It was probably my darkest day. I can’t even recall the date now but it was 20 years ago. I’d sunk into a darker and darker depression – I’d stopped going to work, I wasn’t getting up at all as I just couldn’t face another day, I wasn’t eating either. I had gone crashing down into a never-ending downwards spiral. I couldn’t see any way out of it at all.
I was single and hated the fact, I was working as a cycle courier and was fed up with it. I just couldn’t see much of a future let alone a bright one. I was in my late twenties and the depression had taken a strangle-hold on me in a big way. I viewed myself as nothing short of a total and utter failure. The months leading up to this point had been a major struggle – I was drinking heavily and really couldn’t give a shit about anything or anyone.
It was a Sunday and I had filled up two empty bottles with water and filled them with paracetamol – I had put around 50 effervescent tablets into each bottle – before starring at them for an age and eventually drinking the contents of both bottles. This wasn’t a cry for help, this was me at the very end, no more answers having accepted the only solution was to end my life. I thought that the quantity of tablets would knock me out before my life ended. I didn’t leave a suicide note. I just didn’t see the point.
Several hours later I was hunched over the toilet being sick in a way I have never been sick before. It was continuous and seemed never-ending. I ended up in A&E at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital that night. They managed to stabilise me and I spent the following week in hospital. That first night in the hospital was strange. I felt confused and I was scared but felt at peace as well.
The following day a really good friend came to visit me at lunchtime commenting (rather ironically) ‘that if I tried something like that again she would kill me’.
I learnt a lot that week in hospital. I realised that my depression (and episodes of depression) needed to be tackled head on and couldn’t engulf me like it had on this occasion. Back then mental health wasn't widely spoken about as it is today. There was still a certain amount of stigma associated with it as well.
The doctors told me that it was lucky that I was so fit as certain blood counts associated with the overdose were off the scale and they had never seen anyone survive with such high levels before. Thankfully the majority of the damage was to the liver and this would eventually heal.
On the ward I got talking to the bloke in the bed next to me – he had to be admitted to hospital every couple of months due to having sickle cell disease – he was really upbeat and was just getting on with it. One thing that stayed with me was watching an elderly man at the other end of the ward die. I was looking over towards him in those last moments of his life and watched his last breath. I spent a week in the hospital before being discharged. That is when the real hard work started. I was at rock-bottom and needed to rebuild my life again.
I’d come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be easy, it wouldn’t be instant, and it was down to me to sort the mess out which had become my life. I also had to accept that I suffered from depression and that I needed to control it as best I could – this is something that I am still doing 20 years later. There are times when I think I’m doing well and other times when I think I need to get my act together. That has happened quite a lot over the last 20 years.
I think in the last 20 years I’ve achieved a lot and learnt a lot about myself. I went from working as a cycle courier to becoming a performance manager for the company I was working for. I started a career in the civil service (and was promoted twice within my first 8 months). I studied and trained to become a sports massage therapist, worked for myself and gained an excellent reputation as well as working with some brilliant and inspiring athletes. Another career change has seen me working for the British Red Cross for the last 7 years and advancing, learning, and studying along the way.
One of the things that really helped was exercise – I finished another 8 marathons (I had completed my first a few years before), finished multiple triathlons including four ironman distance, as well as racing for Great Britain at the European Long Distance Championships in 2007.
In that 20 years I’ve been in 6 relationships and am now single again – I’m not that fussed about that, some days I think it’d be great to be with someone, most days I’m happy being on my own.
I don’t really speak about that dark day very much. I know that it changed me. I know that it made me see that if I wanted to achieve anything I would need to really push myself hard. I’ve learned that failure isn’t a bad thing as long as you learn from the mistakes made. That dark day helped me to build a very strong mind-set where I refuse to give up, give in or stay down when knocked down by life.
That dark day was the first step to everything I have achieved since.
This week marks the end of an era in work as I leave one role and begin another – I’ve been delivering induction courses in work since 2014 and in my new role will no longer be doing this. It is going to be strange because of a lot of colleagues (many of whom I’ve trained) know me as the person who does the induction course.
On Wednesday I finished my last ever induction course and as I reflected on how the course had gone I had a sense that I had drawn a line under that part of my career – no looking back, no going back. My new role is going to challenge me and really put my skills and knowledge to the test – that is good. It is going to take me out of my comfort zone – that is good. It is going to push me – that is good. I’ve been given two projects to get on with straight away and I’m determined to set a high benchmark for myself straight away – I’ll look at it and think what would make it better and then look at it again and think what will make it much better – that marginal gain element.
I knew 2019 was the year I needed to push myself, challenge myself, and really get out of my comfort zone. I’ve always felt the need to challenge myself and push myself. I’ve never been one to sit back and accept it for how it is. I’ve always asked the questions around what are my limits, what am I really capable of if I try that little bit harder.
Some people look at me and probably think I’m not very ambitious or driven. The thing is I’m never one to shout out about that (I shout at myself inwards about it). In my down time, such as having a few beers with friends for example, I’d rather have a good laugh than be serious all the time – that is why I see it as my down time. This is the time when I blow off a bit of steam but it doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious or driven anymore.
So today is St Valentine’s Day – not that it means a great deal to me. I actually think it is a manufactured load of rubbish. But hey I’m single so why would I care anyway!!!
Single through choice. I’m alone but I don’t feel lonely. Over the last week I’ve thought about what being single actually means to me. I set my own agenda and it isn’t based upon what someone else thinks or what they expect from me. I’m not confined or pressurised into the expectations of someone else – I’m not being viewed or judged on what I should be or what I should be saying or asking. I don’t get let down and if I do it is only by myself and I learn from that and I build upwards from that.
I’ve been in relationships where on the one hand the other person has said I don’t need to change anything and on the other tries to change things about me. What is that all about!!!! If you feel the need to change that person should you even be with them in the first place – the answer to that has to be a big fat NO. If you are happy in yourself why change for someone – that change is obviously based upon their own insecurities and issues and probably means they have a fear of changing themselves so it is easier to give someone else the hard time and get them to change you instead. Leave them behind and continue being you and being the best you.
In my last blog entry I wrote about taking risks and challenging convention. I also wrote about making mistakes and it being part of the learning process.
Within my training I try to apply this and like with any well thought out plan you have a certain level of control on how this is applied – there are some unknowns involved in that as well and also some uncontrollable elements as well (weather and terrain for example).
Devising an effective training plan requires placing lots of small steps in place over a set amount of time to reach a much bigger goal – it is also a learning curve as well and mistakes will be made along the way and it is how that learning is applied so those mistakes do not become habit and are part of the norm leading to overall poor performance, lack of motivation and losing sight of that much bigger goal.
As you may also recall from the last blog entry I decide to take risks and challenge convention by going out on a date with someone I was seeing last year – in doing so I felt I was breaking one of my golden rules – never go out with someone you’ve previously split up with. It was a really good evening and it was fantastic to speak to each other positively about things we had achieved since we last saw each other and what plans we had for the future.
On Wednesday morning I was feeling very optimistic that if there was a plan in place and we took those small steps then that bigger goal was more than achievable. Wednesday afternoon I was feeling deflated after receiving a text from my date – she had also had a fantastic evening, felt that there was still a major spark there and was somewhat optimistic as well but was very hesitant due to the fact I hadn’t spoken about one particular topic and that put question marks over whether there was indeed any future.
To receive that at work by text was a bit of a body blow really – I would much rather have dealt with that issue/concern over the phone or face to face and expressed this in my reply.
Things then escalated and became slightly argumentative and I felt that all the positives of that evening had been brushed aside and was being replaced with a negative and I was suddenly under the microscope.
We had not seen each other for months and my main focus that evening was to see how we got on and whether there was any possibility of a second date – nothing more, nothing less – and I felt this was a more than reasonable expectation. A second date would have included conversation about the topic I hadn’t spoken about on the first – I’m certain of it – and had it not then maybe a text of that kind I received would have been more than justified.
Instead I’ve put the barriers back up, there will be no second date, and I feel that it may well have been a mistake to have broken my golden rule in the first place. I spent yesterday evening licking my wounds a bit, feeling upset and hurt and retreating back into myself which was not good considering how I had felt that morning.
This morning I’ve looked at what I am now considering a mistake and rather than seeing myself as a failure have looked at what I have learnt from the experience instead and how I move on from this. Instead of the ‘what ifs’ I used to ask in the past I took risk, challenged my normal conventional way of thinking but it hasn’t worked – that doesn’t matter though because I gave it a go and I felt I had shown that evening I was a changed person (and for the better).
I gave something a go, it didn’t work, I’ve learnt some things, and because of that I don’t see that as failure but progress in myself. As far as any future dating is concerned – I think I’ll give it a very, very, very wide berth and concentrate on the new job and training.
Only a couple of weeks until I start my new role and to say I’m excited about the challenge ahead is somewhat of an understatement.
I’m relishing the opportunity to be creative and think a lot outside the box – willing to take risks and challenge convention – but not just in the work but also my own development as a person.
So far this year I’ve been looking at different aspects of my life and thought what does ‘much better’ look like and start aiming for that.
Last week after I had my yearly appraisal I felt that in 7-8 years’ time I should be managing learning and development in a company or organisation – that is what ‘much better’ looks like and I am formulating a fluid and evolving plan to make that happen.
In my training for the ultra-marathon I am not fixated on my finish time but am starting to look more and more closely at my training to see what ‘much better’ looks like – I currently run and do some core strength workouts. I’m looking at what other training I could be doing to improve my fitness, endurance, stamina, strength, and my mindset as well and am starting to challenge my normal conventional thinking and looking at other options for training as well.
Even entering the ultra-marathon fits into the take risks and challenge convention way of thinking. I’m not placing limits on myself by entering such an event – if I was I’d be content with running 5ks on a Saturday morning or completing another marathon or triathlon. I’ve taken my thinking outside the box by entering the event.
Dear reader I challenge you to look at one small area of your life and think what does ‘much better’ look like and how will it improve you as a person and how might it improve your life?
Another aspect of my life I had to take a long hard look at last week was whether I was happy going out dating – the dates were ok, decent conversation but it felt like something was missing and there was something niggling in the back of my mind both times.
I’ve always vowed never to go out with someone again if I’d split up with them. This evening I’m breaking my golden rule and am going out with the person I split up with last year.
I’ve no idea what will happen. It seems like a good idea as we still care a lot about each other and still have strong feelings for each other. It didn’t work out last time but that doesn’t mean it won’t this time – we have both developed in our own ways and hopefully that will make a huge difference this time around – I don’t know. Rather than having that niggling in the back of my mind I’ll take a risk and challenge my usual conventional way of thinking.
No matter what the outcome is at least I’ve not sat back, shied away and been left asking those ‘what if’ questions which I was always prone to do in the past. Maybe it was a lack of confidence that made me do that all the time or maybe it was being very rigid with my rules and not willing to step out of my comfort zone.
One of the things with taking risk and challenging convention is mistakes are going to be made – this is a good thing though. In the past I tended to see mistakes linked with failure and if I made mistakes would I see myself as a failure. Seeing myself as a failure was hardly conducive to my mental health and it would drag me down.
Making mistakes is part of a learning process, helps with improvement and helps someone to develop. It requires creative thinking, the ability to take stock and look at how things could be done differently. If we remain rigid in our thinking and approach this does not happen and we remain static.
When I woke up on New Year’s Day I made a promise to myself that I would make 2019 a year to remember (and for good reasons) and hit the ground running.
I had a call yesterday offering the role that I interviewed for – to say I’m delighted is a bit of an understatement. The role sounds a lot better than I originally anticipated with a lot of opportunity for development and allowing for creativity with learning design. That is something my current role doesn’t really offer so as you can probably imagine I’m absolutely chomping at the bit to get started. It is going to be a lot of hard work but I’m relishing that. I have a real passion and enthusiasm for developing people so they reach their full potential and beyond so this is going to be a brilliant role for me.
I’ve also been out on a couple of dates with someone and that has gone really well – we both have a passion for running and cycling which is fantastic.
The training is still going well (though I did miss my run yesterday due to heading to the pub to celebrate getting the new job) and the runs are getting longer each week now. I enjoy the long runs as they allow me to switch off and I’m just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.
Although I feel that 2019 has got off to a good start there is still room for improvement and I also need to be mindful that there are still going to be some tough challenges and situations. I need to be careful that I have the resilience to cope with those dips and also to foresee them if I can.
There is still a long way to go on this journey and although I’ve made a good start to the year much of the hard graft is still in front of me and there are going to be times when I really need to dig deep and persevere in order to achieve better things. I know from past experiences I have the capability to do this.
Richard Guy, 47 years of age, born and grew up in London and have lived in Portsmouth since 2017.