Positive ways to deal with life’s challenges – by Heads Above the Waves (HATW)
December 24, 2020
Meet Si Martin, Managing Director of ‘Heads Above the Waves’ (HATW), a non-profit organisation that exists to raise awareness of self-harm and depression in young people.
HATW Si’s passion is to make younger people feel good about themselves because he believes everyone should. Here he shares what’s helped him cope with his own difficulties over the years, with the hope of encouraging your children to realise the power of what makes them, them – and how they can use these things to support their mental health.
Hello person on the internet reading this. My name’s Si and I’m the Managing Director of Heads Above the Waves (HATW).
I’m here today to remind you that we are capable of so much more than we realise. And I figure the best way to do that is to let you get to know me a bit better.
I’m a drummer. I love video games (I’m a PlayStation boy, sorry Xbox fans). I love hot drinks. And I struggled with self-harm for a lot of my teenage years.
I left that last point ’til last on purpose because it doesn’t define me. And whatever challenges your child is facing; they don’t define them either. But it is relevant to the story, and it’s important that we talk openly about it. That’s kinda what HATW is all about. There’s more of an explanation about HATW here on this video.
Throughout my years at high school, I got bullied quite badly, and I always struggled with the feeling that I was being misunderstood. People judging me without getting to know me (and then picking on me for it). Or the idea that I’m not expressing myself clearly. Long story short, it led me down this path of trying to deal with it in an unhealthy way. I hit some super low points. But I came through it. And that’s, in part, because of those facts about me that I’ve just shared. So let’s break them down.
Drumming saved me
That’s not an exaggeration. You see, I’d been having drum lessons since I was 11. But I’d never really considered the idea that something I was learning for fun could be something that would help me deal with life better.
There was one day where I’d been having a really bad day in school. For some reason, I came home and thrashed my drum kit, instead of taking it out on myself like I usually would have. While the neighbours probably weren’t too thrilled, it was great for me. It was a chance to get out all that built up anger and frustration that I was feeling from being bullied. And it was a way to express myself, and all the hurt that I was feeling, in a very real way.
To this day, I use playing drums to help manage my mental health. If I’m feeling anxious, I’m always tapping rhythms on my knees or the desk. If I catch myself overthinking, I’ll work on playing something tricky that requires my full concentration. Sometimes you’re doing 4 different things with 4 different limbs, which doesn’t leave much brain space for overthinking. Or if I’m just feeling angry, I’ll just hit all the drums in front of me as hard and as fast as I can, and it makes me feel better.
I’ve gone into it in a bit more detail on the HATW website. Read it here!
Video games to keep me sane
Man. I played SO many video games as a kid. Long before Twitch and live streaming were a thing. It wasn’t about sharing it with the world. If anything, video games were – and still are to be fair – a way to escape from the real world for a bit.
I enjoyed the challenges of solving puzzles in games, exploring totally different worlds, and having some time that was just for me.
There are a bunch of studies out there about the benefits to your mental health that come from playing video games. And I’m inclined to agree!
Playing 2 player games with my dad was always a treat too. Not just because he could beat the tricky levels that I got stuck on. But it was a shared experience that we could talk about and bond over.
In more recent years, I’ve taken to playing games online, and I’ve reconnected with old friends thanks to playing games online. I’ve even made new friends by playing with friends of friends. Obviously, you need to be careful about who your child connects with online, and the content of some games. But done safely, it’s been a fantastic way to communicate with people – particularly during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020.
And my time with the PlayStation is still a chance for me to give my overactive brain a bit of a break, while still giving it small puzzles/challenges to work through.
Hot drinks to warm the soul
Now.. bear with me here. I’m gonna type 2 words that might be controversial: warm milkshake.
I’m still yet to meet anyone else who enjoys a warm milkshake, but this was my favourite. It was my daily ritual when I got home from school. I guess I’d always had warm milk when I was really small, and so there was something really comforting about coming home and enjoying something so familiar.
But it was more than that.
My mum would make me a warm milkshake when I got home, and we’d talk. Sometimes about the heavy stuff, I was facing in my life. And sometimes just random stuff. Bless my mum for listening to me explain all about why I loved certain bands and drummers. But whatever we were talking about, it was a time when I was heard and could express myself. And get things off my chest.
Fast forward to uni, and every time there was an issue facing someone in our house, we’d get the kettle on. I’ve lost track of how many cups of tea we got through while sharing how we were feeling, and being there for each other. But every time we’d have a chat about something heavy, it always felt easier by having a warm mug in your hands to help the conversation along.
These days, my thing is coffee. With the occasional warm milkshake still for good measure, mind. And again, it’s a thing that I’ll share with folks I’m talking to when trying to work through a problem I’m facing. And actually, finding really good coffee shops around the world is something I really enjoy now.
From then to now
All of these things have helped me make friends. As well as encouraging me to move forward in life, as well as just helping me when I’m feeling down. I now get to tour the world (when we’re not on lockdown..!) with 2 bands: Novo Amor & Junior, playing the drums. I love playing with these bands as our music revolves around celebrating the things that make you, you, especially our track, ‘Girls and Boys’ – check it out here.
Being in a band is awesome, but sometimes hard. Being on the road, away from the people you love, not following a regular sleeping pattern, and the financial instability that comes along with such an unconventional lifestyle can be a real challenge.
Whenever we’re on tour, I make a point of going to find a posh coffee shop. I take the time to pause and truly taste the warming drink I’m drinking. And that’s led to me meeting a bunch of new people too. As well as enjoying the company of my friends.
And then when I’m home, if I catch myself getting into a bad headspace, I’ll go for a short break to play some games and clear my head. By beating those small challenges in the games I play, it sets me up to be able to tackle the bigger problems I face in life.
What’s wild, is that when I was in the middle of those lowest points, I never thought I’d get through them. I thought that was all there was to me. But I’m so much more than the rubbish stuff I’ve been through. I’m a drummer, I’m a gamer, and I’m someone who enjoys chatting over a hot drink. Things that I’ve done all along, but that I never realised could have such an impact on me. And help my mental health so much.
Which brings us back to the main point of all this getting to know me: I’m certain that your child has got things that can help them. Positive, healthy ways of dealing with the challenges that life throws their way. And I hope you go away from reading this piece now, to encourage your child to reflect on the wonderful things that makes them, them – and remind them that it might be stuff that they’ve been doing all along, but maybe they haven’t realised just how much of an impact it has on them, or where it could take them..!
Now go enjoy a warm milkshake together, and thank me later.
A huge thank you to Si and to HATW for spreading some positivity around the festive period! We’re on our way to grab our warm milkshake, are you?
You can support your child to discover what makes them, them with our free soulful maths and English activities.
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