2013, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly…

Well 2013 has been quite a year with incredible highs and some crappy lows. More than anything it has been challenging, educational and enjoyable. The all-eclipsing event of the year was of course the birth of my amazing and beautiful son Daniel. Now we have our second child, our family is (most probably) complete. Becoming a father for the first time in 2010 with Owen was an incredible experience and the arrival of son number two was equally as incredible and moving. There’s no finer feeling than having a cuddle with both of my boys at the end of the day, or watching them interact together, it really is a perfect feeling.

The rest of 2013 has been a mixed bad. I’m going to start with some of the more negative stuff and work my way up (hopefully).

The Bad:

The year did not get off to a great start. I had been off work with depression/anxiety since November 2012, then I caught chicken pox, which didn’t help matters too much. Although by the end of December I has starting to feel better on both fronts, New Year’s day was a tough one. Someone had damaged my car, which I flipped out about then our washing machine broke and it took me days to tear it apart, find the problem, and replace parts, only for it to break again. Luckily I got referred by my doctor for some counselling sessions and went through a cognitive-behavioural therapy course. This helped me so much, more so than anything else I had tried to date to help with my anxiety. By the end of January I was back at work and thought that I had broken the back of my mental health issues. Alas it was not to be and the combined stresses of work and the impending arrival of son number tow took their toll and instead of putting my CBT skills to good use, I blew up and nearly ruined everything for myself and my family. Luckily, I have an incredibly understanding wife who saw what was happening and she persevered with me while I went back to the doctors for more help. More anti-depressants, more CBT and more focusing on my mental health later and I was better, much better. All in time for Daniel’s arrival, which was good as I really didn’t want to be depressed when he showed up.

I had some ups and downs over the next few months, but I think I help it together well. However, looking back maybe I was papering over some cracks and not going about things in the right way at times. Depression started to creep in again around November time and it started to get really bad, until after a particularly bad run of shifts at work, I couldn’t face going in. More time off work and for some reason it seemed worse this time. I was getting so anxious and stressed that I actually had a few full blown panic attacks and a few more close to panic attacks. I started to doubt my skills as a father and role as a husband. I am beginning to wonder if this may be triggered by the season, I’ve heard of SAD but I’ve never really researched it. The cause seems irrelevant now though. I forced myself back to work this time, probably prematurely as I had a panic attack on my first day back. It’s a lonely and frightening thing sitting a toilet cubicle at work, sweating, shivering and struggling to breathe while a thousand or so other people seem to go about their jobs. Two weeks on though and it’s still hard but I think I’m coping. I’m getting through the day anyway and haven’t had anymore full blown flip outs or attacks.

I’m at the stage now where I’m just sick of being depressed and how it impacts my life and the lives of my loved ones. I know I need to get on top of it myself, but it seems like a complete pain in the arse when other people seemingly can just get on with their lives. Anyway, enough moaning. 2014 I am going to kick depression and anxiety’s arse.

The Good:

Obviously, Daniel’s birth is the best thing that has happened this year. I’ve had lots of other incredible times with my family and friends too, but I’m not going to write about them in this blog. Not today anyway, maybe another day. I’m going to focus on a few other more tangible achievements from 2013. From a training and fitness point of view, the big event of the year was Tough Mudder.

Signing up for ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’ seemed daunting and scary in February, but by the time I had finished in just under 3 hours on that Saturday in September, I was already planning to sign up for next year’s. Tough Mudder changed my training regieme. I went from regular weight training three times a week with the odd run/cardio (and I mean odd), to training full body with cardio 4-5 times a week. I incorporated new types of training, circuit training, crossfit, HIIT, more cardio, boxing and more agility into my programme and think I became a much more rounded athlete. I feel fitter than I have in years and think I have laid a pretty good foundation for my 2014 plans! I have really enjoyed my new training and I loved Tough Mudder. I’ve signed up for Yorkshire 2014 and training begins in January! Bring it on!

One of the biggest achievements of completing the Tough Mudder was that as a team, we managed to raise just over £2,800 for the Special Care Baby Unit at Rotherham Hospital. I am really glad that I was involved in this and think it’s a great amount of money for a great cause. I really would like to thank all my team mates for their fund raising efforts. Speaking of which, while training for Tough Mudder I have met some great new people and made some great new friends.

Despite some setbacks and ups and downs with my mental health, one of the good things to come out of this year is I have begun to address my social anxiety and actually make some new friends. I’ve started to socialise in new and different situations and circles and attend events etc. when I would normally avoid them like the plague (especially when it is busy etc.). This may not sound like much, but to me it’s a big deal. In previous years there has been countless times I have avoided nights out, social situations, shopping, days out etc. because I would get so anxious beforehand (or worse still during which would put me off in the future). In 2013 I have managed to overcome this to an extent and have made some new friends and enjoyed some new experiences as a result.

The Ugly

Well only ugly in some people’s opinion ha ha!

So one thing I have finally gotten round to in 2013 (which has not been universally met with approval or enjoyment!) is finally getting a tattoo, in fact several tattoos. I’ve wanted to get some ink off and on since I was at university, but for one reason or another had never gotten round to it. For years I couldn’t afford what I wanted, then when I could I could never decide on what I really wanted etc. A few years ago I had a milestone birthday and decided to get a tattoo to mark it, but again I couldn’t definitely decide on what I wanted so again I waited. At the beginning of this year I decided I would finally bite the bullet and go for it. With the impending arrival of my second son, I decided I had the perfect opportunity to get some ink to commemorate my children. I visited some tattoo shops to ask about getting a custom design done, some were receptive, some not so much. Some gave me attitude which I didn’t really expect, but they lost my trade as a result. Eventually I wandered into the Tattoo shop not far from where I live armed with the crudest of crude sketches of my design idea. The tattoo artist there Sally took my sketch and drew out pretty much exactly what I had in mind, so I went ahead and got it inked. I love my tattoo, I eventually had it expanded all the way around my arm into a half sleeve and I think it looks great. So much so I have begun work on my other arm, which will also be a half sleeve once it’s done. I can’t believe I didn’t do it years ago, but in a way I’m glad as if I had done it when I was younger I’d probably have some pretty regrettable tribal and/or heavy metal album cover tattoos right now!

As crazy as it sounds, I really feel getting some ink has helped with my depression. It has given me a lot more confidence in my appearance and self and has served as a good form of self expression. I know it sounds a bit juvenile and all but sod it, works for me so as far as I’m concerned it’s all good.

So there you have it, 2013 the highs and lows. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year and whether good, bad or ugly it’s never been dull. Right now I’m looking forward to a fantastic family Christmas and an exciting new year ahead.

Look to the future now, it’s only just begun…

So what’s in store for 2014? What New Year’s resolutions am I making? Well here goes:
– Improve my mental health so it has minimal impact on my life, my family and my friends
– Find/make more quality time to spend with my wife and children
– Try and maintain a positive state of mind as much as possible
– Fit a new bathroom
– Re-form my bad, the Tipsy Kings and put on a come-back gig
– Finally finish my book ‘Rock n Roll Bastards’ and somehow get it published, if only a few copies for friends
– Complete Tough Mudder Yorkshire 2014 and raise some more money for charity in doing so
– Continue to overcome my social anxiety and make new friends

Specific health and fitness goals:
– Reduce body fat % significantly
– Improve diet
– Bench press over 90kg
– Squat over 120 kg
– Improve stamina, specifically hill running
– Run 10k in a sub 50 minute time
– Improve endurance by regularly running beyond 10k distances

Well that’s enough yacking from me for 2013. I hope you all had a good one and are enjoying the Christmas festivities. I also hope you have much to look forward to in 2014. Thanks for reading and all the best.