Talking about it is such a relief, although it has taken me two decades to realise it. My story started when I was a child. Witnessing my incredible Mother experience two horrific mental breakdowns really affected me more than I could ever recognise being so young. I couldn't understand why she would be in tears on a daily basis, and shielded from us by my Father as she just couldn't cope with life itself. It wasn't until my own breakdown recently that it suddenly dawned on me just how dreadful coping can be during these times.
I was born blind in my left eye, and until surgery, it was more than obvious. I also appeared in school entertainment productions, and had moved to the area from a totally different part of England. So I became the easiest target for bullying in the entire school, and boy did these cruel individuals know it. I'm 36, and whereas bullying hasn't become less entertaining for these horrid people today, during my school days, it was an era where teachers very openly ignored it and dismissed it, simply expecting you to develop some magic internal strength to fend off the bullies. That's where my terrible depression began, in those unforgiving school corridors and classrooms, where a punch or a kick was a daily ‘treat' for almost five solid years.
Life became serious and bleak from the moment I lost my Uncle Bob in the year 2000 and I was badly hurt following a vicious and unprovoked attack. Also in that year, I fell totally head over heels, and the relationship was perfect for the first few months. That was until she became abusive and violent. I'm not ashamed to admit this, it happens more than people realise. She had an affair and moved him into the house which I had spent over £2000 furnishing, simultaneously and singlehandedly decorating during every available hour at the end of my long shifts as a door-to-door energy salesman. Needless to say, I took it extremely badly, which is all I need to confess, as you can figure out the rest.
So in the year 2002, I had entered into a shocking bout of depression, but didn't realise it, and certainly didn't know how to handle it. I was so heartbroken by my adulterous ex, that I just took out a £5k loan, and once that had been blown, I obtained another £4k. I was out every evening after my shift, then all weekend, and sometimes I didn't even show up for work. I'm not proud of it in the slightest, but I suddenly started to drink very heavily, and I was also consuming enormous amounts of recreational drugs. Anything to numb the pain, but there was more excruciating pain to numb which followed.
There came a surprising call on my mobile phone from my friend Louise. We were a very close group at college. She called me to ask if I'd seen the news story in our local publication. I obviously hadn't and the next set of words she uttered destroyed me. One of our best friends; Nathan, the nicest, most generous and loyal friend you could ever wish to have, had been killed whilst serving with the Royal Marines. I was hysterical, overcome with emotion, crying uncontrollably. So I consumed lots more alcohol and recreational drugs, quit my full time job, and partied exceptionally hard for several months, until the money began to dry up. I ended up in a pile of debt, without the well paid job I had inexplicably ditched months earlier, and I was suddenly in an enormous hole.
Then came the day which changed my life, my outlook on life, and my hopes and aspirations. This day devastated me horrifically. The phone call came at 5:45am on Tuesday 26th November. It was the hospital in the West Midlands. My eldest sister lived on her own there, as she was a long term member of the University of Central England, and played in the enormous orchestra. The hospital practically begged us to get down there immediately. To this day and forever, I regret thinking that it was just a precaution and that it probably wasn't as urgent as they were making out. I was so incredibly wrong, it will haunt me for eternity.
By the time we had finally arranged transport, it was far too late. My beautiful, talented, kind, caring, funny sister had been taken from us at the age of 29. My mother's scream is the most horrible yet profound noise I will hear for the rest of my life. My mind was in floods of tears, but my eyes were empty. It affected me enormously, and has done ever since. The guilt, the sadness, the regret, the questions, the sorrow, the painful loss and the memories. I don't remember getting through the next two weeks, arranging the funeral, emptying her property and helping to transport it up North.
Following my sister's heartbreaking death, so many traumatic events and incidents took place, you would actually question the legitimacy of my account. I lost several other friends and colleagues through very tragic causes. I have suffered broken bones on eleven separate occasions for a variety of reasons. I couldn't process my emotions, or comprehend why I was experiencing so many dreadful and unbearable dramas. And in the back of my mind was the harrowing image of those five years of torturous school bullying. So for a while after my sister’s death, I hid my troubles, kept guarded, and didn't grieve at all. It was, and is, the worst choice to make.
Then arrived one more sickening and cruel blow which has changed my world forever. After several years of abdominal pain and other horrible symptoms, I was diagnosed with Diverticular Disease, and in July 2014, I was taken seriously unwell. Scans uncovered a large abscess in my abdomen. But at the same time as this discovery, doctors detected the severity of my disability, and it was far worse than they first thought. I now have a very strong case of the disease, surgery isn't an option because of the risk and chances of survival versus the remote chances of success.
The following year, whilst still extremely unwell, I was dealt one final enormous blow, which has eventually brought me here, to share my story. During a six month period in 2015, I lost three good friends, special people with families and so many years ahead of them. Years of “being on autopilot”, shutting down my fears and emotions, choosing not to lean on those supporting me, and failing to deal with grief, finally caught up with me. I'm grateful that my breakdown happened actually, despite how traumatic it has been. Because I no longer had any strength to deal with things on my own. I had no choice but to start talking.
Writing and sharing this story is a huge thing for me. I'm just about able to get up in a morning, take each hour as it comes, get through the day, and face the next day, knowing that I'm not alone at all. I have the most amazing friends and family, and their support is invaluable. But equally as important is the assistance from those going through the same horrendous battle with their mind. Depression is far too often belittled, undermined and dismissed. Thankfully though, we have organisations and charities like this. Talking about how you feel or how tough things are is vital. Please talk, talking about it is such a relief, it really is. Talk to anyone, even me, and once you start talking, please don't stop!