Doug Belshaw was 38 years old when he, unexpectedly, lost a very good friend in August 2019. It highlighted some longstanding issues for him around stress, anxiety and people pleasing that he had not previously been aware of.
Growing up in an environment where men didn’t talk much about their feelings, Doug had learned to push weakness to one side and blame external circumstances such as stressful jobs. But the sudden death of his friend made him realise he needed a new approach.
He then did what many men won’t – he came to Blue Talking Therapies for some help, which turned out to be eye-opening and transformative for him.
This is his story…
Doug had just arrived in America with his excited family for their summer holiday. As he switched on his phone, he recieved a barrage of messages from different people asking if he was alright. It was only when he called someone back home that he realised what was going on.
“We’d literally just got off the plane when I found out what had happened. I was stunned, I just couldn’t believe it – it turned out my friend had died in his sleep whilst on holiday in the country I’d just arrived in minutes before. It really shocked me; he was such a good friend and we’d been close.”
“I can just remember trying to find a taxi with my family while fighting to hold back the tears. When we arrived at the Airbnb, I pretty much collapsed on the bed. My kids didn’t know what was going on.”
“After a while, I managed to pull myself together thanks to my wife’s support, and we ended up having a great holiday. But when we returned home, it was like going through it all again; I was home, and he was dead. I realised I didn’t know how to cope with him being gone.”
“A mutual friend talked to me about therapy and made it seem like something someone like me could go to. That’s when I decide to do something about it, and I contacted Johnny at Blue Talking Therapies.
“The whole experience was very different to how I expected it to be. I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to be laying on a couch, but Johnny isn’t your stereotypical therapist!”
“He would sometimes refer to his own experiences in our sessions, which really helped me to open up. He showed me a completely different way of seeing my life for the better and being able to see myself as I really am, not what I had wrongly believed I was. That alone has been extremely valuable.
“I had previously tended to want to please people and to want to get positive feedback – I always was quick to apologise even if something wasn’t really my fault. Johnny and I worked on that and I started to test it, not just in therapy, but in the real world to see if people were okay with how I am, rather than the mask I’d put on to the world.
“A big thing he helped me with was sitting in uncertainty – not looking for certainty and control all the time. When I sat with that uncertainty and, in certain circumstances, didn’t apologise because it wasn’t necessary, I learned it was actually fine.
“I was coming up to 40 and although I’ve got a degree in philosophy, I’m a big thinker and can reflect on things – I’d never done this kind of CBT or talking about mental health this way before.
“Before hand, anyone looking at me and my career would’ve thought ‘yes, he’s doing well’ as this underlying, background anxiety had been manageable – I could just turn away and blame something else.
“But this was one of my best friends – I just couldn’t turn away from this and I realised, as I got older, I was going to have to deal with more and more situations that are a big deal.
“Now, I’m a lot calmer and happier than I used to be. When you go to therapy and you learn more about yourself, what you’re about and what you’re not about, what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t – that can have a really positive affect across your life.
“I’m a big advocate of therapy now – men are no strangers to personal trainers for their physical fitness, but they often won’t think about a personal trainer for their mental fitness.
“It really isn’t what you’d expect, and it’s been transformative for me.”
If Doug’s story has resonated and you’d like to chat to us about your situation, please do get in touch.
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