Hi, my name is John Brownhill and I have a confession to make. I’m not very good at sharing my troubles with the world. That was not too difficult and probably lumps me into a very large bracket of people (especially men) who need to admit they are struggling. I have outed myself here as it were and feel all the better for it.
“I had seemingly found my soul mate, I put everything into it. It seemed the struggles before it were all part of a special destiny and that I had finally arrived.”
It’s only in the last three weeks or so that I have been able to join the dots and finally be at ease with the baggage that I have carried for far too long. Scars that were worn which could have easily been removed. The journey into adulthood saw me retain a fear of showing feelings in public out of fear of ridicule and an ultra-sensitivity to groups of people passing judgement. It all simmered on the surface until a relationship which did not fulfil promise threw my ordered world into chaos. I won’t be the first or the last. I had seemingly found my soul mate, the one with which I was allowed to care and yes, that word which is uttered so infrequently, love. I put everything into it, my heart and soul and still remember the sheer joy as it seemed the struggles before it were all part of a special destiny and that I had finally arrived.
“When I finally plucked up the courage to speak to an anonymous support line I was asked by a friendly counsellor if I had cried yet. No was the response …”
I still remember the “it’s not you, it’s me” and “all this is not what I want” chat which came out of the blue on a seemingly perfect day. The sudden deflation was horrific. I look back and compare it to winning a cup final or getting all six lottery numbers only to be told that the organisers have changed their mind. Thanks for being so plucky but be on your way. It was heartache and a full look at the abyss. There is a horrible feeling of knowing you have given everything and upon review it’s just not what the world wants to see. When I finally plucked up the courage to speak to an anonymous support line I was asked by a friendly counsellor if I had cried yet. No was the response, who would listen and it’s up to me to sort out. A fatal mistake. My inner joy for life had gone and I felt both judged along with harshly treated. It was a huge hangover that I could not snap out of and little things were beginning to creep in, I showed no interest in my work and started to neglect my appearance. The things I enjoyed in life were no longer relevant. I still remember the dark period December 2008 to June 2009 and the day I hit rock bottom when I explained to a work colleague at the time how I was struggling. She seemed surprised “young men go down the pub have a few beers and pick up another woman. Get over it” was pretty much what she said. That was the point I gave up after wrongly convincing myself that nobody was really listening as it just seemed impossible for anyone else to realise that as a man you do care and feel loss like anyone else.
“There was no Hallelujah moment or golden awakening, a realisation came with my summer pastime of cricket – I had the season of my life… I had found a way to channel all my frustrations.”
There was no Hallelujah moment or golden awakening, the picking yourself up journey was slow, laborious and troublesome. My apathy was a real problem and I had to buck my ideas up. A realisation came with my summer pastime of cricket where I had the season of my life in which I scored runs for fun and batted for hours at a time. I was angry and had found a way to channel all my frustrations. This was almost a two fingers to life or a squaring off with the world – one v one – and I made sure I won every time because there was vengeance in my mind.
“I want my experience to highlight to people that the best option is to speak out when life becomes too much. I look back now and wish that I had said something so much sooner”
No matter how much you convince yourself that you are fine, looking back on events makes you realise that trouble still lurked. I always placed great pride in not being “self-obsessed” and to mention my disappointment would have been hypocritical. The feelings of loss, despair, anger etc persisted for months and I was never sure what I was meant to feel. It’s only three years down the line that I realise how the self-doubt was holding me back. I still believed in the dreams I wanted to achieve, it was just that I had become too world weary and infected with a jaded cynicism. After finally revealing my ridiculously long held frustration to one or two trusted types, I had the pleasant experience of how life affirming the support of those around you can be. Finally all the layers I had built around myself could be shedded as the extreme disappointment was expelled. I can honestly say now that I have moved on, feel ready to love properly and most of all finally be me. It was just a simple choice of not being scared anymore or remaining in the dark. I’m glad I gambled …
I want my experience to highlight to people that the best option is to speak out when life becomes too much. I look back now and wish that I had said something so much sooner instead of carrying the huge millstone around my neck for so long. There is no weakness in telling those around you that there is a problem. It’s finally time to shatter this myth once and for all that men can’t speak up – weakness is remaining quiet and I can promise you that I wish that I had opened up a lot, lot sooner.