Just Deserts

It’s finally come. I’ve just done this for too long.

I’m currently sat in my car where I will be spending my 2nd night. I have little to do other than think… and write.

I’ve left the house. My wife has just been hurt too much to stay. We had dinner together three days ago and I honestly believed I was going to be asked to leave the house. We sat there for many different periods of silence where I was waiting for the start of the end.

I should have been talking about anything. Trying to make it better. But I wasn’t. I was sat there in silence just waiting. But but it didnt come. We went home to sleep with few words spoken.

But it played on me. And the next day at work I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I went home at lunch and cried. And sent a message to my wife saying what I thought was coming. I was at a friend’s that night and didnt get a response until much later. When I did I realised how much pain I had inflicted on the woman I love most in the world. She sounded broken and she sounded hurt. I read and again cried. I’ve cried a lot recently. I didn’t reply but instead waited until the next day when I knew I’d see her.

We put the kids to bed and I hugged them more than I ever have. I told them both I loved them and I kissed them. I then went downstairs and after a few more distractions we started. It didn’t take long. I knew. I knew what I had to do and as soon as she said that she thought about whether I needed to leave to heal, I knew that was what I had to do. I am too toxic. I am too selfish right now.

I went upstairs and packed my stuff. I went downstairs to see my wife crying. I was crying. I was losing my mind. But she is the victim, she’s the one being caused so much pain. I picked up my things and left.

I had no idea what to do. I left and drove. And walked. And drove. And parked near work and slept in the car. I then went to work and after work I drove and now I’m here within striking distance of my wife looking to sleep again in my car.

I hate this. I hate what I’ve done to my wife and kids. I feel out of control and I now don’t know what to do. I do however know she needs a break. And that this isn’t about me. I miss her already. I miss my kids so much and it’s the worst feeling thinking I can’t just go there and cuddle them right now. But this is more important than me. She has been an angel here and it may be that her future is better without me. I have to wait and look at what I can do to improve and make myself better. Right now it’s too soon to know what that is. So, for now, I’m sitting in the dark tapping on my phone getting more and more upset as I write rather self obsessed drivel about how hard my life is whilst there are people actually suffering. I really hope I find out how to fix this before I lose them for good.

Is it ever over?

I have ups, I have downs. Recently I’ve had a lot of downs. I was writing as if reflecting on a history of issues that I’m at the better end of. I’m Not sure that’s the case… completely at least.

I haven’t written for a while. Not least because I’ve been a nightmare… feeling pretty down a lot. I have a new role at work and I love it. I’m a different person there… I help people and even if I say so myself I’m good at it. And people tell me. And i like it. So I keep doing it. Lots. I’ve worked 20hr, 21hr shifts. I think it’s because I’m addicted to that feeling. The feeling of pure positive me. Colleagues refer to me as the example, as a together, efficient and talented individual… a number ask when I’ll be leading this organisation. I like that, the thought that in one part of my life I am exceptional.

Only I’m not. There’s a whole other half of my life that’s pretty poor. And I’ve been ignoring it. And when you ignore it, it gets worse. People around you get worse. It’s toxic. And left unchecked it can feel pretty debilitating. I had been doing so well and as a result I was given enough rope to hang myself… not literally, I’m not there yet. Nor will I be. But it’s just a given I’ll be ok. I’m not sure I will be, not without some serious work. That’s why I’m back here I suppose.

I want to work out how I take the positives from my work me and teach home me… it feels like two people and I’m not sure how one can influence the other. And if they can, how I make sure the right one influences the other.

I’m fairly sure that the confidence I exude is an obvious veneer of anyone probes deep enough… and only this week, 2 months in, has anyone tried. I think I have a glimpse of sadness as my 14hour enthusiasmathon cracked. My colleague just looked at me and asked ‘are you ok?’ But sincerely, like she really was asking. I said no, in My head. I said I am so sick of trying to be hyper and jumping with positivity that I just want to hide in a hole for the next week. In my head. I said, aloud, ‘absolutely fantastic thanks, you?’ With a beaming smile. I hope she didn’t buy it. I think she could really help me.

Anyway… ups and downs, ups and downs. I’m always going to have challenges and this part of my life is no exception. I’m back on here keeping focus on the fact I have issues and they aren’t insurmountable. Nothing’s insurmountable. I just occasionally need to refocus, and make sure I don’t hurt too many people in the process. Whenever you’re like this, I like to focus on the fact I was once fun loving and positive in all aspects of my life. I will be again.

Counsellors, Beanbags and Pointless Questions

I’m not a fan of counselling. That’s not to say it’s not amazingly beneficial to the majority of humans going through tough times. But it’s not for me. That’s my public statement on ‘professional ears’ and I stand by it.

I found this out through a series of sessions… both individually and as a couple. There were definite benefits and I wouldn’t like to take away the contribution my counsellors (admitting to having more than one seems like a sign of how bad my life went in itself), but on the whole I just feel like I can’t see myself ever using them again.

Don’t get me wrong. Talking is good. Talking is, in fact, great. Always talk… to friends, to family, to anyone you feel will benefit you. To a stranger. To a counsellor. However you feel the most comfortable, talking through what you’re thinking and feeling is an absolute must. For me, I had a bit of a series of events that just meant counselling had a limited lifespan for me.

I set up my sessions through a work welfare line. Once they heard the word suicide, even in the context as I meant it which was I’ll never do it but have thought about practicalities… you seem to get their attention and they want you seen in person. I understand that and on seeing my counsellor I found her to be very friendly and polite. But that was the overwhelming thought throughout. She was a classic counsellor as I would have thought them to be, very wishy washy. Very ‘beanbaggy’. I wanted challenge, I wanted to be knocked into shape and to be told how to sort my life out. I wanted to be made to feel like I had to sort it now and it really wasn’t that hard.

Instead, I was asked how I felt about every sentence I said. Feelings, it appears, are harder for me to grasp than I’d have thought. It became a running theme… I think lots, but apparently struggle with feel. Without fail, my answer to the question ‘how do you feel about that?’ Was met with ‘very good, that’s what you think… but what do you feel?’ My frustration was obviously palpable as I was met quite quickly with a piece of paper with a list of words that amounted to feelings, which I had to use in relation to each seemingly pointless question I faced.

‘I suppose… sad… ‘ I said when asked about how I felt about the effect I had on my wife.

‘But I feel I need to do x, y and z…’ I would follow up with..

‘That’s what you think, which is good, but what do you feel…’

‘Frustrated right about now’

‘That’s great…’

No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t great at all. It felt like a game. One I was losing. There is a comfort zone for all of us and mine was somewhere behind the door I was looking at constantly as ‘Mrs Kumbaya’ was asking about my feelings for the 20th time of the hour.

I managed 5 sessions in total before calling it quits. And 5 couples sessions of equal frustration. And from that I decided that I’d just be more open when anyone asked and try talking to people I knew. That worked… worked well in fact. Counselling on the other hand hadn’t…

Or had it? The sessions had felt awful, like I was failing at life. Failing at giving the answers to pretty much any question she asked me. If it was indeed a beanbag session it felt like the beans were laced with nails. But I reflected, regularly, for the next 3 months easily. And have done ever since. It eventually changed how I thought about my path out of depression, it made me think about what I was feeling as I was feeling it… it made me more in tune with the fact I do actually feel.

And from that came a new (ish) man. A man who still maintains I am more comfortable being open with my friends than strangers, still thinks more than he feels, still makes stupid mistakes and dwells ridiculously long over them. But a man who accepts he feels and sees all feelings as beneficial, even the bad ones. A man who sees the fact I feel as a strength not a weakness. A man who wants to understand his feelings more. Because feelings are as important as anything else going on in your life and you should understand and embrace them. They help you deal and respond to the challenges you face in life and should never be afraid of them. They make you, you. And unless you’re comfortable with your feelings you’ll never be comfortable with yourself.

My counsellor taught me that, a lesson I only grasped sometime after stepping off her beanbag, and I’ll be forever grateful to her for it.

Medication and the NHS

When things went fairly seriously wrong i decided to go the the doctors. I say decided I more felt I had to as I was getting pressure from some around me. I didn’t really want to. I had no intention of talking and I just felt like it was a waste of everyone’s time. Especially the docs.

Although it was what everyone wanted, when I decided to go I went alone… i was very nervous and wasn’t sure even walking through the door. But I got there, I sat down and waited for my name to come up on the large t.v. screen.

The wait was a while. Frustratingly longer than expected, but I had an appointment in the afternoon and that is I suppose par for the course. During this time I was making excuses with myself as to why I should just leave. How it would be easier and I’m sure they wouldn’t do anything for me. But something in me knew it really was necessary as I stayed there.

When my name did eventually come up I jumped up and shot into the corridor like I’d won the lottery… no idea why, but must have looked weird. I then slowed and slowed as I looked at the room numbers. Number 5 was mine. I opened the door and looked inside.

A female doctor looked back at me. It was at this point I realised I hadn’t thought about the fact I would be talking to a person and I didn’t know if I preferred any particular type to disclose my innermost ‘failings’. Would I prefer a man? Would i want to avoid a man at all costs? I hadn’t thought about it until that moment and when it did hit me I started to panic. I don’t know if this came across but she was immediately comforting in only her first few words. As it turned out knowing what I know now I just needed a doctor, male or female, and whilst I’m sure there are huge variances in how good or nice doctors are my experience to date has been they are all amazing. And care more than I’d expect.

I sat down and I was asked what was wrong. I started talking about how there isn’t really much bothering with me, injuries all over the shop and generally falling apart. She then asked ‘well what shall we talk about today’.

I said about how I’d come along as I had changed over the last 12 months and it was worrying me and my family. She then got me to run through everything.

I wasn’t expecting much. I thought she must have so many people actually ill that i would be in and out and she could get on with proper patients. So I went through the list and even I started to realise there was a lot more I was worried about than I had thought of before.

In the main she listened and asked the occasional relevant question. But all in all she just kept looking like she was actually interested and cared. She then asked how bad it had got. I talked about my motorway bridge moment and emphasised that I wouldn’t do it, but had thought a lot about the practicalities of ending your own life.

She was amazing throughout… 45 minutes passed, way over what I should have been allocated and no doubt annoying even further those following me.

She then did a few things for me. She told me how natural this was and the biological explanations for some of the way I was feeling. She then went through options. There’s a lot you can do and some I enjoyed and was doing before. Gym, walks general active things i enjoy. A couple I hadn’t done before and was sceptical of. Headspace and yoga being the two that transformed my thoughts on ‘beanbag’ stuff. And one I positively thought i wouldn’t. Medication.

She went through why it was happening in my brain and said I could be rebalanced with an anti depressant. I had agreed before going to agree go whatever the doc thought was needed. So I said this and she decided i should be on Sertraline. 50mg, a small dose, but a big thing for me.

So I left with a list of things to do and a prescription. One of those things was counselling. I’ll no doubt talk.jn more detailabout that soon. I went to the pharmacist and can honestly say have never felt more worried about life. As soon as I took this I was officially on meds for going wibble.

I took the prescription and started that day. It made me feel awful to begin with. Not because of the meds but because of what they meant. They certainly aren’t and immediate fix… but I kept at them and slowly they seemed to stabilise me. I also made a decision to be open about taking them. Now that was the best thing I could have done. Because it opened the door to conversations with so many people around me who were either on them or had taken them recently. Including a lot of people I worked with.

Being open about my meds did two things; it opened the conversation about my issues without having to talk about my issues. It helped me to be honest without dragging myself through the mill. It also opened up new conversations and closer relationships with people I had previously had little to relate to. It’s like a club… and I had just joined.

I stayed on them for about 9 months, before I thought were doing more harm than good. I started to feel a but numb and so put it down to the pills. I stopped taking them. Not the way to do it… but I got through it and felt better being off them. Note to self for next time… just stopping can have serious side effects. Take advice on the coming off just as you do for the going on.

So, all in all I’ve learned quite a bit from this sequence of events…

1. The NHS generally is amazing. I met a good few during this journey and they have been faultlessly caring, understanding and knowledgeable. Without them and in particular that 1st doctor I may be dead. There’s nothing weak about it and if you’re thinking about it at worst you waste an hour of your life, which you probably feel isnt worth much anyway, so you have nothing to lose.

2. Understand your options. Headspace has helped me more than anything. Some others don’t like it. I love the gym. Some don’t. Meds helped me short term but ended up not being for me. For others it helps loads.

3. Be open about it. I need to take my own advice here at times. But the more I talked the more people I connected with and the more I realised people were either talking themselves or dying to talk and I opened the conversation about their own issues. It has made me feel normal.

Nothing works for everyone, everything can help someone. But seeking help was the best thing I ever did. Chin up people… the world’s an amazing place.

My worst day to date

I have had many up and down days, but one sticks in the mind as my worst feeling night ever. For obvious reasons when I look back…

Last year I found out I didn’t have the balls to kill myself. Rightly or wrongly, that’s how I look at it. I was minded to do it; I was there… I was probably a six inch step from doing it. And when it came down to it… I didn’t have the brassicles.

The picture is still as clear today as it was then. Stood over the m5, car precisely parked next to the metal railing and phone in hand. I had worked it out. This was the best way to do it. No choice once the difficult first step was made and hopefully quick and, other than one huge instant of pain no doubt, simple. It was dark, and I could see car and lorry lights approaching from a fair distance down the sloping carriageways that led from from the award winning split level motorway section by Portishead.

I remember that point well, a man i used to lift share with told me all about the history of that particular section of motorway and it’s architectural importance. ‘Its an award winning stretch of motorway’, the bearded genius would tell me. It was the first time I’d thought of his voice for some years… strangely his would be one of the last thoughts I’d have if I went through with this.

I’d got to this point by a rather sudden explosion of a situation when I slept. I’d had an affair and though we had decided to continue our marriage my wife was understandably still nervous about my behaviour. Strangely, this would come to a head whilst I’m asleep.

The lady in question was a colleague and had started a new role. It was her first evening in this role that night and I had helped her to be successful in getting the job. So, whilst I slept she sent me a number of messages and pictures of her starting in her role. These constant vibrations caused my wife to be curious and so accessed my phone.

I awoke to find my wife staring at me and she rightly was angry. I was shocked, not quite sure what was going on but packed my things and left, upset and still quite unsure of what had just happened.

I got in the car and looked at my phone. Sure our relationship was done for and having recently questioned my worth a lot, I decided tonight was the night.

I had thought about this more and more. I had decided some time ago most people would be better off without me, that my contribution to most people’s lives was negative or non existent and i recall thinking the phrase ‘my absence would probably increase social productivity’. Even now I don’t know quite what I meant, but it convinced me.

So, I drove directly to the motorway junction and decided I would be directly jumping. But there were a few things I needed to sort first.

The car – I didn’t want the key to be taken from me and it be all messy and problematic. So I placed it carefully behind the inside of the rear wheel.

Notifying family – I wanted my wife to get the car before it may be stolen, so I scribed a text ready to send at the point of jumping… saying words to the effect of…

I’m so sorry. I won’t be causing you any more hurt anymore. I have placed the car key behind the rear wheel and it is parked at put motorway junction. I’m so sorry.

The most crucial part of this for me was the car key. I was obsessed with it. With this sorted I now had decided to establish my method and once sorted do it quickly, pressing send as I passed the railing and throwing the phone backwards as I did. I didn’t want it to smash, it had photos on there.

I looked at the oncoming traffic and started to think. What if there were kids in the cars? I’d spent many days in the months before working through the logic of suicide and what makes people do it, then how someone would do it. And from that I’d decided if I ever was minded I’d want quick and out of my control. But I didn’t want to ruin some kids life because they saw a crazy man smash their windscreen. So I decided a lorry. A business vehicle. That way they would be adult and more likely to detach this as a work thing and get past the experience. It made sense to me anyway. So I looked at lorries. I decided I needed to wait until a lorry passed with minimal traffic around. I wanted to upset as few people as possible.

With my method secure I approached the railings. About 3 ft of railing stood between me and what I believed would be my social responsibility. I sorted phone in hand and took a step upwards. There were horizontal beams that I stepped up and I was settled on the middle looking at the vehicles approaching. Pondering whether the drivers had appreciated the significance of the motorway stretch from which they had just emerged, I saw my one. An Argos lorry. I saw it approaching and went to take one more step upwards. As I did My foot slipped. For a split second I thought I was falling over the rail and my moment of wibble enducing panic took over. I fell backwards and dropped my phone. The whole 2.5ft drop felt like 20ft. As I hit the floor I immediately knew I did not have the balls to do it. Even if I wanted to. Which in fairness I wasn’t sure I did.

I sat there for a minute and realised what a dick I’d been. I sent a message to my wife. A slightly edited version. And she asked me to come back. We talked and I slept downstairs, but I slept. I never said of quite how close it been but I think she knew why I was there.

I thought many times about one thing in particular. I was set on doing it. From leaving the house to slipping on that rail, I was determined. It wasn’t until it felt too late I realised I didn’t want to at all. I started looking into this. Jump survivors who in the vast majority of cases say similar, that they thought it was a mistake once it was too late.

I’m by no means putting myself in their position… they survived the fall, I slipped 2 feet. But the mindset was similar. I was determined I just didn’t have the guts. But if I did I still would have felt that panic and regret once I did it.

So, what I’ve learned from this is however bad it gets, however much I might hate my current situation and even myself, it’s temporary. And since that day I’ve had as many if not far more good days than bad. Good days i honestly thought were impossible on that night. The worst bad days pass and I’m thankful for the good ones that follow. I’d never put myself in that position again, not that i could if I wanted to…

The travel benefits of depression.

At that point where I was starting to realise something just isn’t right I started to randomly drive places. This in fairness was one of the triggers.

It started on what should have been a 25 minute journey along the motorway to my house. I don’t recall feeling a huge urge to get away but I saw a sign to somewhere else, and just turned off and started heading south away from the motorway.

I ended up 2 hours away on the Jurassic coast, it was beautiful and always somewhere I like to visit. But i didnt quite know how I’d got there. And when I finally stopped and thought about what was going on, as I stared out to sea, I started to wonder if I was actually now crazy. I realised this just isn’t normal.

I also then wondered how bad I was. I was by a very steep cliff and wondered how many other people had been here in times of need… either to seek comfort or for darker intentions. It just felt like that kind of place, the sort of place that was so profoundly beautiful it would be the ideal place to either fix your life or end it. I had absolutely no intentions of hurting myself there… but I was wondering how much it takes for someone to do it. I became fascinated with what thoughts must be running through people’s minds at that point. I got out of my car and walked to the edge and looked over. What would be going through someone’s head at this point. It looked a scary prospect. Painful. I almost felt a sense of admiration for the bravery it must take to make that step. But as i thought more that changed to a sense of sadness for the desperation someone must feel.

I then thought, how would i do it? Would i stand and ponder? Would i decide to walk over and just do it immediately without looking or thinking? I had no intention of doing anything (at this time) but after about half an hour of obsessed thinking about this I knew I wasn’t right. This thinking wasn’t right. It was more than just simple curiosity. I needed to think very carefully about what this meant.

I slept there in my car overnight. Don’t think i was allowed to but it was amazing. In the morning I then thought about how great it was to just see that place. Ignoring the very concerning obsession with suicide, I just headed somewhere i loved and enjoyed a night.

This led to what I now see to be quite a concerning habit. I would be out with my friends and drop people home, at perhaps 11pm, then think something like ‘I wonder what Stonehenge looks like at this time of night’. So I would go. ‘I bet the Severn Bridge looks amazing at this time of night’ so I would sleep under it. And to the extreme ‘I wonder what it’s like up north at the moment’, and I ended up at the Lake District 4-5 hours away.

Nothing hugely wrong with that in the right circumstances, other than I told no one and it really wasn’t the right circumstances looking back. As far as my wife was concerned I was disappearing. And i was not exactly healthy. But I didn’t even think about it. I was seeing all the places I wanted to see at the time I thought about them. Complete freedom. Amazing sights and locations frequently throughout the week. I didn’t go international which looking back surprises me. Unless you count Wales. But I went to just about every area of the UK. In one respect it was amazing. Finally, my complete mess of a head was reaping rewards in the form of spontaneous travel to picturesque locations.

Which was great until I had to face up to reality. This was escapism. It was running away. And as I did the thoughts often became darker. I worked out the practicalities of killing myself in about 20 different locations. Never wanted to do it, just became a mental exercise. But this was being left unchecked and getting worse and was only really reeled in when I started seeking help. Then I started to realise the huge risk of what I was actually thinking behind the travel plans.

Looking at my travels there’s huge benefits from this. I still enjoy the idea of freedom and now if I want to go away I feel happy to just do it there and then, which I would never have done before. I just would take my family or let people know what I’m doing just to keep a sense of normality to the whole thing. And my thoughts are now firmly based in relaxing and enjoying the scenery around me, which is a huge bonus.

What started this?

I often wonder how I got myself into the messes I did. I know that I’ve gone through highs and lows but think everyone does that. It’s quite normal.

But in 2015-6 those highs and lows became wider and affected me far more. I would have whole weeks where I would feel completely out of my depth, where I just couldn’t make sense of all the things I had in my head. And at the time it would get me feeling anxious and I wouldn’t be able to sleep. It was like whatever I tried to rationalise wasn’t enough to make me feel like I was in control. But pretty soon after I would make some form of plan and focus my mind on something that would bring me out of it.

Those things started to work less and less though. And thinking about how it started I think it was because the distractions and targets became less important than the issues. I started big… the things i was targeting in my life were really important. I got married, then we focused on children… 2 children then focused on a house move, then a big diy project – a drive, then an extension. By 2013 we had the extension and I started focusing on smaller projects. I may have always had issues but they seems to come out at the point my life plans got smaller. I made a huge decked area just because planning and making it made me feel less crappy.

And last year I decided I would rebuild the garage… that would make me feel better. But as it went along it didn’t. And as it went up I knew I was just trying to distract myself. It wasn’t working. I got worse and worse. And i couldn’t find anything to make it go away.

So there was nothing that could take my mind off the fact I just wasn’t happy. And it started to take control. I became awful to be around, snappy with the kids, my ability to organise and plan things went out of the window… work started to suffer and my hobbies (which had saw me at one point qualify for my country) either disappeared or my performance fell through the floor. If I didn’t disappear I was irritable and obnoxious.

In fact, it’s amazing anyone is still around me, but they are. Good friends are good friends, and resilient. Some just left me to it and gave me space, some tried to help. But as things improved they all came back.

So if I look at how this started, I would say it was by not just burying my head in the sand, but trying to create evidence for myself that everything was ok through distractions and achievements. If I had this again, I’d look myself in the face much earlier, admit I need to think about my life and seek help. Very easy for me to say in hindsight, but i think i can say that now i’m far more aware of the fragility of my mental health. I’m sure many others may be like I was the first time around, seeing this as something that happens to someone else but not me. But it did, and I know now that I can’t just ‘logic’ my way out of it, but need to admit I’m struggling and that I may need help. And seek that help.

I’d then write that list of all the projects and things to do… for after I start to get control of my life back.