All my life I’ve been an over thinker, a worrier and it’s only recently that I’ve truly realised how futile this mentality really is. I constantly found myself trying to control situations and outcomes that I had no ability to affect. This left me constantly anxious, frustrated and often angry.
Throughout my years playing rugby, I found myself angry and constantly trying to prove myself which often lead to me boiling over and lashing out on and off the pitch. The lines between my personality on the playing field and off it became blurred and I found myself acting in a way to try and impress people with my actions, be it being the biggest drinker, the hardest puncher or the best at picking up women. Since retiring from the sport through injury I really struggled with the transition from a physical and ‘macho’ sport where I was relatively well known and respected to basically having to find a new identity.
I was lucky to stumble upon a relatively unknown sport (at the time) called CrossFit, and I threw myself into this with everything I had. CrossFit really helped change me as a person simple due to the demands of the training and the sport. It’s an individual sport for starters, so there’s nobody to blame but yourself for your performance. Also, there is a much larger emphasis based on the dedication and consistency in training, you have to work incredibly hard to do well at CrossFit and there is little chance to rely on genetics or talent. The self-talk side of training is a massively important part of the sport and working alongside Jermaine Harris (Brotectors Ambassador) I worked hard at changing my mentality to focus on the things that I could control, changing my body language and the way I spoke to myself internally during the hard sessions. This became a good reference point for life and I found myself becoming a much more patient, mellow and generally happier individual in my day to day life. If I could remain calm and composed when my heart rate was over 180BPM then not losing my cool when somebody cuts me up on the motorway becomes much simpler.
In recent years I have dealt with two big stumbling blocks that have affected my mental health and kickstarted a negative spiral on separate occasions. The first being a very toxic relationship which had a particularly bitter end, where I was being emotionally blackmailed and forced into a situation that I felt completely trapped by. This had me close to tears on a daily basis and I considered many options to escape. Most of these options were severe and now unthinkable, but at the time I felt desperate and it was only down to the support of my friends, my new girlfriend and eventually my family (when I no option but to finally tell them) that dragged me out of this dark place.
The second has been a bad injury I sustained that has left me unable to train or compete anywhere near my capability for over a year, again this threw me into a tough mental struggle, taking away my main outlet and therapy. Competition and training for me are the only real constant in my life they are the things I can control, I can control how hard I push, I can control how hard I train, I can troll my performance and when my ability to perform was taken out of my hands I struggled massively. Again, communication with my friends and family were the key to getting me through this and I’m happy to say that I’ve recently been given the all clear to return to full training.
The biggest thing I have taken away from my experiences is that communication is key, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem a message from a friend or a loved one showing some care or support really can go a long way to helping you through. The problem is that often we are too reluctant to seek out that communication, we are often too proud to say that we’re not OK.
Seeking help is not a sign weakness, it’s a sign of unbelievable strength – I know that I would happily spend any amount of time I had to give to any person who truly wanted or needed help. The alternatives aren’t worth thinking about.
If you are ever struggling or feel as though you are a burden on others, take a split second to reverse the roles, how would you react if one of your friends told you the same thing? I have no doubt that you would do everything you could to make them realise how important they are and how much you love them. Don’t be ashamed to tell others that you’re struggling, it could be the only thing you need to do to reverse that process and get things moving back in the right direction.
I’ll be forever grateful to those that were there for me in those dark times, and I see it as my daily challenge to repay their kindness and empathy by paying it forward. My goal as a gym owner, a coach and an athlete is to positively impact people’s lives and help them in any way I can, to make their day a better place. If I can make one person smile when they are feeling low, or offer a word of support to just one person that needs it then I have passed on the kindness that I was shown when I needed it. I genuinely believe that if we adopted this mentality as a society the world would be a better place and we could help break the stigma surrounding mental health in young men.