Pete Barty

The Road to Renewal with Pete Barty

May 2, 2024

We are human beings, not human doings”

My name is Pete Barty, or Peter if I am in trouble, originally from Kent. I am a husband, father, civil engineer, fundraiser, explorer and, now, a therapist. 

As a young man, I wouldn’t have described myself as academic, I barely scraped my A-Levels but was able to get into university. I ended up finishing academia with a master’s degree in Civil Engineering and embarked on my 28 year career. 

My career went pretty well, I worked as a chartered engineer managing projects employing over 300 people. I knew I wasn’t the best engineer, but I was, and still am, good at working with people. During my time working as an engineer, around 14 years ago, I began having health issues with my shoulder. I experienced high levels of pain, yet health professionals couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. Eventually, I was referred to a specialist and, after a biopsy, I was given the news that I had primary bone cancer in my shoulder. It was a rare form of cancer that was life-threatening. I can’t really remember the moment, sitting in the specialist’s office with two Macmillan nurses and my wife all around me, being told that I had cancer. I put my head in my hands, I think I swore a few times, and I just had a picture of me staring into the abyss. 

That was on a Monday, the following Monday I was on the operating table. I was in my mid-to late-thirties, I had a small child, my career, my wife, everything ahead of me. The surgery at the time was somewhat revolutionary, they had no data as to the longevity of the process. The surgery itself removed a section of my bone as well as the muscle and ligaments around it, meaning that post-surgery I was left with an arm that didn’t really function. I underwent six months of rehab as I readjusted to my new life. It was during this time that I experienced my first foray into a mental health dip. 

As I sat on the couch, recovering physically from surgery, I was faced with thoughts. I had so much time to think about my own mortality, I had been given no definitive outcome of what would happen with my cancer. To add to everything my wife told me we were expecting our second child. It was a really confusing time. I really struggled to make sense of all the different things that had been put before me. As an engineer, I had always seen things as linear, black-and-white get the job done, but I couldn’t figure out my way through this one. 

I had no motivation and a low sense of mood. I was unpleasant to be around and was short with my loved ones. I spent months like this. I ended up going to see a therapist. This choice had a huge impact on me, I think I cried for the first two sessions. However, through talking with someone I learnt how to cope and was shown healthy behaviours to deal with what life throws at you. I was also helped by the Macmillan nurses, they were so supportive. They demonstrated care above and beyond what I would have ever expected. So, as I began to move along in my recovery, I took it upon myself to repay Macmillan. I wanted to do something meaningful.

I managed to raise money by climbing Kilimanjaro with my friend. Then, I just carried on. I did the London Marathon, went to Nepal to complete the Mount Everest base camp, finished a couple of Ultra marathons, then climbed three 6000-metre peaks in Nepal over a month. That was probably the hardest thing I had ever done. The money was racking up for a charity that I deemed deserved it. Afterwards, I went to Argentina, where I was struck with altitude sickness. I had to go back down just as we had reached around 45 minutes from the summit. It was pretty devastating. It was that sense of failure that made me learn more about myself than any of the other expeditions I had done. It was an important time for me.

Fast forward to last year, I decided to medically retire from being an engineer. I had been suffering from more pain in my shoulder and, as my job was desk-bound, it meant that the joint started to migrate and impinge on nerves. This is a pain that I have to deal with in my daily life and have learnt to live accordingly, therefore retiring seemed the sensible option. Retiring was a gateway moment in my life. I had been in that job, built this career since leaving university. It was who I was. I was faced with what I would do next, what would be my purpose. My mental health declined again. Retiring not only meant I lost a huge part of my identity, it also meant that I lost social stability. I no longer saw people and interacted with them every day. If I wanted to socialise I had to manufacture it myself, something I had never done. As I was dealing with this turmoil, the opportunity to travel to Mississippi came up. I decided to go.

I turned up to the Mississippi trip not wearing any masks, not trying to be anyone. I didn’t know anyone there and I wanted to learn who I was in all honesty. You never know when that lightbulb moment is going to come, but it did come. I realised that I had been carrying things around with me for a long time, I had this anger about what had happened to me, what had been taken away from me, that I had buried. I had fallen for the narrative that anger is a bad emotion that should be suppressed. Even after having therapy, you never know what else you’re going to learn about yourself. It was really quite emotional. I left a huge amount of what I had been carrying around by a river in Mississippi. 

Now that I have let go, I now need to let myself reform. I am on that path now and I have a clearer idea of who I am. I know that I want to be a presentation of who I am, not what I do. We are human beings, not human doings. 

So, to where I am now, I work as a therapist. After having therapy myself, I became curious and started reading books. From there, I went to classes, then courses, then I gained the necessary qualifications. I love that this role allows me to keep learning, something I believe is vital for our mental health, and I like the relationships I form with people. So, yes, I am Pete Barty – husband, father, civil engineer, fundraiser, explorer, therapist but mostly, just a human being just learning to be. 

More Tales
Full name*
House number and street*
£11.90 + £3 for shipping
Skip to content