Today, the 19th of November, is International Men’s Day ( so next time plonkers are complaining on International Women’s Day, remember the date and own them!) I keep coming back to the fact that it’s men who have the most difficulty in opening up and talking about their struggles, mainly because since beginning this blog, I’ve been contacted in person, and via message online, by a number of men, both friends and newly met acquaintances, who have said the same thing to me “I’ve been reading your blog, I’m struggling, I think I need to talk to someone” and I’ve replied in the same way to all of them, by reminding them that they have just talked to someone, they’ve talked to me, they’ve taken that terrifying but ultimately brave first step of saying the words “I need help”
Other people have said they wouldn’t know what to do if a friend said the them ” I’m struggling” the fact is, you don’t have to know what to do, you’re not an expert ( of course if you’re a doctor or trained counsellor then you probably are an expert so you can talk amongst yourselves for a moment) the thing you can do, is give your friend a hug, listen to them, let them talk, then let them know that you’re there for them, it sounds like nothing, but truthfully, it means the world when all you are facing is despair and a huge black cloud which won’t dissipate. While things are still really rough at the moment, I’ve been heartened by all the people who have given me a hug, listened, and are there for me, and the more people I have spoken to about this, the lighter the weight on my shoulders becomes, as those who stand with me, share the burden unselfishly. the weight is still there, and it’s not going anywhere fast, but I’m not carrying it solely on my own shoulders.
Today was a good day, after an evening spent with some great friends who we haven’t visited for a long time, which was lovely, today I had a plan, go out and get breakfast at The Harland Café ( my little haven ) then co-present the Midday Method radio show on Redroad FM alongside Chris Holt, a diamond of a fellow who knows the black dog well himself, and is a beautiful soul. After the show my plan was to visit another friend, an old work colleague from Capita days, another Chris, and his young family. Breakfast was good, and I had a nice chat with café owner Steve, about this blog, and the journey in general, and then as I left to get back into the car, I received a message which made me cry big salty, happy tears. Again, to respect the privacy of my friend, I won’t name them or go into great detail, but I did ask if I could quote their message;
“Shaun, our son was born last week. A relative dropped by with the newspaper from the day of his birth. I thought you’d like to know that your story in the Star will be kept forever in his memory box. We think there couldn’t be a better message for a young boy”
Try reading that without getting misty eyed. I couldn’t.
Then, on to Kiveton Park, and the studio of Redroad FM. The Midday Method is broadcast on Sundays between noon and 2 p.m. it features mostly rock and metal music, but it’s a broad palette, and other sounds are often part of the show. I’d guested before, but then Chris contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in going in on a fairly regular basis as a co-presenter, I’ve done hospital radio in the past and loved my time there, so I jumped at the chance. I chose a playlist, checked all the tracks were profanity free and met Ofcom guidelines, and the show began. We talked a lot about the Fear Lies show on Friday at Corporation ( which I went on at the end of the night to sing a couple of tunes) and we talked for much of the show about music, our own struggles, and a lot of the things I’ve mentioned in this post. we featured a few songs by artists who we’ve lost over the years, from those taken by physical illness ( Malcolm Young of AC/DC passed away yesterday aged 63) to those taken by mental illness, addiction, and their own personal demons (Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain, Chester Bennington, Syd Barrett) and a thread ran through the whole show, interspersed with some musical moments of pure joy, local bands, big bands, some of our favourite songs. I hope that those who tuned in enjoyed the show, understood the reasons for our subject matter, and went away feeling informed and entertained. I’ll be back soon on the show, Tune in online, or on 102.4 FM ( Rotherham area is the best signal ).
Next stop was a visit to see another Chris, a colleague from the Capita Coal Health contract, a great guy, witty, bright, passionate, caring and a man whose High Fives are the stuff of legend. Chris sent me a message yesterday asking how I was getting on, and inviting me to call around, to meet his family, Two sons, and the cutest, smiliest daughter you could wish to meet. We bonded at Capita over our shared love for music, film, and sport, particularly cricket and football. It was great to catch up and have a cup of tea and a chat, watching him almost bursting with paternal pride at his brood, who are, like their parents, bright, engaging and blessed with a good line in high fives. Again, we compared notes about our struggles, our downs, but also caught up on all our joyous moments, of which we both have many to be thankful for.
the commonality of all todays activities, is that I’ve spent time talking to other men who have been in my shoes, and who are open, and able to talk about it. It gives me great hope that as my road to recovery continues on, however long it takes, along the way there’s a chance that we’ll pick up some more passengers who need to take the road with us, and together, we can overcome the pack of black dogs, and bring them all to heel.