In September 2012 my wife and I received news we wished no perspective parents would have to hear… your son may have severe disabilities. Months and months of travelling to London hospitals followed and our baby boy was born in January via c-section to ensure he had the best chance of survival. An anxious few days followed and then we were discharged not knowing if there were any issues as all tests came back clear. We lived in fear (and hope) that something would come up over the coming months. By the summertime we had the all clear that our boy was ok and there was no evidence of anything being a problem. The relief and emotions were overwhelming. Since then, we have welcomed another son and life is and has been great…
This was until March 2020 when Covid 19 hit the UK. Lockdown and being trapped at home. Yes, I had my kids with me (my wife is a school teacher so had to be at school) but the feelings of loneliness, isolation and dread filled every single day. This was my life at this point, and it certainly wasn’t nice. Every day felt like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. Wake up, take the dogs out, be dad, cook dinner, take the dogs out again, go to sleep, Repeat. Every single day was like this. The only real upsides were my children and spending so much time with them and believe it or not – PE with Joe. I had a focus and something to work with on a daily basis. These 30-minute workouts were getting me through the day, I felt alive again.
But… things were still mentally not good, physically I was getting in the best shape I’ve been in… mentally I was frail. I was struggling and didn’t know what to do.
Things started to ease slightly and then BANG… I was being made redundant due to the end of the governments furlough scheme. A huge blow and this was the last thing I needed. I was low, I was desperate, and I had a family to support. Luckily, I found a new role very quickly, but this involved working from home for 100% of my time. My children and wife were not home as school had returned and I was feeling lower than ever. Every day was still the same, but I was stuck in the same 4 walls by myself every day. Mentally I was done. The thought of doing the same days anymore just didn’t appeal to me.
Luckily, we went back into a national lockdown in January, and I had my children for company again. We found out on New Year’s Eve we are expecting again and that is something to really look forward to. My workouts had gone from strength to strength, and I was now working advanced workout cycles and in February we moved to Minster in Kent to our dream family home. Things were looking a bit better.
On one of my first dog walks I found a poster for a Football Project called Head In the game. This was aimed at men aged between 25-55 and I sat and thought on this for a few days. Early March came and the kids were back to school, my wife was travelling further for work and the days became what felt like a lot longer again. On March 11th I finally thought why not? And registered to attend this Head In The Game project… it was a good few weeks before it would start and I was in good shape so thought why not…
April 12th came round and the first session was upon us. I’d actually decided in the morning of the session that I wasn’t going to attend. I just hadn’t socialised with anyone in so long I was very anxious. I don’t have many friends, and the thought of meeting new people just didn’t appeal to me. My wife told me I should go and it would be good for me to get out of the house…. so off I went. The venue was only a 3 minute walk from my house so I went along. I was met by people from TCFC (The Charitable Football Club) who are associated with the project and they put me at ease immediately.
They started the session (as they do every session) asking the men to score themselves out of 10 as to how we are feeling. I was brutally honest. I’m a 5. I’m stuck at home most of the time, and rarely get out. No judgement, no comments, nothing. Just an appreciation I’d opened up and a well done.
Then the football began. I hadn’t played or trained in a long time. I coach my sons under 9’s team, but this was different… I could play and get involved. We partook in 2 football drills and then had a match to finish the session.
The end of the session arrived, and they asked our scores again. I had gone up to a 9. I was buzzing. Great to be playing football again and man I had missed it!
The next week came, then the next. We even had TV crews coming down to talk to the guys about the project. I was asked to talk to BBC South East news which was a phenomenal honour to do. After this I was asked to become an ambassador for the project which I was delighted to accept and since then I now even coach some sessions. I haven’t missed a single session yet and am loving the impact the project is having on my mentality. I also know this is helping the other participants massively too.
Things haven’t changed massively with regards to my situation. I’m still at home (but not alone as my wife is now on maternity leave), I still have bad days …. but the main difference is I can now talk about and share when I’m feeling down in the HITG led WhatsApp group and the lads are super supportive. I have something to look forward to every Tuesday (and sometimes Thursdays in Maidstone) and I’ve made a group of friends which is something I haven’t ever really had since I hit my 30s.
I’m very grateful this project exists and am very proud to be involved and helping where I can. You don’t need to suffer in silence and this project is a great platform to share your experiences and know you are not alone.
Thank you HITG