Authored by Rob Coulston*
Nine months ago the world around me crashed and burned. I had been running on empty for over 2 years compensating for so many challenges in my life and it was affecting myself and my relationship with others, I began to question whether I was really present, and I had this building anger inside me that really scared me at times.
Several honest colleagues close to me, and my wife encouraged me to make a change in stepping out of the environment and situations I found myself in to have a chance to heal. It was alien for me to do so as I have spent most of my life focused on supporting others through development, coaching, and mentoring.
I have always had the ethos of looking after others first before myself, something grown out of my early childhood and the way I was brought up.
This frightened me, all those months ago, and ignoring the advice from others – I just burned out!
Initially, I didn’t realize what had happened and though I was suffering high levels of anxiety and stress I was trying to keep going. I found myself fluctuating between feeling very emotional and fragile to feeling irrational anger. There was a scary period of having dissociative moments where I was in a room with others but felt like I was standing in the corner watching myself. I didn’t recognize myself and had lost a sense of who I was, questioning everything I was doing. I didn’t even trust that what I was saying was making sense anymore.
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For those that know me well, many commented that they hadn’t heard from me and I dropped off social media as I was finding the posts and articles suddenly overwhelming and overloading my thought processes and making me more anxious.
For the first time in my life, I was really scared I had lost myself and wasn’t sure I would ever find me again. Having grown up with a Dad who was Bi-Polar and experiencing what manic highs and depressive lows did to him, it scared me I was crashing down the same road.
Where I am now nine months later is a different story. My life was saved by my wife giving me permission to step out of the trap I was stuck in, which was feeding this anxiety and stress, and thereby get off the ‘wheel’ for a while to find myself again.
I have to say in these situations, if you are suffering something similar, to get help, you cannot do this on your own. I went to my Doctor who was amazingly understanding and very supportive and I ended up having face-to-face counseling and CBT alongside some serotonin-based medicine, all the things I had never done or felt I needed in my life before. The value, collectively of all of it was it helped me start the healing process of finding myself again.
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Here now, I am still on the road, I have real moments of self-doubt and confidence and a real anxiety preparing to speak again to groups or facilitate workshops, something that has never worried me before in my career. I can tell from what I have been through that there are some collateral effects that are going to take much longer to deal with but the good news is, I am getting there, and having people around you who love you and care about you is key. I speak much more to my wife now about how I feel when I am anxious and Claire will ask me if I am okay on occasions, to make sure I am not slipping back.
One really emotional moment that made me realize I was moving forward was recently when out with our family, our boys, their wives, and our 2 wonderful grandchildren, and one of my sons just said to me at the end of the day “Dad it’s so lovely having you back”.
It makes me emotional writing those words but it just shows how important it is to know you are cared about by others and there is a way back always from these dark and dangerous times.
This is why myself and Kevin Miller are so passionate about People Centred Leadership, we all can do so much to create the environment of care and safety that people, all of us, need to grow and thrive in.
To all my fellow men out there I want to say, we are not always strong enough to carry others, we sometimes need to be carried too, to be honest, and ask for help is not a shameful thing it doesn’t make us any less who we are, in fact, it shows our humanness and helps recovery and healing.
This is the first time I have written an article since October last year for those who have wondered where I have been and, starting to write again has been the most difficult I can ever remember. But having put these words down on paper I know it’s another step on the road to getting stronger.
Our mission in life should be to look out more for others who are in pain and suffering and put our arm around them and help them find a way forward to heal. If you are not in a good place right now, ask for help from the people you love and trust, you will be surprised to know it’s not a shameful thing to do so, and it’s the start of the journey of finding yourself again.
Take care all of you.
*Rob Coulston is Ignitor, Catalyst, and Innovator at Humanising Workplaces.