‘I wore a mask’ – one Leyland man’s journey to opening up about mental health

Posted on - 10th October, 2020 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Charities, Health, Lostock Hall, People, Preston News
Bob with his family
Bob with his family

A Leyland man is speaking out about his struggles with mental health.

Husband and father-of-three Bob Flood says opening up to family and friends has helped him manage his anxiety and depression.

Now, as a Movember Ambassador, Bob is spreading the message that talking about mental health is key to being well.

Read more: How a Ribbleton community garden is supporting men with anxiety, depression and loneliness

It’s just over eight years since Bob, 39, first confided in his wife Becky that he wasn’t feeling himself.

Bob said: “I’ve struggled for most of my adult life with anxiety and depression. It peaked before our first child was born. I was working hard and doing long hours. I was dealing with the thought of becoming a parent, and how I’d manage to be the best dad I could be. Everything was getting on top of me and I wasn’t in a good place. I was down and impatient, and whenever I got home from work I just wanted to be on my own.

“Fortunately I could tell Becky I wasn’t feeling myself. Once I did it was a massive relief and a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Becky, who is from Lostock Hall, said: “When Bob told me what was going on, I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do or how to help. But it was a consistent theme of Bob coming home and not being himself. He was taking it out on me when he was feeling down, so I recommended he went to see the doctor.”

Bob with wife Becky - she said she felt "helpless" when she found out Bob was struggling
Bob with wife Becky – she said she felt “helpless” when she found out Bob was struggling

Bob followed Becky’s advice and was given a 12-month course of anti-depressants. He says he was lucky to access talking therapy through the NHS. However it would be years before Bob fully opened up to those close to him.

“Nobody other than Becky knew at that time. It took me six months before I could tell anyone else, and then I told my best mate I wasn’t feeling too good.

“I wanted to tell people, but I was someone you’d never expect to be anxious or depressed. On the face of it, everything was okay. I had a good job and fantastic wife, parents and friends.

“I’d go for a night out and play football on a Sunday morning. I would be feeling terrible and nobody would know. It was isolating and lonely. It felt like putting on a mask because I wasn’t the happy person I was portraying.

“I thought if I was to say ‘I’ve got a house, a job, we’re expecting a child – and by the way I’m depressed’ then people would say ‘Why?’. It was an added pressure thinking people wouldn’t understand, but you should be able to say ‘This isn’t me’. Sometimes you don’t have to have a reason.”

Bob, who is originally from Reading, gradually told more people about his mental health, but it was seven years before he confided in his parents.

“My mum and dad are from Ireland and they moved back there when I was 18. I chose to stay in Reading. Looking back, it was then when things started getting on top of me, but at that age you don’t think about anxiety and depression until it’s too late.

“I only told my mum and dad just before I became a Movember Ambassador two years ago. I kept quiet because they’d been going through a tough time and I didn’t want to put added pressure on them. As much as I loved going to visit, I would have to put my mask on around them. In hindsight I should have told them sooner.”

Although he only recently became an Ambassador, Bob is in his 12th year of supporting Movember.

Bob with his moustache
Bob with his moustache

“In the beginning my friend Adam and I would grow moustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues. As time went on, I realised it was something that had directly affected me more than I originally thought, and I started doing more to raise funds and awareness.

“Mental health never goes away. I can speak openly about it now through the things I’ve done with Movember. The campaigns and sponsorship challenges make it easier to talk to people about it. I’ve really been able to open up to people I know and people I don’t know.

“This year it’s been more important than ever to speak out, because there is forced isolation meaning people can’t meet up with their mates and do what they would normally do for their release.

“I’ve had a moustache for most of lockdown – much to Becky’s dismay – and I started campaigning in March rather than September as I knew other people would be struggling without physical contact.

“For me, swimming has been a big way to manage my mental health. I’ve completed various open water swimming challenges for Movember, but with pools being closed during lockdown I got a bike and have been cycling instead. I’ve been getting out at 6am before work. It’s time to myself to have a think, which is important when you have a busy life.”

Bob with his family after an open water swimming challenge
Bob with his family after an open water swimming challenge

Bob and Becky are both keen advocates for exercise as a way to help mental wellbeing.

Becky said: “It’s about taking time for yourself through exercise, even just getting out of the house once a day for a walk. It gives you time to take a breather from life and clear your mind. My exercise isn’t as vigorous as Bob’s, but even for someone not as sporty, a 30 minute walk makes everything easier to handle.”

Read more: Preston charity urges city to ‘Walk the Lights’ in support bubbles this year

Bob is now walking the talk by aiming to cover 200km this Movember to raise funds and awareness. He’s also starting regular socially-distanced walks in Preston as part of the Walk&Talk4Men initiative.

“I want people to know Movember isn’t just about growing a moustache; there are other ways to get involved including Move for Movember and Host a Mo-ment.

“If you do want to grow a moustache, then this year’s could be the most important mo you’ll ever grow. Suicide rates are on the increase, and three-quarters of them are men, so it’s even more important now to come together and change the face of men’s health.”

To find out more and get involved, visit the Movember website.

Read moreSee the latest Preston news and headlines

What do you think of Bob’s story? Will you be doing anything to raise awareness of men’s health? Let us know in the comments.

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