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I have to confess I have found it hard to bring this four-part chronicle to a fitting close; I sketched out the framework with the initial blog about breakdown 3 weeks ago, last week I revisited some writing on a train but was very much not in the right frame of mind; I hope tonight to lay it to rest so we can all move on, in a positive way of course.
My intention was to sign off with a beautifully glossy picture of how I transformed myself from a gibbering wreck to a super confident, perfectly formed, best ever self, living the dream and walking the walk, giving everyone the benefit of my experience.
But it’s not going to be that easy.
At least I now understand why. And I hope by reading this last post you too will appreciate some of the issues that contribute; so, we can all understand better how to be our very best selves.
You see, we all know that “it’s OK not to be OK” as the saying goes. In fact, it’s normal, and that is something I have learnt the hard way (but you don’t need to).
Twelve months ago, I was woefully unaware, in fact oblivious, to the forces that were ‘twisting my melon’ as they say; but not now; because now it is Monday and I am Happy.
You see on Friday I was sat on a train speeding toward London, previously a weekly occurrence, but more recently something I have found quite daunting and not done (with good reason) for exactly a year. It was not good.
The hangover, the rush to the station, the app to pay for parking, loading the card details into your phone, the changing trains at York because you get the wrong one but you needed to get it because if you went later there would have been no parking spaces left, the Costa coffee app not working because you changed passwords, the HP sauce sachet not opening, the person sat in seat 51A on Coach D because you did not get on at Thirsk; the solicitor call saying the property deal is not completing because somebody is fucking around.
I was right back where we started a year ago – and it wasn’t even 8.15am.
I had to say to myself; “You need to be careful; stop and take a breath Broady”.
This is not a linear journey, there is no date wallchart that must be strictly adhered to; it’s one day at a time, every day, for the rest of my life.
It’s a game of snakes and ladders, with ups and inevitable downs, and as the Sleaford Mods would say, ‘we’re going down like BHS’ if we are not careful.
But Friday was different.
I had tackled the demons; I can now ride this mini-storm and I moved my top hat around the Monopoly board of life without passing go and collecting £200.
How? Because of two things that’s how –
Firstly, I now have true perspective and a timecard-stamped understanding of my recent dalliance with madness; I know what happened, how it happened and why it happened; this is important and not to be underestimated.
Rather like a treasured battered Rolex or your Mulberry Bayswater, those who know, know; and that is all that matters.
And secondly, more importantly, because of the help from others, I am equipped with the mental health kitbag that enabled me to identify and tackle the thinking styles that can and occasionally will perforate my recently hardened shell to threaten a downfall.
Catastrophising; emotional reasoning with yourself; feeling you must do something; being self-critical; comparing and despairing; mind-reading; predicting the future; only thinking in black and white; over-generalising and personalising everything to one’s own situation.
Those of you who have done some cognitive behavioral therapy will recognise these as important; all ten of them are ‘unhelpful’ thinking styles that are prevalent in everyday life for so many of us, I could write a blog post on each one of these ten beauties entertaining you with cataclysmic consequences in real life scenarios playing out for each one; another time maybe.
The point is, without some learning and help, twelve months ago I was totally unaware these voices were ‘unhelpfully’ shaping my mood and physically manifesting in my behavior in so many ways that perhaps some others could see, but I certainly couldn’t.
I would say it took me a good six months from explosion, through therapy and healing to true enlightenment and my current state of renewed happiness.
As previously mentioned, many others have played a role and I thank them all again for their contribution to my rehabilitation, but I had to do the homework too; and this is where I urge anyone with issues to read up on these behaviors- you can really help yourself and avoid anything like I had by not getting there to start with.
You should not need therapy and textbooks to tell you that punching the man in seat 51A is wrong.
So that’s enough about me, let’s move forward and talk about some other people; and what I think about them.
We all need inspiring, a large part of getting better has been widening my experience to truly listen and learn from the experiences of exceptional people; these are individuals who truly open your eyes to the shallow unimportance of most of what we do.
There have been a number of people (whom I would not want to embarrass here) who have truly inspired me and helped me move forward; friends; family, colleagues and strangers alike; and some whom I had become estranged from over the years, you know who you are; however there is one person I do want to mention who I never met but has played a significant part, who I will be going to see again this week.
On the 10th of April last year I was sat at the back of the church in East Witton, Wensleydale sobbing while learning about Pte Arthur Poulter, the only Dalesman ever to have been awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest honour for courage in the face of the enemy. Here I was, in his home village surrounded by the family and regimental comrades of this incredible man, exactly 100 years to the day after his astonishing actions in the great war.
Pte Poulter was a stretcher-bearer with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and earned his VC during one of the German Army’s final attempts to beat the Allies. Stormtroopers broke through the front lines and Private Poulter’s battalion was moved up in support at the northern French village of Erquinghem-Lys. Instructed to hold a railway line, the 150 Yorkshire soldiers sustained heavy casualties from German machine guns. Only one officer and ten men returned from the action, leaving behind many severely wounded. His citation read;
“On 10 occasions Pte Poulter carried badly wounded men on his back to a safer locality, through a particularly heavy artillery and machine-gun barrage. Two of these were hit a second time whilst on his back. Again, after a withdrawal over the river had been ordered, Pte Poulter returned in full view of the enemy who were advancing and carried back another man who had been left behind wounded. He bandaged up over 40 men under fire, and his conduct throughout the whole day was a magnificent example.”
His Great Granddaughter was present with his Victoria Cross that afternoon and after the church service, the band played while we stood in the mud and rain as his magnificent plaque was unveiled commemorating his actions.
Now here was somebody doing something important, somebody who inspired me, somebody who gave me some perspective; somebody who led by example.
Somebody worth getting piss wet through for.
Spurred on by Pte Poulter VC. I set off on a crusade to lead a better life. This Wednesday, a year on, I am going to see him with some flowers, to say thank-you.
You see, once I got better and realised what was important in life, I started to move forward. Armed with the mental health kit-bag, some real-life perspective and a dose of inspiration from Pte Poulter VC; I could do anything.
I did some things I would never ever have done in my busy old corporate world;
I got the bus to Leeds and over lunch renewed a friendship with a primary school classmate from over 40 years ago.
I went to self-help groups, church meetings, village initiatives, table tennis club, running clubs, Park-run, any club that would have me as a member to meet normal people from outside my old world.
I joined Slimming World and shot the breeze with some lovely ladies in Masham Town Hall every Monday for two months; losing a few kilos along the way.
Having been cut off for so long, I had extracted myself from my old networks and so I very slowly rebuilt a smaller web of trusted people purely on my terms.
I walked around seven miles a day, every day for the entire year, Öve the working cocker was egging me on every day; he probably did 14 but was never found wanting.
I got my camera out and started reading and writing so much more; building the petals of my life that had shrunk to become almost non-existent.
I spent more time with my beautiful wife and kids, helping them where I could, actually listening to what they had to say, rather than looking at my phone and nodding.
After a few months, I realised I did not want to go back to my old job, ever.
After dialogue concluded with my old employer, six months from meltdown I was free to do anything I wanted; after well over 30 years never of having to, I applied for a job.
OK, Project 55 wasn’t ever really about retiring; it was about having a purpose; something I believed in – it was about finding my ‘Why’ (I’m sure you are all too familiar with ‘Start with Why’; Simon Sinek; 2011, UK; Penguin; a book I foolishly forgot to include in my reading list)
And for me, my purpose, or at least a great inspiration and motivation of recent times has been a four-legged friend who has brought me so much fun and adventure at a time of great personal challenge; yes, I am talking about a dog; a working cocker spaniel aged one to be exact.
So why not follow my dream? Why not apply for a job that is something to do with dogs; something that is in Yorkshire, that is sustainable and environmentally responsible; something that is privately owned, ethically sound and wholesomely growing in a dynamic market where you are actually making something?
No boardroom, no cross-selling, no mergers, no politics, no PowerPoint, no budget reforecast, no quiet words, no executive washroom; no none of that.
This is far more important.
Driving the van, picking product in a walk-in freezer, packing crates or clearing the warehouse, stacking the products, cleaning down the equipment; making the tea; bringing in the cakes; making the finest raw dog food there is, and it is brilliant.
This is real work
So now I am working with some fantastic people who love their jobs, love their lives and have fun; they have helped me so much in the last few months I don’t know where to start.
And I hope I have helped them; time will tell on the next phase of the journey.
Of course, work can only be part of the story; I hope I have impressed how important it is to cherish what’s important; especially the people you love; I now have that perspective between work and family that was so missing before.
To be my very best self now I live by simple rules; I don’t do anything I don’t want to; life is simply too short. I look after my head and my body in equal measure. I have a structure; work is only a part of it; everyone should have a purpose, even if it is part-time, for me it’s fun and flexible, it fits my life rather than runs it.
I very much want to help others; that has been something I have always tried to do, none more so than in the last six months; I would urge you to do things where your experience can help build something amazing; it will help your mental health, then you too will truly feel great!
So, this has turned into a longer post; from my perspective, this is the wrap-up, the final part of breakdown, self-help, accepting help and re-launching as your very best better self.
I hope it has been a help to anyone who has read it, especially those who don’t know me; I know I am very lucky; you may not have the luxury of time and support that I have had, you may not be able to answer those questions that I put to myself with the clarity that I was forced to summon up; but you must keep trying and asking for help, and I wish you the very best.
This blog was never intended to be a self-indulgent look at me LinkedIn story; I hope it has not come over like that. The thing is, I needed to do this; it’s the truth warts and all, my objective being to help others who may be struggling with mental health issues; selfishly, if nothing else, it has really helped me.
Rather unbelievably in recent weeks I have been asked to both join committees and speak at conferences within the UK advertising sector; it’s not going to happen.
Likewise, you will be pleased to know I’m not renewing my LinkedIn platinum subscription, writing a book or signing you up for a series of self-help seminars.
No, I will be the real me.
Making some dog food, driving a van and walking my working cocker spaniel in the glorious North Yorkshire countryside. Smiling like the Chris Broadbent 2.0 I really am.
But that’s enough about me, let’s talk about you – what do you think about me?