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I’m an actor. I was in the middle of a year-long Shakespeare tour of Germany when Europe’s lockdown began. With borders closing, the prospect of getting stuck a few thousand miles from home was very real. Despite chaos and uncertainty all around, I managed to catch the last flight back to the UK.
I was truly grateful to be home. But I was also back in my childhood bedroom with no clear way of earning a living.
In many ways I was lucky. My parents were happy to have me and incredibly supportive. I kept busy by volunteering, a group of us made over 30,000 pieces of PPE for a local hospital. But in the time away from that I felt pretty useless. I struggled to balance my moods and emotions - the peaks were all-but-gone and the troughs hit new lows.
I’ve always struggled with happiness. As a child I was overly concerned with death and being left alone. As a teen I was sensitive and bullied. As an adult I want to achieve the world but neither have the patience nor commitment to try. Happiness is fleeting. I can’t get a grip of it - it seems to come and go as it pleases.
I’m sure many people can relate to these feelings. Where I differ, I think, is in the relative highs and lows of my swings. If I have a problem it utterly consumes me. If I care about something I’m doing then I’m all in, and the success or failure of that thing defines my success or failure as a human. If it doesn’t turn out well, then I’m the worst kind of failure. Perversely, if I do succeed then I don’t allow myself to enjoy it fully … I just move on to the next thing.
Say a project I’m involved in fails – or better said doesn’t meet my standards of success – I'll plunge into a trough and wonder if I should bother trying again. I’m bereft of both happiness and the energy to go out and find it. Cue a cycle of comfort eating and crippling anxiety which locks me in the trough. Sometimes, I’m left with no choice but to consider the trap door, wondering if the exit is just peace. Peace sounds simple.
When I’m in these troughs I have two modes: in the first I have no energy, no power and everything seems pointless. So I just stay in bed.
In the second, I see clearly that my mood is a product of where I am, so I’ll want to dance or go for a run in a bid to lift me out of my funk. But in my exhaustion, any actions that will take me outside and put me in front of people (who in my mind will do nothing but judge me) feel terrifying … so I never leave my bed.
I want to be satisfied with my life; I want to be happy and see the value in where I am instead of constantly fretting over how I can be better. It’s a good quality to want to be better … but when that causes pain and agitation it’s a recipe for unhappiness.
I also want to be able to relax. I would love to be able, for example, to sit on a beach and do nothing but read. I’d love to have the inner strength to say that’s ok. Instead it feels like dead time. Objectively I know that good books, good people and love are more than enough.
But dissatisfaction with myself is only ever one setback away. Hell, it’s only ever one social media post away. Like many others I compare my inside with other people’s outside and it throws me. I self-punish for not moving, succeeding, or excelling enough … or fast enough.
I hope that the Searching for Health, Wealth & Happiness process will enable me to learn techniques I can turn to when I’m feeling low. Techniques that’ll allow me to be more in control of my happiness; that’ll move me through the funk and back to happiness and productivity.
So I’m really looking forward to getting to know Luke better. I already admire him massively - his ability to keep going; to stay strong; to get up at 5am and run. Luke has used his experience to help thousands of men to talk, be honest and be vulnerable … and I suspect a little peace-of-mind awaits me if I can simply follow his lead.
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