Walking the black dog

My friend Nik ran a special walk in Wainui on the Friday Night Adventures Meetup recently, and I thought I’d say a few words on the subject as well.

It’s OK to be challenged and find things difficult. Most of the time we can do it by ourselves but it’s great to know we have the support of others. When we need it, all we have to do is ask.


Don’t let the name (or content) of this blog fool you; it isn’t always sunshine and lollipops in Larry’s world! When I went through a long period of deep pointlessness some years ago, things got pretty grim. I mention it now to show that our perception of things is not always accurate, and when you’re glum things can certainly take on a dark tone.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way! I thought I’d share a few ideas that certainly helped me, and also helps others too.

Grab from Leisure Suit Larry, one of the more adventurous Larry’s in Western media

First, come on some Meetup events. There’s heaps of professional and social things going on on meetup, and everyone’s pretty welcoming. Meetup has been great for me – I’ve been able to get out of my ‘social niche’ and meet so many new cool people of different ages, cultures and perspectives.

There’s a little phrase, ‘you’re the average of your closest five friends’. The attitude and energy of those around you do have a big impact on you, and the folks on Meetup (FNA and BCW in particular!) have good energy. I know when I was glum everything took on a hopeless vibe (e.g. climate change), so getting more of these not-defeated souls around my life was good.

Second, help us host some events! I read and I read that dedicating yourself to others is a great way to give your life purpose, but the barriers to entry for a bunch of volunteer stuff wasn’t my cup of tea.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Mahatma Gandhi.

There has been many adventures I would have pulled out of and not done if I wasn’t going to be wrecking nine other peoples’ plans too. And I have never regretted hosting a single one. So hosting is a two-fold funk-eliminator:

  • it provides an event for others to come on and get out and about
  • it makes you actually turn up.

AND, you can also do whatever you want to do with company as you’re the one setting the itinerary. If you don’t have a car, this is also a great way to get exploring, as inevitably an attendee can give you a ride where you want to go.

That’s right, I turned a mental health support post into a enlistment drive!

That is kindof the point though. Mental health and wellbeing isn’t one of those things where ‘get in touch when you’re bottom of the cliff’ is a lasting solution. It’s important, but it’s not something you wish to keep repeating.

For me, going on Meetup events broadened my base. When I forged out to start hosting, the personal value I got from hosting and helping others balanced out the massive lonely ups and downs in my professional life. And continues to do so.

It’s important to stay mindful of the four areas of wellbeing (physical, mental, community and spiritual) and do something to grow each of those. To illustrate, for me, community was an emptying tank, and that emptied my spiritual tank. None were filling, so they all chipped away at each other, down and down. And of course, once they’re all down they’re all leaking and it’s rather hard and takes a long time to fill anything back up. That’s where others can help. Like poking up under a wet tarp with a stick, pushing that community up through Meetup flowed out to fill the other areas of my life too.

There you go. I think a lot of us want to be supportive but we just don’t know how to do it. The explicit acknowledgement of our challenges is a great forward step with mental wellbeing, but it’s ambulance at the bottom of the cliff stuff. I found it disastrous to share my struggles and get no help, no answer. It really snuffed the hope that things would get better. In our embracing of the ‘straight-up saying it’ approach, maybe we lose track of just growing our wellbeing so we don’t get down the cliff in the first place.

If you think a bit of Meetup hosting could be your jam or you’d like to experiment, please get in touch. I certainly would like to grow more community and the more hosts and events going the better. Nik is like a volcanic geyser of energy but he (and all the great event organisers) can’t be everywhere. Let’s make the wet-tarp of Meetup Community Wellbeing into a hot air balloon, raising us all to the stratosphere!

Make Wellington community wellbeing stronger and help us grow Wellington Meetup events. Turn up and give us a hand!

2 thoughts on “Walking the black dog

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  1. Thanks Larry for the support you have shown me and helped me refine the craft of hosting events. We all learn from each other and the meetup community enables us to do what we desire, when want and with sometimes total randoms. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Thank you all for helping us all

  2. Thanks for this Larry. It seems that we’ve had some similar experiences with the black dog. A lot of what you’ve written really resonates with me.
    It can be hard to understand if you’ve not experienced it yourself, but asking for help when you most need it is often the hardest thing to do. At my lowest moments, asking for help was the last thing I would have done.
    Getting into a routine (like a regular Wednesday night walk!), physical activity, and pushing your comfort zone is all great for building physical and mental resilience that you can draw on when the black clouds come rolling in.
    Obviously I fully support your Meetup recruitment drive! Taking the first steps to doing something slightly awkward, like meeting a random bunch of strangers, was the hardest thing for me. But once you do, it keeps getting easier, and you realise how lovely humans can be.

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