Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

This is my motorbike, it’s a Yamaha FZ1, it is a 1000cc engine with 152 bhp and 106.8Nm of torques (whatever that means), but I do know its great.  It will reach speeds of up to 98mph…. in first gear (its got six!).  I enjoy riding it, I like the looks I get when I roll up at the lights, I imagine their faces as I accelerate away leaving them for dust! It makes me feel so manly.

It even fits with my name …Andy…short for Andrew which means ‘manly, brave, strong, courageous and warrior’.  My parents got that right as I left home and pursued a long a fruitful career as a soldier, a proper man’s job.

I suffer with atypical male pattern baldness as a result of the overload of testosterone coursing through my veins. A beautiful bushy beard adorns my chops, my body is embellished with a collection of tattoos from the four corners of the globe. If someone asked you to draw a man, a tough man, I suspect it might look like a cartoon version of me (or maybe Bruce Willis, you choose).

I took the photo of my bike during one of my regular visits to one of my favourite places.  It’s a quiet little car park in the New Forest where I like to sit and spend some time in quiet contemplation.  It hasn’t always been like that though.

The first time I went there, I had no intention of returning.  I had decided that my life was not worth living and that I was becoming a burden to everyone in my life.  A decision that is repeated by men like me around 84 times every week in the UK alone. Thankfully I survived the night and since the morning that I shouldn’t have woken up I have made the decision to never visit that place in my mind again.

Part of that commitment involves telling my story to anyone who will listen; I discovered a way back from the edge, I found a path and discovered tools to help me along the way.  Perhaps the most powerful tool is talking, if something is bothering me I tell someone, if I’m happy, I laugh- if I’m sad I cry.

I have learned that it’s ok to not be ok and that it’s not weak to speak.  If I need help, no matter how small I think it is, that if I ask for help, I will get it. This is where the magic happens, when I follow this advice, I feel better, I feel supported and able to get through whatever fog my brain is enveloped in and thus it starts to look rosy again.

In a journey of a thousand steps- the first one being the most important.

It’s ‘Time to Talk Day’ on Thursday 7 February.

Where ever you are, who ever you’re with, ‘start the conversation’.

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