"On to Cincinnati" - Part of my Mental Health journey
In light of the recent World Mental Health day on 10th October, I want to share what has worked for me in terms of my Mental Health journey. It might not work for all, but if so much as one person reads this, takes something from it and benefits from it, then job done.
For those of you not familiar with American Football the title of this Blog and my own journey did not involve a trip to Cincinnati.
On 5th October 2015 the New England Patriots [A team I've supported since American Football coverage hit these shores in the very early 1980's] took a 41-14 hammering at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs on prime time Monday Night Football. It prompted a huge reaction with critics claiming it was the end of the Patriots 'dynasty' and the end for Quarterback Tom Brady equally legendary coach Bill Belichick.
In the post match press conferences, Belichick was repeatedly asked a variety of questions about the defeat and if this was the end for him and Brady.
Belichick fielded each with the same line 'On to Cincinnati'. You can watch a clip of that press conference here:
Four months later that Patriots lifted the Super Bowl having moved 'On to Cincinnati' and their next game and battered them 43-17, then winning 10 of their remaining 12 regular season games, the Divisional Round of the playoffs and a 45-7 rout of the Colts in the AFC Championship Game [The Super Bowl 'semi-final'].
Belichick and Brady each had 3 Superbowl's to their name at the time of the defeat to the Chiefs. Brady now has 7, and Belichick has 6.
Belichick's philosophy is simple; You can't do anything about the past, so focus on that which you can do now and where you can make a difference going forward.
For many who have suffered distress and mental health problems for whatever reason, there is a feeling of entrapment, a sense of being unable to escape the moment or the situation in which you find yourself.
The late great Gerry Rafferty wrote the incredible track 'Get it right next time'. The title is a homage to the same philosophy Belichick adopts, but there is a great line within the song:
"When you're standing at the crossroads, every highway looks the same"
It perfectly summarises that sense of not knowing where to turn, and all too often this leads us to look back, and take the 'highway' to regret. Regret for having made a particular decision or not having made another. Even to the extent that you blame yourself for being a victim of dishonesty or wrongdoing by others.
It is also a highway to self-destruction and to even darker places.
I speak from personal experience. Been to those darkest of places, got the T-Shirts.
Whilst I am far from those darkest of places now, the memory of being there is never far away.
However, it was not Bill or Gerry who introduced me to this way of thinking. As is often the case when times are that tough and you are looking back, you don't see that which is in front of you.
It was my son that saved me, and it's really not an exaggeration to say that. I was in the darkest of places and regret was consuming me. He was 18 at the time. He introduced me to essentially what Bill and Gerry describe, but as an established Philosophy called 'Determinism'. And before you think it, no its not a Religion or a belief system, but a way of thinking and a way of approaching life. I don't subscribe to all aspects of it, but that's rather how to deal with life anyway; Take from something that which works for you.
Essentially, it means there is literally no point in having regret about, or wasting time and energy going over, decisions you took or choices you made in the past. No matter how many times you relive the moment, you would NEVER have made a different decision or choice because all of your knowledge and all of the circumstances that existed at that time will always be the same, meaning the outcome will always have been the same.
It resonated with me, and once I understood that... Life changing. Anyone who knows me knows how driven I am, but when your driving down the wrong highway, that becomes counter productive and incredibly dangerous.
I now waste none of my time regretting decisions of the past, but make no mistake this does not mean I forget about the dishonesty or wrongdoing by others that resulted in damage to me and my family.
Far from it.
If anything, when your energy and effort is focused only on the here, the now and the future, this helps hone the pursuit of justice and remedy.
If you are happy and able to forgive, forget and draw a line under things that have been unfairly done to you, and do so without adverse impact on you, that's fine.
However, if you are like me, that approach will not work. It would eat away at me forever more to know that those responsible had 'got away with it'.
So, how do I adapt that philosophy and approach?
The important lesson for me was that my past was damaged, but not to let my present and my future be consumed and damaged by it as well, and focus only on that which I could do and control now and going forward.
I therefore treat my ongoing pursuit of personal justice as a 'Hobby' if you like. Something that I do in my spare time. This way the past does not adversely impact and infect my present or my future, and does not interfere with my work and my income, and therefore does not adversely impact my family as it was before.
As I said it has been life changing.
It is not easy, but once you can establish such an approach, it becomes easier. You can never forget the past of course and nor should you. You need to recognise what happened, how and why, so as to learn from it.
And when you do, you are much better prepared when you face your next crossroads.
If you face that next crossroads, but have eliminated the option of the highway that sends you backwards, you have increased your chances of taking the right one and moving forward. Simple math, right?
And if you are not looking backwards, you are also more likely to see the signs that help you choose the right highway, or better identify the help you need and that is available to you.
I hope this helps even if only a little.