Not that I’m counting, but there are now just 83 days to go until my book “Today, Just Like Yesterday” is published by Trigger Press.
There’s no obvious feeling of excitement as yet, rather an increasing realisation that my mental health experiences (and therefore by definition part of my life story) are about to be shared to a far wider audience that I could ever have imagined. I haven’t yet managed to fully deal with the nervousness – which borders on anxiety at times – caused by both that realisation and the uncertainty about how the book will be received … or maybe how I will be perceived.
What people think of me or my story really shouldn’t matter … but I am all too aware that it does. A lack of confidence or self-worth (or maybe just a desire to be “liked”) is an aspect of many mental health conditions that can weigh particularly heavily. I am trying really hard not to dwell on how people might react, and focus on the positive elements of the process. I’m not there yet, but being able to talk about those worries and anxieties is certainly helping to give some sense of perspective.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m far more comfortable with the content relating to my hundred challenges, but even though these chapters cover a wide range of often seemingly unrelated tasks, they never stray very far from the book’s central theme: it is fine to talk about mental health and equally fine to ask for help if you feel you are struggling.
As far as the overall cycle of diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is concerned, the awareness I am hoping to raise is only a small part – but one that I feel is vital. I would never profess to be an expert in all the different treatments, therapies and services that are available; but for me, talking is the first, the hardest and the biggest step of them all.
The availability or quality of those services will of course become relevant, but the best treatment in the world won’t help someone who doesn’t feel able to talk about how they are feeling, or how much they’re struggling.
So as far as posts, blogs or maybe (if I’m lucky) future talks and presentations are concerned, I’ll be concentrating on exactly the same themes that have driven me since the start of my “challenges” and right through the writing of the book.
There are plenty of people out there whose knowledge of the wider mental health system is far greater than mine; and I’ll leave it up to them to highlight or debate the important or complex issues. At my more simplistic end of the scale, there is still a stigma around mental health that needs to be challenged, and I just want to do whatever I can to raise awareness, and hopefully give even one person the belief and strength to talk…
On Sunday night, Glen Durrant became only the fourth man in the history of the British Darts Organisation to retain the world championship trophy. Glen’s name now sits alongside Eric Bristow, Raymond van Barneveld and Martin Adams, which gives some indication of the scale of his achievement.
The “small margins” that separate success from failure on the dartboard was demonstrated by both finalists, with world ranked no.1 Mark McGeeney surviving a final leg shoot-out with Martin Adams on the opening day of the tournament, and Glen (who was the top seed) battling back from 4-1 down to win a tremendous quarter final against his great friend Jim Williams.
There had been plenty of other nail-biting finishes and memorable matches during the competition; former champion Scott Waites survived a three-set deficit and match darts to overcome Belgium’s Andy Baetens in the quarter final, and the match between doubles partners Jim Williams and Conan Whitehead was a classic; their friendship helping to produce a game of high quality, played in a tremendous spirit.
In fact, there was a lot of on-stage camaraderie on view throughout the competition, the only downside for me being the comments made by Scott Waites shortly after his semi-final exit – seldom have grapes been so sour.
As for the final, well the bookmakers had Glen as a massive odds-on favourite, and even though Glen had triumphed on the Lakeside stage before, it still felt a little strange that the Mark – the world no.1 - should be something like 6/1 (according to the television commentary) in a two-horse race. You just don’t reach that level without being a fine player.
I think we can safely gloss over the first eight sets, which were littered with some good legs, some indifferent finishing, and a 4-4 scoreline that was a fair reflection of how both players were performing. Glen then produced six outstanding legs, to leave him just one set away from the title.
I thought it was all over and I doubt I was the only one, but Mark showed steely resolve under pressure, and as Glen’s doubles failed him, Mark clawed back the deficit and the stage was set for a dramatic final set – only the fourth time this millennium that the final had gone “all the way”.
For the record, the other three 7-6 finals were Scott Mitchell’s defeat of Martin Adams in 2015, Ted Hankey’s second title in 2009 (against Tony O’Shea), and one of the most thrilling finals of them all, Martin Adams overcoming the late Phill Nixon in 2007.
Mark looked confident and broke Glen to lead 2-0, just one leg away from the title, the trophy and a cheque for £100,000. Glen broke back, but in the fourth leg, Mark had three darts to win the match. His first dart was just inside the double 18; his second inside the double 9, and with that, the chance was gone.
Despite some idiot in the crowd calling out when Glen was about to throw, he somehow managed to check out on double 1, a dart that levelled the scores and produced a justifiable demonstrative reaction from the reigning champion.
Having missed numerous doubles during the previous two-and-a-bit sets, Glen picked the best possible time to show his ability and mental strength, closing out the fifth leg with a 149 finish on double 16. Having looked beaten a few minutes earlier, you could almost see the belief return to the man from Grangetown, and he took a big lead in leg number six – only to miss darts at double 12 and then 6 for the title. I can’t imagine how small that double three must have looked when Glen stepped back up to the oche, but the first dart found the centre of the bed and the game was over.
Purely based on averages, this hadn’t been a particularly high quality match, but from the points of view of tension and sheer drama, it was a compelling spectacle and a final that will be long remembered. It was hard not to feel for the runner-up, but Mark was gracious in defeat, and gave an impressive interview when he must have been hurting.
Glen was understandably emotional and, as always, humble – proof if it was needed that nice guys can finish first. Glen has now pledged his future to the BDO and next year he will return and attempt to win a hat-trick of world titles (only Bristow has won three in a row before…).
That will be the last thing on Glen’s mind as he returns to Teesside, along with the trophy that has been his almost constant companion for the past twelve months. Congratulations Glen – a fantastic achievement for a great player and a top bloke.
Imagine spending years of your life training and preparing for one day.
Imagine all the dedication, the determination, the hours of hard work, the travelling, the expense, the highs and lows … and it all comes down to one moment; one chance to produce your absolute best in front of the world’s elite in your chosen sport, an auditorium full of spectators, and millions of people watching around the world.
And then imagine having to produce that performance in just about the same time that it has taken you to read these three paragraphs.
Yesterday, I drove down to Graves Health and Sports Centre to meet someone who did just that…
Prior to the Rio Olympics, Great Britain’s medal haul in trampolining amounted to precisely none at all, but on 12 August 2016, that record was wonderfully broken by Bryony Page, whose silver medal was one of the great achievements and emotive moments of the entire Games.
In just twenty seconds, Bryony (who had qualified in seventh place for the final) gave the performance of her life – a personal best score of 56.040 points – that secured second place behind Canada’s reigning Olympic champion Rosannagh MacLennan, and sparked a release of emotion that I’m not ashamed to say was replicated in my front room.
I absolutely love all things Olympic, and after being lucky enough to spend time in the company of Ann Brightwell (née Packer) who won two medals at Tokyo in 1964 (including gold in the 800m), and meeting Bryony was every bit as much of a pleasure and privilege.
We sat and chatted for two hours and the time just flew by. I was able to ask Bryony about some of the aspects of her medal-winning performance; I was particularly interested in how she was able to block out the nerves, the pressure … anything and everything that might have affected her performance and deliver such an amazing routine. Fascinating stuff, but i can't give too much away in case it damages my own chances of qualifying for Tokyo 2020!
One week after her success, Bryony was in the crowd to watch the women’s hockey squad win gold; I tried really hard not to give away how jealous I was, but I’m not sure I succeeded.
Understandably, Bryony was much in demand on her return home, and away from sporting arena, she took part in Celebrity Mastermind and A Question of Sport. It was nice to be able to share experiences of being on a television quiz show, because we had nothing in common as far as gymnastic ability was concerned – I couldn’t even manage a decent forward somersault,
Bryony wanted to know about some of the challenges I have completed, my efforts to raise mental health awareness, and also about the upcoming book - I was flattered that she had taken the time to find out about some of the tasks. Bryony had actually completed her own series of 100 challenges in 100 days a few years ago – she even managed to rank them in order of enjoyment. That is something I have never attempted (although the rollercoaster ride would be a distant 100th); but it was nice to be able to tell her that I’d actually “borrowed” three for my own list!
The obligatory photos were taken in the room where Bryony does much of her training - a bit too close to the trampolines for comfort – but on the way out, two clearly shy young girls (they can’t have been much older than five or six) came over to congratulate her on her medal. Bryony stopped to talk to both of them, and it was just such a lovely moment.
Bryony is such a naturally charming and engaging young woman, and we talked about so many different subjects, that I had to keep reminding myself that I was in the company of one of the country’s finest athletes. It was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours … like I said earlier, a pleasure and a privilege.
This has been a positive week in respect of my book, which will be published by Trigger Press exactly three months from today.
The manuscript has gone through its final edit and is now winging its merry way to the proof reader and typesetter. The photos I wanted to include have been accepted (even though I’m in most of them), and hopefully I can relax a little now – because I must admit I’ve found the process quite stressful.
It’s difficult enough recalling and reliving past memories, and committing the emotion behind those memories to paper is something that was a constant challenge. There were a couple of occasions when I dipped quite badly; no matter how hard you try to be objective about what you’re writing, there are moments when it really hits home that the words are telling the story of your life. It’s a massive emotional investment and it’s perhaps no surprise that I have questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing.
I suppose the answer will become clear over time, but the biggest reason for writing the book will always be the hope that someone somewhere will read it and recognise something – whether it be in themself, a friend, relative or maybe even a colleague – and find the strength to talk or ask for help.
That said I am conscious that those closest to me, people I love, may find parts of the story tough to read. It took a long time for me to feel strong enough to talk openly about my mental health; but whatever may have happened over the years, it’s down to the love and support of those who mean the most to be that I can now tell a story that may perhaps touch or inspire someone else. In a sense, it’s almost a celebration of my amazing parents and wonderful wife – and the book is dedicated to them, because without them I couldn’t have come this far.
Another thing that I hadn’t fully considered or appreciated was how I would be affected by changes, comments and questions during the editing process. Writing about a difficult period in your life is testing enough without being asked to expand on a certain point, or give greater clarity on just how you were feeling. I became very protective, maybe even defensive at times, which probably didn’t make me the easiest person to work with, but it’s really hard to fully control natural and sometimes quite raw reactions to a totally new situation.
I can also appreciate how toygh the process must have been for Stephanie, my editor. Her job is to mould 60-odd thousand words into a book that fulfils the aims of Trigger Press (and the Shaw Mind Foundation), whilst also being supportive of the author behind the story. What has become clear is Stephanie and her colleagues are blessed with understanding, empathy and care to match their technical skills. It is a positive and powerful combination from which future Trigger Press authors can draw some confidence and comfort…
On a lighter note, this caricature has been designed by Stephanie Smith (https://www.stephssketches.co.uk/) to mark the publication of “Today, Just Like Yesterday”. The idea is that prints will be given away (possibly at the book launch) – just something a little bit different. What do you think?
I think that’s just about all for now, except for the perhaps inevitable plug should you wish to pre-order the book…