I am sort of bored about talking about Covid-19 and being locked down. With the adverse effects of lockdown penetrating the lives of most of the world, it can sometimes feel that the pandemic is inescapable and right now it’s directly related to what I wanted to write about – go figure!
Throughout the last year I did not let the Corona Virus get in the way of what I wanted to achieve. I worked hard and had the time to really focus on self-care. I had a coach who helped me to get and feel more healthy with every passing month. I set myself new challenges to keep me occupied and I had my son to help navigate through these crazy times ensuring as much normality as possible.
Even when I lost my dream job which I had spent 13 years navigating a route to, I managed to soldier on through the grief-like grip it had on me and weathering the swings of mood. But it has been a long year and with the festivities of Christmas and being surrounded by chocolate and home-made confections – I have made a few excuses for the extra calories… ok full disclosure A LOT of excuses!
As the new year arrived I had decided to get tough again. Count the calories, exercise regularly and take care of my mental health more carefully. I got out running, I went on regular walks I ate more healthily and I prioritised things that gave me focus and allowed my creativity to flow.
My routine though was short-lived as homeschooling was introduced into our lives again – there wasn’t time to exercise, the nights were too wet and dark for regular exercise and I was mentally and physically exhausted.
But what I couldn’t tell throughout all of this was whether I was making excuses or whether I was prioritising other things over my physical health. I miss the gym. If the gyms were open I would be a more mentally stable and physically healthy person. I have limited equipment at home, but it’s not the same as the routine and regularity and consistency that I managed to achieve at my beloved gym. I find it hard to motivate myself.
I started to run more regularly and then horror hit – my old knee injury flared up. The acuteness of the pain is (I think) partly the cold weather and partly that I hadn’t stretched enough and so the tight muscles are putting extra work through the knees. Historically I have had issues with my knees but then again I was carrying round a few extra stone! So perhaps that is to be expected!
Now the conundrum…
Should I rest my knee because it’s painful or am I using this pain as an excuse not to go out? I could strap it up, I could move more slowly or shorten the distance to make things easier. Right now my brain is telling me to rest. But it’s also beating me up with thoughts of gaining weight losing muscle mass and fitness. I want to make the right decision for me and not fall into a pattern of excuses like I have done in the past.
For now I am focussing on other challenges until I am pain free. I have recorded some music and am working on editing the first few tracks for my “album”, I am gradually working through some DIY at home and making sure that our home is a place where we can all feel tranquil and relaxed in. That will be enough.
In terms of fitness I am aiming to get my steps up, to do short but regular weights sessions and some home yoga. That will perhaps have to do – but if I am still saying this is a months’ time you have permission to kick me into gear!
No more excuses, just common sense.
It is my undeniable truth, that the length of time in lockdown is directly proportional to how hard it is to find my motivation!
However, this doesn’t mean that I am less productive or achieve less on those days, it just takes so much more mental strength to conquer my goals.
To quote a wise man…
When you play games against yourself there can only be one loser, yourself. So how do I maintain a level of motivation that will keep me going through this pandemic in dreary winter conditions?
There is certainly a self-judgement that creeps in when you spend hours in your own company, so more than ever I have been using some tactics to keep my motivation on track and my mood as high as possible. So whilst I am no expert on the subject of motivation, I thought I would try and highlight some of the approaches that I have found useful.
ADDING STRUCTURE TO YOUR LIFE
I like to know what the next day will have in store – and make the preparations for that day to be as stress-free as possible! I dont like to be distracted by mess or disorder when we are trying to work, so a plan of what we are doing and where helps me maintain a clear head where I can focus on the tasks at hand. With so many aspects of life currently up in the air; tiers changing, homeschooling arriving when it can, stealing opportunities to exercise; dinners being determined by what happens to be in the fridge (the list is endless). So for me a semblance of structure and goal setting can really motivate me to embrace the day with an open mind!
Each day I insert a task that is disguised as learning for the little one, but is as much about my focus and goals as it is about his! This could be making scones, or building a craft or 30 minutes of learning in the shed instead of the kitchen (where I can organise the nails and screws whilst he practices drawing).
Whilst schedules are impossible for a 4 year old, listing the tasks that i want to achieve in that day in no particular order, means that I have my eye on the prize throughout the day and feel a sense of achievement when I can tick tasks off of the list!
GET UP AND GET DRESSED
Now don’t get me wrong! In life there are choices, and a perfectly legitimate one is to choose to spend a day in your pajamas in front of the TV… but just make sure that its not EVERY day!
My productivity is so much better when I have started the day showered, dressed and ready to embrace it. Personal care can make us feel stronger and more at ease to tackle the day even if that day will be spent within the same four walls.
More than that, having good skin, clean hair and and aroma from a fragrance that you like, builds the confidence and gives you one less thing to become self-deprecating about. Its sometimes hard to be kind to yourself, but in these times a little self-care can go a long way to ensuring you maintain your motivation throughout. You know if you put on your exercise gear, then you are much more likely to ACTUALLY exercise!
CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT
As I said earlier, I can get very preoccupied with mess and disorganisation. It not only makes me anxious but distracting as well. with my focus needed for teaching my son, spending time preparing the space for the next morning is time well spent.
During lockdown 1.0 we had an ever growing pile of completed works, papers and books, crafts and playdough – really it was getting out of hand. That pile became the straw that broke the camels back and the back that was broken was mine! Two lockdowns later and I have found a better way of organising the space. We now have a wall to show off my son’s work that we all love to see when we are having meals. We utilise many more spaces in the house to vary the experience of home schooling for us all. And last but not least we make sure that all areas are clear of mess to maximise the experience for us all as well as ensuring my (mild) OCD is kept in check.
KEEP A RECORD
Creatively I have many tasks on the go. It stops the monotony and also in many ways helps me feel connected to the things that make me who I am. Right now, I am particularly focused on tasks where I can see a progression. I am painting by numbers and it is a task that develops every time that I return to it.
It’s good to talk – as the old adage goes, and sometimes there is nothing better than sharing some of your achievements. My best friends and family enjoy hearing what I have been up to and I feel more connected to them and can share in their achievements too. There is nothing better than investing in those close to us and sharing our lives with them, in getting motivated – share the love and be proud of your achievements.
BE PROUD OF EACH ACHIEVEMENT HOWEVER SMALL
Each day we will achieve a great many things so try not to forget exactly what those things are! Some days I am motivated by getting on top of the laundry and there is a sense of achievement in completing the mundane tasks. Does this make them any less of an achievement? No it does not. We should be proud of all that we achieve.
In summary, our motivation will waver. Its just a symptom of the lives we are forced to be living right now. But share, open up and try your best to get motivated to achieve whatever you can in these uncertain times. That high score on a video game, a walk around the block, a homecooked meal – take the pressure off of your self and celebrate the small victories.
I have a bit of a facination with the humble sock! It is without a doubt the most useful and thoughtful present that anyone can get me. I often find my eyes rolling as the inevitable phrase crops up after the festive season
” …Oh and some socks, you know, boring stuff.”
I am affronted by the very notion that socks could be “boring”. If this is the case my friend, then you havent been wearing the right ones!
Having spent years in jobs where a uniform is drab and lacking in character, I stamped my personality on the monochrome foundations by choosing socks which were overflowing with personality. Some would say this was a rebellion, and I would 100% agree with this notion – my small battle made me feel better even if it impacted noone else!
Without digressing too much – I am also a wearer of bow ties for work. On my last day of a maternity cover contract, two of my team presented me with a luxury bow tie as a gift. They asked me one question whilst handing it over…
“Why do you always wear a bow tie? We all want to know!”
At my final briefing I explained:
We spend our lives delivering the best customer service that we can manage. And a lot of the time this is still not enough for the people we work so hard for. When a customer is (literally) screaming at me because there is a queue for the toilets, or crying because they were late to arrive – I know that I am wearing a bow tie just to give me joy, no other reason than this. It reminds me, that I am still me in the face of adversity.
Socks serve this same function for me. They are fun. They make me feel warm and snuggly but more than that they bring a little joy to my day.
There are amazing sock brands out there to suit most budgets, so I have a little round up below in case any are of interest to you…
I have been aware of this very swish brand for a while now, and i’ll be honest, I am priced out of the market! They are an aspirational brand with celebrity fans including Daniel Craig, Bradley Cooper and Colin Firth. And if you needed another celebrity name-drop, then David Gandy became an investor in 2015 and the brand has never looked back!
The gift set featured above comes in at £72.00 for 6 pairs but I can only imagine the quality and feel. I know DG is very discerning about which brands to put his name to, so I have no doubt that these are the real deal! If only I had the budget to go with the socks!
Happy Socks are the Ronseal of the sock world, how can you look at these designs and not feel, well… Happy? Their designs range from the colourful to the absurd and I love that there is literally something for everyone. On the whole they are a little cheaper than the London Sock Company, but their designs are younger and more techno!
Gift sets are around the £36 pound mark for 4 pairs or you can get collector sets of 6 for £70. This Swedish brand also do a very cute kids range too, if like me you are all about the father son matching outfits!
ASOS are not my favourite people at the moment after a bungled delivery to the wrong address where they left my package on a busy London street (which they claimed was a “safe Place”). BUT these socks were gifted to me this Christmas and I absolutely love them! So they are getting a feature in spite of their appalling treatment of me.
With ASOS you know what you are getting. It will be on trend and generally you get the quality that you pay for. This pack of 5 pairs or sport socks in bright colours, were exactly what I needed to upgrade my #gymlifestyle ! At £14 for the set, they are affordable but also of a decent quality. The elastic holds the shape well and keeps them in place, and there is an interwoven section in the arch of the foot which helps keep a good shape with zero bunching inside the trainers even during a half marathon!
Worth every penny in my humble opinion. My one piece of advice is check every last detail on your account before pressing buy… if I still had the app I would be tempted to buy another set.
Sockshop.co.uk is a website where you can purchase any number of other brands, but they also have their own range of socks available too. There were a whole range available including some less adventurous styles, but I loved the look of these bright coloured yet more sensible designs that they had on offer. The featured gift set is available in 10 different colour combinations and is retailed at £9.99 for the three pairs (which if you ask me is a bargain). I have yet to purchase a pair from them yet, but as they have a decent sale on at the moment – this might be the moment to get some!
When looking for high end sock gift sets, you cannot miss out Peper Harow. This 7 pair set is a mere £105 but they do entice me with a “Truly british fashion experience”. I like the designs and like some of the others featured, the gift box itself is a thing of beauty. This is their best of British collection and whilst I cannot attest to this, what I can see is a set of bloody nice socks!
I would be happy with any of the socks on offer from these brands, and I hope to get my hands on them at some point in the near future… although if i’m honest its unlikely…
With brands like this out there for your delectation, next time you think a gift of socks is “boring” perhaps you should put a sock in it!!!
Let me know in the comments what your fave sock brands are, or a pic of your fave pair #letstalkaboutsocksbaby
For many years, like a lot of people out there I had set myself impossible goals on the 31st December for the upcoming new year and 6 weeks in all had been left for dust, when life got in the way!
This is no new story. I discovered last year that my fitness goals were best established before the new year so I had the momentum moving forwards. That coupled with a really excellent online trainer ( www.tpmhealthandfitness.com ) meant that not only did I complete the full year with a 3.5stone drop, but the trying circumstances that COVID 19 brought to all of our lives, did not get in my way either! 2020 was the first year that I have ever kept to a resolution – but it took motivation, momentum and clarity on the results to actually achieve my goal.
This year I am doing things differently. I am a goal orientated sort of fellow, and so instead of resolving myself to achieve/ not achieve specifics, I have instead decided to set myself challenges across the wider scope of my life with no dates to achieve them and no order, instead the aim is to keep my experience varied throughout 2021…
Some of these things are big challenges and some are much simpler to achieve, but for me 2021 will be about enrichment. So here is what I came up with!
1) Run a Marathon – I have run 2 and walked 1 in past years, but I want to run another at some point this year.
2) Record an Album – only stipulation is that it must be 12 songs by the end of the year.
3) Put energy into reading – other than reading children’s books for my son and nephews and nieces, I read a grand total of 1 book in 2020! My aim is 5 in 2021.
4) Complete a full 30 day programme of yoga – I have dipped my toes I got the water with yoga but not managed to complete any programme. This is my year.
5) Guarantee two blog posts a month – the aim is to create consistency and regularity, but I will also accept 24 quality posts for the next year!
6) Teach my son a new skill – quality time is always important, but I want to pass on some skills to my little one. My wife and I helped him ride his bike without stabilisers in December, and it was so rewarding! So I am on the search for a new skill to share with him…
7) Begin a new creative channel, brand it, and house my Creative pursuits there – from photography to performance, painting by numbers to writing I want to create a place where I can share my creative pursuits.
8) Continue a Zoom relationship with my Nephews and Nieces – through full lockdown we zoomed and read 2 Harry Potter books, since then we continued with the Magician’s Nephew which brought us to Christmas. Spending time with them every week has been a real highlight of 2020 – so I aim to continue this routine as long as they continue to enjoy it!
9) Give back to my local community – My god there are so many people who could do with assistance in these troubling times. I want to actively make a difference where I can. My aim is one event per season.
10) Phone off time – One night a week my wife and I will have our phones switched off all evening… no interruptions.
11) Perform on a stage – another highlight of 2020 was getting to perform on a real stage with an audience. I am determined to do this again this year. (I will perhaps couple this with my community fundraiser for later in 2021).
12) Try a new form of exercise – variety is the spice of life so tell me which new sport should I try this year? Suggestions in the comments below 😉
So there you have it 12 challenges to keep me engaged with life and continuing to be an active participant! You will see me trying to build momentum on some of these challenges over the coming weeks – please feel free to engage with my posts and let me know what challenges you will tackle in 2021 – maybe I can get involved too!
Wishing you all a Productive, Happy and Healthy 2021
TIB x x x x x
As with most things these days, I am choosing to blame the pandemic for the state of my skin! Coupled with the rather chilly weather and the constant need for hand sanitiser my skin is choosing to punish me for all that its been put through.
I have had 3 products which are an essential part of keeping my skin full of life and close to IG ready for that cheeky selfie!
There is no doubt that our lips take a battering in the cold weather anyway, then factor in the dry air from the much needed heating as well, and you have the perfect storm for dry chapped lips, that need some serious care. For emergency use, when the cracking and chapping has got out of hand I always refer back to the Blistex Lip Relief Cream 6g (which if I am honest tastes medicinal and horrid, but definitely does the job).
But for everyday use to stay on top of those lips, I dont need to steer far from my favourite barber brand – Murdock London and their REPAIRING LIP SALVE (the packaging has changed, but the product is the same big boy stuff). With its traditional minty scent, you can’t really go wrong, and with every Murdock London product, it’s quality ingredients, intensive repair and better still, designed and made for MEN!
This lip salve for cracked lips moisturises, heals and soothes lips by getting to work immediately on application. Contains a carefully chosen blend of butters and oils that protect from chapping and cracking without leaving a sticky or shiny residue. Easy to use, convenient enough for a man to carry with him everywhere.
I know that I am not the only one suffering with dry, flaky and damaged skin on my hands… in fact between soap, anti bac, the cleaning wipes that are used multiple times every hour at work and my training regime, I am really putting my poor hands through the ringer.
So for a solution to this ongoing problem I have turned to my favourite U.S. brand Bath and Bodyworks for a festive answer! The Twisted Peppermint nourishing hand cream is a great product. Its a heavy cream formulation with:
A winter-fresh blend of cool peppermint, sugared snow, vanilla buttercream & fresh balsam
It sinks into the skin nicely and rejuvenates them leaving the skin moisturised and soft. I keep mine to hand at all times.
NB: BATH AND BODYWORKS DO NOT DELIVER TO THE UK. (which is a massive shame) I have my suppliers in the U.S. !
My skin has the perfect balance… of being hugely oily and super dry! Honestly, I avoided skincare for such a long time because I had no idea where to begin. The main problem being, a super dry complexion with a propensity to sweat A LOT – it can sometimes feel like there is a film covering my face!
I have a whole routine now (thanks to my lovely wife) but the cleansing, toning and general preparation stages are where i was going wrong. I needed a single product that would cleanse down the surface and prepare the skin for all of the moisture i was going to apply! I have tried so many, with varying amounts of success, but i was so pleased to stumble upon the Neutrogena Refreshingly Clear facial wash (available on the link through Superdrug).
This refreshing daily facial cleanser contains pink grapefruit & vitamin C for a clearer radiant complexion. The gel gently cleanses to help prevent imperfections without overdrying skin.
It’s oil free and excellent for blemish prone skin. I love how refreshed my skin feels, you can feel the zing from the pink grapefruit and it is a deep cleanse. some people with super sensitive skin may find it a bit much but as I precede my heavy mosituriser with this facial wash it lays the foundation nicely for my skin to take in all the goodness.
I would highly recommend.
Listen, I am never going to have perfect skin. But simple to use key products make skincare easy and effective for everyday use. Another important factor for me is convenience – a sort of grab and go product that makes the grooming process a little easier. And if we can spend less time looking after our skin, then we have more time to focus on other things… like netflix, painting by numbers or baking banana bread!
Over the years my life has been punctuated with moments that mentally torture me, like a recurring dream, throughout the following years. My preoccupation with feeling < (less than) though, has become a problem in adult life. It has tarnished my own view of myself and sets me up for an almighty fall. Some would call this an inner-sabeteur but i call it “The luck of a Git”.
Feeling ‘less than’ can blur the lines of any situation and actually hinder the problem I am tackling. It preoccupies me and negatively effects my confidence. Feeling ‘less than’ a man, for example is actually a way of belittling myself – by degrading myself I guess I take the opportunity from others to get there first!
I have done comedy as part of an act, just once. It doesnt appeal at all, but in this specific situation there was one way I could get through it, and that was to self-depricate to the point where the audience didnt get the chance. I used hurtful words as a safety blanket to protect about potential hurt that the audience could throw at me. needless to say Stand Up comedy is definitely not for me!
Today whilst dutifully making breakfast for my 4 year old, i discovered a steady drip of water flowing from a light socket in our Utility Room… DIY is not my strong suit, that physical dexterity and problem solving jsut doesnt come naturally to my creative mind. Immediately,I investigated where the leak could be coming from and switched off the water upstairs. As I stood for a few brief moments staring at the still flowing drip – drip – drip, I felt a ‘less than’ symbol sitting above my head. self-doubt crept in and the self-flagelation began.
“You dont know what youre doing”, “You’re Dad would have this fixed already”, “what sort of man can’t fix stuff?”, “stupid idiot”.
I know how I can get, self-inflicted hurt feels good for a moment but i can battle it for months afterwards. So I wake my buffer up, not because my long-suffering wife knows any more than I do about plumbing, but more because she knows me better than I do, and I know that I need her steady calm to guide me through this…
Then I feel lesser of a man still, because a man shouldnt need a security blanket, Should he?
I did call my Dad in the end. He’s a font of knowledge and the person that I look to when I can’t see around a problem. And today I made a change. I told him how vulnerable I feel in these situations and opened up. I felt so much better getting out into the air instead of hurting myself with the words – I guess that was my lesson to be learned.
When you learn that you will be a parent, a miraculous thing happens, a really clear image gets built in your mind’s eye about the type of parent that you will be. I had such an image of the father I would be. Four and a half years on, i am still trying to live up to that image and constantly falling short of it. I raise my voice, get frustrated, am tired, lack the energy to keep up with him and worse – I always feel less than. Living up to a self-made image of what a Dad is, has kept my demons decidely in my head. This weekend I cried when my son managed to ride his bike with no stabilisers and without me holding onto it. I can clearly and tangibly remember when i leared to ride my bike and my dad let go of the saddle as I shot off around a corner… its probably not even how it happened but memories can be cruel occupiers of our minds. i cried partly with pride and partly with relief – at least I hadn’t failed him on this point.
2020 was the year that I lost my job, a job that had consumed me for over 13 years and a job that I didn’t feel ‘less than’ in. I was by no means the best manager ever to have graced the world, but I felt my strengths were appreciated and that i was the best manager that I could be. When redundancy became apparent, i had never felt as “Less than” as I have since. I am used to making myself feel that way, but now there was an email that alluded to the fact that the hurt that I subject myself to every day, was in fact correct.
I was less than my friends and my colleagues.
As my failure to secure a job drew on, I was “less than” other candidates with more relevant experience.
When I secured a job, my worth was “signicantly less than” financially.
And throughout I was “less than” in every aspect of my life.
I don’t say all this for sympathy. I hope to shed some light on an issue that I know is affecting a lot of people out there. We don’t want to lose our friends, grow apart from our families, spend more time ina mental hell of our own making. but right now it’s really hard to see beyond the “less thans” and instead focus on the many “equal to’s” or “more thans” that make us who we are.
I am trying, so hard, to take it easy on myself, and I would love it if all of you would try the same. we have so much to offer and whether its work, family, friends or life, you can’t feel “less than” exactly the person that you are, and nor should you.
I’m always here to listen if you would like to talk. i may not have the answers, but like opening up to my dad, sometimes putting those thoughts into the ether, is just the release that you need.
Take care of each other.
To be frank, this week had been shit.
I’m not somone who uses superfluous cussing to get a point across, but in this instance I believe it is warranted.
I will not go into huge amounts of detail about why, but you’ll have to trust me that the level of unfortunate events that had occured that week was enough to get a pretty positive fellow down. And then this happened…
MY LIFE FLASHED BEFORE MY VERY EYES.
This is a phenomenon which is surely only present in Hollywood movies, right? A sort of device of plot, that helps make a mundane story come to life? I can attest that there is a real life element to life flashes which are now undoubtedly ingrained in my brain.
That morning, instead of walking to the gym, I took my car the short distance as I wanted to get a full workout in, instead of cutting it short to get home on time. In the short five minute journey, I noticed some unusual and yet unconcerning noises, which I put down to the wet weather. One work out down and a change in the weather and still there are these strange grating noises. I park up. I get down on the wet ground and I look for anything loose under the car. Nothing. I check around the wheels but all seems “normal”.
I get home and shower. I tell my wife about the strange noises and I plan that evening to drive back to my parent’s house so my dad can take a look and if there is a problem then I could borrow a car to see me through the next weeks.
We continue our day and I drive to our friends’ house about 10 minutes away. The noise isn’t so obvious but it is certainly still there. I think to myself – its a good job i’m getting this sorted this evening.
When we leave, we jump in the car and say our goodbyes, I want to get home early so that I can make a dent in the 3.5 hour journey to my home town before dark – I wait to turn right from the cul-de-sac onto a busy main road,i give it a bit of welly to slot in, so I am a little closer to the car in front than I would ideally like. We approach the traffic lights and I cautionarily apply the brakes.
In slow motion I see the back of the car in front get closer. I clock a glance of my son’s face in my rearview mirror. I press harder still on the brake. Still nothing. I glance ahead to the oncoming lane and I turn the steering wheel to the right. I say “the brakes arent…” but I never finish the sentence. Cars are coming towards us and I pull the handbrake as I force the brake pedal to the floor and beyond swerving into the opposite lane. Finally we stop. Crisis averted.
The images that flickered through my mind were in sepia and all momentary glances of life. In none of them was I still, but instead a perpetual motion of emotions and feelings.
MY LIFE FLASHED BEFORE MY VERY EYES.
It happened so quickly – I didn’t stall. I had the wherewithall to realise that I couldnt stop where I was. I talked through what I was doing. Word by word instructions until I roll to a stop click the hazards on and finally breathe.
Of all of the images that presented themselves in my seconds of need, none of them were of money. None were of work. No housework, no schedules, no self-doubt.
There was happiness, weddings, births, hugs, smiles. Family, friends, moments of love and tears of joy.
As shaken as I was – it gave me a whole lot of perspective.
Life is too short.
To coin a phrase – I couldnt help but wonder… why have i been so hard on myself for all of these years?
I have been pondering this very thought in the weeks that have followed, and I still cannot work out why i have this innate need to prove myself in work as a dad and as a man. I damage myself every day trying to prove to others that i am worthy. And even since this life-adjusting event with a moment of clarity to reflect on – I am still holding my life to ransome for the sake of what others think.
My Dad had even asked the question “Son, why are you being so hard on yourself?” and the truth is that i dont know why. It’s like picking away at a scab, only with a scab I will forget about it in a few days – but the impressions I have made mentally are still scarring me decades on.
If a near death experience didnt result in lasting perspective, then what will?!
Its time to put the brakes on self-damage. To take control of my own perception of me and see it differently. I just hope that I am spared the next near-death experience and can instead make lasting changes to support myself.
Today is an important day.
World Mental Health Day.
Millions of us struggle, not just today, but everyday with some aspect of our mental health. But many are too afraid or concerned about how talking will affect others, that they suffer in silence and hold the damage inside.
Since my struggles intensified over recent events, I have been working on a project to raise awareness of the struggles that everybody face everyday and so today I thought was the perfect opportunity to share them as a collection of images and musings on the important subject of mental health.
At the end of this post I will be sharing some links to places where you can find help if and when you need it – please talk – share and be there for each other. If 2020 has taught me nothing, it’s that this is a cruel world and it is indiscriminate to whether or not you are a good person. We need every one of you around to help make this world a better place.
Mental health issues are The Beast within us. The worst part though is that words like best can be used as weapons against us – and when they are they can sit dormant inside until we use them to harm ourselves – speak them and get them out of your system. WORDS HURT TOO.
Sometimes we are meaner to ourselves than we would ever let anyone else get away with. It is said that we hurt those closest to us, but that doesn’t account for the damage we do to ourselves everyday.
Say it with me… I am going to do everything in my power to stop the harm that I am doing to myself.
I am a man and I am choosing to speak out now, to save myself later.
Sometimes I feel a plethora of emotions that span the entire spectrum. People can be caught off guard because one day I can be gregarious, full of energy and joy, and the next I can take refuge inside my own mind.
Self-inflicted damage is easy to hide – but not from yourself.
Do not suffer in silence. Speak out, seek help.
It will get better.
Self-consciousness can shame you from being your authentic-self and that is no way to live.
We protectors see what others need from us to be their best selves, to support them and ensure that they weather the storms.
Protect yourself too – show self-care and love to the person that you are.
It’s ok to not be ok.
Emotions are felt by all. They are not discriminative. Look into the eyes of your loved ones, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbours, the parents in the playground, the people on the street – and smile – connect. That may have been the only thing that got them through the day.
If I can be of help PLEASE do reach out – I am not an expert – but I am here to listen.
Take care of yourselves. Wayne x
The NHS recommends the following steps for helping others:
Top things you can do to help
Express concern and say you can help
Letting someone know you’re worried is a good way to open up a conversation – it shows you care about the person, have time for them and that they do not have to avoid things with you.
The first time someone mentions their worries is a big step. It’s good to recognise this and reassure them. Let them know you’re there to listen when they need to talk.
Offer your time to listen
Listening is an important skill. Ask open questions that start with “how”, “what”, “where” or “when”. This can help people open up.
Act as you usually do together
Do what you usually do – behaving differently can make someone feel more isolated. Do not be afraid to offer kind words and a space to talk, whether by phone, messaging or in person.
You will not always know the full story. There may be reasons why they have found it difficult to ask for help. Just being there can be helpful for someone who may want to open up later.
If they do not want support
Gently explore their reasons for not wanting to get support. If they are unsure whether to get help, just talking and listening without judgement could help work out what’s getting in the way.
Do not force it
Do not force someone to talk to you or get help, and do not go to a doctor on their behalf. This may lead to them feeling uncomfortable, with less power and less able to speak for themselves.
Look after yourself
It can be upsetting to hear someone you care about in distress. Be kind to yourself and take some time to relax or do something you enjoy.
Offer practical help
Little acts of kindness – like offering to do the shopping or to go to professional appointments with them – can help. Find out what works for them.
And here are some organisations who may be able to help (for a full list please visit the NHS website HERE
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Having had somewhat more time in my hands than predicted, I seem to have developed a coping mechanism that sees me through the loop de loops and ups and downs of this COVID coaster.
My life has changed exponentially since lockdown began. It is unrecognisable to me and I am most certainly a different man to the one who started 2020.
Some people take solace in books or Netflix of gardening (the evidence is all over Instagram on that one) but for me, I craved something that was familiar and engaging and worlds where I could escape the monotony and mental exhaustion of lockdown – namely musical theatre!
I gave up on a career in acting many years ago. I wasn’t prepared to make the personal sacrifices it was going to take, and so I left and focussed my career aspirations elsewhere. It was not an easy decision to make, but having a child and the consistency that a regular paycheque would bring, tipped the balance.
Every person needs to make tough decisions in their lifetimes, but for me, I felt that this simple turning point was the one which made its stamp on the man that I would become. But the musical theatre never left me.
I spent a lot of time coming to terms with the loss of music from my life. As time passed my instrument lost its training and I found that my voice contorted. It became a part of me that I could not control as well as I used to – songs and characters left me and if I am honest there was a void to fill which I filled with food. I don’t think I realised it, but I was in a small way grieving for my loss.
Covid-19 has been a monstrous adversary to us all and we may as well write 2020 off, but for all the loss and pain that it has caused, it has brought into my life three things that I am extremely thankful for:
1. I have been able to teach and learn from my son in the six months leading up to him starting at Primary School (and let’s face it that is priceless)
2. I have been forced into some career clarity (some haze as well, but it gets clearer every day)
3. I have found my voice again. It is a journey and challenge, but it is a discovery too. Not rediscovering what used to be there, but a discovery of what this man can create vocally, now! Which in itself is so exciting.
In my opinion the best examples of musical theatre are those tragic tales where words just aren’t enough, they need the music to lift and carry the weight of the story forwards. To name but a few, in my mind, audiences have painted as George Seurat on a hot Sunday and argued with Dot knowing that maybe she’s right and that “We do not belong together”, We have sat on a pier with Kathy knowing that we were breaking her heart and knowing that our actions would destroy the “Last Five Years”, and People have stared down the barrel of a gun with Kim, protecting their son’s with the words “you will not touch him”.
When people say they don’t like Musical Theatre, I already think that what they really mean is that they haven’t seen a show that moves them, but I defy anybody to watch a decent version of Parade, and not shed a tear at the hopelessness of the situation and cruelty of humankind. This true tale is one of the best examples of music that drags the narrative along and the freezes just long enough for us to see the very essence of the characters, who have gone too long without being able to let it out.
So with Parade and Leo Franks on my mind, I set to finding and recording a way into this character and in a way into performing again. This is a song that I had performed in 2011 at Drama School, but had lost confidence in my abilities to emote.
It’s not perfect and it’s not “professional” but it is where I am now. So thank you Covid-19. You have stolen so much from a great many people, myself included, but you have at least re-opened a door that had been closed for many years.
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