Dec 7, 2020

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Barbering & Men’s Mental Health


Text reads "the new age barber shop" over a tattooed hand holding a single-blade razor against a bearded man's face

**CW: Talk of abuse, suicide, divorce and assault**

CW: Talk of abuse, suicide, divorce and assault** I’m so excited to be bringing you this episode of The Anxious Creative. I’ve got a super special guest for you, Mark Peyton. He’s a barbershop owner, mental health advocate and fellow Canadian from Nova Scotia.

You can also listen and subscribe to The Anxious Creative on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify.

**CW: Talk of abuse, suicide, divorce and assault**

I’m so excited to be bringing you this episode of The Anxious Creative. I’ve got a super special guest for you, Mark Peyton. He’s a barbershop owner, mental health advocate and fellow Canadian from Nova Scotia. 

It’s been a long time coming, but I think the Anxious Creative has waited long enough for a barber to come on to the show. He’s got such a heart of gold and I can’t wait for you to dive into this episode.

This one does come with some content/trigger warnings so please feel free to listen to another episode if any of those things up there are triggering for you. I want to make sure this space is safe for you. 

The “New Age” Barber Shop

Mark is the owner of 4 different barber shops in Nova Scotia, expansion was never part of the plan. He initially only wanted a single location. 

The expansion of his shops came extremely organically and in some cases it was a total surprise to even be given the opportunity to expand. 

When he opened his first stop many coined it as a “new age” barber shop, Mark disagrees with this saying that there’s no way you could have a new age barber shop since they’ve been around for so long. 

What he did differently with his location was going in with a different mentality and mindset than that of the “typical” barber. He didn’t want to have a shop that was like a factory pumping out haircut after haircut, not really paying attention to the person that’s actually sitting in your chair. 

By making his clients feel valued, seen and heard, he created a welcoming environment for those who really wanted an experience, not just a haircut. 

Although he was in a small space that was mostly suited for a single person, after 6 months he had 4 chairs, 4 barbers, 4 clients in the chair and about 20 people waiting for appointments. 

He jokes that “If that building catches fire like, we’re dead. We’re all dead.”

So he ended up moving to a bigger location, one that wouldn’t kill everyone if it were to burn to the ground. 

The next location he opened up was the location in Dartmouth, this one came about after someone asked Mark if he would ever open up a shop in Dartmouth. He told them if he got 50 emails he would consider it. They ended up giving him closer to 100 emails at the end of the week. 

Not being one to disappoint or go back on his word, Mark opened up shop in Dartmouth. This is the location he now works out of and he loves it. 

His final two shops opened in rural Nova Scotia. His location in Kentville came about as an opportunity when there was a demand and it established pretty quickly in 6 months. He now has 4 barbers employed in the community of 8,000-10,000 people. 

The Annapolis Royal location was the most surreal experience for him. The Business Development Community saw a need for a shop and asked him if he would be willing to open one. There’s a long story behind his shop in Annapolis, but that’s a tale for another day. 

Hiding Behind the Work

For many years Mark pushed away his “uncomfortable” feelings. Instead of taking the time to reflect on the emotions, he just kept pushing through saying “I can do this”. 

Without the help of coping mechanisms or techniques, he compares this to pushing an inflatable beach ball into water, you can push it down but it’s going to fire up in your face eventually. 

I had a similar experience when I burnt myself out with work and ended up in the hospital thinking I was dying. Turns out I was having the most insane panic attack I’d ever experienced. Because I kept saying “I can do it”.

Opening his first shop in Kentville was done on the high of his daughter’s birth. Being a father is deeply important to Mark and the birth of his daughter made him feel like a new man. He didn’t notice the depression during this time.

It wasn’t until the opening of the Annapolis location that he realized something was wrong. 

He moved through life just one foot in front of the other.

Shit Hit the Fan

Just like the beach ball that Mark was talking about, there’s only so long of hiding or “suppressing” your emotions before they end up smacking you right in the face. 

Mark found himself constantly trying to make other people happy. In a way, he did this to protect himself, if no one else around him was unhappy, it was easier for him to keep the “happy mask” on. 

Unfortunately, when we try to keep everyone else around us happy, we forget about ourselves and we can end up hurting the people we love the most because we’ve forgotten about ourselves. 

Mark holds his relationships and friendships near and dear to his heart, they’re extremely important to him. He admits that he wasn’t the best partner per se. He says that he was horrific at communicating because he was used to not being heard, understood or having his boundaries respected. 

It was easier to not communicate at all. 

A Less Than Ideal Marriage

Mark didn’t think he would ever get married. He told himself for years that it was an ancient practice that made no sense at all. 

Mark and I have a lot in common when it comes to marital relationships, I’m also on the no-marriage train.

Similar to me though, he did get married, although they are not together anymore. He settled with somebody who on paper and physically made him “look good”. Despite having red flags pop up right out of the gates. 

Although Mark knew something was wrong, he didn’t know what. 

Little things happened during their marriage that made Mark question if he was in the right relationship. Gaslighting and manipulation started to take a toll on him and his mental health. 

When his first daughter was born, it was a magical moment for him. He had an older son that he has a really great relationship with, but there was effort made to keep Mark out of his son’s life. This was one of the biggest contributing factors to Mark’s mental slump. 

His first daughter was born and he was very happy, they had planned for this and were both very excited to start a family together. 

Unfortunately those happy feelings didn’t last for very long. Mark experienced assault and a breach of his consent inside of his marriage and was used for another baby. 

He had been very clear about his boundary of having no more kids, as he knew that there was something wrong in his marriage and wanted to work on that before any other children were part of the mix. 

This breach of consent and total disregard to Mark’s boundaries caused him to break down. 

His wife told him at his best friend’s wedding: “Do you think it’s strange that your best friends are getting married on the same day that your marriage ends?” She left without saying another word. 

She cold shouldered him and didn’t talk to him. This was extremely difficult on Mark and he broke down. He finally told her that he needs help and he wants to go to therapy. She still wouldn’t speak to him. 

Weeks passed, Mark went to different expos and on different business trips, and his wife still wouldn’t speak to him. 

A month passed and before a trip to Montreal he finally said to her “You need to make a decision on whether you want to talk to me about this or if you want to leave.” 

She made her decision while he was in Montreal and he came home to an empty house, without his wife or his child. 

The Double Narrative

Mark suffered the loss of his family, particularly his daughter. His wife created a narrative that the reason she left was due to abuse. Mark feels that this was used as a “buzzword” as she was still calling him to come over and spend time with him. 

His second daughter will be 2 in February and it breaks Mark’s heart to know that he wasn’t around when she was developing and he only gets a very limited amount of time with her. 

Mark is no stranger to judgement of his struggles with abuse. He’s had people roll their eyes and even had a woman who volunteers with a program to help men in abusive situations tell him that the more he talks about the story the less she believed him. 

Victims of abuse are not often listened to or believed, particularly when there’s no physical evidence of the abuse. Men are more so shamed with toxic masculinity to be “strong” and they can feel that they are perceived to be “less manly” when they are victims of abuse. 

Reports of abuse by a partner are nearly 50/50 between men and women, according to the Halifax Regional Police. 

You’ve Come a Long Way

Mark struggled with all of this silently, and it crept into this business. He lost complete control of everything. Work wasn’t something he could focus on and he felt like he was moving through his life on autopilot. 

Not being a permanent fixture in his daughter’s lives has affected him in ways that he doesn’t think anyone could fathom. 

Family court is a hard, sterile, and frankly terrifying place. 

It took him bottoming out completely and emotionally hurting the people he cared about as he suffered from depersonalization and derealization. 

Going to therapy twice a month, addressing the “uncomfortable” emotions and working through them. The most game-changing step Mark took was going to a mental health retreat for a week outside of his element. 

He now practices meditation daily and checks in on himself throughout the day to stay present. Exercise has also really helped. He got really into running and found that it’s a healthy way for him to be present and in the moment. It really helps him to stay grounded. 

He looks at things through a rational and open mind. Which helps when the emotional mind tries to be in control. 

Although he doesn’t know if there will be a definitive end destination, he’s enjoying his journey. 

I’m so thankful that Mark could come and share his vulnerability with us. I truly believe that men’s mental health is not talked about nearly enough. And it’s so important. If you want to get more of Mark check him out on Instagram as well as his community for barbers @communitybarbershowcase

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