I’m f-f-f

“My head is a clutter,”

A whisper, a mutter.

“I’m f-f-f-

Fucked!” I stutter.

“My thoughts are a jumble,”

Barely heard, a mumble.

“I’m f-f-f-

Fucked!” I stumble.

“My nut needs a hammer,”

Spoken low, no clamour.

“I’m f-f-f-

Fucked!” I stammer.

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I’m f-f-f

Getting through the day

Getting through the day is hard. Really hard. Like, constant battle not to take your own life hard.

It seems like everyday I wake up with the same thought, “I hate myself. I should just kill myself and die”. I hate myself even more for thinking like that. I’ve been trained to tell somebody how I’m feeling at moments like this, so I let my wife know.

But that just brings more self hatred. I hate myself for being a distraction when she’s at work. She shouldn’t have to deal with this all the time.

So my despair deepens. I should just do it. Get it over with. I’m fed up with feeling this way.

The same thing stops me as it always does. She would be the one to find me. I don’t want her to have to experience that.  It’s not fair to heap that misery on her. To increase her burden.

So I drift through the day instead. Unable to concentrate. Unable to complete the simplest of tasks. My head spins. There’s a thunderstorm inside.

I realise I’d be dead if it wasn’t for the missus. If it wasn’t for the pain I know it would cause her, I’d have finished it a long time ago.

How do the people who have nobody to care for them, cope? I guess they don’t.

I do have someone to care for me. I’m not sure if that makes me or less fortunate. Maybe it just prolongs my suffering? Either way, I couldn’t do that to her. I’ve put her through enough.

Maybe there is hope. Maybe I’m not completely worthless. There’s still some shred of me that tries to put her first.

Until tomorrow. When I wake up and I think, “I hate myself. I should just kill myself and die”.

Getting through the day

Resilience

When I was first diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder, the following excerpt was brought to my attention. It’s taken from ‘Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong’ a book by Dr Tim Cantopher:

“What happens if you put a whole lot of stresses on to someone who is weak, cynical or lazy? The answer is that they will immediately give up, so they will never get stressed enough to become ill. The strong person on the other hand reacts to stress by redoubling their efforts, pushing themselves way beyond the limits for which their body is designed. When they start getting the symptoms of depression they still keep going, with the inevitable result that eventually their limbic system gives way. If you put 18 amps through a 13 amp fuse there is only one possible result.”

Dr Cantopher’s observations are backed up by scientific theory. “When a part of our brain called the limbic system malfunctions it manifests as depression. Our limbic system is a complex system of nerve fibres configured like a computers circuit board, controlling numerous systems around our body including our moods. It copes with our everyday life stresses very well, but it does have a limit. When pushed beyond breaking point (usually, but not exclusively, by a traumatic event) it will effectively blow a fuse. This ‘fuse’ is our transmitter chemicals, seratonin and noradrenaline, and their levels drop rapidly when the circuit blows. Without the correct levels of these two chemicals the electrical impulses that our brains nerve fibres need also drop, which in turn causes our ‘circuit board’ to abruptly stop working i.e. depression.”

In those early days, I took great comfort from those words. Because they resonated with me. I’d always been considered mentally ‘strong.’ Exams and performing under pressure didn’t bother me, I was great in a crisis, I never got too high or too low in my emotions, and I was superb at helping other people through their own troubles. So it all made sense.

I was also aware that emotions and reactions to mental inputs didn’t just materialise in thin air. They were caused by chemical reactions in the brain. So once again, it made sense. I had overworked the physical functions that moderate emotions and now I was paying the price.

Time passed, and I got worse. My anxiety rendered me unable to speak, my hands shook uncontrollably, and physical ticks presented themselves. Depression led me to self harm and suicidal thoughts. I had the worst time of my life. The worst time I’ll probably ever have. I tried different medications, extensive therapy. Eventually, I came out of it, and today I find myself in a relatively good place.

A little while back, I made the conscious decision to approach my life as if anxiety and depression no longer affected me. They were conditions that I used to have, and may occasionally relapse into, but they were no longer my present. They no longer defined me. And then a couple of weeks ago my medication was changed (in the hopes of leaving me feeling like less of a zombie in the mornings) and I went to shit.

Once again, I was wreck. Just when I’d seemed to be getting myself together, I fell apart. The stammer came back, the ticks and twitches reappeared and I locked myself away, afraid of the world. I was advised to stop the new medication and go back onto my old medication. I worried that I’d set myself way back. It had taken me the best part of 18 months to get to where I was. How long was it going to take to get back there this time? Miraculously, it took just over a week.

Somehow, I managed to retain the lessons I’d learnt and the thought processes I’d implemented. I’m back to feeling pretty straight again. When I went to therapy today, my therapist was surprised at how well I’d done to bounce back in this fashion. She mentioned my “resilience.” She said that I’d been through an incredibly tough time, faced another battle, and yet here I stood, having overcome it all.

I disagreed. I didn’t feel resilient. I saw it like this. I wasn’t resilient, because I was weak for succumbing to all of this in the first place. It was self imposed. The suffering I’d caused myself and the people around me, was all my fault. It’s not like somebody had told me to be anxious or depressed. I’d come up with that myself. I was the cause. I was to blame. Nobody told me at 16 to become borderline emotionless and bottle everything up, I’d done that, even if it was subconscious, it was me. Nobody told me to develop IBS either. I caused it.

Quite rightly, my therapist told me that I was wrong. A common theme in our sessions has been her belief that I’m too hard on myself. I set these rules and expectations upon how I should act and feel, and I pass harsh judgement on myself if I think I’m not up to scratch.

So I think it’s time that I accept what she’s saying and acknowledge the truth. She is right. I am resilient. And I shouldn’t be ashamed to feel that way. I’ve faced battles that have killed other people, that have nearly killed me, but I’m still standing. It wasn’t weakness that got me through it, it was strength. And despite it all, I’m here and i’m looking toward the future.  A couple of close friends of mine have got Crohn’s Disease. I wouldn’t tell them they’ve done it to themselves. It’s something that has appeared within their body, over which they had no control. My illness was no different.

My depression and anxiety were the result of environmental factors, of chemical reactions. I didn’t choose depression. I didn’t choose anxiety. When I was 16 and my parents split up, I wasn’t equipped to deal with the emotions I was experiencing. I thought that being strong and not falling apart was the right thing to do. When I was new to the police and being bullied for the first time in my life, I didn’t choose to become anxious. I tried to keep my head down and persevere. By ploughing on forwards and not letting myself fall, I wasn’t being weak; just ignorant about what I was doing to myself.

Now when I look back, I won’t see myself as being weak for having had depression and anxiety. I’ll see myself as being strong and resilient for overcoming them.

Resilience

Broken

Sometimes I wonder if I am fundamentally broken. Not damaged or spoilt; broken. Beyond repair.

Because the nightmare never ends. The anxiety, the getting worked up. The feeling down in the dumps and permanently on the edge of tears. 

I’ve been trying to fix myself for almost two years. Doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, counsellors, drugs, CBT, mindfulness. Nothing has worked. So I must be broken right?

When you can’t fix something, you say it’s broken. And then you throw it away.

But because I’m a person, I’m not allowed to be thrown away. I have to continue to be used, despite the fact that I’m not fit for purpose – I don’t function, I don’t operate correctly, what is the point? If I was a machine I’d be thrown on the scrap heap. But that isn’t allowed to happen.

So mentally, I put myself back in the box. Not working correctly. Of no use. Stuffed in a cupboard somewhere, no idea why I’m being kept. Broken.

Broken

Self loathing

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Some days I am consumed with self loathing. There are countless reasons that I feel this way. For example, I hate myself for putting my wife through this. She doesn’t just have to get herself through the day, she has to get me through it as well. I have to be coaxed into going anywhere. It’s never a simple “yes I’d like to go”. It’s a whirlwind of anxiety. Where am I going? How am I getting there? Who is going to be there? What if I’m in a bad way in front of them? Can I get home if I want to just leave? Plans and arrangements are constantly changed, tailored to my needs. Everybody else has to work around me. By trying not to draw attention to myself and my problems, I only end up doing the opposite. It’s hard work being married to me.

Yet I still can’t find the words to express how grateful I am. For sticking with me through this, for picking me up, for moving to a completely different country. Just to make me happy. For not giving up on me when any other sane person would have. To say more than just “I love you” and that I think I’d probably be dead without you. But I can’t find the words.

I hate myself for continuing to put me through this too. Nearly two years on and I still have days where I just want to give up. Why can’t this be like any other illness? Why can’t it be cured or just kill me? It lingers. I work myself into a frenzy and my brain feels like it’s going to explode. I see stars. Seriously, my head spins so much I see stars and lose my balance. I’m tired. Why do I have to keep experiencing this? Why won’t it stop? Why won’t I stop doing it to myself? And then I hate myself for feeling sorry for myself.

I’ve quit my job, moved to another country and tried to carve a out new career. But the slightest setback sees me crumbling. Giving up. I can’t do it. I’m not capable. This isn’t going to work. I lose focus. I don’t achieve anything, my brain gets stuck on repeat. I think over and over about something that doesn’t even matter. I’m useless. So I hate myself for being useless.

There’s no happy ending to this. I just hope that putting the words on a page and out of my head, will help clear it. I fear that it won’t. I think today is a day where I’m irredeemable. Because I hate myself for being self indulgent enough to write about hating myself.

Self loathing

Be The Change

You do your best, tell yourself to “be the change”. But you fail. You fail despite your efforts. You fail because of others.

You try to make positive changes to your life, but no matter what you do, how hard you try, you run into other people who stop you in your tracks. 

So you think “what’s the point? Why should I try to make a change when somebody else can come along and fuck it up without even knowing that they’re doing it?”. And the darkness descends. The light at the end of the tunnel disappears. 

You question your existence, because you look at the world around you and decide it isn’t for you. Why would it be? You are surrounded by stupidity. By selfish, petty people who care nothing for the consequences of their actions. They are almost blind, their vision extending no further than the end of their nose.

Humans are stupid. We like to think that we’re this super intelligent species, with our smart phones and our rockets to outer space. But we are idiots.

Clever people would have found a solution to famine. Think about that. We stuff our faces and waste food, obesity linked diabetes spirals and yet people die of starvation. It’s 2016 and people are dying because they don’t have food! How is that possible? We can send a fucking robot to Mars but we can’t feed people.

Humans are so stupid, so wrapped up in their own sense of injustice and blinkered by bigotry and discrimination that Donald Trump is a realistic presidential candidate for the supposed biggest superpower in western society. 

This is the man who said build a wall. Build a fucking wall to keep the Mexicans out. And people support that. 2000 years ago the Romans did that to keep the Scots out and apparently it’s still a viable solution! But you struggle to fight it, because the other option is the status quo, another crooked politician in a long line of crooked politicians (aren’t they all?).

We spend billions on entertaining ourselves with movies, sports and games, yet cancer research is undertaken by charities who have to beg for funding. 

People will turn out in their millions to watch millionaire actors in spandex pretend to fight in front of a green screen, but nobody is that arsed about the devastation occurring to wildlife in our forests and seas.

You think about all this and you want to end it all. 

And then you think about your loved ones. The people that you’d hurt. The decent people. The people who are kind and want to do good. And you decide that you don’t want to be one of those ignorant twats that you despise. You tell yourself to “be the change”. And you go again.

Be The Change

Down Days

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Down days. I still have them. I’ll be floating merrily along my way, feeling right with the world, when suddenly someone turns the lights out.

It happened to me recently whilst in Malta. I’d had a fun week, visiting my favourite spots on the island, swimming, eating good food and too much ice cream, when all of a sudden my world turned dark. I couldn’t make eye contact, couldn’t speak, couldn’t help feeling like curling up in a ball and crying myself to sleep. I was down as down can be.

Eventually though, it passed; my head cleared and I was able to engage with the world again. I put it down to a long two weeks spent almost permanently in the company of others (I’d spent the previous week in Cyprus for a friend’s wedding). I’d spent so long trying to stay up, without any time to stop and breathe, that I crumbled under the pressure. Previously that would have knocked me back and I’d have been spooked by the episode for days, but I’m a different person now. I’m able to accentuate the positive from the situation instead of dwelling on the negative.

Nowadays when I relapse I take it as a lesson, a reminder – I am doing well, but not as well as I think I am. I still need to be on guard, I – and the people around me – need to remember to be on the lookout for symptoms that I might be on my way down again. I can’t just pretend that all of a sudden, everything is alright.

When you start to feel right again, it’s easy to plough on forwards as if nothing ever happened, oblivious to the events of the past. I can’t do that. I need to be conscious of the bad decisions I’ve made in the past and make efforts not to repeat them.

I still get incredibly anxious about my stomach. Panic rises when I know I’m about to embark on a long journey and I won’t be near “facilities”. These episodes are incredibly disheartening and leave me feeling like I’m back at square one, still going through the motions of the first manifestation of my anxiety.

To combat this, once again, I try to get positive. I’ve come such a long way, I’ve dealt with the big issues and now is no time to feel down about the little things. On the way back down the mountain, you cross the same places that you passed on the way up (apt little analogy given what’s happening this weekend).

I have tools now. I manage my breathing and play games to distract my brain. It doesn’t work every time, but sometimes, sometimes is enough. On the flight back from Malta I felt the anxiety rising, but I caught myself. I identified that what I was feeling wasn’t actually anxiety, it was excitement to see my dog Lyla. It had been so long since I allowed myself to be excited, I had completely forgotten what it felt like. So having stopped, taken a moment and correctly identified my emotions, I decided to embrace them.

Hopefully I will do the same this weekend for my Snowdon Challenge. I’m full of cold, a coughing, sneezing, cold sweats mess, but I don’t care. I’m excited to take on the challenge. I’m making it to the end no matter how ill I feel. I see this charity challenge as the physical manifestation of my journey of the last 12 months. It’s going to be tough and at times I will stumble, but with the help of the people around me, I will keep on walking… I will overcome.

 

Down Days