Coaching has become my passion and my purpose. The journey has been long but I’ve learned so much and met so many incredible people along the way. Here's my story...
My story is not unique or unusual, I’ve heard versions of it told by many of the men I’ve supported. It’s always variations on the theme of disconnect and emotional isolation.
I hit rock bottom when I became a dad. I just wasn’t prepared. Instead of being lit up with love I was burnt out. My marriage was suffering and my mental health was in free-fall.
I felt worthless, depressed, completely unequipped to be a dad. I was confused, bewildered and broken. So much of my energy went into stopping myself from running away. I wanted to hide from my responsibility. I was in therapy and counselling but nothing was working. If anything it was compounding the isolation. The problem was in my head. I was in my head. I was the problem. I was the problem, I was the problem, I was the problem. The problem was spinning around in my head, drowning me at the bottom of a hole I’d dug for myself and I couldn’t catch my breath or make sense of anything.
Behind the therapist’s closed doors I felt even more isolated. A bad dad, a failed ineffectual man who needed a therapist to tell him how to do the most natural job a man can do.
I wanted out, I wanted respite, freedom, release. I was approaching the precipice, ready to take my own life.
I will always feel indebted to whichever friend suggested breathwork. I wish I could remember where the suggestion came from. I suppose it makes sense. In professional sports when a technique holds you back you train it with a specialist coach. I couldn’t breathe, I was choking and drowning all at once so maybe breathwork was an obvious solution but it didn’t feel obvious at the time. Far from it. How do you breathe your way to freedom? I went on a whim.
Something massive shifted. The session lifted me out of my head like a jail break. I was laughing and sobbing. Suddenly I could see hope. I felt hope. I could see how to start climbing out of the hole.
I started to travel and dig into other healing practices. I experienced plant medicines, leant into meditation practices, music, dance, trying every modality I could find. In the course of my exploration I finally realised the missing piece to the puzzle. Menswork.
Suicide is the terminal symptom of despair. As the statistics stand today 77% of all deaths by suicides in the uk are men and 92% of those men who ended their lives were in active therapy.
This suggests that therapy on its own isn’t working for men.
What we need as men is community, brotherhood and accountability to take what we do in therapeutic spaces and put it into action in more impactful ways that create real change in our lives.
This is what I do. This is what we do with Mantra Menswork.
As I healed men in my community noticed and began to ask what I was doing. They could see that something had changed. When our behaviour is out of alignment with our personal truth our character gives off an unpleasant stink and makes an uncomfortable, annoying noise like a buzzing mosquito. Everyone who comes into contact with us feels a little uncomfortable. IN contrast, when we speak and act in accordance with our authentic self we vibrate pleasantly. Just a wee bit. We give off some kind of happy harmonics that make the people around us feel at peace. I’d found that peaceful sweet spot.
I organised little group sessions. Guys would ask for help and we’d meet for walks and coffee. Together we created spaces for men to express and explore themselves and challenge the limiting beliefs that were smothering their lives. Healing my own pain was an education and I was using what I’d learnt to hold and support other men.
This made me feel more fulfilled than at any other time in my life. A deep rooted gift for helping people to access their truth and authentic expression had been activated.
At this point my father developed terminal cancer and everything shifted. He was given three years to live and I realised that in the previous three decades we had barely gotten to know each other. He’s a very traditional working class, Scottish Highland man. There was a chunk of my childhood where dad worked hard, 7 days a week, from dawn ‘til dusk, to provide for us but rarely got to spend any time with us.
I couldn’t let him go without us connecting as father and son. I couldn’t be that kind of father to my new baby. I needed to take a different path. I needed to be present in the lives of the people I loved.
I left my council job to retrain as a transformational life coach specialising in conscious sexuality and menswork facilitation, blending this new learning with all of my experience from professional sports to create Mantra Menswork.
Mantra is heart led. We're shaping and curating world class experiences for men who want to heal, grow and transform, to be better friends, lovers and fathers.
It is our mission to pave the way for the new men of our world to emerge in society. To provide proper rights of passage and initiation into manhood and beyond.
This retreat is a transformational experience for men to work on their own self development and get the tools they need to show up better at work, home and in their communities. It's a space for them to explore themselves fully, share openly and create the change they want to see in their lives. We support men to live more authentic and fulfilling lives.
I now have 3 beautiful kids who are growing up with a fully present father, not someone lacking in purpose repeating that familiar cycle of dad deprivation known to be correlates to the global male suicide epidemic.
I’ve always been connected to my emotions like this. I’ve always been happy to go deep, get below the surface and call men out with emotional strength and accountability. I grew up in rural Scottish highlands with a loving but absent father and little access to a strong social setting where mature masculinity was modelled. These traits were in me but there was nowhere for me to learn how to let them out.
My first career was in professional sport, I competed internationally for Great Britain in Judo.
Despite it's reputation as The Gentle Way, Judo can be a hyper masculine, aggressive and coercive environment. The Martial arts and combat sports world can’t really hold space for vulnerability.
To make things worse, on the weekends I’d work as a doorman surrounded by what is commonly referred to as toxic masculinity. I was constantly on my guard, unable to find people with whom I could be 100% myself.
I felt disconnected, alone, lost and isolated.
Although the details vary, many men share this story: father’s either absent or focused solely on being the breadwinner, home late for dinner at best, misaligned career paths where fitting some cultural template takes precedence over happiness.
Masculine culture in the west lacks purpose and faces epidemic levels of confused isolation and stunted emotional maturity which has led to this massive rise in the number of male suicides over the last decade.
Every minute of every day, somewhere in the world, 1 man takes his own life.
In the time I’ve been talking that’s your whole table of mates in the pub. [look at watch] It’s a five aside team if you allow for a couple of subs.
This has become an almost incomprehensible heartbreaking fact of modern living.
Men are struggling. Men are lost. Men are damaged. The harm inflicted by patriarchal structures in our society hits men first. Our culture straightjackets a narrow expression of what it means to be a man. We’re encouraged to tie down, repress, suppress, and hold back any parts of ourselves that doesn’t fit with identikit masculinity.
Hurt people hurt people and the damage echoes out through society.
Although more women attempt suicide, by a small fraction, men in the UK succeed in taking their own lives at a rate 4 x times higher than that of women. This dubious success speaks volumes.
Remember more than 90% of those men were actively seeking help in traditional therapy.
Those one to one therapeutic routes can't get us where we need to be on their own.
The problem comes from an isolation problem. It won't be solved by taking individuals behind closed doors.
We need to do something different.
I’ve been there, I’m one of the lucky ones. I chanced on community solutions that worked and now I want to create the change. I want to make meaningful connection commonplace and normal. I want to rebuild community and brotherhood. I want to support men so we never feel isolated and lost.
Life will always throw spanners into our emotional works. Misfortune is inevitable and often unavoidable but isolation needn’t be. When we build strong bonds and supportive community we can be sure that someone we trust will be there with us to pick us up and guide us out of the darkness and show us the way home.
I care. I know how to help. I am here for men who want to make a change.
Men can change.
It’s been time for a long time.