June 9, 2016


On 14th October 2014 I awoke feeling like I had woken with the worst hangover imaginable. I looked around and had no idea where I was or who these strange people were around me. I walked in a daze to a locked door and was eventually allowed to eat something that resembled breakfast. Yes, I was sectioned. This was for my own safety and just like police custody the staff ensured there were no means available for me to take my own life. 

My wife visited me and I told her how it was on the wing, she kept reminding me that I was not in prison but that did not compute with me. 

I joined Essex Police in December 1986 and after many experiences, my mental health started to decline in 2013. Every now and again I would get flashbacks to certain incidents. I would feel sick as the memories flooded back. Other times, I would feel an overwhelming sense of despair, feeling that life was just not worth living. 

In January 2014 my illness started to take hold more and more. In small increments I started to drink, a little too much. This helped me to sleep and forget the pain, but it also helped the illness get a stronger hold as I felt down and lethargic.

I exercised three hours a day to stop the intrusive thoughts.

July 2014 onwards is still a blur to me. I am aware that I made irrational decisions and I had ever increasing suicidal thoughts. I recall nearly crashing at high speed and feeling bad that I had not died. This was not a wakeup call. Instead I dived deeper into the feelings I'd been experiencing. My wife told me to go to the Doctors. “Why?” I said, “I am not ill, I am OK!” 

I suffered rage and guilt simultaneously. On several occasions I was spoken to by supervisors. I wanted to tell them how I felt but the words would not come out. I gave little clues but these were not picked up on, because no one wants to talk about mental health. 

One day at work I said "I'd rather be dead than be here." I hoped someone would help me and dig a bit deeper, but I joke around to hide my pain, so people just laughed. I just could not tell them, or get them to understand. 

Mentally, I crashed in April 2014. I spent a week and a half unable to move, not talking and wanting to die. I finally saw a doctor and felt such relief when he believed me and prescribed me some medication. However, these had the side effect of temporarily worsening my mood. I spent a week or so in total despair. 

In May 2014 I self-harmed at home and broke down uncontrollably and I was taken to A&E. My Inspector visited me, so I smiled, putting on a brave face. “Yes, I feel ok!” The fact that he cared and supported me kept me alive more than he knew at that time. He was no longer my boss – he was a man who cared.

In September 2014, I was reported as a missing person. I had an overwhelming desire to die and took steps to do so. The Officer who took the report was inspiring. He took time and effort to show my wife how he cared and how he would try to find me and that she was NOT wasting his time.

I was in hospital for two weeks, the care and support I received was great. A great friend offered to visit and just talk to me about football. It was about Spurs, but never mind, the thought was awesome and it kept me going. 

Essex Police Officers and staff have been immense in my time of need. Kind words offered. People I hardly knew saying “I don’t know what I can do but can I help?” Books sent to me to aid recovery. No one laughed at me, which was a huge fear of mine. No one doubted me, no one put me down. All I received was positivity. I could not take their help but believe you me, it was appreciated more than they ever knew. Many of you said you have had some time living with PTSD and depression and have appreciated the support colleagues have offered.

What can you do? Well, in the midst of my illness, nothing you could say or do would make me feel any worse than I already did. I wanted to die – how could you make me feel worse? However, to you, the offer of help and support may not seem to do much, but in the long run it really means the world. 

I realised this condition is not because I'm weak. Thoughts of suicide are not a sign that you are a coward. When I was ill, I could not tell anyone as I feared their reaction. If you are suffering in silence try, try, try to tell one person – the support you will get can really make a difference, and you deserve to have it. 

To anyone who knows someone who's going through something like this - you don't need to have all the answers, just let them know you're there and you might just save a life. 

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.

Comments

I know where you were Alan;

I know where you were Alan; currently I feel like I have had four years wiped out of my life......by an illness I'm not even sure I still have the right diagnoses for. Thank goodness we have each other to talk to......it's a hellish place to be.....

a fellow sufferer

thanks for your story alan when i was at the worst parts of my bipolar illness i remember the little kindnesses to me by loving caring people and they made me feel worth bothering with. mental pain can be eased...

Thanks

Thanks for the kind comments. I have tried lots of different types of "Cures" and finally am in a much better place. I really turned the corner last year when I faced up to the fact I have to stop blamming everyone else and only I can make myself stronger

STIGMA

Alan, thanks for sharing your story. My daughter was raped in July 2014, she tried to take her own life in November 2014 and that was when she first entered mental health services. She was given a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder based on her very distressing presentation. She was very very angry, disruptive, challenging and very frightened. She was a 20 year old trainee nurse and had no idea what was happening to her, she often used to ask me "mum, why am I doing all these things?" My heart was broken having to witness my clever, funny, caring daughter often being held down by staff due to her trying to run away from her fears. Staff used to say things like, you love being restrained, she was accused of being violent towards staff as she used to lash out whilst being restrained during flashbacks. Basically, she was often punished for her symptoms and accused of being nothing but an attention seeking individual, none of the nurses caring for her even knew that she was a victim of a sexual assault so therefore, was given no empathy for what she had been through. How could this have been a therapeutic environment for my daughter to recover from the effects of what happened to her when the nurses did not even know? At ward rounds, all they spoke about was how badly behaved my daughter was, never once did a doctor ask my daughter, how she was managing her trauma and flashbacks, it was heartbreaking as no one acknowledged how difficult it was for my daughter to come to terms or even understand all of this. Over the last two years, she has gone from one crisis to another, numerous suicide attempts and always faced with stigma from all who have been involved in her care. She has never said that the way she deals with her trauma is correct but as her trauma has never been addressed, she copes the only way she knows. We even got a second opinion from a world renowned trauma centre who diagnosed my daughter with severe post traumatic stress disorder with depression and no symptoms of borderline personality disorder, this was ignored by the trust that first diagnosed her and they stuck with their original diagnosis. My daughter has constantly been blamed for her symptoms and coping strategies which has prevented her from going down the right pathway of treatment and as a result, her mental state has continued to get worse. I really do believe that if my daughter does not have treatment, she will end up dead.

PTSD

I am a survivor of PTSD. It has been a long road - lots of therapy and then discovering writing. I feel it is imperative that we end the stigma of mental illness for the health of society itself. I think blogs like these are excellent- showing the humanity and the struggle and the feelings of isolation. Please check out my blog and book "Fugue" on my website junesitlerauthor.net. I write novels about people who are struggling with mental illness as a transformative story that gives hope and shines light.

PTSD

Dear June I am pleased that you have found an outlet that has helped you. I would love to be able to have the talent to write a book about my daughters journey, I am sure it would be a best seller lol.

Writing

Dear Myra, Thank you for your comment. Just writing in a journal, writing down your feelings can help give you insights and strength. As you know, we have to be selfless when caring for our children-no room for our feelings-as it should be- but having a private journal can help : )

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