Stay-at-home dad and entrepreneur Simon Caulton talks about his mental health journey.
I am Simon Caulton, the Founder of Ones Leisure Trainers. This brand was inspired by a personal journey when my daughter, Mia, was diagnosed with infantile acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at just seven-months-old in July 2017 and given a 50:50 survival rate of reaching the age of five. The experience was life-changing.
Mia started intensive chemotherapy treatment immediately and my partner Anjna stepped away from her business to care for her. Although I still tried to work and travel, it became impossible with how sick Mia became so I had to step away from it. We became isolated from the outside world, our life became the hospital, blood numbers, chemotherapy drugs and side effects.
I have always been very strong, outgoing and confident person but this experience made me become very anxious all the time. I went through various stages of being angry with myself, with my partner and basically everyone and everything.
Once officially home, Mia started 18 months of home maintenance treatment, which consisted of administering a chemotherapy drug daily along with blood tests every week. After spending a couple of months at home trying to be a family, we had to make some life-changing decisions. It was practical for Anjna to return to work full-time and I would become a full-time stay-at-home dad/carer.
However, it wasn’t just a stay-at-home dad, I was caring for a sick child. Mia was immune-deficient so we were limited to how much she was out. She was so vulnerable to infection that visitors were kept to a minimum. Subsequently, this made me become isolated and confined in my own home.
Mia was prone to infections, at the first sign of temperature spike she would be rushed into hospital.
I was finding all these adjustments – the trauma, the anxiety, the isolation all too much to cope with. I had given up my business and a job I loved. I have always considered myself as an alpha male, the breadwinner. However, anytime I was asked how I was coping, I would be too ashamed to admit how hard I was finding things so would respond with ‘yeah I’m fine.’ Yet inside I was falling apart!
I finally reached out for professional help October 2018. Looking back I wish I had sought help sooner. I had no idea how much these therapy sessions would help me unlock the power to speak out and admit to myself it’s okay not to be okay. It’s helped me put some order, some control back in my life. In the background I was trying to find a challenge, something to make me feel like I had some worth again.
I have been supporting the Wolverhampton Wanderers Foundation Head 4 Health Programme for two-and-a-half years. The project aims to improve mental and physical wellbeing in all adults 18+.
Having used the house a family in need, I know the support this place offers to others. I have delivered talks during mental health week to support the amazing people that work at Ronald McDonald House charities (RMHC) for them to understand mental health needs of parents and dads.
This year I started to support the Aston Villa Foundation and their Think football project. Team-Work Football uses sport to offer anybody with mental illness or struggles the opportunity to improve their wellbeing.
I also recently started to support HMP & YOI Brinsford. This is an adult male prison and young offenders institution. I joined their health and wellbeing workshop, which provides and supports the inmates with advice on mental health, wellbeing, addictions, etc.
All this work has been incredibly important to me. I understand the power of unlocking mental health struggles and working through them. It isn’t always obvious to see if someone is having mental struggles, but by openly talking about my mental health journey, I have seen other men open up about themselves. My job is to listen and encourage them to get the help as it does work.