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WELLBEING

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Issues around mental health are such a puzzle. Especially with middle aged men.

84 men kill themselves each week in the UK. 12 every day. A 2017 Samaritans report revealed 6,639 suicides in the UK and the Republic of Ireland in 2015. 4,997 (75%) were men. The highest rates of suicide were in the 40 – 44 age band.

Anti Depressants

I was on anti depressants about 8 years ago when I was 42. For a day or two. Then I stopped. I decided to see how I’d do with just counselling because the medication caused me to have an immediate and dramatic dip. After a couple of months, the storm – and the issues (all my fault) that were the catalyst for the storm – passed.

Told You So

During that time however, I’d occasionally drive stupidly. So irresponsible and cowardly was I that I actually entertained the idea that dying in a car crash would be the most balanced and ‘right’ solution for me. ‘Right’ because, if it happened, it was fate playing a part. This allowed me to take no responsibility at all for my own life. Or anyone else’s.

Neat!

So if I’d have died, my shitty view of myself would have been verified in no uncertain terms.

“‘Told you I was worthless. I’m dead.”

Look Closer

I have no idea what to do about the depression and suicide problem. Asking people how they are is too simple. It may be part of the solution but it’s not the full story.

When I was depressed I was highly skilled in radiating OK-ness when, behind my eyes, I was – from time to time – totally indifferent about being here at all. So much so that the gap between me smiling and saying I was OK, and not being here, could have been literally seconds. I could have been whistling as I exited.

This kind of thing seems impossible to fathom. I don’t know what to do about it. Trying to look closer – to see behind a person’s eyes to the truth – I don’t know how you do that.

But if I sense that anyone is troubled, I do intend to try.

The image at the top of this story is, I admit, rather dramatic. However it is a good indication of how quickly I and many others would swing from one extreme to another. Seconds.

In the time it takes you to spin it and read it upside down – I’d have changed.

I will keep writing these stories for 10 years. Every day. So that’s about 3,650 stories in total.

I’m chronicling all of my 50s, unfiltered. I am trying to inspire you to do good things and not do lazy or stupid things. Normally by pointing out how stupid I’ve been so you can develop avoidance strategies or how, occasionally, I did OK so you can copy.

The only thing that might get in the way of me working my way through my 50s and my promise to write to you every day is if I become dead. There is a 30% chance of this happening. About 70% of men in the UK get to the age of 60 and about 30% don’t.  So even though I plan to be part of the majority, I may not be.

Therefore, if for whatever reason I become dead before July 26th 2028, I wanted to point out the rules of this website for you today.

THE RULES OF 50odd.co.uk

  1. If any of my chatter inspires you to make positive change of any kind – at any point – and I suddenly end up dead before the end of this 10 year project, the value I have added to your life is still valid currency. So if you say (something like), “Oooh, he died so I’ll not bother making an effort any more,” this is cowardly and stupid. So I’ll not allow you to get away with that. If you do take this cowardly and stupid direction I will haunt you from my dead place and cast a spell that will make you wet the bed. Forever.
  2. If I do end up dead before completing my 3,650 stories, Lisa will pin this story to the top of the blog for ever and trigger it to be sent to you, every day. So anyone (including you) that uses my sudden and early demise as an excuse for not embracing life fully will be reminded every day that you were doing great. So keep going.
  3. If you are by some quirk inspired to do positive things because of anything you read here, please remember you are doing it for you – not me – so whether I am alive or dead it doesn’t matter. Continue to treat yourself and other people well, push yourself, chase your dreams and please refer back to my tales of insecurity, inadequacy and the occasional success with a smile.
  4. And finally, please pass 50odd.co.uk on.  I’d consider as little as 100 stories (so about 3 months) to be a useful catalogue of tales. So if you know any other people that might benefit from my rhetoric, tell them about this website. You and they can sign up here to receive the stories that I write when I am alive, to your inbox, every day.  And as I am alive at the moment, you can act on this one immediately.

Thank you for reading.

If I am not dead tomorrow, I’ll write some more.

You open your eyes and it’s a beautiful morning. 

As you lie there alone, staring at the ceiling, you think about who you might meet today. Who you might come face-to-face with. It’s exciting thinking like this. The idea of it makes your heart beat faster. It makes you smile.

The Window

Once you’re downstairs – you go to the window and peer out into the world. You see lots of wonderful people really clearly. You stand there, scanning the new faces.

There are so many people you could meet. That you could chat to. That you could be with. Or learn from. People that could teach you about themselves and, better still, about yourself. It’s amazing that you could change their lives and they could change yours.

You stand there for hours, dizzy with the possibility of it all.

The Mirror

It’s evening now and the sun is lower in the sky.  You’ve not moved from your window all day. You’re still excited at the thought of all those people  you could meet, stand toe-to-toe with and look in the eye.

But as the sun inevitably sets, you realise that your window is no longer a window at all. It is dark outside. And your window has become a mirror.

And the only person you’re looking in the eye – is you.

Go Outside 

When I closed my businesses four years ago,  I disappeared for a bit. I was frightened to go out and meet people – old and new. They were bound to ask me what I was doing. And why I was doing it. And none of that was clear. So I hid.

Eventually, I got myself back out there. I stopped looking through the window.

And it’s great.

Since starting 50odd I have chatted to a few people about their fear of either getting back out there or pushing themselves to do more or to be more. They are not sure where their fear came from. Or, in most cases, what they’re frightened of.

I just wanted to say that, in my experience, most people out there are really quite nice and will help you.

So if you’re stuck, go outside. Look for the good people. They will help you. And be open the the possibility that – because you are a good person too – they may already be looking for you.

This little story was inspired by my friend Pete Zulu.

If you get to the end of this story with raised spirits and optimism, then don’t change anything, that’s a real shame.

There will be things in the way of you acting on what I am about to say. So please move them out of the way. Queuejump. This is important.

What’s Happening?

If you are a guy in your 50s, this is happening to you – today:

  1. Your muscles are weakening and stiffening.
  2. You are about 54% water. 10 years ago you were about 61%.
  3. You have less *testosterone because it’s more quickly used up repairing muscles and tissue.
  4. You are increasingly susceptible to depression, memory loss and anxiety.

What to do about it – today.

Listen. This is a friend talking. Do all of these things please – today.

  1. Two things.
    1. First, get off your fat arse and do something that makes you breathless for  20 minutes, 5 times a week. (So OK, you can start tomorrow if you like).
    2. Second, find a photo of a guy of a similar age to you, with a body shape you desire, and work towards it. How? Speak to someone like Spencer from Storm Fitness. Make sure that, like Spencer, they are expert, generous and genuinely interested in you.
  2. Drink 4 litres of water every day.
  3. Exercise and address what you eat and drink. Find your Spencer (see 1) and tell him or her that you want to address testosterone reduction.
  4. Two things.
    1. Accept and reframe. Moan about not being able to run as fast or as far as you could at 20 if you like. That won’t change it though. Alternatively, focus on what you can do. I was most toned at 29. I remember. I have a goal of beating how I felt and looked back then, in my 50’s. Some people think I’m stupid having this goal, so it’s a bloody good job I don’t give a shit what they think, isn’t it? (And I never asked for their opinion anyway, come to think of it).
    2. Talk about how you feel. Others feel it too. I get down, forget stuff and get anxious. Loads of people like us do. So talk to me or them. I’m listening (michael@50odd.co.uk).

Queuejumper

I know you’re busy but please, jump the queue.

I know for a fact that you have read this next bit before. Every time you’ve been on a plane:

“In case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks above your seat will deploy, please place the mask on yourself first and then assist your child or other passengers”

Look after yourself first. You’re important.

Then help the other passengers on your journey. Your children, other people’s children, your wife, your husband, your friends. Be your best you. And do whatever you can so you stick around for as long as you can.

They need you.

*Testosterone enhances libido, bone mass, muscle mass and strength, red blood production, sperm production and helps better fat distribution.

50odd.co.uk is one week old today.

It’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. For me that is. I don’t know how it is for you yet. I still have to work out exactly what it is. But I will.

Anyhow,  early indications are that at least some people like it. People I know, or people that are one or two steps away from people that I know, have said nice things to me about this online diary.

Two Surprises

There are two things that have taken me by surprise though.

Firstly, a general consensus amongst the nice comments is that I have some how ‘got my shit together’ as I enter this new decade, that I am doing well and that I am not at all afraid by what I am doing with Always Wear Red.

This, for the avoidance of doubt, is not true.

I swing from (literally) paralysed with fear and uncertainty, to elated because of the delivery of value and excellence. Always Wear Red is a purpose-driven brand . It makes a promise. I created it to change the behaviour of the wearer. And when I learn this has happened I am high. Like, heroin high. Even though heroin is one drug I haven’t tried. But you know whet I mean.

Secondly, 50 is a really significant milestone for a lot of men that have contacted me. It’s surprised me. And I think I know why it’s so significant.

Death.

The 85%

About 85% of all 50 year old men in the UK (that includes you if you are one and are reading this) are really, really lucky. They can choose what hitting 50 means to them.

Generally, it’s one of two things:

  1. A decade in which you can excel. Do your best work – ever. Give back. Make a difference. Do it for you. Spread joy. Share. Use your accrued experience and cleverness for good. Give people your time and help them, for free. Be generous. Stop measuring yourself against other people. Stop listening to what everyone’s telling you you should do – and do only what you must.
    OR
  2. A decade when you can start to get your house in order and generally go about preparing for your impending death.

So make a choice. If you can. And if you are finding this kind of decision making hard, please drop me a line at michael@50odd.co.uk and I will try to help you. Or comment below.

And by the way, if you are a 50odd year old man pondering which decision to make, you are one of the very privileged 85% that are in a position to decide.

The other 15% are dead.

Photo: Taken by me at Do10.

If a man lives for 1,000 months, he will die aged 83 years. That’s about 3 years longer than the UK average in 2017.

Oh.

600 Months.

I launched 50odd when I had reached 600 months. That’s 50 years.

When I was in my 20’s, I imagined 50 meant ‘nearly dead’. It certainly meant ‘slower’.  And (I imagined) a continual forensic calculation and of what one had accumulated. Pondering whether it was in fact enough to ‘see me through’ to – whatever. Retirement. Death. Or worse still – cruises.

I now see this kind of stocktaking as quite boring. And pointless.

But more than that, a bit selfish, too.

We live in a world where 50% of everything is owned by 1% of everyone. By some calculations, if this wealth was redistributed then even at the current rate of population growth, no one in the world would go hungry for over 500 years.

9 million people will die of hunger in 2018.

Purpose

Anyhow, all that jolliness aside, I’ve decided to see what I can achieve whilst 50odd.

I’ve prepared already. I’ve started a business with a purpose and I have a baby to inspire every single day.

I’ll let you know how my 1,200 months go. The ups. The downs. The everything.

So if you’re a 50odd year old guy, or if you plan to be one day, or if you used to be one and want to measure what a mess I  make against what a mess you made, stick around.

I start my journey today.