My name is Craig Houston or ‘bear’ to those who know me well. I began Bear in Mind with a desire to make a difference!
I aspire to change the Mental Health and Wellbeing culture in our communities. Through working with others, I believe that we will get to a place where Mental Health and Wellbeing is recognised and prioritised, in the same manner that physical health is. I feel that my unrelenting desire to see this happen, will make a fundamental difference. I want to connect people through training and coaching, as I am personally energised and motivated by the experiences and strength of others. By being creative in how, where and when I deliver training and coaching, I feel that I can reach a wider audience and have the best possible impact.
On a personal level Mental Health and Wellbeing has been something I have experience of. Through my teens and early twenties, I struggled with my own mental health following my parents’ divorce and my mother’s attempts at suicide. I felt in a rut in my career, whilst working in the private sector, in my twenties. My weight was impacted by this and continued to rise, at my heaviest I was seventeen and a half stone. For me, my problem was not that I had a problem with food, it was merely that I was not happy or in control of my own life. Thankfully taking control of my life, has enabled me to lose of three stone and follow my vocation. I now make sure that prioritise and invest in myself, which has improved my relationships and how I feel.
My passion for improving wellbeing led me to ChildLine where I volunteered as a counsellor, for a number of years and I currently work with young offenders, empowering them to maximise their potential, improve their mental health and find their true happiness. This allows me to say confidently that I am able to positively support all different types of clients, even in the most distressing of times or challenging of situations and provide training with both personal and professional experience of suicide and mental health.
I am committed and take enjoyment from seeing people finding their own joy and happiness in life. My own personal experiences coupled with the time I invest to develop my training and coaching, puts me in a unique position to best support you, or your organisation.
I grew up in East Kilbride before moving, with my parents to Bankfoot, a small village outside of Perth. During my early years there was tension and abuse at home. Although, it is a time I have vague memories of. My parents divorced when I was in my early teens and unfortunately, the conflict between them remained. My mother struggled with her own mental health during these years and two suicide attempts followed. Something, which I never really processed until I was well into my twenties. My relationship with my father broke down completely, although he did continue to see my sister initially, that relationship also ended shortly after he questioned his paternity. On reflection, this was a significant moment in my life as a young child my father and I were extremely close and this caused me great pain. During these times, I put my energy into, and felt it was my purpose to ‘protect’ both my mother and young sister. I did so, without processing what was going on for me and pushing others away, for fear of being hurt again. It is something I need to work continuously on, as my default is to withdraw and go into a ‘survival’ mode when things bruise me.
My school attendance suffered significantly and very little evoked true emotion within me. I was described as ‘horizontal,’ ‘laid back’ and ‘chilled out’ all too often, in reality for me, it was safer to hold back and not commit, again for a fear of being hurt. I felt numb and if I am totally honest, sad. It did though serve an important purpose, as I did feel capable of ensuring that my family was protected.
Following this time, my mother remarried and moved, with my sister to Dumfries. As an 18-year-old, this felt like the closing of a chapter in my life. The hangover from the past events, that I had not processed, began to show. I struggled to enjoy or give value to the important relationships in my life and left school with little in the way of happiness or qualifications. This led me to a job, I didn’t want to do. I found the easiest thing to do was drink and further distance myself from anyone who got too close. My own mental health during this time was really poor and was made worse by bad eating and sleeping habits and crucially by not asking for help!! It was at this point I gave up playing football at professional level, it had always been a huge part in my life and something my father and I did together. I had always felt a pressure to succeed and achieve for my father but as our relationship broke down so did my desire to continue. It is a regret of mine, without doubt my own mental state prevented me maximising any potential I may have had. I did return to football at a lower level but my commitment and enjoyment was never where it needed to be. It became a purely social exercise. The one thing that never lost its importance for me, was music. Music remains to this day my escape and something I find genuine pleasure in.
Things really started to turn for me in my early twenties, when I began letting the people, who had been so patient with me, in. People I am forever indebted to as they stuck around me, even when I didn’t like myself. I feel that, what changed, is I decided to allow myself to have desires and enjoyment. I knew that I was neither in the place (as I felt isolated, all my family stayed in East Kilbride or Dundee) nor the job I wanted but I started putting effort in at work. Quickly this began to pay off and I progressed in my career, in the private sector, which allowed me to get my first house. In my mid-twenties I received an amazing offer to become part of the management team at a food service company, it never truly fulfilled my needs (no job at that time seemed to give me the purpose I desired) but it allowed me to re-locate to Glasgow, a place close to my heart!! From there I haven’t really looked back. I decided to make a huge change and start working within social care, I joined the Open University started my degree, began volunteering in ChildLine and with vulnerable young people, whilst still working in the private sector. I then took the dive and ‘started again’ gaining employment working with young offenders, a huge decision financially but one that I would do a hundred times over, as I feel happiness that I have never experienced at work before. It was then I began doing suicide first aid, mental health first aid, safeguarding training, and wellbeing coaching. It seems like a whirlwind of a time but I suppose that is what happens when you are open enough to find your love for something.
I have setbacks like anyone else and I know I need to invest time in myself to ensure that I do not return to a dark place. What I do know now, is my triggers and the things that bring me joy, love and happiness. I struggled at the beginning of the year, following the sudden loss of our dog, Becks. She remains the best life coach I have had, there really is something in the fact that animals immediately show unconditional love and begin each interaction with total delight. In the past, I may have wallowed in that sadness and taken a step back, but I worked hard to ensure that I remember how lucky I was to experience the love I felt!
My mother suffered in silence, for so long that it could of, cost her, her life and my sister and I a mother. I genuinely do not know where I would be, had it not been for those people closest to me, even although I never spoke my feelings at the time, I knew I was supported and loved, as a son, partner, brother, mate and grandson.
I don’t profess to have all the answers, what I do know is struggle and pain. Bear in Mind was started with the tag line ‘Making a Difference.’ I believe that I can do my bit in our communities to ensure that we reduce suffering, prolong life and prevent other people from getting to the point that my mother found herself.
I thank you for taking the time to read my story. I find it challenging and cathartic in equal measure to write it down.
Look after yourself, you deserve it!