For reasons beyond my understanding people still seem to be reading my blog posts – even though (for a variety of reasons) I’ve stopped writing them frequently.
It’s now been months since the last one.
I could make up all manner of excuses to justify my reasoning behind this – but the truth is that I haven’t wanted the extra burden of putting my thoughts out into the world when I don’t like what I’m thinking.
When I first started writing my blog my twin motivations were that it would do no harm and also be unflinchingly honest.
I also said that I’d never force myself to write
At times I failed on that third count.
There always was an invisible pressure (sometimes there still is) from people asking why I hadn’t posted or checking up on me to see if I was ok – so at times I felt compelled to write when otherwise I may have just retreated.
However – one thing was undeniably true.
My blog did me good.
It was a cathartic release that helped me purge negative feelings when I felt as if there was no other release valve – and as I slowly rebuilt my life it began to reconnect me with the world in ways that I really didn’t foresee back in 2016.
However – we’re ALL suffering at the moment.
Another voice of despair thrown out into the world complaining about not coping very well (in this case my own) wasn’t something I felt that anyone needed to hear – least of all me.
The truth is (as if it will be a surprise to anyone given my prolonged silence) I’ve not been coping very well for a while now and the inevitable consequence of this is that physically I’ve lost a lot of ground.
A lot of the wins I fought so hard for have been utterly squandered – and after a long long time (practically since the start of the first lockdown) of ever diminishing time outside I find myself struggling with things that had previously become ridiculously easy for me.
Not so long ago it might have simply been a case of ‘pulling up my socks’ and going outside – but now the outside world is dangerous and scary.
Unfit (increasingly elderly) men like myself end up on ventilators every day and trying to forget that every single human being you meet is a potential death sentence is impossible.
The impact that this period of isolation (and corresponding drop in fitness) has had on my mental capacity however is undeniable.
Lockdown brain (like baby brain) is a thing.
I’m forgetting stuff that I would never have forgotten a year ago.
Not just silly things either. People’s birthdays or anniversaries, appointments for things like vaccinations (!), managing household bills…
I’m also far more likely to bury my head in the sand when it comes to my surroundings too – and it’s safe to say that the hoover will not need replacing any time soon.
It’s getting a far easier time of it than my Xbox and TV.
The guilt I’ve been feeling lately is also palpable and I know (especially when my partner looks at me with a loving smile) that she can see the emotional self abuse I’m putting myself through every single day.
It hangs over me like a dark cloud.
When I was Slimming World’s man of the year, barely a day went by when I didn’t feel worthy – and at the time I struggled with the pressure I felt to be a good example to people.
Now I’ve lost a lot of ground it’s turned into a sense that I’ve let everyone that believed in me down – and that I’m once more the worthless person that I felt I was back when I started writing my blog.
My self confidence is in tatters and I’m left wondering how on earth in 2016 I began the process of building myself up from nothing to a mountain climbing hero.
This was one of the questions people continually asked me in group or public appearances – and I never found a satisfactory answer.
The truth was I don’t know what made me so determined back then.
I know not wanting to be like my mother was a powerful motivator but it wasn’t the only catalyst or long term driver.
I just got so low that there were only two options – and I wasn’t keen on one of them.
I’m sure there’s a starting point on the horizon – and at times I glimpse something in what I think or say that reminds me of my old self – but as soon as I spot it it’s gone again – and I’m left looking at a man whose face I can’t currently stand in the mirror.
The question I keep repeating in my head is ‘how many times will you do this to yourself?’ – and ‘how many times will this cycle repeat before there are no more cycles left?’
I don’t want to be a failure – but I also don’t cope very well with success – so I’m not sure where this leaves me in the great scheme of things.
I guess I’m just like everyone else out there.
Almost everyone I meet through work just is trying to get through each day as best they can in the hope that there will be another tomorrow and their loved ones will still be alive.
I’d be foolish to think that others I meet don’t go home and overeat or drink too much, or occasionally want to cry themselves to sleep.
If I’m proud of anything is that I never started drinking again. I’ve been sober for over five years now – and that at least is something to hold onto as a profound win.
Almost 2000 days has passed since I last fell asleep after 3 bottles of wine…
Even so – despite this success – the world is screwed in a way that I never thought it would be in my lifetime. My worry is that it won’t ever get any better – that this is how things are forever.
Now restrictions and fear are normalised and accepted they may never go away.
Will ours always be a world of masks, social distance, ridiculously bumping elbows and driving through streets of boarded up businesses?
How many people will never recover from this period of isolation – and will simply fail to rejoin society even if they’re invited to?
Whilst I’m struggling the one thing that’s kept me sane – that’s reminded that there may be a better tomorrow – is the funny little muffin I’ve chosen to spend my life with.
Far from running away from me and recoiling when I started to struggle she’s doubled down on loving me and telling me that’s still how she feels.
Each and every day.
In contrast last week I spoke to a guy who lost no time in lamenting the consequences of his most recent period of lockdown. He concluded by saying ‘I’ll be glad to get back into the office just to get away from the wife’.
Her continual requests of him (apparently his household skills were not up to snuff) were apparently wearing his patience extremely thin and he said ‘although I love her she does my f&@£ing head in.’
It’s not the first time I’ve heard this and I know of at least two other relationships that have broken down completely. Both of these marriages are now heading for divorce proceedings and the partners live separately.
In contrast for me one of the pleasures of lock down has been snuggling up together on the sofa in front of a film or TV show – or even just sharing a video game as one of us plays (it’s no longer just me!)
I like spending all our spare time together.
I’ve never once felt suffocated – or as if my space is being invaded – and I’ve never felt the need to get away or felt worried about where my relationship’s future is headed.
If nothing else (for all of us) all this continued lockdown has been a fiery relationship crucible. Those that have always been made of the wrong materials have been incinerated – but others have been tempered by the flames and grown stronger.
Without a doubt there are things to be thankful for.
We’re both alive, spring is coming, and there is at least hope for a better future.
I did it once and I can do it again.
Thankfully this time around I’m not doing it alone.
This time WE can do it. Together.