During my childhood, I was crushed by loss, fear and a foreboding sense of hopelessness. A series of traumatic experiences left me feeling alone, weak and destined to a future of further misery.
I lost my mother to cancer at the age of twelve. She had fought hard for nearly two years before she passed away. The severity of her illness had been hidden by my parents in an attempt to protect my brother and I from what was to come. I trusted what I was told, believing my mum would recover, so when she died my world fell apart.
My father courageously took on the role of carer, attempting to look after my brother and I, whilst at the same time running his business. Understandably he was lost and struggling with his own grief, whilst doing everything in his power to function normally and provide for us. A very proud man, he struggled to reach out and ask for help. He contained his feelings and inadvertently, taught us to do the same.
Without any nurturing female energy, the three of us closed down emotionally. We never spoke of my mum, of how we were feeling and even avoided celebrating Christmas. There was a sense of survivors’ guilt that pervaded our home; we just couldn’t experience happiness without her.
The subsequent years were extremely hard for me to navigate. I lived inside my head, full of fear, searching for and actively anticipating the next loss or painful experience. I felt such a depth of loneliness; my confidence and faith were shattered. I also made the decision around this time to not trouble my father with my own worries or fears. I grew up too quickly and forgot what it felt like to be free.
My transition into adolescence was an uncomfortable one in many ways. What were supposed to be the happiest, most care free years of my life were in fact the hardest and most miserable. I struggled in relationships, often people pleasing or over compensating in an attempt to keep friends close to me. The thought of experiencing more loss was unbearable. I played small, went unnoticed and followed the crowd, losing more and more of myself as time went on. Romantic relationships were disastrous as I desperately sought love and female attention. In hindsight, I was looking to fill the void left by my mum.
As I lost more and more of my authentic self, my brother struggled with addiction and my dad buried himself further into his business. Our inability to communicate the shared suffering we experienced started to drive a wedge between us. We lacked the tools required to grieve and to heal as emotionally responsible men.
In my late twenties, I was blessed to meet Paula, who eventually became my wife. She had her own experiences with loss and had proactively spent time working on herself. I was inspired by her story, what she had overcome and how full of life she was. She guided me towards counselling and I reluctantly entered into a world that was completely alien to me. I was given space to talk about how I was feeling and an opportunity to finally grieve the loss of my mum.
After six months of counselling, I enrolled on a workshop in Liverpool called The Awakening, run by a Canadian organisation called Clearmind International. The weekend was facilitated by a therapist called Duane O’Kane.
I sat at the back of the room and observed. I was blown away by the power of human connection but not quite ready to jump in fully myself. Duane inspired and captivated me with his compassion, ability to hold space and his incredible counselling skills. Before long I had signed up for every available workshop and as I write, I am now in my final year of the Clearmind Counsellor training programme.
In addition to my Clearmind work, I love to train in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, practice yoga, meditate and spend time in nature. I find that these practices allow me return home to my body, a place where I can access inner peace and rejuvenate when I need to.
I am also a strong believer in the importance of having a spiritual framework; I read from ‘A Course In Miracles’ for ten minutes every day and often incorporate this into my meditation practice.
By finding my life’s purpose, understanding my family system, healing fractured relationships and allowing myself the time and space to grieve my mum, life is now unrecognisable. Most of the time I feel confident, adventurous, curious, connected, determined and most importantly, I wholeheartedly trust that the Universe is a friendly place.
I still have challenges, but I no longer wake in a cold sweat of dread, anticipating the potential disasters of the coming day. I trust that I’m on the right path and my heart finally feels full. I can now tell the difference between projection and reality and that is such a game changer for how I live my life today. When I feel fear, I now have the ability to sink into my body and to understand its origin. Here I can remember the truth, I can soothe myself and then move on without feeling incapacitated. The gift of feeling emotions within my body prevents me from getting stuck in my head, a place where I lost many years of my life.
My head used to be a place where I would analyse everything, work things out and attempt to resolve my problems. I now know that problems need to be worked on within relationship and that if I ask for help, people will not be repulsed by me and run, they will love and stand by me.
My future goal is to teach men that it is courageous to reach out and share the weight of our troubles with one another. That true brotherhood involves real, authentic and vulnerable conversations. If more men lived by this code there would be less isolated suffering and ultimately less men taking their own lives.
I am now a father of two boys myself, Charlie who just turned ten and Louis who is very nearly nine! They have become my greatest teachers, my inspiration to become a better man and have taught me how to love unconditionally. I am working so hard to change what it has meant to be a man in my family system, so that my boys can embrace their masculinity in an emotionally responsible way. So that they can speak freely, communicate vulnerability and know what is much needed of men in today’s world.
My boys remind me daily that dreams can come true, miracles happen and that every single second counts.
Becoming a parent initially brought back a flood of emotions as I felt Mums’ absence more than ever. I craved her presence, wished she could meet the boys and be the amazing grandmother she would have loved to have been.
If I sit quietly enough, I feel her with me and I carry a piece of her in my heart. She still teaches and loves me from afar.
The losses I have endured and how I have chosen to see them for the gifts they imparted, have helped to create such a thirst within me to live a life of love, adventure and service. I have turned my pain into purpose, I love my life and the man I have become.