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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: When it comes to mental health or really any type of health, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits all for a solution, right Tina?
Tina: That is totally true. We are all unique individuals with very different life experiences which shape who we are as well as what choices and decisions we make every day. There definitely is no one-size-fits all.
Serena: Today we are excited to introduce our guest to you to talk about mental health and his own personal experiences. Paul Marlow is a men’s fashion blogger as well as the founder of Never Alone which is a website that works to support individuals struggling with their mental health by offering information and resources from people who have been there. Paul is on a mission to lead the way in normalizing conversations around men’s mental health. Paul, welcome to the podcast!
Paul: Serena, thank you. Tina and Serena, that was an amazing intro. That was smooth back and forth. I’m duly impressed how you guys started this thing. I’m blown away.
Tina: Thank you!
Tina: What a nice way to start our interview.
Paul: We can’t see each other but you guys were just like tick tock, tick tock, back and forth. You nailed it. Hi. Thank you for having me.
Tina: Full disclosure. We’ve worked together for a long time. This is not our first rodeo. And thank you. So Paul, we are going to start with a question that we’ve never asked a guest before. Your Twitter handle is TallPaul which is also the name of your fashion blog which (not surprisingly) focuses on tall men’s fashion. So…how tall are you Paul?
Paul: I am 6’7” and if we’re really getting down to it, I’m 6’7” and a half. But, if you’re this height and you say a half at the end of it, I think you’re just a real mean person so I’m 6’7”.
Tina: Well, we will not judge that. So we bring your height up for a reason. Being that tall, we can imagine that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits all clearly. Tell us a little bit about why and how you got into the tall men’s fashion industry.
Paul: Well this is amazing because literally I launched the site about two and a half months ago. So thank you for making it first. Never Alone has been out for a year and a half so I thought that was going to be the main conversation but I’m happy to talk a little bit about this also.
Paul: Tall men’s fashion…tall men’s fashion in general is hard to do. You know, to feel comfortable, confident in what you wear, understanding what’s with the times, understanding what fits you and who you are as a human. It takes time to adapt and understand that. I found growing up, it was a very awkward thing for me to fit what I thought my style was, fit what I thought I wanted to look like in school and in my twenties because of my height. My height really held me back from putting the stuff that I wanted to wear. So much so that I was going into malls at 22 still with my mom to go shopping at times because it was a beat-down to go into every single shop in the mall, look at something, say I want to try that on to the person, they’re like, we don’t have your size. OK, next one, boom, next one. And just the mental roadblocks and anxiety and depression and just general things in my life outside of clothing and shopping. I just couldn’t face that barrier every single time I needed to buy a piece of clothing so my mom was there. So I believe I’m not the only guy out there that has that problem. In general I’m not the guy who has a hard time finding tall men’s clothes and the niche is not talked about. There’s a lot of tall women bloggers. There’s big and tall men’s bloggers and insight. But tall men 6’3” and up that are more athletic, lean, muscular build or just skinny, there is literally nothing out there. So here I am.
Serena: Yeah. So we’re going to shift now to 2017 and have you tell us about what was going on for you at that time.
Paul: 2017 was definitely the start of my hardest two to three years of my life, just everything going on. I was…the main thing that was happening was I was going through a breakup with my first real long-time girlfriend and it dealt with her having BPD and me having to see what that meant as someone on the other side as we were breaking up and dealing with her reaction to us breaking up, not wanting it to happen. And her struggles that she was dealing with herself, I was also part of them in trying to help her and trying to help me and really just being lost and confused in an area I’d never dealt with before.
Adding on top of that tough time, my father got diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and within a year he was a normal human being in my eyes to 12 months later, couldn’t stand up out of his chair, wouldn’t be able to turn and make his body turn to see me. The last months he didn’t recognize me. He started seeing seven or eight people. We think he had Lewy Body Dementia. So essentially that was a year, every month he was degrading. Every week he was degrading and it was just mentally for me to see him go down that hole so quickly, so fast, it shook me. So you add my personal life with my girlfriend and then my father and it was definitely the toughest time in my life.
Tina: Yes. I can relate a little. Watching someone you love get sicker and sicker and you know there is no out for them. That is very rough. I appreciate your turning pain into purpose by creating Never Alone. /Things happen in people’s lives and depression is real. It is a real thing. So can you share with our listeners what they can find on your website Never Alone?
Paul: Never Alone was really started when I was in the dark time. I think that the first post I did on social media was after my dad died, probably a week and a half later. I was crying in my room because I was depressed and sad. And I thought, this was at my fashion stage when I was an influencer but I wasn’t influencing anyone. I was like, “I want to put something on instagram but I have nothing positive to post.” Nothing to show my good life because I’m in a horrible feeling right now. I am like, why can’t I post this. Why can’t I show my crying and sad because what has happened in my life and I did that. I posted on my instagram story. And that really was the start of Never Alone. Because instead of people laughing, shaming, doing something in return to make me feel bad for posting something like that, I had people DMing me saying “I am sorry. Thank you for sharing with us. Thank you for being honest and open.” I was like, this is new people are reacting to my honesty to being real and showing what was really going on with me instead of faking it for the Instagram. The next months I kept that up, my highs and lows, showing the good things but showing the bad things. And then people from around the world, someone from Germany DMing me and saying thank you so much for what you are doing. I appreciate your honesty. There are people here that are relating to what I am going through. So fast forward 6-8 months, I am like, how can I take this next. What can I do that will first help me, what will inspire me to get better because what I am doing is showing them my trials and tribulations of getting better as I am creating a morning routine, falling off the morning routine, getting back on to it. Eating healthy food, eating a burger because I am depressed but then that feels bad after because my gut is making me feel bad. All of these things I was sharing like where can I share it next. Where can I give it more value and that’s where Never Alone started. Where a website and a blog came to my mind. I can start sharing things that people can read forever. Evergreen content. And that was a start of Never Alone.
Tina: So Paul, I love that! I love that, often influencers feel as though they need to put a lot of stuff into the world and I heard you say that sometimes that didn’t feel real to you. I love the fact that people were relating to your honesty, right? And what I feel like people really want on social media is connection like real connection. And maybe that’s my age speaking but I love that you are a young person doing this. I love that!
Paul: Thank you. First of all thank you for calling me young, I am 36. And second of all…
Tina: Ok you do NOT look 36! So sorry!
Paul: Thank you and I agree, I think that everyone wants that, however sometimes we have to, this is where it becomes a business, we have to get stuff out there that will be viral, that will get more push and share and with the analytics and all we have to gloss it up. So it is hard to find that honest, open reality with glossing up and making a business and pushing it to make it worth your while. I think that is a big issue.
Serena: Yeah. I totally agree with that. And I have spent some time on your website and you have so many different resources, and blogs and ideas for people who are struggling. I particularly appreciated the blog post about how do you talk to your parents about your mental health, that you are struggling. We are often on the other side of that but I love that we can support our youth in doing that as well.
Paul: I am glad you liked that one. I would love your insight after actually if there’s something you could offer.
Serena: Ok You’ve got it! So I’m going to bring us back to the idea that we started with that there is no one-size-fits-all for anyone struggling with their mental health. Again that’s one of the great things about your website. There are so many different ideas and resources that there’s something for everyone. In a previous conversation we talked about your personal experiences with mental health and some of the things that have worked for you. You talked about doing MDMA therapy and we’re just going to note here that use of MDMA is currently illegal in Canada where you are as well as in the United States where we are. AND there has been a significant amount of research on MDMA and it’s effectiveness in treating PTSD and other mental health concerns. I know that this is a long story which can be found on your website, you talk about your whole journey but I wonder if you can share with our listeners why you chose to pursue MDMA therapy and maybe a little bit about what effect it had on you?
Paul: Definitely. I would love to and thank you for starting with that and letting people know about those things because that is very important. Yeah it is a long story. Let me boil it down to as many talking points as possible that maybe we can go off of if you have something that stands out. I had been depressed. I had felt no joy in my life for about 18 months since my ex and my father. I was doing everything that I knew of to help myself. I had a morning routine. I was working out consistently. I was eating healthy regularly. I was drinking less. I was going to therapy often. And I’m like, these are the tools I need to get me better. And they were. I was like 80 percent there. But still after 18 months I was not fully there. I didn’t have that happiness. I’m missing something. And this was coming to a time when my father’s birthday was coming up. My birthday and his death anniversary, I’m not sure what you call it, was coming up. And the last three years that shook me for a month and a half. I’m like, I can’t be depressed again for a month and a half. Due to these occasions, I’m like, I need to get help. I need something else. This is the time I’m going to go and talk to my doctor and talk to my therapist and get some antidepressants. I’d never been against them, I just thought I wouldn’t need to use them. Long story short, I was going to go do that. I posted once again on my social media that I was going to to be honest with everyone. How I said fitness, journaling, working on your personal growth is the way to make yourself mentally happy. I was 95 percent correct, but this last 5 percent I can’t get myself so I’m going to go to the doctor. I’m going to do this route. Someone replied to me and said, have you tried MDMA therapy? I’m like, no. I’ve thought about it, heard about it. They contacted me with a registered therapist in Vancouver who was actually somewhat connected with MAPS which is a positive thing in my mind because I knew they were working on stuff and they’re the ones leading this growth of MDMA therapy and making it legal.
We connected and had a conversation and they’re like, yeah, I can definitely help you. I would love to work with you. We did nine therapy sessions prior to the MDMA therapy. So these were nine regular sessions, hour long, over a two month period without MDMA; just getting to know each other. Me talking about the things in my life. Her getting to realize who I was and where they could lead things. And then finally one day we did a six hour long therapy session taking a capsule of MDMA…two capsules. I split them up between the time and it…like I say it was six hours. It is something that has completely had a huge effect on my life. It was…it is a major turning point in my confidence, in getting past that feeling of no joy and leading myself on this path of creating Never Alone. Starting things that used to scare me that they don’t now because I know I can go out and attack them and I can fail and I can come back and try again. Failure in my past life before this therapy session was what held me back from everything. I didn’t want the world to see me fail. I had this front that I had to put up and I had to show them I was perfect every which-way. And that therapy definitely helped me get over that issue that I had in myself that happened when I was growing up because of this.
But that was the general layout of the MDMA therapy by session. Like you said, the blog dives more into it but I’d be happy to ask any questions if you have anything right now.
Serena: Yes. I wonder…just thinking about the structure. And it sounds like it was a very structured kind of thing and I think that’s important to understand, right? In terms of this is not just…you’re going to somebody random and…right? I mean it sounds like there was a process to the whole thing.
Paul: Yeah. There was definitely a process. So I did some studying up. Googling, obviously, before it. And as we both know, there’s not much out there because it’s not legal. I read about three blogs and I think all of them said they emailed someone. They had a conversation over email about 20 of them and then they showed up to their office the next day and did the MDMA there. I was like, wait! But, how does this happen? That was what a lot of people, I think, have done. Personally I would not suggest that. I’m super grateful that my therapist said this is our lead up. We need to have this base layer down of these sessions prior to. I need to get comfortable with you. You need to get comfortable with me. Because it is a comfort thing. Going into an MDMA therapy session…I don’t know if you ladies have taken MDMA, but it does open you up to willing to talk about a lot of things. But having someone there sitting in front of you that you don’t know and saying, here, take this drug, let’s chat. I just can’t see myself really being willing to go ahead and give it my all. I definitely would make more walls and not want to talk that much because I don’t know who they are. And who knows what would happen that time.
So it was structured. There was a plan. On the day there was a structured plan and everything. So it really was mapped out; layed out to a T. And it wasn’t just me going to take a pill and having a conversation with someone. If someone’s thinking, well, I’m going to do MDMA therapy and go take a pill and talk with my friend….that’s not the focus. That’s not what is happening here and that definitely…I couldn’t see it giving the same results as doing it with someone who is a professional. Once this gets legalized, which I believe it will some day.
Tina: Yeah, that does sound like it was kind of a building trust thing beforehand and really helping people understand it. So yeah that’s good. So I want to circle back to what you said before because while this was super helpful and kind of those deep-down things, right, helping you discover those. You did try to manage a lot of these things and we often talk in our world about building your toolbox, right? Like what’s your toolbox right now? What things are helpful to you? And you mentioned that you did go to talk therapy, right? That you exercise. That you are eating well. So that was 80 percent you said and this was a…the last hurdle of the 20 percent. Tell us a little bit about what your current routine is that you can help people with their toolboxes. What are the things that you do, say, starting in the morning?
Paul: Definitely. Well, my morning routine. Well first off I want to say like everything else in life, things adapt and change as we adapt and change as humans. So something that someone’s doing today, don’t be disheartened or feel like you need to keep something five years down the road because it might not meet your needs at that time. Currently, like myself, my morning routine isn’t as robust as when I was coming out of my depression. My morning routine in depression was a robust 60 minutes. It was timed. I had it down to a T so I didn’t need a timer but I had like my five minute segment here of getting up and making my bed. Then I went into my shower and I finished my shower with a 30 second cold shower and then at that same time while I was drying off I would turn on the water for my hot lemon water. And then I would go and write in my journal with my hot lemon water. Then I would go sit at my window, take in these things around me, the sights and sounds of 6am in the morning and I’d be a little meditative, just contemplative, think about my last day, think about what was coming up in my day. Then I would put on my coffee, I’d grab a novel, I’d start reading as the coffee was getting ready. Then once the coffee was done and the novel was done I had got everything out of my head. I’d prepped myself for the day and I’d finally open my phone. Today, it is close to that. It is more like 20 minutes. I definitely still journal. That’s 100% I do it every morning. I still make my bed because that is part of my routine. That is my first win of the day. The bed is a win! It only takes 30 seconds but the thing is I know I can stuff off of my to do list if I create a win by getting the first thing off of my to do list within the first minute of me waking up. That is me saying I completed something. Instead of walking away from it saying that I failed at completion and then the whole rest of the day like “well if I don’t need to do this, then I don’t need to do that”. It is really something that sets that bar, that standard for the day.
Serena: And I love that idea of a routine because what we know is that when we are struggling with our mental health that first part, that getting out of bed is tough right. So knowing you had things that you were going to do. There was a plan in place.
Paul: And the plan was great! And definitely when you are down, when I was starting it I was down. Like every day it was hard for 18 months. The best thing for me about that routine was I knew I had it and I had it to go through and if I made it through my routine I made six wins to start that day off. And when I was really down, if that was it and I went back to bed, I still accomplished something that day even though it was 8am in the morning. And that I was not going to do anything else but I got six wins in. Also if I woke up tomorrow and I only got three of them done, I know I would have a routine to go through the next day to try to get four done. It gave me a sequence that I could always go back to.
Tina: And I have to say, making my bed in the morning is something that feels like sleep is over. And we are going to wait for the next sleep. Here it is, when I walk into your room and there is a sense of peace having a neatly made bed.
Paul: I agree. In the past, like before I had my morning routine. No it was not part of it.
Tina: Yeah. I hear you!
Paul: Like I was thirty years old and I wasn’t making my bed. So this was something that wasn’t always in my life and I didn’t understand it. I heard people talking about it and I said louy to that. That doesn’t matter. What is the point? But yeah there really is a reason to do that. It is a reason for me and it might not be a reason for someone else is something different. But I think it is something that people could look at.
Serena: So knowing that so many of us struggle with our mental health, and so many people are afraid to ask for help, I would say men and women but men in particular, right? What would you say to anyone out there listening right now who might be struggling?
Paul: You are not alone. I feel a little cliche for me to be saying that, but you are not alone. I take it with a grain of salt. As in yeah, you are dealing with it, a lot of us are dealing with it, If you can look at it, today is one day. Today is one day out of your next thousands, ten thousands, hundred thousands depending on how old you are. And what are you going to do today for your mental health that hopefully can help you for the next 300 days after this or lead up through there. That is what helped me find my way out. I am depressed today. I don’t want to be feeling the same way at 50. What can I do starting now and help myself out so that a year from now I am in a different spot. I might not be fully cured. I might not be fully with it but I am probably better off than I was today. Because if I am not doing that and I don’t have that mindset then in six months I am going to feel the exact same way this day now that I did six months ago and then six months from that if I say, I am going to stay this way. I am going to feel like this. I might try working out. I might try eating better. I might try journaling. I might talk to a therapist. I am trying to make a change, a day by day change. And it might not connect right away. It might take days, it might take weeks, it might take months. But I am making an effort to do something that people, science, governments maybe are saying are things that may help me. So let’s give it a go. Let’s give it a try. And see. If it doesn't work, it doesn’t work. You don’t know until you try.
Tina: Part of what I am hearing you say is: put one foot in front of the other. We don’t need to conquer the world yesterday. We can make one bed today, we can do one journal entry today, and putting one foot in front of the other. I am quite inspired by some of the things you are saying. I hope others are as well. So if our listeners want to connect with you, which I can imagine they will, what is the best way for them to connect with you?
Paul: Definitely the best way, the most helpful thing I have going on right now is our email list at Never Alone. The website, I am sure you are going to put it up in the bio, is weareneveralone.co. There is a lot of information on there. You read the blog but really I am working with my writer and confidant in helping me grow Never Alone. I am putting together weekly emails to inspire to inform and to make that connection at a personal level. I think that really right now it is the best thing we have. So we have the website and personally you can reach me and find me at Tall Paul’s Life at Instagram, at Twitter where I do keep talking personal growth, mental health and personal stuff about who I am. Until I have a big enough team to get that social media for Never Alone up and going.
Serena: So before we wrap up this episode today, we wonder if there is anything we haven’t asked you that you would really like to put out there to the world?
Paul: You all if you are listening. Be you. Do you and look forward to tomorrow and understand that what happens today can be left behind and tomorrow is a new day.
Serena: Paul, thank you so much for joining us today and being willing to share your story with the whole world. I think it's important. And we appreciate your vulnerability and the work you’re doing to normalize the conversation around men’s mental health.
Paul: Thank you Serena. Thank you Tina. I really appreciate it!
Tina: We appreciate you! So podcast friends, we are, as always, grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leaving us a review, subscribing and please share with others. You will find lots more content, including Paul’s information on our website NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Tina: Thanks again for listening!