100 MILLION DOWNLOADS OF THE HAPPY PLACE PODCAST
We’d like to start by saying a heartfelt thank you to all of you listeners! We’ve reached 100 Million downloads! And without you, we simply could not make this podcast happen.
“When I started out making Happy Place, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I knew I wanted to have very deep conversations and hopefully ones that were helpful, but I could never have imagined a day where we would reach 100 million downloads.
And although, I often say we can’t quantify our happiness. We can’t put a number on it. I do still totally believe that, but I think this feels like a bit of a moment to celebrate for me and the Happy Place team, and hopefully for you brilliant people too. It’s a real community we’ve built here, maybe accidentally at first, but my God, we totally love and appreciate it today being in constant conversation with you, amazing listeners.
And getting such valuable feedback has made this podcast exactly what it is, so a massive, massive thank you. So the whole point of this is it’s about you. I feel endlessly honoured and impressed by how much you’re willing to share of yourselves after hearing certain conversations on this show. So this episode is about your stories.
We put a call out on social media and we were. Completely overwhelmed by the number of messages that we read. Oh my God. It was intensely emotional trying to pick just three people to have on this show. We cried, we hugged, we read every single one. But we have managed to pick three somehow, although it was impossible, as I said.”
We’re taking a deeper dive into these stories of strength, heartbreak, and personal discovery. Sam, Matt, and Mel’s experiences showcase the power of human connection. But they are also frank conversations about suicide, grief, and substance abuse. These issues may be triggering for some, so please take care while reading.
Sam was our first guest of this special episode of Happy Place. She is a life coach and breathwork teacher, who shares what it was like growing up in a predominantly white town, as a black, gay, woman. Sam was also sexually abused as a child. And she touches on the way this impacted her sense of identity and how it lead to a long period of self-loathing.
“As a kid, you’re just going through life, aren’t you? And you don’t know any different. It’s not until you start to sort of think about your identity when you get in your teens and then you start to grow, that you start to question things.”
She grew up in a community where the only other black people she knew were her family members, and what it was like to grow up in a time where there was no gay representation on TV. There was no internet, no stories or public identities of being gay.
“I had no outer view of me…I didn’t know who I was. I hated the skin I was in. I hated my hair.”
This isolation lead to quite destructive coping mechanisms. Alcohol became a vice she relied on, and she began to have thoughts about taking her own life. But Sam’s turning point, is a beautiful example of the power of human connection.
She had begun writing final letters to her family, and despite the pain she was carrying, she managed to pick up the phone and call the mental health services.
“I had a conversation with somebody for about 20 minutes. I felt okay. And I always say to people who are struggling, you know, just, just wait 20 minutes because you dunno how you’re gonna feel.”
It’s this glimpse of hope that becomes longer and brighter each second. Sam began to hold on for a few more minutes, hours, until she finally felt that she could do more. Now, she lives by a mantra she shares with those she works with, ‘It starts with you.’
This question is how she starts her day. She sets her intentions, and checks in on how she is feeling, emotionally, mentally, and physically. It’s what she says gives her a voice to listen to and ask herself, ‘what do you need now?’
Sam finished her story with these uplifting words:
“Treat every day as your first day, your last day, because it’s your only day and it is non-refundable. So give it the best you can. It doesn’t mean fake. It doesn’t mean trying to be a 10 outta 10 when you’re a five outta 10. It just means. Be real. You don’t always have to do the right thing, be real and see every day as non-refundable.”
Fearne pointed out that in over 200 episodes of the Happy Place podcast, we haven’t heard about the end of a relationship from a male point of view, until Matt. He has a background in journalism and communications, and shared how a painful break up led him to some soul searching. Matt talks about how he recognised the mistakes he made in the relationship, and how he hadn’t been showing up for his partner.
“THE FIRST THING I LEARNED ABOUT WAS ATTACHMENT THEORY. I THINK THAT WAS A REAL EYE-OPENER BECAUSE I STARTED TO REALISE THAT I HAVE THIS INSECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE, THAT I AM ANXIOUS, AND THAT THERE WERE PATTERNS IN MY BEHAVIOUR WHERE I WAS SABOTAGING THE RELATIONSHIP. THAT WAS CONNECTED TO MY ANXIETY AND MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES THAT I’VE HAD FOR A REALLY LONG TIME.”
Matt explains attachment theory as your reaction to the kind of relationship you had with your primary caregiver. For many of us, it’s our parents. So our attachment styles are dependent on how they reacted to our needs or how emotionally present and accessible they were in our early years and so on.
He shared that he noticed a lot of anxious behaviours, with core fears around abandonment and not feeling good enough. But finding this kind of self awareness required a lot of deep work in his subconscious. It was so refreshing to see the growth that can come out of vulnerability. As allowing yourself to reflect on your own actions, takes a unique kind of honesty and openness. Matt shared that many things can impact the way we are able to find this vulnerability within ourselves. One of them being, toxic masculinity.
“I THINK TOXIC MASCULINITY DOESN’T REALLY ALLOW US TO TAP INTO OUR EMOTIONS. MY BIGGEST REALISATION PERHAPS IS THAT THE DICHOTOMY BETWEEN VULNERABILITY AND CONFIDENCE IS QUITE A HARD ONE TO RECONCILE…THESE KINDS OF ATTITUDES TO MASCULINITY AREN’T REALLY HELPING MEN BECAUSE WE SUFFER IN SILENCE.”
Together with Fearne, they unpack the contrasting messages around emotional openness for men. Fearne highlights the importance of applying compassion to self-awareness to spark positive change.
Mel works in mental health in Greater Manchester. In August of 2015, she lost her only child, Jake to suicide. Since then, she’s been working to explore the question…Is suicide preventable or inevitable?
“He was still very young, he was travelling with friends and going to festivals and making his way in life, and he was really passionate about photography and he took up, uh, a degree in contemporary, um, photography. He’d just finished his first year of that when drastically things started to change.”
Mel shared that she noticed changes in his behaviour around the last 10 months of his life. Rapid mood swings, and quite a bit of anger. What made things more complicated was that Jake was refused a mental health assessment due to substance misuse.
“He took himself to his GP and unlike many males who struggled to reach out and to talk about how they’re feeling, Jake didn’t fit that mould. He couldn’t have shouted any louder, and I’m so proud and privileged that he shared everything with me and he spoke to me and he trusted me and that he talked to me.”
Mel also found out that Jake had been self medicating, with diazepam, benzos and other things off the internet that are extremely dangerous. She explained that her son more than likely had bipolar disorder, so taking these substances was amplifying underlying issues rather than addressing them.
Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of Mel’s grief was dealing with the questions she asked herself. One of them being, is suicide preventable? And, what would Jake’s experience be like today?
“In many ways we were all isolated trying to bang on that door individually, and it was disconnected.”
In the first two years after Jake died, Mel revisited and followed up on all of the recommendations made by the people who had helped and worked with him. She sat down with the medical director of NHS England in Greater Manchester and asked more about what was changing there and then. Learning about the actions that were being put in place to support those with mental health issues gave Mel more confidence and clarity in trying to move forward
“If I don’t see that change, then I don’t really have anything….I went back to some of the same people again, some different people, and I found writing really therapeutic just to capture and not to carry things around in my head. And what I found was really positive and really encouraging ”
8 years after Jake’s death, Mel believes suicide is preventable. But at the same time, it’s incredibly difficult to compare missed opportunities of the past with today’s lessons. She says that now she sees “good pockets of practice going on and better practice.” And it’s amazing to see how she’s been able to find something positive comes from this tragedy.
These stories were shared with so much strength. They’re incredibly raw and have touched all of us in the happy place team. After these recordings, we ended up sharing a massive cry, hug, and an important discussion about what else we can do to give the best resources to people that really need it. We do our best to forge community, because we lean on you as much as you lean on us.
Sam, Matt, and Mel, thank you all again for being so generous with your time and your words. This has truly been an incredible experience for us.