The Darkest of months.

January, the first full month of winter. Not everyone’s favourite month and with Covid still very much controlling our lives as we live through lockdown 3. The days are short, the temperature is cold and the rivers are overflowing with all the rain we have had so, getting out on my paddle board hasn’t been as easy either. The 3rd Monday of January is also commonly named Blue Monday. Awarded this gloomy title due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills.

January for me was tough, really tough! I shut myself away from friends, family and work. I couldn’t find anything to really get me enthused about life. It was a long and dark January that was filled with depressing films and music. Tears nearly everyday about nothing, pure exhaustion, lack of sleep, lack of appetite. A real lack of life. I have this habit that when I’m feeling low to wallow, and boy did I wallow this January!

I tried to start each day positive, however, the positivity ended quicker and quicker each day as the month went on. Until, I got to the point where I lay in my bed, eyes closed but awake, knowing that there was no positivity left. Not wanting to open my eyes and start the same routine as before.

I’m usually a positive guy –  ready for the days ahead and excited for new challenges. I’m one of those guys who likes to care for other people more than worry about myself. I usually try to put other people first and be respectful that ‘I’ may be having a crap time, but there is always someone worse off. Not this January though, I didn’t have the head space for anything other than just how low I was feeling. I stared into the mirror every morning not recognising the person that was looking back and fearful of the day ahead.

The month is now over and I was stupid enough to hope that it would all be ok as of the 1st of February! I mean, it’s my birth month, there are only 28 days, valentines day ( please fee free to send valentines cards). New life is starting to appear with buds on the trees and bulbs breaking through the earth and lambs bouncing in the fields. Loads of things to be positive about but none of this really helped. 

I know what I really need to do – stop shutting myself away and talk. Voice my feelings out loud, and ask for help. Easier said than done. I just don’t want too. I know Interaction with other people is important however with the current rules in place this is hard so I was also using this as an excuse to hide. 

Well, i’ve now forced myself to start speaking with friends and started to voice how I’m feeling to other people other than myself at home. I’m also really pleased to have gone on a social distanced paddle with Chris. Chris and I met briefly at the Santa paddle and other than having a few conversations on Instagram – knew very little about each other. Going for a paddle with a ‘stranger’ is a great way to get to know someone. We paddled for a couple of hours, talked very little about how I was actually feeling and even how he may have been. We just chatted about jobs, lives, kids, hobbies,  –  it was awesome and the perfect start to my Sunday! I knew the idea was great but now, i’m already looking forward to the next one. 

Back in the middle of January Chris contacted me, a NPB Santa paddle participant ( the one that had bare feet if anyone remembers) Chris, a very keen Movember supporter, promoting men’s health asked if I would help with his ‘WhatSUP’ club. A mens Sup and walking group, designed to be a non-judgemental space for men to come and chat about their thoughts, feelings or problems whilst paddling or having a wander.

The idea sounds great, I’m totally behind it even though back in January I wasn’t feeling like talking myself, I knew the concept was a great one!

So, over the last week or so, trying to get back into a positive head space with life and work. I’ve been looking at mental health research online for me to use on the WhatSup webpage and seeing some scary statistics regarding men’s mental health 

I’ve been reading other peoples stories of  their past and present tough times. Starting to maybe see I’m not alone was a good thing. Some people need more than a chat and please don’t think that this group is anyway there to replace seeking professional help. There is no-one trained in psychology or mental health, it’s purely just an activity for guys to meet, chat and paddle.  I’ve made a turning point, yes, I know we are only the start of February still. I’m taking any ‘win’ I can get though and using the good feeling to keep me going until the next as much as I can. 

Yesterday I sat in the sun for 30 minutes –  it was warm and felt amazing. There are things to be positive about and I need to remember them. 

I’ve also now built the whatsup webpage and added some awesome hints and tips to help with finding your positivity again. Please check it out and feel free to add your story! Happy for you to post a comment on the blog, contact us directly and we can post it for you, or, if you just want to tell us without sharing to the world. Please do so –  do what you feel comfortable with. Just reaching out is an achievement.

If you want to get involved with the group. Please contact Chris via his IG @Mobro32 or drop us an email [email protected]