I left a very different life in Fiji shortly after Rio; I left a job, people I loved, and my marriage. With lots of change can come the feeling of real uncertainty and what to do next, both professionally and personally. In the period after leaving Fiji quite a few friends suggested talking to an impartial voice about how I am feeling. Chapter Eleven in my book describes how my past has affected how I show my feelings and highlighted some lifelong behaviours that I have faced up to and changed. But my friends were effectively saying, ‘Ben, go see a therapist.’
I put what my friends had said to me to one side. I didn’t think I needed therapy and I was unaware of its importance. If I’m honest, I had some real preconceptions about seeing a therapist, and it wasn’t for me.
Turbulence with change
I had a brief return to the higher skies after Rio, this time in New York City when I was there on and off for a few months in that first year post Fiji. Erwin Valencia and Jay Shetty were two people that became friends in New York City. They both exude calmness and gratitude, and in the moments I saw them they gave me a real sense of peace and wellbeing.
They wouldn’t realise the impact they both had on me in those brief moments, but spending time with them, when I was otherwise creating turbulence and not actually facing up to all the changes, was incredibly helpful. They were a golden thread. It made me realise I wanted to go and chat with someone. I needed to see a therapist – so I did, and I loved it.
The definition of therapy is ‘a treatment that helps someone feel better, grow stronger.’ It did that instantly. The notion of seeing a therapist can be stigmatised, but I was on the fence about it. It can be associated with weakness instead of self-awareness; it can be ridiculed but it can be quite a brilliant tool. It helps you grow, and it helps you understand why you react to certain things or why other emotions are triggered. It gives you the ability to unpack your thoughts and behaviours without judgment. I loved the clarity it gave me and it also led to me being more open with everyone, and not being worried about talking about, or listening to, difficult subjects.
For me, therapy also slowly opened up deeper behaviours; cycles I had been in most of my life but never acknowledged or understood, and so therefore never confronted. I often say ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’, and for me therapy gave me the knowledge and then the tools to make huge gains.
Enlightenment is a very strong word to use but when you actually see something clearly for the first time the effect can be truly monumental. Those close to me saw Fiji do that to me and they saw it again after I made the decision to talk.
This didn’t mean I became bulletproof. Our entire lives constantly evolve and change; you are going to get floored by stuff, whether you like it or not, but you are going to soar too.
A work in progress
Therapy, in whatever form it takes, can help change some behaviours permanently, but it is also helps me to deal better with those highs and lows. Sometimes it’s unpacking stuff, sometimes it’s simply ‘a problem shared is a problem shortened’.
Sometimes therapy comes in the form of a small room with a professional, but it is also a walk down the river with a mate, a morning run, or dinner with a loved one. It’s about being honest with yourself and those around you who care about you. It’s about sharing your thoughts, concerns, and worries, as well as laughter and love. It’s about communication or actions that do not judge but, instead, help you grow. It is about being the best version of you that you can be, not for a day or a week or in front of people, or even if it is in service of others, but all the time. It is about having courage, learning, expanding, and releasing yourself from attachments or behaviours that don’t take you forward. You see, Vei Lomani is more than just a phrase, it’s a way of being and it’s a vehicle. I am happily a work in progress.