With all the Covid19 challenges we have faced in 2020 I thought I would share a few non-Covid19 challenges that popped up for me this year and how I have manged to successfully and not so successfully navigate my way through them.
By sharing what worked and what kind of didn’t work I hope this article assists you or someone you know that may be going through some similar life challenges at present.
First of all it has been at least a few years since I have been through a significant personal challenge that has affected my mental health, so to be straight-up I was a little out of practice with using my previously identified coping skills when I hit my first personal challenge at the start of 2020.
In the early part of 2020 my sixteen year marriage broke down and as a result, my wife and I separated. With 50/50 custody of our three young school age kids, two different schools, an international job that involves meetings on average three nights a week and no immediate family to assist me with our kids during my week, my world was turned upside down in more ways than one.
To cope initially and for quite a few months I shut a lot of people out of my world and mentally went back into my man cave, concentrating on working things through in my mind alone without the chatter and judgement of others. I must state that the thought of ‘judgement by others’ was and is a self-imposed perspective I put on myself rather than what was actually happening in the real world.
Interestingly enough probably like most of us I know a lot of people who have separated but strangely I never thought it would happen to me, then there I was, a forty-five year old dad of three right in the middle of a major change of life.
I inhabited my mental man cave while I worked through things in my head and during that time I will admit I slipped back into the habit of drinking most nights, not to excess but simply a few glasses to relax and try to take my mind away from my current situation. A challenge I have is that I am an over thinker and I struggle to turn my brain off, especially when you want to do things like sleep.
I knew from past experiences that I wasn’t going to find my path through this challenge at local BWS store so engaged in some serious exercise of a type that I hadn’t done before; running! You see I have never ever been a running person, I am simply not built for it, I have some bad joints from doing gym for a long time, have never been any good at it and I have also always suffered quite badly from shin splints.
Well determination of the mind is an interesting thing! I managed for the first time in my adult life to keep running until my shin splints eventually went away, but running still hurt, it hurt my joints, my body……….but my brain loved it! The mental and physical challenge of pushing myself through the pain barrier to hopefully better a previous time had taken hold of me and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Now I want to stop you before you start thinking I was running marathons, I wasn’t. But within a few months I managed to reduce my time for a 5klm run from 37mins down to 28mins, I also pushed myself to run 8klms and a 10.4klm run through the forest trails.
Enter a few bad decisions that really hampered my running progress and ability to keep my mental health in check. Firstly I ran too much, too often and an old hip injury flared up causing me to get my third cortisone injection in my bursa sac in my hip. I then had to stop all forms of running for two months whilst I did physio which then identified a previous incorrectly diagnosed hip injury which was the main reason for my pain.
When I started running again it only took a few months and the pain came back just enough to make it moderately uncomfortable and enough time for me to tear a ligament in my knee on the same side as my injured hip.
A trip to my Doctor quickly resulted in advice to stop running, not happy with that I went to another Doctor where we take our kids where he abruptly told me to also stop running and to take up road cycling. Whilst there I asked him what the unusual growth was on the inside of my hand, under the skin, around one of my tendons as it was getting bigger and a bit sore.
He quickly told me it was a hereditary condition called Dupuytren’s Contracture, where fibrous tissue starts to grow around your tendon eventually contracting your finger inwards towards your palm.
Whilst waiting for my appointment with a hand surgeon the decision was made to sell our house as a part of the asset split up. Having only recently completed a significant internal renovation we had not completed the outside renovation/landscaping and we identified that some work was required to get the outside up to the inside standard.
The cost to pay someone to do all the outside was not achievable, so as I was living in the house and have completed this type of stuff before on other houses we have owned I completed the majority of the outside work to get the house up to sale standard.
When I finally got into see the hand surgeon he quickly told me I was always going to get it, it was inevitable, only that I have got it about ten years earlier than I should have. After a few questions he advised me that you would normally get it this early from a large stress on your body like major surgery……… or a marriage separation, bingo cause identified!
Instead of nasty hand surgery I was offered to be part of a new trial where your hand gets treated via radiation therapy at a cancer center. Five days of treatment followed by an 8 – 12 week break than another 5 days of treatment. Minimal side effects but at a considerable up front cost, with only a Medicare rebate as it is classified as day surgery and not covered by private health.
So just to recap on the challenges thrown up in a ten month period, without a hint of Covid19.
- Marriage separation
- Managing three kids every second week who go to two different schools and play a number of sports five days a week
- Working in a management job for a global company with international responsibilities and meetings three nights a week
- A hip injury
- A knee injury
- Not being able to run
- A strange and painful bump growing on a tendon inside my hand
- Radiation therapy
- Having to landscape and fix up a house so it can be sold
- Financial challenges
- Emotional challenges
As I write this article I am just about to finish my first week of radiation therapy and at the tail end of getting our house ready for sale so I know that all my challenges are not over just yet, but I thought as we near Christmas I would share my journey so far to hopefully help someone else that is facing some similar life challenges.
Below is a summary of the good and not so good decisions that I have made along the way to get me through this year so far.
Not so good:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Shutting out a lot of our joint friends
- Not listening to my body and Doctors
- Doctor shopping
- Not taking time out for myself
- Not asking my friends for help
- Worrying about things I can’t control
- Doing a professional personal improvement course to assist in rebuilding my confidence
- Eventually listening to Dr’s and not giving up by having a go at road cycling
- Taking the odd bit of time out for myself to do things like a spartan race, climbing mountains or having a massage
- Talking to other single dads about the ups and downs I may encounter through this journey
- Reading articles and blogs on marriage separation from a man’s perspective and how to get through them
- Listening to motivational books like David Goggin’s ‘You can’t hurt me’ on Audible
- Continuing to do strenuous exercise to help my mind
- Using positive psychology to focus on the good things I still have going on in my life
- Utilizing the paid version of phone apps like Smiling Mind and Headspace
- Realizing that our kids have 2 parents who both have full time jobs, are good people and who both love their kids very much
- Not paying solicitors a fortune to drag it all out and do something that the government has a service for that literally costs stuff all
- Reflecting on how I managed to get through my previous mental breakdown from Policing where I didn’t work for 11 months and contemplated ending my life, but managed to get through it and totally rebuild myself and my life
- Stepping back into doing consulting and speaking work in the areas of mental health & unemployment outside of my normal day-to-day job
- Simply continuing to wake up everyday and turn up to face the challenges
Am I completely through all my challenges yet? Certainly not, but I know I will get through them and although life may not be the same as it was before, that may not be an entirely bad thing.
Please reach out if you would like to discuss any of these issues or topics with me personally.
Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Mental Health & Employment | Educator | Speaker | Coach
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