I suddenly started to feel pretty different following my diagnosis. The damn thing wasn’t going away, there was no magic pill, there was no new operation that I would suddenly be able to have. I was feeling mortal for the first time in my life. I felt vulnerable and very conscious of what might happen in the future. This got me thinking about work and what it must feel like to suddenly not have to go to work one day due to retirement either forced or voluntary. You see, I still am hoping to try and go back to work.
I then suddenly remembered a conversation I had had with a member ( I now class him as a good friend) about this particular subject. He had worked all his life on the tools and into management and supervisory roles, finishing back on the tools for himself. However, he said suddenly one morning he woke and it felt like he had lost all purpose. He said even though he had a beautiful family and supportive wife he couldn’t get this numb feeling to go. As the days went by it got worse and worse and he suddenly realised, with a little help from his wife telling him to sort himself out, that he was actually starting to take things out on the ones he loved the most. Despite him being given a number of home DIY jobs and him trying to organise his garden shed for the 100th time he still had this ‘Self-worth’ issue. What was he all about? What was he doing? Was it that now he simply counted the days?
Now I wouldn’t have realised this unless I had taken the time to listen to him and I think telling me the story made it easier for him to start to get some reflection and also to hear what and how other people had tackled a similar time in life. The same shedder also admitted that when someone told him he was depressed he thought they were being stupid. How could he possibly be depressed? He was a man for goodness sake! Muscles and everything! Luckily, and I am sure he would tell you this himself, he stumbled on Allan’s SOS regarding starting a new shed in Church Crookham. He made contact and the rest, as they say, is history. He has found a new purpose; he has found a sense of community but more importantly he has found new friends and a chance to use some amazing, very noisy machines and make plenty of mess. Now he still sometimes hears the ‘little Dave’ character but now he finds it easier to discuss things and share with others due to the Men’s Shed.
I then realised that you don’t know what’s going on with the person sitting or standing next to you. He could be battling with similar thoughts or worse. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in your own day to day problems and before you know it, you’re shouting at people close to you or generally not being yourself. There has always been a stigma about men talking about themselves and their feelings and during this past three years that my life has changed through my health issues I don’t think I would have been able to get as far as I have without finally managing to talk to therapists and, yes, my wife about how I was feeling. However, one of the greatest benefits I have gained was joining the Men’s shed.
I didn’t suddenly start chatting about my feelings and we certainly don’t sit around saying how we feel today in large groups. We simply communicate and work on projects and through this work and through the friendships you make you suddenly find out that others around you have felt or are feeling similar to yourself. The people around me were also a huge help in making me comfortable enough to talk about what’s really going on with me, by simply listening. No comments were needed but actually to hear other people’s stories and believe me there were a few, it made everything seem easier.