Male mental health awareness was one of the key themes of 2019, with Man Club among one of the groups offering a safe space to those who wanted to talk and listen, with Philip Surry at the helm, and here he discusses his own journey through the lockdown.
Accompanied by his children, Phil is often found running or swimming when he isn't facilitating Man Club:
Pictured: Philip Surry with the 'talking stick' that Man Club uses.
“We can just go for a walk and leave it yeah?”
That was the words I said to my daughter Ava (10) as I took my first step into the sea. I genuinely wanted to back out. 3 weeks is the longest I’ve gone in 2 years and frankly I was scared.
“No, we have to do this” was her reply. The boss had spoken…. Again.
One brave moment later (and the subsequent loss of my manhood), I’m bobbing in the sea with my Daughter and we are laughing our heads off, on the pier at Bordeaux two other swimmers getting changed, reward us with a round of applause and even a couple of ‘hoots’. I feel connected again, alive, if I can do this today what else can I do? Well, I’ve earnt myself a boxed set at least.
It’s worth it. Honestly….
There is so much I would love to share with you about lockdown life. I’ve been running Man Club now online every week and I’ve witnessed some moments that I will always hold dear. Men that have had their battles, their personal demons (me included) standing so strong for one another in this time, and inspirationally, for their community. Many of these guys are essential workers and their personal ownership of their responsibility is incredible. Some of these guys are Man Club vets and are really looking out for others – it’s wonderful, we have each others backs, that’s the brotherhood.
As the days, weeks, and months move on, I have no doubt that the world will change, but have we as a community changed?
Pictured: The rainbow is being seen as a symbol of hope across the islands.
I think what makes us awesome is that Guernsey always had this community spirit and it’s adversity that pulls us together and lifts us. It’s in this time that we are seeing our greatness, however hard it may seem at times.
Because like in a Man Club session, many of us are being honest with one another if we are struggling, and people are listening. If perhaps you are isolated and you are having a struggle, I honestly say this from my heart – reach out. People really do care. As an employee of Guernsey Mind I can promise you that we are 100% committed to our mission, for better mental health.
If we can get through this collectively, then what else can we do as a community? I keep wondering how much stronger we will all be when the day comes that this corona pandemic has ended.
I’ve reflected recently on those around me that have had the biggest impact on my mindset and I feel I’d like to share a little bit, I hope it helps:
Over two years ago my daughter was in the sea at the beach and was calling for me to come and join her. I went in up to my waist and started grumbling that it was too cold. She looked at me and said ‘Dad, if I can do it, so can you’. Girl power got to me I guess……She was right, I felt like a bit of an idiot
At that time I was pretty out of shape and lacking motivation. I had just discovered a new coach; 8 year old Ava.
The thing is, Ava was at the time battling with her confidence – especially at school, and I had just started my journey with my life coach and great friend Richard. This part of the puzzle was to form the foundation of everything. The road Ava and I started on that day at the beach was to prove life changing for both of us.
The Man Club lads started to sea swim together, on a Thursday, and Ava was right up for it too. We went every week, without fail. If a 10 year old girl can do it, then surely us blokes can too? I think it’s true to say she started to inspire all of us. It wasn’t long before we christened it with a name, (Richard laughing as he said it) ‘numbnuts Thursdays’ (a moment burnt into my deep comical consciousness forever).
Now days Numbnuts isn’t just about Men, its all genders. Families started to join us, friends, and people that heard about it through Guernsey Mind’s Employee Mental health and wellbeing programs. (Shout out to Jo Cottell for her incredible work, it’s brilliant).
The thing was though, every time we went, and often it was just Ava, Richard and I, in the darkness before sunrise. All this before school, whatever the weather, rain, hail, wind. The sun broke through at times in that first winter and it meant more to me than at any other time in my life. We took it all, everything mother nature wanted to teach us.
There were times Ava would be in tears, and I would always ask her what she wanted to do? She never faltered, not once. ‘No going home dry’ became her saying. Inside at times I just wanted to take her home and say come on lets get a hot chocolate, but I knew she would never forgive me. I just went with it, and I found it was having an incredible impact on my life too.
The question I always asked her, every single time, was ‘if you can jump in the cold sea, before school, in the dark, in the hail, the rain, what else can you do?’
The answer soon became apparent…. Running
So, we started with that too. Park runs, to 10k, and yes, at the age of 10, (to date) we have ran 4 half marathons together.
If I can do this, what else can I do?
I ask myself this now every day.
Every day when I turn the shower down to cold, every time I meditate when all I want to do is eat a banana and peanut butter sandwich watching my beloved Star trek, I set myself that challenge and say, ‘if I can do this, what else can I do?’
That question burns inside me and drives me forward. Without fail.
I will never forget the day Mr Taylor at Vale shared with me how Ava’s confidence had sky rocketed in such a short time. Head girl of her house, and talking in front of the class about women and body confidence. All this came from enduring something tough, something difficult, but it carved us out of stone and as we now always say, ‘stay hard’
We have seen an incredible level of leadership of late from our government. Without doubt unprecedented, and they stepped up in a way that has moved so many of us.
When Gavin St Pier addressed us and openly levelled with us that the team had made a mistake with regard to essential workers and business, we saw a level of leadership that is so incredibly valued and powerful. How often will a leader hold his hands up like that? How often does a leader share his humanity in that way? It moved me and like many of you I feel incredibly lucky that with him and his amazing team we are in a good hands.
Gavin demonstrated to all of us that we are human. We make mistakes. Regularly, (I’ve already burnt my Son’s toast today), all the time. If you can get through a day without a cock up somewhere you got to be doing well. With integrity like Gavin though, we can all stand up and say ‘hey, I got this wrong but I’m open about it and I want to put it right’
And if we can do that, what else can we do?
Pictured: Deputy Gavin St Pier isn't afraid to admit when he's got it wrong.
This brings me to the final part of my sharing with you, the part that has also played such an important part in my own personal life, but one that I feel we can all benefit from:
Where my Daughter brings incredible motivation, drive and dogged determination to our party, my Son Alfie (7) brings us the most beautiful, bizarre, comical moments – no one has ever made me laugh like he does, I’m sure his Mum and Sister would agree with me. He has a twinkle in his eye and thinks so far out of the box I actually think he has invented a new shape!
Alfie has just started running with Ava and I, (and typically is naturally more talented than the whole family)
As usual, he finds everything absolutely hilarious. He can’t just run like everyone else seems to do. We ran 7 miles together pre lock down and for most of it he was pretending to be a bird flapping his wings, squaking at passers by and just being excited by everything he saw. Of course, he has to make sure we are all verse about his love of eating cunumber (cucumber) and (apparently) bird poo.
Often his declarations, his runs, general outings are made dressed in a full spiderman outfit. I could easily digress! (I have one too).
So to finish I would like to say that it starts with small steps, small challenges, whatever they might mean to you. If you can achieve it, what else can you do?
And of course, if we can find humour in the darkest of places, where else can we bring laughter into life?
So, if we can pull together, and look out for one another at a time like now, then what else can this wonderful, unique and powerful community do?
Love and Cunumber