PLEASE NOTE that this article is deeply personal and may cause some readers discomfort.
We wrote an article about something we started called #govember, the main aim of which is to raise awareness around Mental Health and the current “situation” being faced.
Statistics are alarming. Suicide rates are rising and it’s sad. Really, really, really sad.
BUT ! The real reason behind all of this is something deeply personal to us at D-Toxd, especially me – Gareth. If you’ve ever read the book we wrote, Inside Out – Personal Excellence Through Self Discovery, you would know bits and pieces of my story.
Today, the 4th of November, is a VERY SPECIAL DAY for me. It is a day I will remember for as long as I live and a day that will always have many, many mixed emotions – happiness, sadness, pride, guilt, shame, forgiveness and much more. I sometimes wish that I could turn back time and undo all the hurt and pain I caused but at that point in my life, it truly did appear to be (for me) the best option for everyone concerned.
I didn’t know how to live with my mental health problems. I didn’t know who to talk to. I didn’t know what to say. How do you tell someone you hear voices all the time? How do you tell someone that, despite how much you have to be thankful for, you can’t “feel” anything? How do you share how you really feel? The drugs and alcohol were the things that kept me going – they took away the pain, the helped glue the mask to my face.
It’s a day I am reminded of how life used to be so many years ago – how life used to be when the smile hid so much.
You see, today I turn 13. I am now officially a “teenager” in my second chance at life. 13 years ago today, I woke up, restrained to a hospital bed and hooked up to machines with my family watching over me. The fact that my children are now grown up and able to read this also sometimes holds me back from sharing – I put them, my wife and mom and sister through so much shit with the choices that I made, that I get scared to share.
But I’m 13 today.
And as a “teenager” I am making a personal decision to share.
I won’t sit here and type that the 13 years since that day have been easy. In fact, they have been far from that. Since that day, I still ended up in hospital twice more – once 6 months later and the last time, 2 years later.
Every day, I consciously choose to live my life the way that I do. There are days when it is tough, when the voices seem louder than ever. And there are days when they are my friends. There are days when it takes every ounce of energy I have to get out of bed. And days when I fly out of bed. There are days when I feel on top of things and days when I feel completely overwhelmed by all the chemical reactions that take place in my body.
I’ve lived with this since I was young and what I have learned is that it is not anything to be ashamed of. My experience with all of this started young too – I was 18 the first time everything go too much. I woke up in a ditch on the side of the road. I told my Mom I had food poisoning and couldn’t get home on time. I watched one of my closest friends die in front of me and could do absolutely nothing about it. My dad died through suicide, as did his father and my mom’s father.
The other day, I watched a documentary that opened my eyes even more. It was a BBC program with Professor Green, and he was describing his journey through dealing with the death of his father. It brought home to me that these things need to be talked about. It brought home to me that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
YES ! I made some different decisions – before, I would say I made stupid decisions. But I did the best that I knew how in that moment. Were they right or wrong ? I will never know. But what I do know is that, by some small miracle, I woke up. I had to face everything head on. I had to lose the people I loved more than anything in the world and I live with that every day.
Sharing this is uncomfortable. It makes me feel nervous. Thoughts run through my head – what will people think? Is it OK to say these things? Will people think I am really mad? And those are the polite ones.
But you know what I have learned over the years.
I am NOT the only one going through this. I am NOT the only one who lives with this every day. I am NOT alone any more.
Things have drastically changed for me in the last 13 years. I continually push myself to explore new and different ways to live with my condition. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. I push myself to find the courage to reach out when I am feeling low and sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t
The last few months have been tough for me. My Bipolar and Schizo Affective Disorder have been worse than they have for many years. If you know me, or have met met, you will know how much I hate labels and I dont use them very often.
In fact, the last time it was this bad, I stayed in bed for 10 days and the time before that was the last time I ended up in hospital after trashing my house and severely cutting my arms and legs. I was in hospital for 5 weeks under 24/7 watch – I couldn’t even go to the toilet without a nurse watching me. I am slightly ashamed to say that there have been moments where those old thoughts entered my mind – a lot. The old demons were back and the usual tools were temporarily unavailable.
I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I kept telling myself “you should be able to deal with this by now” and “be thankful for what you have” and “just get over it.” In fact, as I write this now, there are tears as I remember how I felt – and feel every now and then.
If the truth be told, the “S” word has been on my mind a lot. Quite a lot. Every day actually. It hasn’t been a conscious choice, it’s just been there – constantly. 2 weeks ago I finally admitted it. I admitted that, for the first time in many years, I didn’t want to carry on.
But every day I reminded myself that I had a choice. I could roll with it and let it complete itself (because storms always pass, sometimes they are just pretty big) or I could fight and argue with it, which only makes it worse.
I have some very special friends and people in my life (Fasa, Bean, Kerpy Gum, Mir, Anna, Tash) and I spoke as much as I felt I could. I cried. I cried some more. I told them I was scared. I told them I didn’t know what to do or how to feel. I told them I just wanted to be normal and not live with this anymore.
And they said it was OK. They said I was OK. They said I was normal and that my normal was OK.
So instead of believing the “others” I chose to believe them. I chose to listen to them even if it made me argue with them or feel I was the wrong one.
I didn’t want to be a statistic and, as God always does, he gives you signs. He gives you signs that he is working with you in a way that might not seem pleasant right now. Last week, a Facebook Friend lost someone close to suicide. I saw her pain. I saw what she was going through. But I also understood. I knew what it must have been like for that person. And it was this that broke the seal for me. It was this that allowed me to feel all the emotions that come with living with something like this.
And #govember was born. #govember is my way of speaking up. #govember is our way of saying “it’s OK and somehow, it’s going to be OK.” We might not know how right now, but somehow, it’s going to be OK. YOU don’t have to be ashamed if you are going through these things – as we all know, 1 in 4 people will be diagnosed with a mental health illness.
I don’t know if any of this makes any sense whatsoever. I have just typed. I tried to think about it and plan it and put some structure into it but it didn’t work. So I just typed. I let things come up and if they did, I let them come out of my fingers and onto this page.
I am 13 now. I am a teenager. I think that it’s OK to share.
And tomorrow is a new day with new choices – and I will continue to make the same choice I do every day – the one that makes me a day older, one day at a time.
To close off, a friend sent me a message – she also suffers from similar disorders to me.
This is what she reminded me of that I had temporarily forgotten and that is what gives me the strength each day: –
It’s my WHY, to know I didn’t suffer all this for nothing, that I can stand up and help someone one day!
I hope this helped someone today. Because tomorrow, I will go on to be there to help the next someone.