When Salford Dadz – Little Hulton first started we played with the idea of having an online message board so that local dads could talk to each other on line, write blogs about their stories, or to generally ask for advice. Although it worked to a certain extent there didn’t appear to be much of an appetite for it and over time it fell into disuse.
I was reminded of this message board the other day and had a look through it and unsurprisingly found a couple of gems that I thought worth posting here.
The following blog was first published almost four years ago during May 2014, and shows what I consider to be the start of this dads journey, he has continued to grow by leaps and bounds and is a great asset to both Salford Dadz – Little Hulton and to other organizations that he now works with.
I hope you enjoy and maybe take something away from it……
Last night something happened, now to most people it is absolutely nothing and most wouldn't even register it at all or would chalk it up to just another normal night, but for me it was a big thing. I decided when I got home last night that I was going to write something about me and my path through this life. This morning I woke not to a sore head but to a small amount of clarity. Last night I found something I had long ago lost that being, a part of me. Part of my identity… Let me briefly explain. For a very long time now I have been withdrawn from normality and mostly from myself, shutting myself off from the real world. Sure I go out and do basic things like shopping, doing the kids school runs and small errands for the very few friends I have in my life. Many times I have sat and remembered twenty years ago when I had, what felt to me then was, an army of friends, phone calls, get togethers, out most nights, friends visiting. I could not go a day without chatting to several people I classed as friends. I was very active cycling daily, going to the gym and swimming. I was socially active every day. I was confident and to a degree took pride in myself. Alas for me that period did not last more than a few short years. Somewhere over those twenty years though a mixture of stress, depression and anxiety and slight agoraphobia, I lost all of that. It did not happen over night but once it did start it gained speed and soon took over.
It was not the first time I had become very withdrawn and pulled away from society as I had suffered something similar before I was even ten years old. As a kid I can honestly say I welcomed the isolation and as an adult I was not much different. Where I was in my life and how I felt about myself it was the only "safe" place for me. I struggled with trust even within myself. Talking was something I would go out my way to avoid. I would spends hours and days alone in my room and in my head it was that way all the time.
As an adult I was slightly different from childhood, yes I would still spend most of my time alone but I had learnt how to mask the isolation by doing small interactions with people, the type of things most people take for granted. Meeting up for a coffee, standing and having a chat for ages in the street, texting. All these things are so small in life yet for some can be so challenging and for the most part people will never know just how hard and difficult these things can be. Me, I learned how to fake these things, not in a horrible way but as a way to hide the real me. Somewhere deep inside a very small part of me enjoyed them but a bigger part found them difficult because it was no longer my normal.
Things like this were difficult, strange and scary and I found a constant battle in my head to as to why people wanted to talk to me or socialize around me and an even bigger battle about interacting. I want to but fear and lack of confidence are very strong emotions. The safety of my isolation kept winning and again in my head I would be alone. Around fifteen years ago I found something that in a way helped me or at least made me feel a little bit more alive. I had someone to look after and protect. Everything I could not do for me I could do for someone else. For me this was the first time I let someone into my world. This was very scary but I now had something to do. I was no longer alone in the world, but in my mind I was still lost and alone and now very confused. A few more years down the line and I had my first child. Greatest feeling I had felt that I would get to feel another twice. All of this was great but I still had a problem in my head I was still mostly alone. I still would not socialize or interact normally in the world outside. I had a family which I am proud of, but still felt so alone. I had found something I liked to do, help people first through my family and soon after through the community. It was a very scary path for me and still is. Helping others meant socializing with people which was my nightmare and my rescue all in one. I did several things in the community to help others and I had a small amount of pride return to me from the fact I was helping others but I was still forgetting the one person who needed help, me. I still had not found that trigger to make me want to change. I should have changed with my family and to a degree I did, I would do anything for them still do. Being alone in my head for so long is the hardest thing in the world to change, I had over half my life doing it and it was now completely normal for me. To change that was going to take something major and I was still looking. Almost five years ago I moved. New house, new town, new people I was again back to being alone with my family. I soon started to get back into helping the community at two local groups after referrals from the local GPs. Just a year later I was nominated for a community award and for the first time in as long as I could remember I had a little bit of pride in myself. I knew I had found something I was meant to do with my life. Help people. I had a break with the arrival of my third child and stopped doing community work. All of my time was taken up with family and so I started to slip back into my old stay at home all the time routine and I welcomed it without a fight especially when I lost someone very close to me suddenly. I was at a new low even for me and began to question everything about me and not in a good way. I was back to just doing the same things everyday, school runs shopping and sitting in front of the computer. The computer over the years had become my social life, through games I was as able to be something I had long forgotten how to be and that was free from the confines of my head. I had found a new place to withdraw to. In this place though I could socialize, I could interact, I could be everything I dreamed I wanted to be in the real world. This was not new as I had done this for the good part of ten years. An online life I could do, I was confident and safe but I still longed for this in real life. Just under two years or so ago something happened and no matter how hard I try I have no idea what, but I started talking to people at school. No big thing to most but for me this was a massive step as it did not involve me helping people. Till that point the only real interaction I had with people was when I was helping. This was something long forgotten to me, this was socializing. Indirectly my kids were helping me and they will never know just how much. People at school would actually come and speak to me, at that point I would still not walk over and start talking to them. Within a year there were several people who were talking to me and in particular four people. I actually had formed some form of friendship. Two from school and more surprisingly, for me, two that were not part of the school network.
Me being me still struggled with this and would go weeks or months where I would not contact them and a lot of the time would randomly bump into them and have brief chats then not see them for ages. For me the biggest change for me where I am right now happened at school. One of the dads I would talk to at school invited me to a group that I had already heard of Salford Dadz. At first I never although we spoke about it several times and it did get my interest, but I wasn't the best dad and felt not good enough to join the group. Yes I would do loads for my kids but I do not go out into social areas and that means I don't take my kids fun places like parks etc as they can be busy and I am not in my safe zone and that to me does not make me a good dad. I grew up with a dad who suffered from severe agoraphobia and I always remembered how hard he tried and how much it hurt when he failed to take me places. Simple things like going to the park were a challenge and when he failed it hurt both of us. I was not going to do that to my kids and because of that I did not try so that way I would not fail. I am proud of my kids and have taught them things I have been told I should be proud of yet I still feel I could do so much more for them. After another couple months of talking to this dad I decided to take the chance and go along. I was very relieved to find two people I had a friendship with which made me feel more at ease but was still very nervous. Being honest I went into the meeting like I do everything else, treating it as me helping out and nothing to do with me personally.
I think by the end of those two hours something changed in me. I am usually fine doing this sort of thing and can happily go back home and back to my safety but this was different. I had heard things in the meeting that got things about my life racing round my head and they just would not stop. For the first time I felt that I was not alone. Sure I had been to groups and counseling and therapy but none of them truly made a connection with what was in my head. This did!!
A couple weeks in and a million thoughts that had gone through my head something happened to me that was unexpected and for me a first in so many years. I was invited for a cuppa. I know! nothing life changing in normality but in my life it was massive. This was nothing to do with kids etc like what I am used to, this was plain and simply two friends having a cuppa and a chat. This was socializing. I was socializing (if you are reading this thank you).
My head was all over the place after that but in a good way. It felt like a massive crack had appeared in the wall or the barriers I had, so many years ago, built to keep me safe. It got me thinking so much about when I used to socialize and the life I had lost around twenty years before. I spent the following few weeks trying to remember how to socialize, what I was like back then, what it was to have pride in myself. No matter how hard I tried I just could not remember how I done it. I started to realize people said hello to me in the street, including people I didn't even know. I had locked myself away so long I did not even notice that I was not the invisible person I once was and that I have no idea when that changed. I realized I have become trapped inside these walls I had built. This week I got the chance to go to a charity night, the first night out in almost ten years. My partner said I should go for it and for two days I really struggled within myself if to go or not. Fear panic frustration were all going wild within me but at the same time something was making me want to take the gamble and take that step. I cleaned myself up got dressed and ordered a taxi, at least that way I had less time to think about it and run back to my safety. I arrived and stood outside scared. This is a night out, something most people take for granted and here was me scared and nervous, feeling like you do at that very first job interview you go for. After what felt like hours to me, but was only five minutes later, I take a few deep breaths and walk through the doors. Thankfully I was greeted by a friendly face, giving me that small distraction from my panic. I stand talking but at that point I feel like I am not there but watching from outside my body half wanting to runaway. I was at that so familiar crossroads but for the first time I know there is more than one option. Run and go home back to being safe, to my isolation, to not taking my family fun places, to sitting every night in front of the pc, back to being nothing. I made my choice. I opened the next set of doors and walked in. A room full of people, strangers. By now the fear and panic inside me was at going through the roof. Somehow I managed it and I continued to go forward and join the rest of the dads. Just over four hours later, several laughs and several drinks the night finishes off. I did it I went out and socialized but most importantly, I enjoyed it. For the first time in years I actually felt good about myself. Last night did not just help me with my fears but made me feel alive and gave me the chance to believe in myself again. I spoke about a lot of things last night, things I used to do things long forgotten to me. This morning I woke nice and early with the kids as usual, but not with a hangover like I expected but with one thought, and with the support and help I hope I can make that thought a reality. To find and become the person I once was and lost all those years ago.