The Hits' Paul 'Flynny' Flynn tells how two major frights spurred him to take a good hard look at his partying ways. Today he shares his story for Men's Health Month.
I got up after a big night out on the town. I couldn't remember how I got home or how I found my bed.
My head hurt and I was sweating buckets, and my heart was beating so fast and hard I thought it might pop out of my chest.
I looked in the mirror and saw my red, blotchy round face and my big, flabby, stretch-marked gut — and I thought yuck … what sort of a woman will ever want me?
This was a standard morning for me back in the late '90s/early 2000s. I was only in my early twenties, but my life was spiralling out of control.
I would suck in my stomach when I looked in the mirror and fool myself that I wasn't stacking on 15kg every six months.
Lunch each day would be burgers and fries or butter chicken, dinner something equally stodgy and then into the booze like there was no tomorrow.
And I felt awful — I had no energy, I was progressively getting grumpier and it was starting to affect my work and my relationships.
People were starting to say to me — "mate, are you okay? Maybe we could go for a walk together? When is the last time you had a good sleep?"
I dismissed them — even laughed at them, cos I knew better and no one was going to tell me otherwise.
I was rapidly self destructing and I couldn't even see it, or I was too belligerent to accept it.
One day this neglect of myself and my health saw the first fright that scared me into action.
I argued with my boss at the time and, shamefully, I swore at her.
I was still recovering from my weekend and taking it out on everyone else.
The next day a written warning was given to me and I was sent home.
I was terrified — would I lose my job? What would Mum and Dad think?
My boyhood dream of being a radio star was on the brink of being over.
I started walking to work — it was 40 minutes each way.
I improved my diet a bit and stopped drinking Coke and voila — I dropped 10kg in a few months.
I felt amazing — and people started to comment about how good I looked, which really spurred me on.
It was shortly after this that I met my future wife — a beautiful woman who was a fitness fanatic.
We married and my weight went up and down a lot.
She encouraged me to start running — I laughed at her for the first several years.
Then the second fright happened. Dad was not well and his heart was playing up big time — things were looking dicey for him and he was only in his fifties.
Dad and I are so similar in looks and body type, and immediately I feared for him — would I lose him?
Dad is the best person I know to talk to when I have a big problem, what am I going to do if he kicks the bucket?
Thankfully he didn't, he had bypass surgery and was back with us. Phew!
And then I looked in the mirror.
Things needed to change, and fast.
So that night I went for a run — I could only run for about two minutes and my lungs were giving up - but it was a start.
I went to bed and then it started — my heart pounding out of my chest. Surely this must be my heart packing it in early. My body getting payback for all that neglect. All that partying.
Thirty-two years of virtually zero exercise and too much sugar, fat and booze.
I started freaking out — what a loser I was.
An amazing wife, three beautiful kids and I was going to die in my thirties and leave them with no husband and father.
This heart-pounding got worse over the following days and I went to my doc.
He said, "Mate you are suffering from anxiety, you are going through a stressful time."
I didn't believe him and in my mind my heart was going to explode at any time, and I was basically history.
He referred me to a cardiologist (at my request) and I had every heart test under the sun.
My heart was in good order but he did find a tiny speck in my artery, the early part of cardiovascular disease.
This was nothing to do with my heart-pounding though — turns out the doctor was right.
Anxiety had begun to dominate my entire life and my heart beating was on my mind every second of the day and night that I was awake.
My neglect of my health had not only affected my physical body but unbalanced my brain chemicals too.
I kept running though — and through a combination of determination and terror about dying I ran further and further, and I hardly touched a scrap of junk food.
I lost so much weight so fast, and slowly but surely, bit by bit, I felt the anxiety leaving me.
I started feeling like the happiest version of myself I could ever remember.
The sun started to look bright and beautiful, and I even got to the point of doing a half marathon — and I finished it.
My heart had been pounding so hard for close to a year — and then one night I went to bed and thought — man I haven't felt it for a while! I must be better!
The truth was my anxiety had slowly subsided and I was feeling so calm and rational and stable, I had forgotten to stop and think about my heart beating.
Fast forward to 2018. Life has had its ups and downs and sometimes I can't lie, it has kicked my arse.
Sometimes I put on weight, sometimes I lose it again.
But largely life is amazing. I have an incredible family. I'm 38 and I feel very confident in myself and who I am — but it's what I have learned that will carry me into the rest of my life.
The most important things I have learned are most definitely:
• To enjoy my life and not worry about tomorrow too much, and remember we are not here for a long time so don't waste it with worry, anger and hate.
• To make the most of all the amazing people I am so lucky to have in my life.
• To exercise as regularly as I can — I live by this motto … I never regret it once I have exercised but I ALWAYS regret it when I don't.
• To try to get good sleep.
• To have multiple laughs every single day.
On Men's Health
June is Men's Health Month, and it aims to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment.
The theme for this year is #MenStartTalking.
Men's Health Month is supported by the not-for-profit organisation Men's Health Trust and is aimed at educating Kiwi men and providing opportunities for them to check their health status and take positive action.
For more click here