Thursday, 16 November 2017

Mental Health - My experience

Mental illness, a term that I can't really think of being used very often in majority of my life, it appears that in recent years we are able to label and identify conditions more and more. Conditions that I had never heard of and perhaps don't understand.

That feels part of the problem though, if people don't understand then you could be made to feel that you shouldn't be that way, and that perhaps the solution is not to talk or seek help, but if you don't then how can you get better?

I will not profess to be speaking from a perspective of vast knowledge or even an understanding of all  mental health conditions, far from it.

In fact writing this, I am not sure if I am putting these thoughts down to be cathartic or to maybe offer an honest account of my life right now and that even one person reading it may identify within this something that will help them, or that someone could even help me if they have come through a difficult time or at least found a way to try to cope.

Im not entirely sure where my current emotion or feelings fit in with being categorised, I'm not depressed, I'm not anxious, nor do I suffer from panic attacks, however I could easily say that I get the feelings of being deeply unhappy and anxious at times. Its within that though that it is only at times that it hits me, unaware, unprepared and defiant of what my head is trying to tell me.

Let me get the elephant out of the room of why I am writing this, the reason, the motivation. This week it will have been 7 years since I lost my Dad, unexpectedly, far too young, and without the chance to say goodbye.

7 years on, I will openly admit that the pain hasn't ever diminished and despite the assurances from many a person that with time things will get better, honestly I don't think it has, if anything it feels like it is getting harder with each passing year. Hearing songs that I listened to at the time, that we played at the funeral are still too hard to hear. Reflecting on the times in my life he has already missed during those years is gut wrenching enough, but accepting that he never will be there to see the milestones in my life, to be a guide in the big times of need, to help me do some DIY or mend my car, that just adds to the pent up anger and what can be described as resentment.

To who that resentment is directed to I can't really explain but I feel it. My head hurts just writing this, maybe its a good sign, the therapy of writing my feelings down, because a great flaw of mine is that I will not approach anyone to say "hi, I'm feeling really unhappy and want to discuss how thats making me feel"

Instead I bottle it all up like I have done recently, until what can only be described to me as a darkness that clouds my head and dictates my mood and outlook, which is an incredibly hard feeling to shift, especially when there is a reminder of the event or the anniversary for example. It has been easier to shut it out, sometimes it has been easier to try to block out or numb the pain rather than deal with it.

When it first happened I did speak to a counsellor for brief period, however he wasn't a specialist in grief and openly admitted it wasn't his area of expertise, that may of been an early mistake in all of this, not seeking someone that could really assist help me, he described me as someone that is able to box away feelings, like the film Inception, where I can lock it away deeply, hidden in my mind and not have to think about it. That can only work for so long, it moves around, it tries to escape or is telling me to to make room for new memories, but first I need to deal with it.

Equally as important is not to lean towards a method that simply masks the pain or feeling of the unwanted emotion. I love a beer now and again and for a few years now I haven't really gone out for big nights out, mainly because the hangovers just take way too long to recover from, not 21 anymore!!!

It just stopped being enjoyable, however the odd innocent couple at the end of a hard week started to feel a little bit of regular occurrence recently, have one while cooking, ah the footballs on got to have one, admittedly this hasn't been going on for long and isn't a cry for help, but it did mask the bad feelings briefly. I urge anyone not to be fooled by this feeling, it isn't helping at all and can be an extremely damaging trap to fall in to, my Dad unfortunately fell foul of this demon for a number of years and he paid the ultimate price for that, and thankfully I knew that I wasn't about to let that take over me.

That is truly a horrible realisation, that he felt that it was a solution to his problems,  perhaps because of his generation & his upbringing, he couldn't talk about why he was doing it, didn't want to seek professional help or support, despite our pressure and insistence to do so. Men of his generation weren't encouraged to be anything other than the stereotypical "MAN" Being too proud can't and shouldn't be an excuse in this day and age, and seeking that help can make such a huge difference to the outcome of someones difficulties.

Luckily for me I have the most amazing Fiancé who knows me so well, and importantly when I'm not myself, she get just listens and gets me to at least talk about whats on my mind and that is part of the battle, I really have no issue openly admitting that when she does get me to talk, which is like getting blood from a stone, it is singly the most helpful thing for me, I end up balling my eyes out but the relief of pressure is unreal. (My god a man admitting that he cries?? yes don't let that stupid thing called pride get in the way of that!!)

For anyone trying to deal with loss or even overriding issues that seem to dominate your perspective or mental wellbeing, my main advice is to try and find someone that gets you to talk about it, in combination with finding ways that make you feel better, last Sunday I simply took myself for a walk for about an hour around our local park, put my headphones in and just let the world pass me by and switch off a little bit. Its a simple step but one that was really effective and will look to do it a lot more.

I am not an example of how to cope or deal with grief or mental health, I am learning and realising that shutting up shop isn't the way forward, isn't healthy and isn't in the long term going to help me find any kind of peace with my loss.

There are some links below to some routes to finding the solution or guidance to dealing with whatever you may have gone or are currently going through. There is always help available, don't be scared to seek it out.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Christmas Gift Guide - For the man in your life

Its the most wonderful time of the year... well very nearly and if you are looking for inspiration for your loved one this Christmas, I have put some suggestions together of what the man in your life may be hoping that Santa is bringing this year.

Personally I love to make all gifts and elements for Christmas & Birthdays as unique and tailored to the person I am buying for and that includes the cards, Recently I have found that the likes of Red Bubble & Etsy offer brilliant cards that are themed for the time of year or event and you can easily find cards that are made to feature favourite tv shows & their characters for example. Anything for me that can feature the likes of Stranger Things, the U.S Office & The Walking Dead you are on to a winner. Many other popular shows can be found to suit your partners taste.


Speaking from a personal taste here, these are my favourite Mens Eau De Toilletes and even if the particular ones I have selected aren't what you are looking for, they are brands that I have purchased more than one from and you won't go far wrong selecting from their ranges.

For a truly smoky and mysterious scent, one of my absolute favourites is John Varvatos  - Dark Rebel. As a brand I've had three of their range, each one unique and wonderfully presented in their very stylish bottles.

Next up is Valentino Uomo  - The Original is a musky scent made up of leather, bergamot, cedar and is exactly what you would want and expect from this fine Italian brand. A slightly deeper aroma can be found in the intense version, both would be great addition to any collection.

My love for dark & intense scents mean that I don't stray too far from the notes of leather, vanilla, tobacco, wood & spicy elements. It is however important to have some variety for brighter seasons & holidays. A perfect summery & lighter addition could come in the form of Aqua di Parma's Di Sicilia which is my favourite of this particular range, however for a gift idea you would benefit from purchasing the box set which offers three amazing fragrances from their Mediterraneo range.

For the work environment

The vast majority of us spend most of our days at work, so maybe a few suggestions to help the days along would be a good idea.

Travel mugs, personally I can't leave the house without having my morning coffee, and I have found that at this time of year Starbucks have some really good ones that keep a drink hot for around an hour. If you are looking for the next level in travel coffee, Wacaco have released the portable espresso machine, which is compatible with Nespresso capsules.

Whether on the commute to & from work or on a lunch break, I would highly recommend an Amazon Paperwhite Kindle, it has become and essential addition to my holiday packing too with its 4bg storage, anti glare & access to over 1.5 million books.

It wouldn't be Christmas without socks? Well at London sock exchange you can start off with a subscription of £15 per quarter which will supply you with 3 pairs of socks each quarter, and you can even recycle your old ones!! how good is that.

In this day and age, the working man has to be prepared for all eventualities, and keeping everyday essentials in one easy to access place is a great gift idea. Check out Travel Supply Co and their brilliant Travel Map & Voyager which are designed to easily carry items such as headphones, pens, phone cables, beard comb, notepads etc in a leather carrier that can be neatly packed away and carried.


I can assure you that any man that wet shaves gets frustrated at the cost of replacing the razor blades, although I haven't yet sampled them, there have been a couple of brands that have launched, firstly Cornerstone who offer six blades for just £14 and have shaving products to chose from as part of their subscription service, and then there is Harry's who will start you off for free (cheeky little stocking filler) their prices start from £14 also but you get 8 blades for that price. However I only clean shave around my maintained stubble so a trimmer could also be a good option where you can set the length of stubble. I have used  this Remington beard trimmer for years and find that the it offers a great trim and plenty of options. With the beard trend not going anywhere you may well want to look at beard grooming products, such as Essential Beards who have 26 scented balms, or even Mix my beard oil where you can create your own beard oil.

Christmas is a great opportunity to introduce a gift set of a brand, around this time there are usually plenty to choose from (please step away from any Lynx gifts sets!). A brand that I am loving right now is Triumph & Disaster, they have some great products and they are packaged really well too, choose the "its a mess ain't it sheriff" gift set which has a shampoo, conditioner and hair styling clay.

Lush is quite possibly one of my favourite retailers, I couldn't locate a set made up that was best suited to a man that wasn't dominated by bath bombs. However if you get creative with packaging you can make some really good selections from various sections of Lush, 2 years ago I don't think id ever used their products but now I have a hamper full of them in my bathroom. I'd highly recommend their shaving creams (Prince a particular favourite), facial scrubs & washes which are great for keeping the right oils in your skins and not drying the skin out, moisturisers (Skin Drink my recommendation) and they have a great range of shower gels (It's Raining Men smells great and is really hydrating unlike a lot of shower gels)

I would highly recommend the purchase of a lovely wash bag, over the years we end getting one with  a Boots Christmas set, but a true dapper gent will want a smart wash bag for trips away to put all of these lovely products you have bought him. A few sites I would advise to visit are Trendhim, Not on the high street & ASOS for mixture of styles and budgets.


Winter months are beautiful for plenty of walks in the countryside or perhaps visits to the horse racing, why not have a little pick me up or warmer in your man's pocket with a little hip flask, there are some very cool looking ones available for all kind of price ranges from the likes of Aspinal of London or Not on the high street.

I wasn't ever a huge fan of Gin but in the last couple of years there have been a few hipster bars that have made the right blend to make a really enjoyable drink. Now I'm certainly not alone in enjoying a gin, however last year I was introduced to a sloe gin for the first time and it was really enjoyable and was perfect around the winter and Christmas season. I ended up purchasing it for my inlaws and they quickly were ordering themselves a second bottle, so my high recommendation is for Ableforth's Bathtub Gin, you will not be disappointed. The bottle will also look great on any drinks trolley or cabinet too. Or for the really patient you could get them a grow your own sloe gin set from NOTHS.

Although very aware I have highlighted a couple of subscription services on here, but they can be a great way to introduce a loved on to items they may not be aware of, or provide them with a new variety of a go to product. So here I came across a service that provides a range of independent beers for a minimum 12 weeks from £36 available at Beerbods.

Presenting or having your spirits on show has become very prominent, whether in a cabinet or drinks trolley. I am all for having a whole Mad Men themed lounge, well in that case no matter the preferred tipple what better way to keep and pour it than from a lovely decanter which could be personalised on some websites, some top finds were on NOTHS & John Lewis where i spotted this outstanding Stag set.

Music & Games

If like me your man is enjoying the renaissance of the vinyl record, how about providing them with  a regular update to their selection by signing up to Wax & Stamp, where you can subscribe for 2 new records a month for £28.

Most guys who game, will already have Fifa and have already pre ordered the latest Call of Duty, but the cost of these at this time of year can be a struggle so there may be a couple of that they haven't managed to purchase and 2 of my absolute top recommendations within the last year are Uncharted 4 which has just had a recent add on game come out The Lost Legacy and the reboot of Crash Bandicoot where you get three games in one!

Games certainly don't have to limited to video games. Let's be honest far too many of us spend many an hour in front of the TV - myself and Beth enjoy the variety of board games we have and what better time of year than Christmas to share that with friends and family. Take your pick at this point, we have enjoyed the competitiveness of Scattergories, Monopoly, Game of Life and I really want to try Cards against Humanity (maybe more suited for having friends round, rather than the grandparents at Christmas)

If listening to music is a particular love of your partners, then there are a number of options depending on whether you want them to only listen to it privately or for it to seem that the artist is playing their own private gig in your house (as Beth would testify, I fall in to the latter, I'm a great believer that it should be listened to properly) Speaking from experience for headphones & speakers, I would recommend you look no further than Marshall, who combine excellent sound as well as stylish design.

From behind my computer screen it is easy to provide online links to these items, but there is nothing like the magic of going Christmas shopping for me, so why not visit some of the great markets throughout the country and make it an experience, plus theres the excitement of knowing your partner is carrying around the items they have personally chosen for you.

Here is a guide to a few you could visit - UK Christmas Markets

For anyone local to Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire and wants to support a local business,  I simply have to recommend one of my best friends shop's - Fort Menswear,  who not only stock some fantastic men's fashion, but also a brilliant range of accessories and gift ideas.

However you choose to shop, just make sure you put thought and care in to each choice. Happy gift buying to you all.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig