breakdown, even death. On two occasions I came dangerously close to jumping into the road in front a 44 tonne truck just outside of my work, stepping into the road with the intent of quieting my internal dialogue that ‘I was scum’. I only half stepped out and the lorry moved too, the combination of which are the reason I am able to write this blog. Not many people know that bit, and it is only now I feel like not only can I share it, but I should share it.
“The light at the end of the tunnel (a very long one) was that they were actually happy. Could I be happy again?”
Eventually, I spoke to some people who were lovely to me, even though I didn’t feel like I deserved it. These people had also made the same mistakes as me. I couldn’t process it. We had made the same mistakes, but they weren’t scum, they were lovely. The light at the end of the tunnel (a very long one) was that they were actually happy. Could I be happy again?
Trying to move on
Whilst this was going on, I was turning a long-time passion project, BeeZee Bodies (now BeeZee Families) into a business because we needed to hire someone and didn’t have a legal vehicle to do it. So, starting a business looked like the only way to go. You really can’t joint the dots looking forward; I love running the business now! But at the time, it was just another hassle.
After starting the business, after a year of turmoil, I told myself that no matter what, I was going to make a decision and stick to it. The issue I faced up to that point was that whatever decisions I made to change my situation, my disdain for myself and the inevitable pull back in the other direction left me feeling isolated and indecisive. I still craved a breakdown or even death. So, I told myself that I was going to work so hard on the business and on building services that improve, and change peoples lives that even if it made me ill, it would be worth it. My thinking was that when you hit rock bottom, none of the back and forth would happen any more, it couldn’t, you wouldn’t have the mental capacity for it and you would have bigger problems. I thought of it as being a reset, a reset that I wanted/needed.
“After a significant period of not being myself, I started to find congruence again.”
This was the start of my salvation. However, it was a long and hard road back, with lots of setbacks. Every time you encounter people or things from your life pre-mistake, you have a relapse. You don’t know how to exist back in that environment anymore. But the key for me was getting back to the point of brutal honesty. I had always done everything I had ever done with integrity and honesty. The word ‘congruence’ was a good description of how I lived my life. I expressed on the outside what I genuinely believed on the inside. After a significant period of not being myself, I started to find congruence again. I told the truth to everyone again and it felt better. Not good. But better. This took place very gradually over a period of 2-3 years, if not longer. The truth was that people weren’t judging me for this anymore. Whilst it seemed like a big deal in my life, other people are interested in what is going on in their lives for the most part.