Big Boys Dont Cry
A man's perspective on mental health, breaking the taboo.
Men’s mental health issues are still relatively taboo and a lot of work is being done to try and break this, we asked a man who seemingly ‘has it all together’ to write us a piece for Storm Stories and in doing so inspire other men to be open about the challenges and pressure that they face on a daily basis.
By way of introduction, my name is Andy Lord and I’m 52. There is nothing particularly unusual about me, I consider myself to be a fairly regular guy with the odd quirk here and there.
I’ve had some pretty awesome jobs and worked with some wonderful people. I’ve helped change the lives of 1000’s of people by opening a training business but my secret was to hire people better than me, sell the dream and inspire the amazing staff to be as brilliant as their imagination would let them be.
To the outside world I guess people would look at me and smile, they would see no stress or drama. They would see success and a bad haircut.
My dad taught me that big boys don’t cry - my mum told me I was a sensitive soul. I figured that was the Gemini in me.
2020 was and is a strange year, no more for me than for others I expect but life is about perspective and more often than not, about your own miopic view of the world.
Enough of the amateur philosophy lesson, I was trying to set a scene of a stereotypical man - you can already imagine where this is going to go so I’ll save you the Mills and Boon.
My wife and I split up this year - to be transparent, she left me. It hurt like hell and has taken me months to come to terms with. It’s for the best and she was braver than me to call time.
I was running my own business - a well known coding school in Manchester and I quit. I quit my own job in my own company, in a company that I started and sacrificed a corporate role with a corporate salary for. I’d fallen out of love with lots of aspects of the business and in my impulsive way, said I needed a change of scenery.
My father died last year, it was traumatic to say the least but mainly because I never really liked him whilst he was alive. He was a macho man that never said he loved me or anybody else for that matter. The trauma was the guilt I felt for not being devastated when he passed away.
Obviously Covid does and did have a profound effect on me. I was scared a little bit personally but my concern was focussed on all of the young people who are missing out on an education and then missing out on opportunities to be employed. I’m not alone I’m sure with worrying about the “Covid generation” but it started to keep me up at night.
One day, seemingly for no reason, I just burst into tears, I felt like a heavy weight had been placed on my shoulders and I genuinely had no idea how to remove it. It wasn’t one thing and when I wrote my list of the shitty things that affected me, to be honest they don’t seem enough to make me feel how I felt.
I didn’t tell anyone that I had been crying, I still have the odd tear now if I’m honest. I put on my gamest of game faces and hoped I would wake up feeling better than I did the day before.
A week or two later and I didn’t want to get out of bed. This is as recently as June this year by the way.
My daughter was worried about me, she’s 22 and lives at home with me and her partner.
After some soul searching and still without any real idea why I felt like I felt, I did some volunteering. Cliched I know, but I did and it started a chain reaction.
I was approached by a very lovely person to help them set up an apprenticeship business, I was paid to share my passion and vision on how to best help people get on in life.
I rode my motorbike around Europe with one of my closest friends. We had a ball and laughed a lot.
I got really into boxing, I was sparring 2 or 3 times a week and found it very therapeutic. Believe it or not it felt like yoga to me. Be in the moment or get punched in the nose.
And then I would go home, take off the game face and cry again.
Anyway, Enough of the drama.
All of the things I was doing helped me eventually do the thing I should have done in the first place. I went and found a wonderful counsellor.
It was, for me, the bravest thing I’ve ever done. My dad would have turned in his grave. I asked for help and bared my soul and vulnerability. Pretty much like I’m doing now when I’m writing this.
I had a few sessions. The weight lifted , the game face wasn’t needed, trying to work out why I felt like I felt was no longer a priority or even interesting.
No miracles, no magic potions, just perspective.
I train in the gym or outside most days, I volunteer more than ever before, I’ve actually gotten interested in Buddhism (I come from a long line of atheists) and I’m still working on my project to help change the world.
I still consider myself ordinary but extra ordinarily fortunate. Mental health is a taboo subject for many but not for me, I will talk to anyone and everyone that will listen. Dark days are typical and there are ways to brighten them but you have to know where to start and you need a place to go that makes it easy to say “help!”
Afterthe-storm is such a great name, brand and concept for what the team are working to achieve. I felt like I was in a storm and needed it to be calm for just enough time to think. The counselling made the storm stop for a month or more - without it I think I might still be in it periodically. Having somewhere to turn to find help and a platform to break the stigma round these issues is vital especially in the current circumstances.
I hope my ramblings, if nothing else, have taught you that Big Boys Do Cry and that’s absolutely fine. Cry, get somebody amazing to get you to talk, gain some perspective and then you can walk back into the storm anytime you like - it’s fun.
With love and light - Andy.