Members, supporters, fellow dads in the struggle reading this from wherever you are. It's been a while since you've heard from us. Our apologies on that. This pandemic sure is a heck of a thing, isn't it?
We have spent the last 22 months in the midst of something our world has not seen in just over 100 years.
It's been hard. Really hard. In the interest of public health, measures from experts have required us to take as much of this burden on individually as we can manage. And we're doing it. We are listening to the experts and doing what needs to be done to keep ourselves and our families safe and well.
Today is a perfect day for myself, as the President and Co-Founder of Dad Club London to admit that it's been hard.
That life in general is hard enough, that life as a dad has so much additional pressure and need placed upon us, and that it's okay to wonder if you're fucking this up.
It's okay to not relate to others pronouncements of their own ability to "crush it", "own the day", or any of the other catch phrases Gary Vee and his ilk scream at you through 'hustle culture' social media posts.
It's okay to not have posts about you travelling and cashing cheques and living your best life on this cold dreary January day in 2022.
It's okay to be currently second guessing if you're doing this wrong based on the selective information others have shared with you about their own lives.
It's okay to not be okay. I'm not always okay. Often I can be far from it. But I'm doing my best and making it work. And I see you all out there doing your best as well. You're making it work too. And it can and will always get better.
For those who don't know, the Coles Notes about me are that I had a very difficult childhood. The major boxes, I check them all. The three major types of abuse, plus neglect. Not a good combo according to all of the research out there about childhood and development ever. A therapist recently told me that I had the worst childhood he had heard of in his 30 years on the job, and that I was supposed to be in jail. That's a lot to fit on a plaque, huh?
It took a long time for me to figure this out. We are talking until my mid 30s and becoming a dad. According to my family doctor, and confirmed by my therapists, a product of that upbringing is that I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. GAD is a continuum, and can range and vary depending on day, time, and what you are experiencing. At the time I was diagnosed, the scale used was 0-21, and more than 10 was considered severe. That day, I scored a 19. I was immediately written off work for six weeks, and started a combination of therapy, medication, relaxation and self management/wellness techniques, and removing stressors from my life. Six weeks later, I retook the test and scored a 3.
Since then, I have gotten off medication after 18 months because I didn't like the side effects compared to its performance, and I've continued to try to do my best to self-manage my condition and make the most of every day despite the challenges I faced and do face.
Medication made me feel "off" as opposed to "better", but I still recommend everyone who might feel anxious, nervous, worried, overwhelmed, low, scared, irritable, or anything else that is causing you to struggle to talk to your doctor and to come up with a plan together and to give it your best effort based on what they think will work best for you specifically. I try to exercise every single day, vigorously, for at least 30 minutes. Sleep is important for me, but with working from home and everything being closed or cancelled and trying to keep everyone safe during COVID, sleep is sometimes something I forego in exchange for alone time to do things I like to do when everyone else is asleep. It's a fine balance to maintain when your kids are so young, yourself and your partner are so different, and you're always trying to keep quality time with everyone as a priority.
I try to eat clean as often as possible, meditate (Calm app = great), and journal (Day One app, Five Minute Journal app) as often as I can find the time.
I also try to manage external stressors. Summer and Fall 2021 weren't bad, as things were relatively normal, COVID counts were low, and kids had friends and activities and things that they looked forward to as kids. Come Omicron and cold weather and everything fell apart again. Some personal conflict with people who I thought had my back when I was struggling came to the forefront, and that made for some hard times. I've tried to move forward and make the most of 2022 by focusing on my family and my closest friends, and blocking out the external triggers. The people who want to have conflict. Doom Scrolling. Never ending bad news. Pessimists. Naysayers. All those things that contribute to low mood. I'm a fixer, and I naturally try to protect everyone whom needs protecting, and fix everything that needs to be fixed. I have to try to be realistic in my urge to be the hero in everyone else's movie, and more often be the hero of my own. It's paid dividends as of recent to be less available to random folks and more focused on the here and now. I have yet to win a single round of Sorry or Monopoly Junior or CandyLand, and that's okay. My kids don't want this smoke when it comes to Mario Kart and I'm still undefeated heavyweight champion of the world in Royal Rumble.
Normal life will return. My three young kids are weeks away from full immunity when it comes to COVID, and I'm going to make the most of the time we have together.
This brings me to my point of this post, on today of all days.
Mental health matters every single day of your life. I experienced things as a kid no one should experience. I knew my experiences were different from everyone else's, and in many ways I always felt like an outsider.
It was empowering to finally admit to my doctor that something was wrong, and finally get the quantifiable answers that I always needed and the hope that came with them. Being in a position to share my message and my history with people who will read it and hopefully take encouragement from it is not something I take likely. I'm generally a quiet, everything-is-fine type, but I am also happy to be open and vulnerable if there is power and purpose behind it. Today and every day, dads out there who are having a hard time, feeling isolated, alone, frustrated, down, worried - you're not alone. You don't matter just today on a day where a Canadian telecom company will give 5 cents every time someone mentions their name on social media. You matter every second you're on this earth. You're not broken, you're not damaged goods, you're important and valuable and special. You have a home here in our society, and dads and dads-to-be in this region who are struggling have a home in our organization as well. Our mission is to create better dads, a stronger community, and a brighter future for our kids. We create better dads by sharing our stories and supporting each other when we are succeeding and when we also don't feel like we are succeeding too. We create a stronger community by supporting those out there who need the help, and those out there doing the work to help them. We hit $162,000 this past year in financial supports to those who deserve them in the areas of health, children, women, poverty, and marginalized folks.
Because we care. And we are all in this together. Today and every day. Let's talk, anytime. Feel free to reach out @dadclublondon on twitter and instagram, through our public Facebook page, or via email at info (at) dadclublondon.com if you want to chat with myself, or with a peer in similar circumstances. If you need some specific help, we can assess if we can offer it or connect you to it.
In normal times, we offer over 100 events a year to connect dads, their kids, and their families in person. In a multitude of ways that provide value to every personality type. We are all pretty burnt out on Zoom at this point, but these programs and events will come back. Bigger and better than ever.
As I write this, a Social Worker and a Therapist who are members of our organization are working on a plan for mental health programming for 2022 for dads specifically. We are excited to see what they come up with. We are part of the solution, as a team and as a family of fathers. Today and every day.