Featured

Welcome…

Welcome to my blog! Let me start by telling you a bit about myself…

IMG_5609
When hair pulling is life

My name is Matt Baron-Thompson and I’m a hands on Dad of three wonderful kids; two boys & a girl. I’ll introduce them to you properly later on. I’m trying my best to be a husband as well, think I’m doing alright, although you’d have to ask my other half about that. When I’m not blogging I’m being a family man, it’s what I love being. My family is my life & my life is my family.

I’m coming up to 39 years old, it’s a really odd age. I don’t know if I’m middle aged or not. I have three kids, I’m married, I have a mortgage, I don’t tend get road rage anymore and I have muttered the phrase ‘it’s your time you’re wasting’ to the kids, so does that mean I’m middle aged, like a proper adult? At the same time I still feel youthful, I still like to play music loudly, I can be infuriatingly lazy & messy, sometimes I drive a bit too fast, and I still like the odd game of Fortnite on the Playstation (although I’m absolutely rubbish at it). Maybe that’s what middle age is, a good mixture of responsible adult and youthful exuberance.

I live in the seaside town of Southend-on-Sea, the much maligned and often misrepresented Essex spot. I love it. I love the beach, I love the culture, the people & the atmosphere. Yes, it has it’s downfalls like any town, but I think they are far outweighed by the good points.

Chalkwell Beach
Chalkwell Beach Sunrise, Southend-on-Sea

I suffer from social anxiety & depression and have low self esteem. It’s been an issue that has affected me all my life but I’m working on it, I’m learning how to cope and as I’m getting older, I’m becoming more accepting of it. I’m learning to speak up and share.

My blog will mainly be me waffling on about my life, my kids, relationships & my battle with mental health issues. I’ll try and offer nuggets of wisdom but I’m no expert in any of the subjects I talk about, except for the fact that I’ve lived, experienced & learnt, so maybe that does make me an expert? Who knows…

I hope you enjoy my blogs. They will be from the heart & unfiltered.

How being abandoned by my Dad shaped my life

fatherson1

The last time I saw my Dad was 25 years ago. I was 15 years old, a hormonal, confused, growing teenager that needed a father figure more than ever. I needed someone to talk to about the ever increasing and scary changes I was experiencing both physically & mentally. I needed someone who had been through it and could tell me it was normal, and everything would be fine. I had my Mum, she was always there for me, but I needed my Dad too.

So what happened? Why did my Dad suddenly decide he didn’t want to be a part of his sons life anymore? Well honestly, I don’t know. That’s the hardest part, not fully understanding why he made that choice.

Background

My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. My younger brother was 8. I still remember my Dad telling us that he and Mum had separated. My brother and I were playing, being silly, being happy. My Dad called us in the living room and we sat down on the sofa. I can’t remember what was said exactly but my brother immediately started crying but I had an almost uncontrollable urge to laugh! I don’t know why, coping mechanism maybe? I don’t think it really sunk in, the reality of it and what it would mean for my brother and I going forward. One thing I do remember though, is that my Dad didn’t give me a hug and in that moment, I felt very alone. In that moment, consciously or unconsciously, I chose to hide my emotions. My brother was crying but I didn’t feel like I would get the comfort & support I needed from my Dad to express my true feelings so I didn’t, I boxed them up and threw away the key.

‘One thing I do remember though, is my Dad didn’t give me a hug and at that moment I felt very alone’

From 10 to 14 everything is a little blurry. That box I created in my mind, not only suppressed the bad memories from that day but a lot of my childhood got caught up in there as well.  I struggle to remember large parts of my childhood, especially when it comes to time spent with my Dad. After my parents separated we lived with my Dad initially, I don’t know how long for, could be months or a year, no idea. I don’t remember this part of my life. I don’t remember getting ready for school in the mornings, having dinner in the evenings. I can’t remember having fun, playing, laughing. I’m sure I did, but it’s all just lost. There are no special moments that come to mind. No father son bonding moments.

After that initial period living with my Dad, we moved in with my Mum and saw my Dad at the weekends. I don’t particularly remember enjoying that time spent with my Dad but I don’t know if that’s a true reflection or just another coping mechanism making it easier for me to come to terms with his abandonment.

When it comes to the period of my life when we stopped seeing my Dad (or he stopped seeing us) it’s even more blurry. At 15 years old you’d think I’d be able to remember everything. It’s not as if I was young after all! But no, when I think about it I just get fragments that I can’t make sense of. A conversation here and there, a game of pictionary where I remember actually laughing with my Dad, an argument with my Mum over renewing passports so my Dad could take us on holiday and then that was it. The weekend visits just stopped.

I don’t think I ever really processed any of it. Time spent with my Dad was never the most fun as I’ve already said, but he was still my Dad. It wasn’t as if we knew we’d never see him again. One week turned into two, two weeks turned into a month and that turned into a year. It just happened, slowly and without explanation.

Where I am today

Fast forward 25 years and here I am. I’m almost 40, I am now a Dad myself with three beautiful children, I’ve been married, divorced and now married again, and for the large part I’ve put the thought of my Dad to the back of my mind. I’ve been happy, I love being a family man and being the best Dad I can be to my kids. My boys have asked my about my Dad and I’ve told them what I can whilst making it clear that what he did was a horrible thing and that I would never do that to them. My experience with divorce as a child means I know how much it can effect young kids, so when I got divorced, the boys emotional well-being was my priority.

Being abandoned at a young age has effected my self esteem, actually to be more precise, being abandoned without a proper explanation, effected my self-esteem because you question how your own Dad could leave you, am I that unimportant that my own Dad could leave me?? This lack of self worth made me overly needy and attention seeking. It made me view other people and other peoples wants and needs as more important than my own. I wanted people to like me and this led to me becoming a doormat. I’ve been taken for granted, especially in relationships, because people soon learnt that they could treat me like shit and I’d still come running back because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I would often see people for who I wanted them to be as opposed to who they really were. All because I didn’t want to be abandoned, but guess what…those relationships didn’t last and instead of blaming them, I just assumed it was me. But low self-esteem isn’t the only difficulty I’ve faced. Below is a list of commonly experienced difficulties as a result of childhood abandonment. I’ve highlighted the issues I have faced over the years:

  1. Abusive relationship
  2. Anxiety Disorders or symptoms *
  3. Attachment Disorders*
  4. Borderline Personality Disorder
  5. Care-taking and Codependency
  6. Chaotic Lifestyle
  7. Clingy/needy behavior*
  8. Compulsive behaviors may develop
  9. Depression*
  10. Desperate relationships/relationships that happen too fast*
  11. Disturbances of mood, cannot self-regulate and experiences emotions in extreme*
  12. Extreme jealousy and possessiveness*
  13. Lack of confidence, self-esteem issue*
  14. May be poor at self-soothing
  15. People-pleasing behaviors to detriment of self.*
  16. Poor coping strategies*
  17. Promiscuity
  18. Relationship problems*
  19. Trust issues*

So as you can see there are numerous issues I can attribute to being abandoned at a young age. But the question is, what have I done to overcome these issues?

Overcoming my abandonment issues

It was only after recognising the issues I had and why I had them, that I could start to focus on overcoming them. This took years. Years of making the same mistakes. Failing relationships, people pleasing, being needy, trust issues and depression. It was a viscous cycle and one I didn’t know how to break. To be honest I still haven’t completely overcome them all. My self-esteem is still low, I still suffer from anxiety & depression but these are aspects of my life I work on constantly. I am learning to deal with them and keep them under control so they don’t have the negative impact on my life like they used to.

I’ve always said that my Dad taught me the best lesson. How NOT to be a Dad. But that’s not how it should be, I shouldn’t have to learn from what I wasn’t taught. There is still a part of me that wonders if I would be a better person had he stuck around. Would I have learnt more? Would I have been a more emotionally stable person? Would my relationships have been different growing up? Who knows and honestly, what’s the point in asking these questions? Is it going to help? No. I’m married to an amazing woman, I’ve got three beautiful kids, so I’ve not done too bad.

I don’t know my Dad but I know me. I would never put my kids through what he put me through, and even though it’s been a tough journey and I’ve made mistakes, I can honestly say, with hand on heart, that I am proud of who I am and how I’ve turned out. I am a great Dad, I am kind, thoughtful & loving. I am everything I need to be for my wife and my kids.

Would I ever want to meet my Dad?

I’m going to end this with a question that has often thought about. Would I ever want to meet my Dad? And the answer…? No, I wouldn’t. I have heard arguments from both sides of the story over the years:

Yes – Go for it!

  • He is your Dad after all
  • He is 70 now, he’s getting old
  • You will regret not meeting him if he passes away
  • You should put the past behind you
  • Everyone deserves a second chance

No – Don’t do it!

  • He abandoned you, he doesn’t deserve it
  • He hasn’t contacted you
  • It will complicate your life
  • It will complicate your children’s lives
  • He might not want to be contacted

There are times when my Dad doesn’t even cross my mind, then there are times when I can’t stop thinking about him. I think about reaching out, but every time something stops me. Something in the back of my mind that says, no, you don’t want to do this. I think it’s a combination of fear, and the unknown, but mainly it’s self-preservation. I am in a good place and for the sake of my mental health, I’m not going to risk that.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

My vasectomy story

I’m writing this 4 days after my vasectomy so the experience is certainly fresh in my mind, and the dull ache is certainly there in my pants!

1 Year before…

My vasectomy journey actually started in February 2018. That was when I told my Doctor I no longer wanted anymore children. The decision was a joint one between my wife & I. This was never going to be my decision and my decision alone. This affected my wife just as much as me so it was important that we were both on the same page.

Our family consists of three beautiful children aged 13, 9 & 18 months. We are both more than happy with three kids, actually it’s more accurate to say, we both knew we couldn’t handle four! We are both 40 this year as well and as much as we still feel youthful & energetic in our minds, our bad backs and tired eyes tell us that our bodies aren’t what they used to be. It was time for me to have the snip.

So after talking to my Doctor he referred me to the local NHS hospital where I was supposed to be added to their waiting list. It wasn’t until 7 months later, after not hearing anything, that I decided to get in touch and find out what was going on. Turns out that I’d been referred to the wrong clinic! So in September 18 I was finally added to the waiting list! So I had to wait a year, instead of the 5 months it should’ve taken. Not a great start.

2 Weeks before…

About 2 weeks before V-day I received a letter telling me about the procedure, what I needed to do before the day and post op self-care. The first thing I noticed was that it said I needed to shave! Now guys, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to shave your scrotum before, but let me tell you, it’s not easy! They are not flat or smooth and it’s a very sensitive area! A slip of the razor can be tear inducing (although I guess it was preparing me for what was to come).

V-Day itself

So the day arrived. My appointment was at 9am so at least I didn’t have to spend half the day worrying about it. I was ready! My wife and I, and my now smooth ballbag, made our way to the clinic. The journey was only a short one but it felt like an eternity, it was probably the first time I started to feel really nervous about the procedure itself. Up until this point I’d been good at keeping it at the back of my mind, but pulling into the clinic car park made it all seem very real!

We were 20 minutes early, we brought a flask of coffee and had downloaded half the contents of Netflix, fully expecting a long wait. But I’d barely sipped my coffee and only got a few minutes into The Umbrella Project when my name was called. This was it, deep breath…I’m going in.

The Procedure

vasectomy_recovery-56a1c48d3df78cf7726dc46f

I was introduced to the nurse and the surgeon who would be carrying out the procedure. They were both extremely friendly and welcoming (which instantly made me wonder, why are you being so nice? Is it going to be that bad?!) Before the procedure itself I had a quick consultation with the surgeon. He explained the procedure (which made me feel more nervous), the possible side effects (now even more nervous), and then went into great detail about the various, potential complications why the procedure may not work (now shitting my tight pants). I know the surgeons have to go through all this but by the end of it I was a nervous wreck! Anyway, I signed over the responsibility of my baby makers to the NHS and went to get undressed.

There was no gown for me to put on. I asked if there was a gown. They said ‘Oh no don’t worry, just come out as you are’. Now I know that the surgeon & nurse will be getting more intimate with my bits than my wife has but walking from the changing room to the table with my, now very shy & retreating, penis out made me feel a tad uncomfortable (honestly, I think the old chap knew what was coming and tried to hide as much as possible!). But in true British style, I sucked my stomach in, tugged a few times to try to get some blood circulating down there and walked proudly to the table.

I laid down, I could hear my heart pounding. This was it. Firstly, my penis was taped to my stomach which was certainly a new experience for me! Those worries of accidentally getting an erection during the procedure were completely wiped away by that one thing alone. The next few seconds was the worst part of the procedure, the injection of anaesthetic. They explained to me that the needle was half the size of a childs needle, the smallest needle you can get, I think that was to reassure me, it didn’t work. I was told that I would feel a sharp sting (they didn’t say small prick) as the anaesthetic made its way through the tubes but it wouldn’t last long. And that is exactly what I felt. I can only describe it as being stung by a bee on the bollocks, not that I’ve ever been stung by a bee on the bollocks but I can imagine this was similar!  The nurse put a reassuring hand on my shoulder and told me that it’d be over soon and I was doing so well, again, the reassurance didn’t work. But then it was over, the pain dissipated and I’d made it through the worst bit.

Now I know I’m not exactly selling this am I? Any guys out there thinking of getting a vasectomy may be put off by what you’ve read so far, but bear with me, keep going to the end.

So the injection was done. My scrotum was completely numb. The rest of the procedure was strange but not painful at all. I say strange because, as the surgeon was pulling and burning, and generally manipulating my balls so he could do his thing, I was laying there having a good chat with the nurse. We were chatting about my daily commute to work by train, popular Netflix shows, we actually got into a debate on which was better, Netflix or Amazon Prime! The surgeon went with Netflix, and I agreed as he was the one with a knife at my bollocks. I’ve never had a more normal conversation in a most abnormal situation! And 15 minutes later it was done. No pain, no discomfort, finished.

I sat up and immediately saw the sheets covered in a brown liquid, I wondered if I’d been that numb down there I’d shit myself and didn’t realise! Then I remembered that it was the iodine used to disinfect the area, panic over! I carefully got myself dressed, thanked the nurse & surgeon (they were both amazing) and left. From the consultation to leaving took about 30 minutes. It was quick. My wife was waiting for me in the waiting room, her face had that kind of worried, expectant look about it, almost as if she was expecting me to have tears in my eyes and a walk like John Wayne. But there was none of that.

How do I feel now?

It’s been four days since the procedure and I can honestly say that I’ve felt no more than a dull ache, like I’ve been kicked in the balls, but only gently. I’ve rested as much as possible (not easy with a 18 month old by the way) and kept on top of the painkillers. Today I showered and removed the dressing for the first time. I feel good, I feel relieved it’s done but more than anything I realise looking back that, apart from the injection, it went a lot better than expected! I was worried about so many things but the reality of it was much less stressful than the idea of it!

And I guess that’s my message to any guys thinking of getting a vasectomy. It’s ok. It’s not that bad! The painful bit is over in no more than a few seconds then you can just lie back and have a good ol’ chat with the nurse!

 

 

 

Is Instagram good for my mental health?

This is a question I have often asked myself. As someone that suffers from social anxiety you would think that there are many aspects of Instagram, and social media in general, that would exacerbate my anxieties, but they don’t. In fact, I have learnt to use platforms like Instagram to help me with my anxiety & depression.

But this hasn’t always been the case. I have had a love/hate relationship with Instagram for as long as I can remember. I would go through periods of loving the interaction, posting everyday, doing lots of stories and generally embracing everything Instagram has to offer. Other days however I would feel like I was addicted to it. Constantly checking my likes and comments on new posts, wondering why a certain post didn’t get as many likes as previous posts. I would spend an eternity trying to take the ‘perfect’ photo and get frustrated when it inevitably didn’t happen. I would start to doubt whether it was worth my time & energy trying to get more followers and I’d ask myself ‘what’s the point?’. So definitely a love/hate relationship.

So what changed?  

Well, my mindset changed. My attitude towards Instagram changed. My expectations & goals changed. There were two main aspects I had to confront and change…

 

comparison
‘Comparison is the thief of joy’

 

  1. Stop comparing myself to others. ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ as the saying goes. And with Instagram, comparison can very quickly lead to self-doubt, anxiety & a feeling of uselessness and failure.  It’s easy to forget that Instagram is a ‘shop window’ to someones life. Most people only show what they want you to see, so in effect, you are comparing yourself to a lie. I follow many different people from many different backgrounds, and I love the fact that everyone is different! Everyone has different lives, different attitudes, different outlooks. I’ve used the word ‘different’ a few times there on purpose. Everyone’s life is different, not necessarily better, or worse, just different.
  2. Forgetting about the stats and focus on interaction. Instagram is about interaction. It’s about likes, comments, chatting, making friends, providing help & support, keeping in touch and so much more. I used to purely look at how many followers I had (or lost) and how many likes I was receiving, which is all well & good if those numbers are in a upwards trend but that’s not always going to be the case. Inevitably the numbers aren’t going to meet your expectations and that’s when the self-doubt kicks in and you start asking yourself questions. These days I focus on chatting to people, interacting on posts, building up good relationships with people. And you’ll find that if you put the effort into interacting with people, your numbers will look after themselves.

 

tips-instagram
Whilst stats are important, they shouldn’t be the primary focus

The above points don’t happen overnight. It took a long time to change my mindset and even now I will sometimes feel myself slipping back into how I used to feel. But through practice and experience I’ve learnt to notice the early signs and make sure they don’t continue to grow.

Now it’s all well and good trying not to compare yourself to other accounts but sometimes it’s almost impossible to do! In these cases you need to be true to yourself and unfollow accounts that make you feel this way! 512x512bbThis may mean having a cleanse of accounts that make you feel down and accounts that have no positive benefit to you. The whole idea is that you follow accounts that you enjoy looking at. Maybe you have something in common, maybe you really like the photos they post, maybe they make you laugh. Accounts that are irrelevant and have the potential to make you anxious of self conscious are no good to anyone so ditch them! This will also make your interactions a lot more meaningful!

 

Why I use Instagram

I use Instagram as a therapy tool. A way of expressing myself and my feelings. In real life I have many traits of an introvert. I find social situations exhausting and uncomfortable. I find it hard talking to people if I believe that they won’t really understand me, or empathise with me. But online, I can connect to thousands of people via a phone screen and still feel in complete control because they’re not all standing in front of me. The people that don’t understand, or don’t care, will probably ignore it but the few that do will interact with me and they are the important ones. The few that say, ‘I understand’, or ‘I feel the same’, they are the ones that make it worthwhile.

Instagram has given me a platform to talk about my mental health. Again, I feel comfortable being open & honest because I’m talking to people via a screen. Talking helps me and I have received many messages from other people thanking me for my honesty and openness, so it helps other people too. Imagine it as a therapy session of like minded people but instead of a few people sitting in a room, there are potentially thousands of people who know exactly where you’re coming from and can understand!

I love Instagram now. I know why I use it and what I get out of it. I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t. Instagram can be many things for different people so it’s important to know what it is for you.

Happy scrolling everyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Therapy is…

Therapy is…what? I did a feature on instagram recently, spurred on by a post about spending 10 minutes looking at the seaview at my local beach. I just stood there, listening to the sound of the waves, feeling the cool breeze on my face & smelling the salty sea air. It was a moment of pure calmness. It was therapeutic. All around me just faded away into insignificance. It was wonderful. So I did a feature for my followers called ‘Therapy is…’.

Capture

Therapy is ‘treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder’. I think we’ll all agree with that. Obviously, the treatment is usually talking to a professional, in a room, on a chair or couch.

But therapy can mean so many different things for different people in their day to day lives and I wanted to find out more about that from my followers.

IMG_2125
Therapy is…simple pleasures like playing on the beach.

Here are a few comments I received:

  • ‘I’m happy with a stream or river, surrounded by trees, grasses and a bit of wildlife’
  • ‘Therapy for me is any moment I can shut off and be in my head for a little while’
  • ‘Running is my therapy’
  • ‘The sea is calming and my kind of therapy’
  • ‘Exercise, either at the gym or walking’
  • ‘Therapy is either the water or the mountains!’
  • ‘For me it can be as simple as cuddles with my child on the sofa’
  • ‘Indulging in my favourite treat, some me time and a good ol’ cuddle of your loved ones’

Is amazing how many people say that being outdoors is their kind of therapy. Whether that’s by the sea, in the mountains or in a forest. I think being outdoors can put things in perspective. Most of us are consumed by our day to day lives and routines which for me is sitting in an office for 8 hours a day so getting outside, breathing in the air and taking in the view really is therapy for me.

It seems that therapy for most people is the small things, the hugs from loved ones, indulging in a favourite treat, exercising. It’s recognising the things that make us happy or make us a better person and continuing to do them.

IMG_5623
It’s all about the little moments in life. Like reading a book with your kids

I have had therapy, I’ve sat in a room and talked to a therapist and it has benefited me massively. Talking to a professional makes you understand why you feel the way you do or why you think the way you think. They can provide the answers to a lot of questions.  But in our everyday lives we need to take responsibility of our own therapy and we need to do what makes us happy.
I make an effort to have some ‘me time’ everyday. It could be going for a walk, sitting in a quiet room for 10 minutes, getting up 15 minutes earlier than usual so I can sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee before getting ready for work. It’s those moments that help me get through the day. Like I said, it’s the little things.

Why don’t you have a think? What is therapy to you?

Embracing my introverted self…

Up until very recently I thought I was anti-social. I didn’t enjoy nights out. The noise, the crowds it was all too much for me to handle and I’d often find myself sneaking off home early without telling anyone. I found making small talk unnatural and joining in a group conversation even harder. It was exhausting to be honest. I just couldn’t let my hair down.

Crowded bar
A crowded bar = My worst nightmare

The problem was I didn’t know why I wasn’t enjoying myself! I wanted to enjoy myself. I’d spend the whole time thinking ‘Come on Matt, relax, enjoy yourself, you’re with friends, this should be fun’. Obviously this internal ‘motivation’ had the opposite affect. I ended up spending too much time in my head and not enough time focusing on the external stimulus of my surroundings. I would become anxious and so self aware it was like a spotlight was shining on me and people were looking at me thinking ‘Look at him being all quiet & distant, he’s so boring’. At the end of the night I would end up disappointed, exhausted and wishing I hadn’t gone out in the first place.
So that is what I started to do – Not go out. I turned down invitations, came up with excuses like I’m tired, I can’t afford it, or sometimes I just didn’t turn up. Initially it actually felt really good. An easy way of dealing with social anxiety is to not go out in the first place, you don’t have to deal with it then. I knew deep down however, that the issue was always going to be there until I decided to do something about it, and so I started to try and understand why I felt like I did.

I was convinced I was just anti-social but then someone said to me ‘I don’t think you’re anti-social, I think you’re an introvert’. I’d obviously heard of the phrase but I didn’t know what it meant exactly. So I did some research.

I discovered a website called Introvert, Dear and all of a sudden every thing seemed to just make sense. Why I hadn’t been enjoying myself on nights out, why I had social anxiety, why I felt exhausted when socialising. The reasons were all there.

The following information in italic is taken from Introvert, Dear. And includes my thoughts highlighted in blue

So what is an introvert…? 

introvert1

The most common definition of an introvert is someone who gets drained by socialising and recharges by being alone. I felt exhausted going out and certainly enjoy my own company But there’s so much more to introversion than that. 

Everyone is born with an innate temperament  – a way that you gain energy and prefer to interact with the world. Introversion and extroversion are temperaments. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert is largely determined by your genes – meaning you were probably born that way. – I certainly remember being quiet and thoughtful as a young child. In fact I remember a story my Mum told me about Nursery when I was about 2 years old. I used to scream when I was left in the large hall with all the other children but as soon as I was taken into the smaller side room that had fewer children in I was completely fine. Kind of makes sense. 

However, we are also shaped by our life experiences. If your quiet, thoughtful ways were encouraged by your parents, teachers and others, you probably grew up feeling confident in who you are. But, like many introverts, if you were teased or bullied or told to ‘come out of your shell’ you may have developed social anxiety or felt like you had to pretend to be someone you’re notI’ve underlined this sentence as it just opened my eyes and made me start to understand why I was feeling the way I was. 

Being an introvert is completely normal and it’s not even that uncommon. US studies suggest that 30 to 50% of the US population are introverts. 

How do I know I’m an introvert…?

Have you always felt different?Yes, I always felt different in my group of friends. I was always the quiet, sensible one and I felt like I didn’t fully fit in because I wasn’t acting the same as they were. 

Do you enjoy spending time alone?  – Yes, I always take time out on my own. Whether that be getting up 10 minutes earlier than needed to sit and have a coffee in the quiet, or going to the train station early so I can enjoy the sea view on my own before getting the train to London – Which links in with my previous post on Therapy here –  INSERT LINK

Do you feel like you are the only person who doesn’t need to talk, talk, talk – or be around people ALL the time? – Yes, it’s safe to say I’m not a chatty person!

Other characteristics include:

  • We’d rather stay at home most nights than go out to one social event after the other
  • We enjoy quiet, solitary activities like reading, writing, gaming, gardening or drawing.
  • We’ll usually choose the company of a few close friends over a wild party
  • We do our best to work alone
  • Many of us will avoid small talk or other unnecessary social interactions
  • You have a vivid, rich inner world…
  • …and you’re often ‘in your head’
  • You prefer to be out of the spotlight
  • You can ‘network’ but it feels fake
  • You don’t always know what to say
  • You’re better at writing your thoughts than saying them
  • You dive deep, both in relationships and interests
  • You seek meaning

All these points hit home with me. All of them. 

introvert2

I always thought I was a shy person but I think I’ve been confusing being a shy and being an introvert because the two have totally different traits…

Being shy means you get very nervous and self-conscious in social situations. Introverts & extroverts can both have this trait – not all natural-born extroverts run around chatting with strangers! 

Being introverted means socialising wears you out. You might not be nervous or shy at all. 

Personally I believe I am little shy even though people I meet say I don’t come across shy when I speak to them. I now understand that I’m more of an introvert than shy. 

Being an introvert has negative connotations associated with it, almost like it’s a bad thing. But as I said earlier, it’s a very common and very normal way to be. Can you imagine a world full of extroverts? Or even a world full of introverts? Society needs a good mixture of both to function.

Being an introvert is often mistaken for being socially awkward, but just like shyness, they are completely different traits. Not all introverts are the same. Some will need only a little bit of alone time to recharge and can handle a fair amount of social time before they feel drained. Others drain quickly and prefer to spend very long periods alone. I believe I’m somewhere in the middle. I can handle a fair amount of social time but it’s not easy.

I also want to dispel some of the common myths surrounding what it means to be an introvert.

  • We are not necessarily socially awkward. Many introverts can actually be quite charismatic in social situations.
  • We don’t hate people. Our lack of chit chat is often misrepresented. People take it as a sign that we don’t like others. The truth is the opposite. Introverts often avoid small talk because we consider it to be inauthentic. We crave a more meaningful connection to talk to people.
  • We aren’t rude. If an introvert is completely out of social energy we may be a little crabby, or zone out for a while, but we’re not trying to be rude – and we’ll be a lot more friendlier once we’ve had time to recharge on our own.
  • We don’t need to be fixed. Being an introvert is part of who we are, and it can be a source of brilliance. We are at our best when we embrace our nature and use it as a source of strength.
  • We don’t wish we were extroverts. Sure sometimes introverts envy an extroverts ability to think quickly or fit naturally into a social situation. But we also take great delight in our inner world and alone time.

 

There’s a lot of information here and some of you maybe thinking some of it sounds familiar to your own lives. I want to try and dispel the notion that being an introvert or having some tendencies of an introvert is a negative thing. I certainly have gained a lot of reassurance from learning more about it and it has answered a lot of questions I previously couldn’t answer.

So how does this knowledge help me?

Well I looked at the information above and more on the ‘Introvert, Dear’ website and realised that I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I was ignoring my introverted tendencies. I now know that being quiet at a party, not joining in small talk or taking some time out to be on my own is ok. I don’t have to be chatty, I don’t have to be loud, I don’t have to dance if I don’t want to. I can just relax, enjoy myself by just being me. And if that means being introverted then so be it, because that’s who I am and I’m ready to embrace it.

Being an ‘Every other weekend Dad’

In this article I want to talk about the struggles of being an ‘every other weekend Dad’. The guilt that comes with it & the mindset required to be able to cope.

Say hello to my two boys, Jake & Ben. They are typical brothers, always bickering & fighting, never agreeing to anything and blaming each other for everything! Deep down they love each other dearly (although they would never admit it).  They are both caring, funny & full of energy. Typical young boys.

We take for granted the everyday, seemingly insignificant stuff. I know I certainly did. It’s not until you’re not involved with the everyday upbringing of your kids that ‘stuff’ suddenly becomes massively important. If you think about it, parenting is a culmination of all those little moments that happen every single day.

IMG_4048
Brotherly ‘love’

Things I miss that I used to take for granted:

  • Cleaning up after them
  • Getting them to brush their teeth
  • Arguing with them
  • Reading a bedtime story every night
  • Comforting them when they hurt themselves
  • Cuddles (obviously)
  • Seeing their faces first thing in the morning
  • Kissing their forehead goodnight
  • Play fighting
  • Hearing their voices everyday
  • Hearing the phrase ‘fine’ or ‘ok’ when I ask them how school was
  • Cooking them dinner
  • This list could go on and on…

 

‘A good Dad starts with presence, not presents’

This doesn’t have to be taken literally, you can be present without being physically there with your children.

But the biggest thing I miss…? Being a Dad to them. I know what you’re thinking ‘You are still their Dad’. And I agree, I am. But please think about what it means to be a Dad.

I believe that a Dad should:

  • Be physically present in their kids lives
  • Protect them
  • Comfort them
  • Teach them right & wrong
  • Play with them
  • Be emotionally invested in their well-being
  • Be able to listen to their jokes, their stories & even their whining!
  • Be a positive role model by instilling a good moral compass

 

So how can I ‘be their Dad’ when I can’t do a lot of the above list? Well, actually I can, just in a different way. I’ve had to adapt. Yes, I can’t physically be there with them everyday but I can be there with them in their thoughts & actions. When I spend time with them it’s important to create memories, instill morals, laugh, play, have fun, read to them, cook for them, tell them off, help them with homework etc etc…because they will keep those things with them in the days we are not together.

IMG_3344
A fun day out at Brands Hatch

 

And we have the technology to keep in touch as well. We can facetime whenever we want, text or call each other. It’s not the same but the interaction is still important. Although, I am a typical guy when it comes to talking on the phone, I’m not exactly chatty! The boys are the same so our conversations are normally quite quick and to the point. But that doesn’t matter, it’s just the way we are. It’s the fact we’ve spoken, that’s the main thing.

So do I feel guilty for not being there everyday? YES! All the time to be honest! But I’d be more worried if I didn’t. I’ve just learnt to accept that, as a parent, we feel guilt, whether that’s a stay at home parent, or an every other weekend Dad, we all feel guilt at some point. It differs from parent to parent and can be due to so many areas of parenthood, but it’s there. I guess it comes down to expectation…

‘In whatever situation we are in we can only do our very best’ 

We all have different situations to deal with, different experiences & home lives and those situations may change for the better or worse, but we can only do our best in whatever that situation maybe. And if we love and care for our kids and they are happy & content, even in seemingly hard times, then we are doing a pretty good job. So yes, I may feel guilty I can’t be there everyday for my boys but I can see that they are happy so that makes me feel like I’m doing the best job I can.

Kids are resilient and can generally adapt well to life’s ups & downs, as long as they are loved and cared for the outcome tends to be a positive one.

It’s taken time & effort but now we are in a routine we have accepted our current situation and we are all happy. It will change as the boys get older but we will adapt again. The situation rarely stays still but the love & support should always be there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Men have body image issues too…

In this article I want to talk to you about men’s body issues, how society is slowly moving in the right direction when it comes to opening up and speaking out, and about my own issues with my body, how it’s affected me and what I did to deal with it….

Men have body issues. I think men have always had body issues but it’s only now that we live in a more open & acceptable society that we are now seeing more & more men coming forward and speaking up. Men are being more honest, spurred on by the ever increasing mental health campaigns out there. Society is moving in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. Body shaming is big news and something I abhor. Whether it be mocking an overweight person in a gym changing room or claiming it’s ‘just a bit of banter’ between mates, it needs to stop. I know men that have been the butt of this ‘banter’ and they outwardly join in and laugh but on the inside it affects them deeply, often leading to low self-esteem and confidence issues. The press are the worst for it. Nit picking any celeb that has a hair out of place, or has a wrinkle, or the hint of a belly! I mean come on, really?! It’s the inconsistencies & hypocrisy that really annoys me. The same websites/media sources will post a story of how a model fat shames a fellow gym goer, get’s on the ‘society needs to stop this kind of bullying’ bandwagon, and then post a story about celeb X looking old & stressed because someone took a photo of them without their makeup on. Or a previously toned male celeb has suddenly put on a few pounds and now has a ‘Dad bod’. Young guys & girls read this crap and take it as the norm. They believe that if they have ‘a bit of a belly’ people will mock them, laugh at them and shun them. Why wouldn’t they when they see it everyday online? Anyway, this is a big issue for me as you can tell.

Let me tell you about my body issues as a man….

IMG_2379

This is me…Not so long ago I would ever had posted this photo. Why would I want people to see my body? My flat pecs, skinny arms and ever expanding back fat. But I have a different mindset now. More of a ‘I don’t give a shit’ kind of attitude. It’s important to point out here that our issues are relative. Some of you will think there’s nothing of me, I’m slim, what am I going on about, I’m just being silly! But to me I’m not, and to you, you’re not. It’s all relative.

I suffered from body issues from my late twenties (relatively late in life). Here are the reasons why…

  • Unrealistic expectations of getting the ‘perfect’ physique
  • Photos of ‘masculine’ physiques online / on TV
  • Partners commenting how hot and fit certain male celebs look
  • Constant comparison with other men
  • An underlying self-esteem issues

The biggest issue for me was the underlying self esteem issues I had. We could go deep into why I had low self esteem but the important thing for me was recognising it and doing something about it.

blue and red superman print tank top shirt
The ‘Perfect’ Physique doesn’t exist. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I spoke to a therapist to address the issues I had, why I had them and what I can do to overcome them. This helped a lot but the biggest help I received was from my wife. She understood, she empathised with me, listened to me and told me what she thought. She made me focus on being mindful, told me not to ignore my negative thoughts, but to acknowledge them and then just let them go. Understand that those thoughts are not you, and you are not controlled by them.

img_4237
On holiday in Majorca June 2018

Now when I look at the above list, this is what I see…

  • The ‘perfect’ physique doesn’t exist but we have a preconceived, distorted, media fed idea of what that means (think Chris Hemsworth, Zac Efron etc). And not only does the ‘perfect’ physique not exist, the idea of perfection varies from person to person!
  • Look at it objectively. If I see a photo of a toned, muscular body I accept it for what it is. I may say ‘Wow, look at those abs’, ‘he obviously works out’, ‘that’s a good physique!’. His body has nothing to do with me, it has no impact on my life, it doesn’t change the way my friends & loved ones view me. Only I can let that seed of jealously in to grow in my mind. And if it does sneak in there I go back to the bold point above. I acknowledge it and then let it go.
  • This is something I had to work hard at. If my partner commented on Zac Efron being hot I would immediately think ‘hold on, I don’t look like Zaf Efron, does that mean she doesn’t fancy me?? Is she going leave me for a Zac ‘Efronesque’ guy?’. It’s irrational guys and again we need to take the subjectivity out of it. Women are allowed to find other people attractive just like we find other people attractive. It’s completely normal. It’s not a dig at you, it’s not about you. And actually, the fact she feels comfortable saying that in front of you is a good thing! If your partner does then go off and find someone else then that’s their issue and you are way better off without them! Now if my wife says some guy’s hot on TV I will agree, or disagree and we could have a little banter over it.
  • I used to compare myself with other guys all the time. And I mean everyday guys in the street here. This was all down to my low self esteem. My self worth was low so it was easy for me to see other guys as fitter, stronger, more masculine, funnier, more popular etc etc…I then realised that most of these were just assumptions that I’d made up in my head! Did I know the facts? No, I didn’t. Yes, there might be a guy who has a more athletic physique but what does that mean? Well it means just that, he is more muscly than me. The idea that that makes him more popular, more attractive, more of a threat is all in my head. And the ironic thing is, this guy is probably looking at you thinking something similar! So again, I recognise those thoughts, acknowledge them, and let them go.

All this was not easy, and it took a long time. I’m not saying that I’m completely over my body issues but understanding them and rationalising them goes along way to making them seem insignificant. I speak to my wife and support groups like @dadscomm on instagram who are a bunch of Dads like me. I can do it so you can do it. Thanks for reading.