CHANGE IS GOOD. TALKING IS GOOD...

Michael one of our top Dudes, leads the morning exercise routines on the Dudes & Dogs Online Community, here he shares his own positive experience of change:

As I look out of the window and notice the weather shift from Summer to Autumn I reflect over the last year which, for me, has been one of significant change.

In the last 12 months, after nearly 20 years of marriage I have moved house to make a new start on my own, started doing some more exercise and lost a bit of weight. 

About four years ago I started experiencing high blood pressure, regular headaches and heart palpitations plus an inability to sleep and issues with my skin. I felt unwell, most of the time.  I put this down to work and age. I had lots of tests but the doctor couldn’t find anything actually wrong with me so, after a week off and I started to feel a bit better, I just carried on. Fast forward a year and everything returned only now I felt a crushing nervy feeling whenever there was any expectation on me…so much so that I would drive the hour to work and then not be able to get out of the car and go in. The anxiety had got so bad.   But, I love my work, the people I work with and the organisation I work for!  So what the actual...??

I returned to the doctor - his first question after reading my notes from the previous year was about my thoughts - not my physical symptoms. In the moment I lied and said I was fine - I wasn't. But it made me think. The more I denied my thoughts and feelings the worse it all got until I couldn't face the idea of anyone having any expectation of me - which made work impossible and as a husband and parent a little debilitating. I finally plucked up the courage to speak with my wife about how I was feeling and then, like a broken dam, the deluge of thoughts and emotions flooded me. It was clear I needed some professional support which I sought. And I took time off work (quite a lot)

I don’t want to share all the details here but many good things happened as a result of my sessions but here are my three main learnings:

  • The opportunity to talk to someone who has no vested interest in your story - only in your wellbeing - really helps!
  • Get out and walk - fresh air and nature are great healers
  • Understanding how I had ended up with the conflicting and debilitating thoughts that crashed my brain 

That is why Loki, my Labrador-Cocker Spaniel cross, came into my life. He provided a reason to get out, structure and connection.

The therapy I had helped me get to a point where I realised what I was thinking and why it was affecting me the way it did…I needed to talk - really talk not nicey, nicey - the hard emotional stuff guys are dissuaded from talking about.  If you don't talk it stagnates in your head, it can distort and grow like mine did to a point where I could no longer function. 

Those discussions helped me realise the changes I needed to make to be happier.  I am so lucky that my wife is supportive and holds the position of ‘best mate’ giving me the freedom to find my path. Which over time has led to last August's house move.

In February, she sent an article about Dudes and Dogs and I instantly felt a connection, even a calling. I am an introvert by nature so reaching out to others is very hard for me to do and it took me a while to act, then when I did join the facebook group it was just as CV19 and lockdown kicked in - yet more change!   

No travel to the office, what felt like it might be solitary confinement coming I knew I needed to find a ‘distraction’.  Rob announced the April Abs challenge which seemed like a good idea - I could join in and start to feel connected.  

That daily connection - the camaraderie of it - the comedy of rainy towpath videos and dodgy internet connections. Shared experience and crucially for me inclusion and focus.  I realised that I am never alone - in a duff moment I can post and I am met with caring responses - no judgment just support. And I was getting some abs!

That ‘acorn’ has grown - Matt and I lead the exercise sessions now, I can’t remember what it was like not doing it..  I have made friends with people I know will support me without judgement and that has built my confidence to push myself further and love myself a little bit - I lost 2½ Stone (15kg or 35lbs) since April, I ran for the first time in 25 years and I feel fitter than I have since the 1990’s.

I have enjoyed the best mental health in the last 5 months since…… well, since forever, to be honest.  

Change is good - talking is good - dudes are good - dogs are better than good.