A year on….

1 year = 8,760 hours = 525,600 minutes = 31,546,000 seconds .

The 24th February 2020 is a date that will be forever etched in my memory, it is a date that sticks, like a birth, a celebration, a promotion or a date of significance. For me, this is the date when I was going to end my life.

I had not planned this course of action, the day started like most. The same routine: get up, wake up, get feed, washed, dressed etc. It was an overcast day but that was expected in February. Now if am totally honest when looking back, I was not in a great place, but at the time I didn’t realize it at the time.

Various things had been going on in my life. Work and home was incredibly stressful. We all have our problems to deal with, some people deal with them better than others. In my case I had not dealt with a lot of issues going back many, many, years, I can see these now.

All these little things, little issues, keep getting put into a box. The problem is that box only has so much space, it will overfill.

I bottled a lot of feelings, emotions, trauma, death, moods, depression, the list is endless. You then get to a point where the smallest thing could end up setting of a chain reaction of events, when that starts, it engulfs you, you feel out of control and thoughts and choices become very blurred and irrational.

My box overfilled, it burst, It exploded into millions of pieces. I was hearing voices, I was having conversations with myself. I left work on my lunch break, but I didn’t return for nearly 8 months.

During that lunch break, I sat in my car talking to myself, asking myself what to do. I was highly emotional and in a hyper state of mind and not thinking clearly. Then the solution to all my problems came to light, the solution was to walk out in front of a high-speed train. So at the nearby train line, I calmly got out of my car, I locked it and walked down towards the tracks. From this moment on, I had no perception of time and these bits of information were filled in by those that came to my aid.

Three hours had gone passed. I had dozens of missed calls on my phone, work had contacted my partner, she was trying to call but I didn’t notice my phone ring. I remember a feeling of the heaviest darkest cloud being around me, like it was wrapping itself around me tighter and tighter. I could feel myself somewhere deep down inside trying to fight the feeling. I was in emotional distress, crying, sobbing, being angry with myself, all I felt was the enormous weight of pain and despair and I was rooted to the spot.

For some reason which I will never know, I had a moment of clear thinking “How will they ID me?” It was at that point , but this thought made me take my wallet out of my pocket to check that I had any identification. As I opened my wallet, I was greeted by this beautiful face, my other half smiling at me. For a split second, I seemed to come to my senses, enough to make a part of me think, “what the fxxk are you doing mate?”

Train after train passed by, I was close to climbing the small railing, less than 4 paces from certain death. I called The Samaritans from my mobile. I had no idea how long I spoke to them or what I said. I remember a fear of not wanting to move as I didn’t know which way I was going to step, later I found out I had spoken to them for nearly an hour, they convinced me to call 999.

I did call 999, again I was frozen in my movement. The police wanted to find me, but they didn’t now where I was and I didn’t tell them. After an hour, they found me and this was the first step of so many in my journey.

The local Police Mental Health Triage Team picked me up. This was a van, accompanied by a police officer, mental health nurse and a paramedic. I was safe, for now, but I didn’t feel it. It is a very hard feeling to try and explain, but although I was in safe hands, I did not feel safe as I could not trust myself to not self-harm. It was dark when they arrived, I have no idea what time it was.

The Police had spoken to my other half during this time to let her know I was safe, I had come to no harm, but I wanted to end my life. I do not think I will ever understand the effect that that conversation has had on her.

From there I was taken to the local NHS mental health unit and was admitted voluntarily for a 5-day assessment.

So much has happened in the last 12 months, I do believe things happen for a reason, some of the circumstances that have touched us all this past year have affected people in a negative way, yet affected me in a positive way.

When I was released from hospital to the crisis home team, I moved out of the house I shared with my partner. This was to give both myself and her some space. What had happened was a traumatic event for us both of us and we needed time to get our heads around things and start the healing process.

Just a week or so later, it was March and then the first national coronavirus lockdown occurred. We both joined decided it was best for me to stay at my family home for lockdown. Looking back, this gave us both the time we needed. I was signed off work, my partner was furloughed, people sometimes say they need time, we had an abundance of it and it was exactly what we both needed.

A year has now passed since that day. I am not going to lie by just saying I am in a better place now and all is good, it has been bloody hard. The aftereffects of a crisis like I had are huge and it takes a long time to process and get through it.

For a long period, I felt shame. I did not want even my family or closest friends to know what had happened and that was tough on my partner. The best way to try and describe what my head was doing is like this. It was like driving down a motorway at 100mph, in thick fog and mud over the windscreen. I suffered very badly from sensory overload. Noise, bright lights, the smallest thing would send me into a spin. The panic attacks and anxiety, the feeling that I would never get better, waking up to the darkness every day. Sleep was a friend that had left me, many hours of being wide awake, yet so tired I could not function. Suicidal thoughts and graphic images of self-harm, voices in my head. Not giving me instructions but my own voice giving me self-doubt, hearing things in the distance that were not there.

I consider myself very lucky in all of this from the support I received. My General Practitioner (GP) was amazing, work were incredible and left me alone for a long time, it was nearly 5 months before I had a conversation with HR.

Slowly things improved. I learnt new skills to keep me grounded, tools to use when it became too much, but I had to fight with myself to keep on top. This is the real battle and a battle I continue to fight today. Adjustment takes a long time, routine is so important. The simple things like getting up at the same time each day, no matter how hard it is. Eating well, fresh air and gentle exercise.  

Pacing is important as well. It will sound weird, but one of the best bits of advice I was given was not to have too many good days back-to-back. When this happens, you have a natural high, a feeling of euphoria from the release of adrenaline and endorphins and when the effects drop off it’s a massive crash.

Communication with my partner was key in all of this. We had to talk, a lot of the talking was so hard and emotional. I suffered very badly from ‘fight or flight’ I did a lot of flight when it got tough but over time this got better. I could not have completed this journey without my partner, she was and still is my rock. So many times, I thought I had lost her but we both fought and will continue to do so today. Recovery from a crisis is a very long process and will need continual work, I think until the end of time.

Counselling is still a big part of my life, of both of our lives. My partner has been on her own journey with mental health, what happened to me was a trauma for her and it has certainly taken its toll on her. I am only now starting to really understand the ripple effect of my actions to those close to me. A mental health crisis in my eyes is not about one person, its like an emotional hurricane leaving a trail of emotional damage that needs fixing.

Talking is so important. Raising awareness is so important. Looking after yourself both physically and mentally is so important.

So where am I now 12 months down the line?

Back at work full time after the best part of 8 months off. I am back at home with my partner. The mental health battle will never stop, BUT I can see it now, I have accepted it, it’s part of who I am. I have accepted that I will have bad days and that I now let them roll, because tomorrow is a fresh start and I know it will be a better day. I have a greater appreciation of what is around me, people, nature. The simple things like feeling the morning sun on your face, listening to the bird chorus, those things we take for granted.

Take 5 mins in your day and just stop and listen to what is around you, learn to love life again in these difficult times.

Stay safe.

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