A Place For My Head

I’m not going to lie, the last week or so has been a struggle. January is a difficult time of year for me. dan5

It is a natural period of self-reflection which is never a good thing for someone who spends too much time in their own head, it reminds me of one of the most difficult times in my life and worst of all, it brings up the anniversary of Dan’s passing. The 19th of January brings about so many emotions that I struggle to deal with. They say that time heals but that hasn’t happened in my case, I still miss Dan as much as ever despite the 4 years that have passed. I’m not great at dealing with my own emotions, despite being an empathetic person, so maybe it’s as a result of not dealing with how I feel but it is all still as raw as it was 4 years ago.

I can still remember finding out and trying to deal with how I felt both on that day and in the weeks that followed. I don’t think it will be an event that I will ever get over but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is one of the reasons that I am so determined for the Dan Rhodes Foundation to be a success. If we can try and help break the stigma of mental illness and get more people talking about it then at least we can get something good out of such a tragic event. I made a promise to Dan that I would do everything I could to try and change attitudes towards mental health and be more open about my own struggles. I will continue to that for as long as I can even though my own struggles make it difficult sometimes. The fight will go on until the battle is won.

One of the unfortunate things is that despite being 4 years on, suicide is still the main cause of death in men under 45 and the high profile suicides through last year show that there is still a long way to go with men and how they deal with their mental health. There are a lot of good things going on at the moment to try and help men deal better with their feelings such as Mantality Magazine which has been set up by Stevie Ward, a Leeds Rhino who has struggled with depression in the past. We need to move past the outdated notions from previous generations such as ‘manning up’ and start acknowledging our feelings and how to deal with them.

I would be the first to admit that I’ve tried to ‘man up’ and ‘snap out of it’ in the past and haven’t been able to do either. I would also admit that I struggle to deal with my own feelings and to process emotions but I have been working on it and it’s not something that will come overnight. We need to ensure that future generations don’t get trapped in the same cycles that we have been so that we can change this statistic. The current generations have different problems being millennials and part of the social media generation but that just means there might need to be different solutions. We need to evolve as men and admit that we have a problem rather than always trying to battle through it and it is not a sign of weakness to admit that. If you had a broken leg you would get a doctor to look at it so why isn’t your head and your mental wellbeing the same. I don’t see any shame in admitting that I’ve seen my doctor about my mental health, I take tablets that help with it and I’ve had counselling, all of which have helped me so far. This doesn’t mean that I’m weak or any less of a man. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been easy getting to this point but all the work has been worth it and the more people that realise that there is nothing wrong with talking about it, the better it will be for those who are suffering.

self care projectAs part of my self-reflection for the New Year, I have decided that I need to commit more time to change and try and evolve. I need to spend more time on self-care and looking after myself and I need to meditate and try to make time for self-improvement. All of that will be difficult to fit in with the triplets growing up quickly but unless I look after myself, I won’t be able to look after anyone else. I’ve been getting back to the gym in order to try and improve my wellbeing and to give a pressure release, I’ve got the new book by the brilliant Jayne Hardy (of the Blurt Foundation) to read to give me some tips on self-care and I need to start getting my meditation practice in to try and keep my head clear. The book is called ‘The Self-Care Project’ and is available in all good bookstores (if they still exist) so check it out if you need some help with your self-care.

weddingTo finish on a positive note, despite all the sadness that the 19th evokes, there was a reason to smile as I saw the rainbow that I was hoping for when I went to get some lunch. I had decided to train at home rather than spend my lunchtime in the gym and as I was driving around there it was – a beautiful rainbow reaching out from the top of the buildings and stretching out to the heavens. Dan loved rainbows so they always remind me of him and make me smile. To see one on Friday was almost like he was reminding me of all the good times that we had together. I hope he has found his peace and that one day we will see each other again. I will always miss him and will never forget the difference he made to my life and some of the things he did to help me with my own problems. I wish things could have worked out differently and that I could have done more for him so that he could have seen the triplets grow up. He would have loved to see how they are changing and growing up all too quickly. I still believe that we can all make a difference and break the stigma. If you want any more details on what we are doing through the Dan Rhodes Foundation, want to support us or get involved, get in touch via the website or by email to stuart.middleton@danrhodesfoundation.org.uk.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with their mental health, please don’t suffer in silence. There are lots of great places out there to get help and support such as Mind, the Blurt Foundation and the Samaritans. You will not be the only one who is feeling like that so please reach out and get some help as there are lots of people who will understand and can help.

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