My Mental Health needs a Regular Debrief

For some reason it has taken me quite some time to decide it is OK to write this post. Not sure why. It is not as if I am revealing anything earth-shattering but on the other hand it still feels a little self-indulgent. I am hopeful that sharing on this particular topic will actually be helpful to others but it is more personal than most of my other posts. Nevertheless what else is a personal blog other than a vehicle to externalise that which dominates the mind  and do so among friends.

So, the purpose of this post is to share with you an experience which has become somewhat of a tradition after all these years. Without it I find that life starts to get out of whack. No, really. Without a regular ‘debrief‘ with my closest mates my mental health starts to suffer. It was only after discussing this with my wife Nicole did I realise how important the ‘debriefs’ were to me but also it was important to her that I have them.

‘Debrief’ is always punctuated as such because my wife and my mates’ wives always have a wry smile when we say we were having a debrief. It represents a not even thinly veiled code for us simply getting together to talk. The tradition of the ‘debrief’ has come about as a result of a renewed commitment to our health and fitness. A re-commitment to exercise was for our physical well-being. Little did we know how much our mental well-being would also benefit from the tradition also.

About four years ago my close friend Sean and I decided to start back at the gym together. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning we workout and then take 30 minutes afterwards to enjoy a coffee and a chat. On Sunday mornings Sean, myself and two other close mates wake at 5.45am and we head to the beach for a surf. We have now started taking our kids with us as they are old enough to handle themselves in the waves. Naturally our surf would not be complete without the mandatory stop for breakfast at our favourite kiosk on North Cronulla beach and the usually 60 minute ‘debrief’ over coffee and the world’s best bacon & egg rolls.

Even if the weather conditions completely prevent us entering the water, we go anyways, choosing to head straight into the debrief agenda which is normally, on these mornings, accentuated by coffee at the start and finish of the ‘debrief’. A rare treat but welcomed especially on the cold winter mornings by the beach.

Frankly, these ‘debriefs’ are necessary for me to function normally. They are a safe environment where mate-ship, shared values as parents, husbands and men are a platform for solving the world’s problems and some of our own. The agenda regularly spans marriage, politics, sport, religion and what we would do if we had the courage to do anything without defaulting on our mortgages.

Being able to share some of the woes I experience at home, at work and in my own head with people I trust implicitly is incredibly liberating and I am truly thankful for the care and support I receive from my mates when I need it. And there is no where else in the world I would rather participate in that counseling than bobbing about in the ocean on a surfboard.

Some mornings we know we are never going to laugh as hard as we do at a ‘debrief’.

I struggle from time to time with the deaths of my parents. I struggle sometimes to be the husband and father I want to be. I struggle sometimes to focus on the work I need to do. I struggle sometimes to be fun for the people most important to me.

Without doubt 99% of any troubles I might experience can be helped by sharing them with Nicole however she and I both know there are just some things best shared with the boys. And that is OK.

There is little doubt in my mind that this tradition of the regular debrief keeps me on track or corrects my path when I stray. Knowing others who struggle with the ills in their world I hope they find their strategy that can help them like the ‘debriefs’ help me.


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