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Movember: Taking time to reflect on men’s health

  • Posted on November 25, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

November: the sun goes down that little bit sooner and the chill each morning kicks in a little harder. But the weather is not the only notable part of November; it is also the month we recognise Movember, a month where we take time to reflect on men’s health. It’s not a secret most men find it hard to talk about their health, physical or mental. Indeed, Movember was originally concepted to raise awareness of a subject that can be embarrassing for some men: testicular cancer. It has however expanded further to offer a chance to talk openly about men’s health across the spectrum.

Writing this blog post wasn’t easy for me, and I wasn’t sure if I should even post it at all: what would people think, would they think less of me? But ultimately, it’s that which made me realise it is an important topic and fits right in with the actual point of Movember: to destigmatise men’s mental health. So, here I go:

23rd of October 2017, and I’m sat in Seattle airport waiting for a flight back to the UK after a week of meetings with a client.  The last 48 hours, sadly, have been the worst in my life.  A horrible set of circumstances and having heard some upsetting news, sadly means I’m about to board a flight at the end of which I will be starting the long, painful journey of divorce.

So with that marks the beginning of my 2-year journey with depression.  Now, I have actually been dealing with depression most of my adult life but in a fairly mild, formulaic way.  Every few years I would have a period of stress or sometimes there would be no trigger at all, and I would have a couple of months where I was extremely low.  However, I learnt that it was predictable; I could see it coming.  A visit to the doctors and trying to remember to let those closest to me know what was happening; with a little time, it would pass.

This time however it was very, very different. Triggered by what I now know was a huge loss to me and something that rocked me to my core, I fell into a deep and severe depression.  I look back to the start of 2018 and actually wonder how I even managed to function.  If you could list the things we all think people with depression experience, I had the whole shebang. Panic attacks, anxiety, breaking into tears randomly, finding myself spending whole weekends in bed, moments of very dark thoughts, turning to heavily depend on alcohol.  All the while trying to stop my family, colleagues and friends worrying. I’m fine, don’t worry, smiling, happy, outgoing, social, trying to keep things looking normal and as they were.

6 months go by and it’s still dire, but finally I took the step with the support of those closest to me to seek professional help in the form of support from a doctor and counsellor. I started to make other changes in my life as well, getting into fitness (some might even suggest a little obsessed!), cutting back on the booze and making sure I spent as much time with friends and family as possible.  The dark moments were always worse when alone, particularly a lonely hotel room far away from home.

Another 12 months go by and I realise this is not going to be a quick fix like in the past.  The counselling is helping, the support of close friends and colleagues is making things a more bearable, but the cloud is still there.  We then get to now, November 2019, and the slow march to feeling like me again is going well.  Not done, but closer and feels almost within grasp.

So that sounds sad, but what’s the point Ben? Well the point I would love everyone who reads this to take away is many-fold, however in true delivery manager style I’ll bullet it for clarity.

  • Without a doubt the support I had and have from my Avanade colleagues made a huge difference. I’m proud we have the people and culture that makes us support those in need.
  • Keep a compassionate eye out and offer your support where you can. Men in particular can find it hard to open up on how they are feeling, so if you know someone is going through a hard time, take the time to ask them how they are feeling.
  • If you need to, take time out, don’t save up your holidays – Use them! I didn’t, I wish I had and in not doing so my work and health suffered. Needing to take time out is not a weakness.
  • Exercise. Seriously, if you are able and feeling depressed, exercise.It not only made the world of difference to me it is proven to improve mental wellbeing and health.

Finally remember there are many resources out there if you need them. Here are a few of my suggestions which reach across the globe:

Take the time to take care of yourself.  You’re worth it.

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