Physically fit, thriving career, father to two beautiful children a loving partner and always a smile on my face, most would think I was the picture of health. However, this was not to be the case.
Deciding to push my body to its physical limits completing an Ironman Race in 2019 in aid of Suicide or Survive, highlighted that whilst my physical performance was at its best, the same could not be said for my mental health. Pitch black mornings, torrential rain, hours of empty roads of nothing but fields and sheep travelling across the Wicklow Mountains on my own, with nothing but idle time to reflect, I quickly realised inside my head a battle was brewing.
Training for Ironman challenged me in so many facets of my life. It gave many hours to reflect on my life and where I was at the time. I had thought that my life was perfect and that I had no issues at all, but all those hours alone took me deeper than I had ever gone before. It was a mental journey I could not have foreseen. For me I felt I couldn’t open up to my circle of friends or family, that I had to maintain my manly, father figure to all those close to me. Thankfully there is some amazing professional resources available for those suffering with mental health which was my support.
Engaging with a professional counsellor with the help of my partner led to me beginning to process all of the emotions and issues which surfaced during my Ironman training and trying to better understand myself. Currently I am in the early stages of this mission and I am learning new lessons and coping mechanisms from my sessions every time I engage. To anyone who is considering engaging with a professional service I would advise you to not double think it. It is by no means an easy process and it is very hard to face some of your personal issues, but it is a process which I have committed to.
By discussing my journey with you I want to share that what goes on in our heads mentally is as important to care about as our physical bodies. While I was unaware of the mental challenges I would face let alone the physical challenges of Ironman, I knew that I was lucky and blessed to be in a position to talk to a professional and seek help, twice every month, as a way of achieving this mental and physical balance.
To the people who made it all possible, Suicide or Survive. One thing I was not prepared for was the reaction to my fundraising for SOS. When I started my fundraising page and went live with my Ironman challenge the reaction was nothing I could have expected. I had private mails from people I didn’t know, some very personal, of people telling me how SOS had changed their lives for the better
I still cannot forget the support SOS gave me and still give me to this day and so in 2020 a group of twenty like-minded people who want to make a difference have created “20-4-20 Challenge.” The challenge is to complete 20,000km as a group, to raise as much funds as possible to enable SOS to run suicide prevention and mental health workshops in communities. The goal of these workshops it to give people like me the tools to recognise when they need to ask for help, and to ask for that help.
With the tool’s SOS provide through these workshops, SOS can help people like me and you to understand that it is okay if you need help, and it is okay to talk to someone.
– John Blake