Learning to look after your health - Breathe

Learning to look after your health

Fri 17 Jun 2022

Lilli Murdoch, Communications Officer, recently spoke to Breathe Sing for Lung Health participant and ex-Merchant Navy, Peter, about his views on Men’s Health and particularity his own.

Throughout the interview, Peter’s confidence and worldly experience shone through like a beacon on the night sea. He tells us how he joined the Merchant Navy when he was around 18 and travelled the world. He explained that his experience on board was hard work but exciting. Film stars and other celebrities would often frequent the ships, bringing glitz and glamour on board, and the odd film crew here or there. When I asked if at that time, he and the other men on board thought about or acted upon their physical and mental health ails, he simply replied: 

“Men didn’t talk about their health or feelings, they were unaware, but we didn’t have the knowledge or access to things such as social media and health and safety, back then.” 

I am very aware of how important my health is now, but I wasn’t years ago. I worked at a builder’s merchants after coming back from sea. We used to handle asbestos sheets and concrete bags and carry them on our shoulders without any protection. Nobody ever talked about the asbestos dust. Actually, no one talked about anything to do with health back then. We weren’t made aware of the problems that we are of now
Peter, Ex-Merchant Navy & Breathe Sing Participant

Two years ago, Peter retired from his job as his face-to-face negotiating skills were surplus to requirement, due to the pandemic. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with a long-term breathing issue and a heart condition – a double whammy. This shift in his identity was a massive blow for him and his family and has made him become very aware of his health and fragility. He tells me it’s a fine mental balancing act to look after your health and inform yourself well, but not too much, as the internet can be a very scary place in terms of researching symptoms and diagnosis. 

Peter joined Breathe Sing on the recommendation of a friend. He had no reservations in joining but it was something he never would have considered doing years before. However, he wanted to try anything that could improve his health. Soon after joining Breathe Sing, he realised it wasn’t just a nice thing to do, but he was actually part of a family of sorts and could start to see the benefits of the weekly singing sessions. 

I never thought I would participate in a singing group as I have a terrible singing voice, very deep, like Lee Marvin sort of singing voice, you know that song ‘Wandering Star’?
Peter, Ex-Merchant Navy & Breathe Sing Participant

“Cleo would make us do 20-30 mins of exercises to relax and then 30 mins of singing, which I never thought I’d be able to do. During singing time, we had 10 minutes of free time for the group’s own ideas like poetry, our own song suggestions, or just a chat. The exercises Cleo taught us, I do outside of class. It has given me a mental boost, more confidence and has improved my attitude towards my breathing. I still have a few hurdles to get across, but I can do it. I realise how fortunate I am to be alive and that is a win-win.” 

We finish our conversation by talking about his grandson. He spoke about how times have changed since he was a boy and that as a family they speak openly about health and mental wellbeing and that his grandson is a very confident young man. He must take after his grandfather! 

Learn more about Breathe Sing for Lung health here.