‘When you become so tired of letting people down, suicide seems the only option’
I remember the Sunday afternoon well. Nothing was really different in my world, at a conscious level. As I looked out of the window of my new house we’d moved into all was well, new career following my time spent playing football, a new car, two beautiful children – on the surface all was well. As i tried to fix a screw in the wall in my daughters bedroom tears started to run now my face, my stomach started to tighten. I shook and hit the floor in a heap, trembling like a little boy who has a complete lack of sense of self and security. I was confused, lonely and scared. This turned to anger, ‘get up, don’t be soft your better than this’ I mentally scrambled to make sense of it all.
I agreed to see the doctor. As I think back, I just wanted some recognition or understanding, some contact. As I sat in front of her and she told me I was depressed, she may as well have been speaking in a different language. Immediately my defences went up, ‘OK I get it, I need a break’ I said, self assured with an armour of arrogance I had built over many years. That arrogance which wonderfully covered up a world of shame.
I internally criticised myself for being weak. I had built a programme internally of what I thought the world wanted me to be and ‘taking a break’ let alone accepting I was depressed and needed help, wasn’t something in my script of life.
I spent years in confusion, brief waves of excitement, relative business success and ‘wins at work’ gave me momentarily relief from my internal world of harsh criticism and shame.
Alcohol in the end was the only real relief I got and the inevitable destruction that followed from losing my licence and my relationships with the most important people in my life, my children. That caused for more self soothing resulting in isolation, fear, disparity, loneliness and more shame.
I used to think fear and burn out were words that fit me well and these are part of the emotional soup of feelings that occur. For me shame was the thing I was trying to get far away from, and I needed to protect the world from seeing it, at all costs. The fear of being judged injected more shame, and It was my shame that ultimately infused the fantasy that this world would be better without me in it.
I’ll never quiet know what changed inside me, I do know that the second I took an overdose I regretted it. I do know that no matter how much love you have for those around you, when untreated, nothing can be stronger than the feeling of deep internal shame. I would walk in front of a bus for my children but ‘if I could no longer walk, then I’m no good to them either’ devastating thoughts. More shame. I hope they understand none of this was their fault, that was entirely my conditioning and thought process.
Ultimately it wasn’t fear, alcohol or shame that hindered me but it was the way I chose to protect my self – masking up, arrogance, critical of others, self righteousness and being ‘strong’ enabled me to keep operating to stay alive. It kept my shame quiet. If anything was to change it was the way I protected myself.
No wonder so many people take their own life. Going against an internal programme that’s been keeping us safe our whole life, is not easy. Ultimately it was a will to live, a connection to my internal spirit and the clarity of seeing my children grow up and being an asset to them that gave me focus in the early days and weeks of my recovery.
People ask me what depression is. For me it’s a true sense of loss. My loss was, structure, identity, sense of self, security, relationships, sense of self worth and probably more that I’m not yet aware of. The inevitable addiction that followed was relatively easy for to understand, I kept hurting myself and return to the drug of my choice, a viscous cycle I know I’m lucky to escape. Depression and addiction go and in hand, depression for me is more than a low mood, it’s a complex pool of emotions that include anxiety, fear, worthlessness and that all inclusive feeling of deep shame, that washed o we my entire body like a tsunami. It’s not just the present, but calls on the areas of our past we haven’t yet made sense of and is a compound, layered structure stemming back to the day we we’re born.
We are complex beings but also simple at the same time. We need each other, we need to feel connected. When we don’t, our bodies tell us. I now see all the above as protection, a physiological response to threat I had no control of, that enabled me to make changes. Enabled me to find a connection back to myself and eventually others and the environment we occupy.
My biggest loss was my connection to self. I have no tips, no ‘7 rules to mental health’ and no first aid manual for this human condition but what I do have is courage to be honest, willingness to learn more and an open mind to understand that I’m learning with every breath and every step forward and back I take.
For anybody reading this and it connecting with any part of it. You maybe you have been wonderfully protecting, but my hope is that you find a connection back to yourself. My hope is that you find the gift of courage within you to put your hand up and say ‘I can’t do this anymore, I want help’ – where words fly, shame can’t survive. Being vulnerable enables us to open doors of communication which leads us to authentic contact and connection. It helps us rejoin the human race and gives us the tools to manage our emotions as we progress.
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Because 84 men take their lives each week.
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