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”Pull yourself together!”

‘’Pull yourself together!’’

Pull yourself together. Don’t be so silly. You’re so ungrateful. Smile!

Sound familiar to some of you? Your family, friends, colleagues or partners maybe? Attempts at help, sympathy and support? Of course. But in reality, does hearing that kind of ‘’advice’’ truly help? Will you smile? Will you ‘pull yourself together?”

Do I suffer from poor mental health? Depression. Low spirits. Black clouds. The weight of the world on my shoulders…whatever you want to call it. For the first time, I’m ready to hold my hand up publicly, and say, yes. Yes I do.

Unfortunately, I’ve always been a glass half empty kind of guy I’m afraid. Never a hundred percent happy. Never thinking that I’m good enough. Insecure of my own abilities and refusing to accept any kind words from anyone about any skills I might have or about my work and career. Always waiting for that tap on the shoulder and a little voice, whispering, ‘’Ah ha, got you. Busted!’’

So what on earth has led to these feelings? This lack of self worth and self confidence? As the beach boys sang, ‘God only knows’

I have a loving family, I live in a wonderful house by the sea, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world with my work over the years and I’ve been very lucky to have worked, and still work, with many inspirational, influencial and wonderful people. Unfortunately, in the media world, or at least within Wales, insecurity, the worry of not being good enough and of being ‘’let go’’, and the battle with self worth and confidence, is always present and I think I’ve lived with these feelings ever since I started working in the media back in 1987. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

2020 however, was, in more ways than one, a difficult and nightmarish year. After being diagnosed with early stages prostate cancer in 2019, the worry and pressure of tests and regular scans was starting to be a problem. Then, after nearly 30 years of presenting the weather on S4C, I lost that job, a job I loved doing so much. I won’t go into the why and the how; that would be too easy, but as a result of the whole ‘process’ (and that bloody word will haunt me forever), I felt like a joke, a fraud, completely devoid of self worth and self confidence. Since that period, and waking up in a sweat and sometimes crying like a baby, I’ve had several episodes of imposter syndrome and a myriad of emotions. Self pity, anger, embarrassment, incredulity, sadness, defiance, and loathing towards individuals and organisations, and, if I’m being completely honest here, emotions and feelings on the …….’darker’ side. Phew, putting that down on paper took some doing believe me.

So what happened? What have I been doing to try and conquer and accept this situation? Not a 100% but enough at least, to carry on, to not give up and to be ‘’thankful’ for what I’ve got?

The first trigger, as such, was this. I was walking one day with the dog and I came across a lady, around my age, who was about to throw herself off the cliff, near to my home and where I walk regularly. After spending a good 45 minutes in her company, gingerly positioning myself between her and the cliff, talking and listening to her story and her personal nightmare, she came away from the edge and back to her car. That, I believe, left an impression on me. Hearing her story and her situation in an unhappy and abusive marriage, was heartbreaking and impactive. At the same time however, as it turned out, it was also a kind of epiphany.

After making sure she was safely back in the car and as she promised to contact an organisation that could help her, I said goodbye and made my way to the pub with the dog, whereupon on arrival, my hand was shaking and the first Guinness never touched the sides. As I sat there, I suddenly realised that my personal situation, my worries and emotions of self pity, anger and unfairness were nothing in comparison to this lovely lady on the cliff. She was ready to forget eveything, she’d had enough of her life, of life in general, she’d had enough of being in an abusive relationship and she failed to see a way forward. I was certainly not in that position, yet. It seemed that my life had some positivity, some hope, some favourable outcome. As I said, an epiphany.

After the second Guinness  and my hand had stopped shaking, strangely, I ‘’pulled myself together’’ somewhat. I gave myself a good kick up the backside! Yes, that can actually work if you’re the one doing the kicking and you’re the one doing the talking. Sometimes at least.

So as a result of all this, I realised that I needed to take steps. I’ve started talking. Sounds simple and obvious enough but talking is one of the best things one can do. Sharing, honestly and openly, and slowly, accepting your situation with regards to work, career, emotions, worries and the future and hopefully begin to re-discover a few crumbs of self respect and self worth. I’m approaching 57 years old and my cancer is likely to become worse in the future (although treatments are increasingly successful these days), and I don’t think I’ve got time to feel self pity, to hate individuals nor to be negative. If I can offer just one piece of advice to anyone who suffers from depression or any type of mental health issues, then talking is that one thing. Especially you men. That could be talking to your partner or wife, talking to friends (and believe me, you’ll soon find out who your friends are at times like this), or talking to counsellors, specialists, a homeopath, your GP, or groups that offer support and advice. By talking, it will get better. Slowy, but it will get better.

Don’t be so hard on yourself (easier said than done I know). Try living in the now, the present. Try not to spend time with negative people. Attempt to forget or to ignore arrogant and self serving and selfish people. Discuss your feelings and your worries (again, men are hopeless when it comes to this), not only with others but with yourself. I love a well known quote which claims that ‘’talking with myself is the best part of the day’’

I’m definitely not 100% out of the woods and the darkness yet. I’m still battling with what I perceive as being unfairness and disrepect. I still embrace and reject a mixture of anger, depression, a lack of self worth, determination, obstinance, sadness, hope, happiness and gratitude on a regular basis. A real mixed bag!

Oh, and one more bit of advice if I may, and something that’s seriously saved my life in more ways than one. Get a dog! Seriously! You will not regret it!

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