Fuck it! Strength through Vulnerability. Part 2 of 3.
My closest childhood friend had married a year before, a fantastic time where I loved being the best man. Another close friend had recently become engaged, to someone I had introduced him to and my closest friend in London who had helped me in recent times was also engaged. This made me reflect on myself. A strong feeling of peer pressure overcame me and I started to beat myself up out of comparison. Eventually I thought about what I lacked in comparison and decided it was stability and consistency. I’d had such a turbulent few years; leaving Manchester, a year in Spain, two years in Italy in a damaging relationship, moved to London, had a breakdown, ended a relationship, lost a job. Quite an eventful period I’m sure you’d agree. Drama had become a regular occurrence in my life. For someone who doesn’t like to cause a fuss and hates confrontation, things were not going the way I wanted. I learned about stoicism and considered the mental toughness I had shown.
I love my friends and I am fiercely protective over them. We are all very different personalities with a wide range of interests. An eclectic bunch compared to most friendship groups I know and I am proud of that. Every day I wish I could see more of all my friends because they are all class guys. At this stage, I was overjoyed that they were getting on in life both romantically and financially. After all this is what they deserve, yet it was having a very negative effect on me. I was feeling so ashamed about my lack of progress in life. Why wasn’t I married yet? Why did I not have a house? Why had I not developed properly? My head was spinning into overdrive with regrets, worries, insecurities making me on edge and irrational fears were preventing me from being an acceptable version of myself. I don’t know if they knew I felt this way but I hope that if they ever did read this they understand the daily struggle I have.
It was great to have everybody together for wedding number two. From a fantastic stag in Spain to the big day itself in London it was so valuable to be around those I care the most for. For speech number two I was able to speak from the heart and share how grateful I was to have been cared for by the happy couple in my time of need. I quipped that if they ever worried about what kind of parents they would be, they need only look at me. With a supportive girlfriend giving me confidence, it was time to turn the corner and I decided to make the focus of my life me. I have been there for all my friends. Previously I have been a leader for the group, organising things in the early days, an encouraging and motivating presence for those around me. Not many get to be a best man twice (three times if you count my Dad’s wedding) and I had a rare moment of feeling truly awesome. I realised that the path to self-acceptance started here. So why after giving these amazing speeches did I still not have inner confidence? I started to reflect on my problems and pinpointed that it all stemmed from a lack of self-esteem. Over the Christmas period, I started to contemplate whether I really wanted to change and if so, in what areas. One of my major difficulties is feeling like I have underachieved, which comes from trying to be a perfectionist. I now wake up and tell myself I’m not perfect and that’s OK! In fact, that’s great. It must be pretty knackering trying to be perfect all the time. I decided to move in with my girlfriend in the new year. Yet another change but a really positive one. A chance to be happy. Starting from the January we made our lives about routine. I longed for stability and consistency. In comparison to the life I had been living it may not have been as glamorous but it was better for my mind. For years I had longed to be more in control of what was happening to me and I communicated this early on. It helped that my girlfriend is exceptionally supportive and organised, the nicest person I know. It provided me with a platform to improve. I wanted to show her how amazing I could be. I’ve always loved making lists so I made a list about the things I wanted in my life. Now it was really time to make changes. The thing about change is you have to really want it. Not just pretend to want it or say you want it, which I had done for so long. There was nothing stopping me from achieving my goals except myself. I had struggled financially since leaving a well-paid permanent teaching job in London to enter the world of supply teaching while paying London rents. With support, I was able to structure my finances and put money aside to cover holidays, bills and food shopping. I was enjoying starting this new routine and sharing my life with someone in this way. Planning regular meals and healthy lunches as well as home cooking were a sign of a new direction in my life and kept me focused in the new year. Eventually I started to slip again into negative thoughts and a niggling sense of frustration about not being comfortable supply teaching started to consume me. I came home from work one dark January evening and lay under the covers crying. I thought I was going to be OK, but here I was again being weak. It forced me to show a bit of fight, an example of my fight or flight response in action. I had perfected the flight situation but now it was time to face up to difficult decisions and take action. It was time to be honest with myself, I just wasn’t feeling good about myself. I thought I was not good enough at everything. I had felt like this since childhood and at some stage in my life I had to rectify it or I could end up doing something unpleasant to myself. I remained frustrated, but I started to see this as continued fight, about not being happy with my lot. Deep down I could see my confidence, like a shiny coin at the bottom of a murky fountain. It sounds stupid but I felt like I was special, that I meant something and that has always been the glimmer of hope that has pulled me back from the brink of total despair. I needed to throw myself into something new. Something the break up the now boring daily feeling like shit. I needed to exercise. I needed a hobby. I have always struggled to stick to things. I was a stubborn child and if I made a mistake I would always react badly. I never got back on the bike. Like most children I didn’t like losing. There was a point I stopped being competitive as I hated the feeling of losing so much. I needed to arouse passions within myself to stop myself feeling flat and succumbing to negative thinking patterns. I went with a colleague to play with a group called Terrible Football. Having lived with anxiety for so long, I was often scared to play football, especially in my adult years. But I woke up that morning and thought ‘fuck it’ and tried something new. I did it. I went. I was pretty shit but I wasn’t the worst. I’ve been going ever since to help improve my fitness, ability and to meet new people. This was a massive turning point for me, I wanted to get fitter. I always knew I was out of shape and if I am honest I have been overweight since the age of 7 years old. Looking back at pictures that was the age when I changed from looking like the other kids, to being bigger than them. I have never been absolutely massive but I have always been overweight. Medically, I am obese so I have to address it now. This explains my low self-esteem. I’m not saying this is the case for every fat person but it must have an impact on the majority of people. I attribute my weight issues as a contributing factor to me not feeling good enough. I would go as far as saying it has severely hampered my confidence ever since. Now was the time to address the physical. Healthy body, healthy mind. With wedding number three on the horizon in Wales I attempted to step up my efforts but a messy stag party in Amsterdam put a stop to that. Yet again, alcohol had taken an undesirable hold of me and my insecurities came pouring out. This time I lost it with my friend and my pain, anger and frustration was vented. But my reaction to myself was more measured, I considered the reasons for this outpouring and attributed a lot of it to an unsuccessful job interview day I had taken part in a couple of days previously, and the prospect of seeing my ex at the wedding. Instead of apologising and taking all blame and beating myself up, punishing myself in a period of spiralling out of control I was able to move on and enjoy the rest of the trip. I was on a journey and I wasn’t going to go back to square one. It was time to stand up for myself. I wasn’t the first person to make a tit of himself while drunk after a bad week and I won’t be the last. It was an early glimmer of strength and self-acceptance to acknowledge my imperfections and not let it derail my progress. Like I said, I’ve been a good friend. Handling pressure has always been a problem for me. I knew it would be emotional to me to see my ex at the wedding. We introduced the happy couple, which is the best thing to come out of our mindfuck of a relationship. There were good moments yes, but I’m not going to waste my time listing all the bad ones. But seeing her had put me on edge. I wanted us to not bring partners as I knew I couldn’t handle it. Add alcohol into the mix and I was unstable and unable to communicate that beforehand. I was crying out for help and support and I inevitably became upset when I saw her flirting away and seemingly flourishing in life without me, it got to me. I had my closest friends around me but this time I felt adrift. Eventually I had a good old rant and got a few things off my chest. Luckily this was the end of the night and it didn’t ruin anything but being held back while screaming at someone isn’t a nice way to remember the occasion. I ended up alone and vulnerable, drunk in a hotel room and all the plates around me wobbling. A familiar feeling and some dangerous thoughts attacking me. As the night went on, I realised nobody was coming to my aid, that was the scariest part. Did they even know what had happened? Did everybody know how bad I was hurting? Why can’t my friends take this pain away? After all I’ve done for them. That was my frame of mind and I was thinking the worst as I had found myself on the edge again. Even now I don’t know if they know this. I felt a burden to everyone, a glorious failure. My fight had nearly gone. I have to write it to admit it but on 8th April 2017 I seriously considered suicide, the strongest I’ve ever felt. I sat in the bath and cried. Another spectacular mess. Then I had to get to sleep to make it through the night. Waking up the next day and sheepishly saying my goodbyes, I felt detached from all those around me. I was utterly ashamed and what was making it worse was nobody was mentioning it at all. Maybe out of respect, but I had this overwhelming sense that they were all done with me. After all my years of constant, incessant worry about what people think about me, about keeping those around me happy, I faced the prospect of losing core friends. It was then I realised. And I mean really realised, that I could not go on like this. This self-destructive behaviour was taking its toll on me both mentally and physically. Did I want to live? Yes! Did I want to keep living like this? Hell no!
Eating a KFC at the motorway services I promised myself I would up my efforts. Try harder. Do something. Change something. Address something. Ask for help. Seek help. Anything to change this bleak situation. Arriving home, I explained all to my girlfriend and again she was my rock. I needed time away from everyone. I needed to go into hibernation and concentrate on making the necessary modifications and improvements to get myself back on track. We had a great little holiday. I fell deeply in love with her. She’s got my back. On April 14th 2017 I made this list of things I could do:
• Addressing Low Self-Esteem.
• Meet others who have suffered.
• Exercise and Better Diet.
• Low-Cost Therapy.
• More structured lifestyle.
• Reading up on self-help.
• Concentrate on people who matter to me.
• More thinking of others.
This time I WAS going to make some positive changes to my life. Whether my inner critic liked it or not. I hate that guy.
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