Tag Archives: Mental Health

Be your best self

Anyhow, that’s enough about me…(Part 4)

Revitalisation & Rebirth – being your very best self

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.

Bang.

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.

Not anymore.

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?     

Some things I read in the last 12 months

Happy Monday everyone!
Below is a long-overdue part complete bibliography of things I have read and found useful in the mental health department over the last 12 months.

I have grouped resources together under the headings of self-help, bedtime reading, and dog-related reading; I will explain more in my final blog update this week. It’s not complete by any stretch, I can’t locate some things but I am sure it will help those looking for some inspiration; happy reading!

Self Help & Mental Health Reading

Prof Mark WILLIAMS & Dr Danny PENMAN; Mindfulness: A Practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world. 2011. London, UK; Little, Brown Book Group.

Dr Chris WILLIAMS; Overcoming depression and low mood, a five areas approach. 2014. London, UK; CRC Press.

Ryan HOLIDAY; Ego is the Enemy. 7th July 2016. London, UK: Profile Books.

Ruby WAX; How to be Human; the Manual. 25th January 2018, London, UK; Penguin Books.

Ryan HOLIDAY; Trust me I’m lying. 19th July 2012. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Eckhart TOLLE; The Power of Now. 2004. Novato, California; New World Library.

Ernie J. ZELINSKI: The joy of not working: A book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked. 2003. USA; Ten Speed Press.

Jonny BENJAMIN; The Stranger on the Bridge. 2018. London, UK; Bluebird Pan Macmillan.

Dr Russ HARRIS; The Happiness Trap; Stop Struggling, Start Living. 2007. NSW, Australia; Exisle Publishing Ltd.

Dr Russ HARRIS; The Confidence Gap: A guide to overcoming fear and self-doubt. 13th September 2011. NSW, Australia; Shambhala Publications.

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust; 2016.  IAPT Services – Self Help Guide ‘Depression & Low Mood’  Online link here

Bedtime Reading
Ian LESLIE; Born Liars. 2011. London, UK; Quercus Books.

Adam KAY; This is going to hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor. 7th September 2017. London, UK; Pan Macmillan.

Antoine LAURAIN; The Presidents Hat. March 2013. Paris, France; Gallic Books.

Ian LESLIE; Curious. 2014. London, UK; Quercus Books.

Jonathan FRANZEN; The Corrections. 2007. London, UK; Harper Perennial.

David SEDARIS; Dress your family in corduroy and denim. 2004. London, UK; Abacus Little, Brown Book Group.

Gail HONEYMAN; Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. 18th May 2017. Audible edition, narrated by Cathleen McCARRON. UK, Harper Collins.

Sally ROONEY; Normal People. 28th August 2018. London, UK; Faber and Faber.

Sally ROONEY; Conversations with friends. 25th May 2017. London, UK; Faber and Faber.

Dog Related Reading

Joe IRVING; Training Spaniels. 1993. London, UK, Swan Hill Press.

Linda WHITMAN; The Cocker Spaniel Handbook. 2016. UK; CreateSpace Publishing.

Jonathan WITTENBERG; Things my dog taught me (About being a better human). 2017. UK; Hodder & Stoughton.

Anyhow, that’s enough about me…(Part 3)

Groups & Individuals; how others can really help you

Hi there and welcome to the penultimate part of my blog story; thanks again so much for the fantastic feedback, it does mean a lot to me and your continued messages here, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Messenger are all fuelling my output, so here goes.

Having imploded a year ago as outlined in my opening post, we had a serious word with ourselves in part two and did the very best we could on our own, in short, we realised we needed help.

I needed help, and whether it’s now or at some stage in the future, you may need it too; so this week I will be reflecting on all of the important people who have helped me in the last year in the hope that my experiences will help us all; everyone deserves some help from others and by reading this, you too can help.

As humans we are programmed to believe we can identify, self-diagnose, treat and rectify any potential healthcare issues that threaten the smooth running super-efficient machine that is our body and soul; sadly, where mental health is concerned, nothing could be further from the truth.

You place a huge amount of stress on yourself, day in day out; to be 100% perfect in every way, to keep up with the pack, to possibly be something you are not, to live a life, to weave the dream, to spin the plates, to make ends meet; and sometimes you are your own worst enemy, but you don’t even know it.

That is the problem; you can’t actually trust yourself to identify there is an issue, because you are indeed part of the problem – and an important lesson I have learnt is, you cannot solve this on your own, you may not know it yet, but you will need others.

Putting your hand up is the single most important step to getting help.

Don’t feel guilty or inadequate for asking for some help; even if you think you don’t need it; you need to get it out, you need to share your story; you need to speak about it – you need other people to help you right here, right now, whatever stage you are at on the journey.

And they can only help if you cross the line and let them in. So put your hand up; you owe it to yourself, and once others see the ‘open for business’ sign on the door, they will be forming an orderly queue to play their part.

This last 12 months experience has been truly humbling for me to realise just how much people do care; so, my intention here is to share some links and experiences from both professional and amateur helpers alike; from the consultant psychologist to the complete stranger; these are the souls that have surrounded me in everyday life and helped in such big and small ways; they can help you too, if you let them.

Start with your partner, your siblings, your parents and your offspring; all is not lost if you don’t have any of these, but if you do have some of them, then make the most of them; ask three people who love you to write down 5 characteristics that you have that they admire about you. I did this and it was extremely powerful, I still treasure the texts and notes that made me realise that I was perhaps not the basket case I thought I was, it is fantastic to see real support in the form of words characterising your inner strengths – and that is just the start, your family can help you in so many ways; but they are not mind readers, they need letting in.

I know I have been very lucky to have a hugely supportive partner of thirty years who’s primary objective has always been to promote my own health and happiness; anyone who really cares for you will always put your health first, whoever that person is for you, when the mentalist bell starts ringing, you need to be honest with them, they will help you.

As will friends who have known you a long time and work colleagues who have integrity; these are the people who you can open up to, these are the people who know you and these are the people who know how to listen; it’s not about them telling you how good they are, or how they tackled some stress when they had it; they invest time in you, they drive miles to visit you, they check in on you, they send you cards, they buy you lunch, they have two ears and one mouth; they don’t judge, they just care.

And then there are ordinary people outside of your bubble that were always there but you ordinarily would never have met; you don’t need to share anything with these people, but you will want to, because unfamiliarity and anonymity brings a comfort blanket of safety, shared experiences will help you realise you are not alone, and that is a great feeling.

One thing I did quite early on was go to some group ‘Healthy Minds’ sessions run by the local NHS IAPT team, a room full of people from all walks of life suffering with similar issues getting some cognitive behavioural therapy, everyone dreading being there, but coming away thinking ‘that was all right actually’; after week six we were all hooked.

On to the professionals; those whose job it is to help; they do this for a living, when you need them, you realise they are doing this job because they are bloody good at it.

Let’s start with the doctor; from complete stranger to super-hero; I saw him every Wednesday for the first few weeks, ten times in the first 3 months and then at regular check-ins up until the half-year mark. It started with him listening, a brilliant bedside manner; some face time, a sick note and a promise to go back the next week; it became the best bromance of my life.

Then there was the clinical psychologist, after the initial few weeks we wheeled in some proper expertise; a Doctor in Psychology, specialising in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Psychotherapy, Depression and Anxiety Disorders. For me this was somebody who could help to get inside my head, scoop out the contents and work with me to pop them back in part by part. You may not need this lady, but I found our weekly one to one sessions, something to really look forward to, somebody willing you to tell your story, real therapy, real useful help for a better life.

Talking to a Mental Health Nurse is a wonderful thing, I found myself undergoing numerous online and telephone assessments with NHS IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) Professionals, they helped me monitor progress using GAD7 and PHQ9 tests that calibrate how your mind is doing; they will listen and they will help, you are on a journey that they understand, in fact they know every bend in the road.

These people will be available in your area and I have included some links in my reading list.

Of course, one last living being who has helped me as much as anyone is Öve the working cocker spaniel, more about him next week in my final blog.

My point in summary is this; you are not alone; to improve your mental healthiness and wellbeing you need these people to help you – one of them, some of them, or even all of them.

And help you they will; but only if you let them.

A year ago, I was suffering serious psychological impairment that was diagnosed as being likely to improve with the passage of time. That time has passed, and I would like to thank every single person who has helped me and continues to help me with that journey.

Anyhow that’s enough about me, let’s talk about you; what do you think about me?

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Reading list will follow – I promise this weekend!