Healthy Hospo Saved My Life

Tim Etherington-Judge
Let me be honest with you from the start, I’m not writing this for you, it’s for me. I do hope that it might help you tho and that it might nudge the conversation about mental health a little further down the road.

It was almost 5 years ago, that I attempted to take my own life in a hotel room in Athens with a bottle of bourbon and a large handful of prescription painkillers. Thankfully I made it through that night and have used it to fuel me to help build a healthier, happier hospitality industry.

When I came out about my lifelong struggle with depression, and how my job as a global brand ambassador drove me to that moment of utter aloneness and hopelessness, I made a few statements that have proven themselves to be prophetically true.

When I speak to people, many of them think that because I founded Healthy Hospo, I never struggle with my mental health, that somehow it makes me immune. The truth is that I still battle with it, and I always will. Most of the time things are good and I’m totally on top of everything and I’m firing on all cylinders, but there are other times when it seems like everything is crumbling around me and there’s nothing I can do about it.

The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have affected us all, no matter where you live. It’s been worse for some than others, but everyone has their own personal experiences to cope with. The last twelve months of my life have been among the most difficult of my years on this planet. It’s been harder than when my mother passed away in 2005, as hard as 2016 when I hit my lowest of lows, and completely unexpected and difficult to deal with.

I contracted Covid in March 2020, when it was more aggressive but less virulent, whilst trying to mend a broken heart while being isolated and alone, was an acutely painful experience. For the past year I’ve struggled with finding motivation, with being productive finding myself constantly distracted, and regularly battling my internal self-esteem monologue which so often seems hell bent on destruction.

It’s the loneliness that’s been the hardest to deal with for me. I’ve reached my mid 40’s, am a single white male with no family, and there is a distinct societal pressure that I’ve failed in my duties as a man: to find a partner and build a family with them. I share a house with my father and spend almost all my waking hours working out of a shed in the garden, and there’s no number of Zoom calls that can replace the real-life interaction with a real-life human being. This is not the picture of success I had in mind when I imagined 2021. The loneliness, the sense of failure, amplified by my own internal monologue have meant that sense of hopelessness that I felt in 2016, and almost cost me my life, has regularly resurfaced.

What has been different this time around has been everything I’ve learned on my journey with Healthy Hospo. I now have a bag of tools that I can utilise when the black clouds start to build. It’s this diversity of things that can help, from sleep to exercise which have really got me through. With the enforced isolation, social distancing and vilification of touch, we’ve all been stripped of one of the most powerful tools we have to ensure good mental health: human connection. Thankfully the tide is beginning to turn against Covid and we are slowly reconnecting with each other.

When things have gotten particularly dark and hopeless, I’ve leant on these tools to help me through, and I’ve always managed to find a combination of them to keep me going. And the purpose I find in Healthy Hospo, in the mission for helping build a healthier, happier hospitality industry, is a powerful motivator to navigate the storms.

I’m not sure there’s any particular advice in here other than to build a toolbox to get you through the difficult times, and to keep your tools sharp. You’ve made it through 100% of your dark days so far, and with good tools, you’ll make it through the next ones too.

Oh, and hugs are vital.