After keeping it away, silent and hidden in recent times, I now realise it’s not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. If talking about it makes someone else feel less awkward about admitting their own experience, then it can’t possibly be a bad thing. I guess that’s the underlying thinking behind this.
No bad can come from this….
More recently than those close to and around me would realise, I suffered from depression and didn’t want to live anymore.
Here is my how and why and the what happened next……
In the not too distant past I made some bad lifestyle choices, stayed quiet when I should have spoken, said ‘yes’ when I should have said ‘no’, and these actions along with other choices resulted in the end of my marriage. I hurt my family; I denied my toddler son the chance of, what is considered by many, a normal family scenario; I lost the respect of my step children, my own self-respect and I effectively broke up a united family unit. This is where my troubles began.
I knew I would have to somehow start my life again on my own. I wanted to be near my son so I could be the best parent I could be, and that would mean holding it together so I could focus on moving to a place nearby.
For the first time ever, not only did I not see a future for myself, I didn’t see anything.
I just saw black, literally black in my mind when I tried to imagine any kind of future short, medium or long term.
I told myself I didn’t deserve to feel sad, or that I wasn’t allowed to feel any kind of sorrow for myself as I didn’t deserve it. I had caused this situation so it was all my own fault. There began the acute self-loathing that gets to so many who have been in similar predicaments.
I began to hate myself and everything I represented on a daily basis. I felt if I went out people would be able to see what and how I felt, and would judge or mock me. Ridiculous I know, but they are some of the erratic thoughts your mind takes on when it isn’t functioning properly.
I was swamped and overwhelmed with my tough financial situation and having to deal with my own finances for the first time in many years was daunting and added to my self- loathing. I couldn’t provide for myself properly at that time, so how was I going to provide for my family? Or I would switch the thought process around and still feel the same: If I provide for my family, how will I provide for myself?
The first morning in my new home was horrendous. It was winter. I woke up alone and cold (keeping the heating off to save money…..that and the fact I didn’t feel I deserved to be comfortable and warm.)
I couldn’t face the world and felt I had nothing to get up for. Maybe my son would like me to come and see him later that day to bath him and put him to bed, maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he wouldn’t want me to see him again anytime soon. Maybe I’d be forgotten. I had no idea. This was all so new to me and I wasn’t adapting well.
So I took several Nytol sleeping tablets just to sleep the day away, and I repeated this process on several Sundays in those first few weeks living on my own.
As the next few weeks passed, I threw myself into being a good parent. I felt it was the only thing I had left to offer. Making sure I was always there when I said I would be, providing for him and showing all the love and affection I had despite my own negative feelings for myself.
I went to work and I functioned. I could perform for everyone else so I didn’t need to worry about me, and wearing a mask was easy for me. I had the classic entertainers’ curse, performing on the outside but crying and suffering on the inside.
As I struggled to adapt to my new life and surroundings, the feelings of self-loathing grew. I felt horrendous guilt for, firstly, the pain I had caused and then I felt guilt for feeling guilty!
I did feel sorry for myself, but then I kept telling myself that I had nothing to feel sorry for as everything was my own fault and doing, so the vicious cycle continued with me feeling more sorry for myself and hating myself more. It was a vicious spiral which got to me everyday.
It soon got to the point where I hated the physical sight of me.
The above picture will mean nothing to anyone looking at it, but I know what it meant at the time. I had really long hair, so decided to cut it much shorter; I was usually unshaven, so I went clean shaven; I framed the picture in black and white as I was nearly always seen in colour pictures. The bottom line is I tried to change my appearance enough so that when I looked at myself I could convince myself it wasn’t really me and was someone else!
Trying to fool yourself like that never works, but I gave it a really good try.
Around the same time as the picture was taken I was still struggling financially. I just wasn’t getting to grips properly with my debts and my day to day budget, and was worried I never would.
Of course the guilt intensified.
I thought I was a joke who would never be able to provide for my son again. I convinced myself he would grow up to hate me, and any chance of winning back any self-respect or the respect of those I had hurt would never happen.
This cycle went on, hating myself and constantly feeling guilty for not being good enough in my eyes, for failing and then feeling guilty for daring to even think about how I was feeling, citing the fact there were a lot worse off than me so what right did I have to feel bad?!
Thinking I didn’t have the right to feel bad or comparing myself to others in worse situations was easily the worst thing I could have done. It just amplified my own misery to the nth degree!
And there, right there is the root of so many people’s issues, mine especially. Not feeling worthy of help, support and rehabilitation because you deem yourself too trivial, not significant or even special enough for anyone, even yourself, to try and help you.
I was suffering from depression and I knew it (I was, surprisingly, brave enough to admit that to myself), I felt ashamed and embarrassed but I thought going to the doctor and giving them a seriously edited down version of how I was feeling couldn’t possibly make me feel worse.
I was put on fairly mild anti-depressants but even after a few weeks they did nothing for me. I just couldn’t find a way back.
The guilt, the self-loathing, the realisation of the hurt I had caused and the things I had lost. It all just built up too much and I often couldn’t take it. I would take sleeping tablets to make me sleep certain days away if I knew I had nothing to do and nowhere to be.
I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by disappearing or changing my patterns of behaviour, so when I was alone I would just sink into my own dark abyss.
As a good as a loving providing parent I was, I didn’t think it was enough. I didn’t think I was good enough or worthy enough of my beautiful son’s love. I convinced myself he deserved so much better than me, so much more. I told myself that he didn’t really need me and he could do better than me in life. I then convinced myself he would be better off without me altogether.
If I was gone while he was young, I could be replaced. He might miss me for a while but he would soon forget me and I’d be completely forgotten soon after. I should be forgotten. I didn’t deserve his love, affection or attention. I thought I’d be an embarrassment to him. Someone he would grow up to loath, pity, look down on, and want nothing to do with.
With what I have just explained, it’s really no surprise (and wasn’t to me at the time) that around this period I realised I didn’t want to live anymore.
I’d like to think I wasn’t suicidal. My own guilt trips wouldn’t allow me the luxury of self-pity! I didn’t want to kill myself, but I didn’t want to live anymore. In my mind I would happily die in a car crash, or in a freak accident, happy to die in a mugging gone wrong or any number of potential scenarios that didn’t involve me having to take my own life but didn’t involve me living.
I saw no future for me. I saw no happiness, no light. I saw absolutely nothing.
I was just buckling under my own dark thoughts and unhappiness, too crippled to think or know what to do to find a way out.
I thought if I told anyone they would laugh, or tell me to stop being stupid, or tell me I was imagining things or just belittle how I was feeling, so I said nothing to anyone.
I felt trapped in my own life, going nowhere through my own doing, constantly under attack from my own daily dose of guilt, self-loathing and hate.
I wished there was someone like-minded I could have talked to, but I didn’t know where to start or where to look….so I didn’t. I just suffered. Alone and in silence because that’s what I thought I deserved…..
So how did I get out of it?
A light bulb of logic slowly lit inside me. I realised small positive steps inside might just add up to an overall positive experience or future positive lifestyle for me.
I realised I was never likely to kill myself and, as dark and horrible as I felt, I either had to try and live or I was just dead anyway from the inside out.
I had the love of my son and his light began to inspire a turnaround. Despite my irrational fears, he hadn’t turned on me and didn’t think I was a joke or embarrassment. He just seemed to love me unconditionally.
I made the conscious choices that I would never deliberately let him down or the other members of my family (again).
I promised myself I would be there in any way I could. If I said I’d do something, I’d make sure I did it no matter what. If I said I’d be somewhere, then I’d make sure I was. These were little wins inside for me, doing positive things I said that I would do, and then actually seeing them through and not feeling bad afterwards, helped begin to ease the guilt and self-loathing.
I also convinced myself (successfully) that it didn’t matter if I had little or nothing as long as I provided for others in the family, then I could look at myself in colour again knowing I was getting back some self-respect and getting some integrity back too.
I fought hard to get a grip on my financial situation and made sure I was in control of my life and where it was going, whatever direction it took me, no matter how bumpy the roads ahead and how tough it may continue to be at any given time.
I didn’t know what the future would hold for me, but I accepted it was a journey and that I could get through the days with some humility and (self) respect.
I also thought it might be a positive step for me if, some day, I could be a marker or warning to others who were feeling the same or felt they had experienced a similar plight, the obstruction in the road that says “I know what it’s like, I’ve been there and it doesn’t have to end so badly after all”.
It wasn’t about being self-righteous and pompous, thinking I was great or better than anyone, just that I knew I could come out of this darkness with knowledge and understanding of what got me there, how and why, with the understanding of what it would take to keep me a decent and even better person going forward, so maybe just maybe that experience (no matter how bad it was for me at the time) might be able to help steer someone back from their darkness.
I accepted my life had changed and, despite the fact I wasn’t in a place I imagined or had hoped for, and that I often felt I had gone backwards, that really it wasn’t so bad. It was just an unexpected change. One I didn’t need to be scared or ashamed about.
I survived because I believed and taught myself that things would be OK. I showed myself that it could be better and I made myself believe it.
I wish I hadn’t done it alone. I wish I had been brave enough to open up to someone, the right person or people, but I didn’t know anyone, so I stayed silent out of fear of ridicule or being rejected rather than looking for the help I needed if I did speak up.
I was wrong to think like that. Very wrong.
No-one is ever alone, no matter how much they feel it or believe it. There is ALWAYS someone there, often more than one person. You just need to be brave enough to look for them or to ask for them.
Everyone is different and some might not make it back if they go it alone. Some will, but why leave something as precious as your mind and life to chance?
What I do know for 100% certainty is that there is no shame in being alone or admitting you’re scared or that you’ve made mistakes and you’d like some help. No harm can come from sharing your story or experiences with the right people.
You just have to take a leap of faith and see that first step even if you can’t see the whole staircase and where it might actually lead.
As I write this I have long accepted I have demons, but the most important thing is….they don’t have me, and they never will!
I will move forward in life positively and even though I have no idea how my life will be or where I will end up, I don’t see just black anymore. Nothingness is not all I can see.
I will keep being the best family member I can be, and keep doing the best I can for me and others around me.
This is me now, with my son at his nursery graduation, and recently with the bike I will ride 185 miles in 17 hours on, raising awareness and funds for CALM.
I’m in colour. I’m smiling naturally. My eyes aren’t lost. I can be clean shaven or unshaven, it really doesn’t matter because I don’t hate who I’m looking at.
I guess what I’m trying to say is you don’t need to be alone and you don’t need to be scared on your own, so, put simply….don’t be!
At the very least, be scared around others who have been there, maybe still are there and aren’t afraid to help you along, or help you back up to a strong upright position.
Remember this, when you feel you have nothing more to lose…..then you really have nothing more to lose, so talking to someone about how you really feel and what you have experienced can’t and won’t make you any worse off.
Maybe if you feel too nervous or afraid to talk to a complete stranger, then come and find me.
Maybe we can figure it out together…..