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April 2018

My Story Began In 1977

My story began in 1977 when I was just 5 years old. I can recall the day very well when my Father returned home from work and lost his temper with me for letting my pet escape from its cage, said pet was found safe and well, unfortunately the same could not be said for me. My father beckoned me over to him and broke a wooden broom across the front of my right leg hurting me badly in the process. Over the years that followed I suffered terrible physical and emotional abuse at the hands of my father who was a very violent man. This continued until I was nearly 14, my older brother and sister had moved out as soon as they could to escape himand my Mother, although always there for me never really did anything to stop the abuse I endured for years. I can recall when I was about 7 or 8 my school had arranged for a physiatrist to visit me at home, this was due to my teacher at the time seeing marks all over my body, which were because ofmy abuse. I was questioned along with my parents; my father was an intelligent man and so managed to talk his way out of the situation. Child Protection and Safeguarding wasn’t what it is today, and so the abuse continued for me, I remember when the physiatrist left I received another beating from my father as he felt I had brought shame on him because ofthis visit. This was mostly how my childhood days panned out for me, right up until I was about 13 which was when my father’s health started to decline,and the abuse subsequently stopped. Fast forward to 2015 and I am a happily content man with a wife and 3 children whom I adore. My business was going steady and I was pretty much content with life in general, that was until the September 2015 when I began to slowly realise initially small changes in me, the happiness was slowly draining out of me as each day passed. I began to feel lowon a regular basis and life in general became a real effort. I had no real interest in doing anything at all so had to force myself to do so. I became irritable over the smallest of things and home life was starting to show the strain of my low mood swings which could last for weeks at a time. The festive season came and went,and I was glad it did because I found myself feeling very isolated and uncomfortable in other people’s company during that period. I knew that I was not coping with life at all well and that I needed help. In the January 2016 I approached my GP and explained everything that I felt was happening to me. I was told that I was suffering from depression and was clinically diagnosed with it. I was put on medication and was referred to The Oxfordshire NHS Trust for a 12-weekcourse of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). After about 2 weeks I received a call from one of the team for an initial assessment, many questions were asked about my background and my childhood growing up. A short while after that assessment my CBT course started over the phone for about 50 minutes once a week for 12 weeks, the Therapist who worked with me over that 12-weekperiod was brilliant, and the service that I received was invaluable to me and it did help. After the course was over I continued to try and get back into mainstream life again as best as I could. After several months of being on medication I approached my GP and said that I wanted to come off medication as I now felt that I was able to cope better. We tried this by slowly reducing my daily dosage, the plan being that in 6 weeks I would be medication free. As I got into the third week of reduced dosages I started to feel very irritable again and had great anxiety. It was decided that although I did not feel medication was doing much for me, having tried to come off it, itprobably was, subsequently I was put back on maximum dosage and ended up taking medication for over a year in all until I was weanedoff it again, this time successfully. A few months passed,and I felt I had more of a grip on myself and on life around me. I was medication free and was taking on board everything that I had been taught on my previous CBT course. I thought that this chapter in my life was just a glitch and that I now needed to continue to move on. that was until November 2017 when my illness stood up and looked me right in the eye, very quickly I became the man I was when I was diagnosed with depression, only this time things escalated on a grand scale, my mood swings were all over the place for weeks I would feel very low. I had feelings of worthlessness, Ifelt that I was a failure and had no interest in doing anything at all. I would put on a brave front whenever I was out or in company, but I really couldn’t wait to get back home which is where I felt safe and secure. When my mood changed to what I felt was a more positive one I would have thoughts of grand schemes in my mind and felt that I was able to achieve anything, nevertheless, I was constantly travelling down a dead-endroad at the end of which I would come to an abrupt stop. Ifelt very irritable and anxious again. I would worry over everything that you could possibly imagine, I spent money on things I did not need and was fast becoming a man with an attitude to life that on a bad day would make even the staunchest of cynics appear cheery. I knew I was struggling, having been to my GP before I felt I knew what they would saytake medication again, no, I didn’t want to,so I tried to self-help. I trained in my gym day after day, on nights that I couldn’t sleep I would go and train in the very early morning. I was trying to blast away my feelings of emptiness and suffering, when really all I was doing was blasting away at my mental and now physical health in a non-productiveway. Eventually I accepted that I needed help again and so went back to see my GP. During the days leading up to my appointment I decided to write down allmy symptoms to present to my GP rather than risk rambling on whilst trying to get my message across. After reading my list of symptoms and having talked to me I was told that I was probably suffering from Bipolar Disorder. Just at that moment I felt my world rock as my GP explained all about it. To be honest, I cannot say that I heard every word said to me during the moments that followed as I was just numb all over. Iwas referred to a specialist at a health centre near to where I live in Buckinghamshire. Iwill not name the health centre as my experience with them was not a positive one. Iarrived on the day of my appointment and sat in the waiting room. As I waited to be called up I sat nervously looking around the place. I saw all kinds of people from all walks of life with lots of stories to tell I’m sure. Yet one thing I noticed about all of them was the look in their eyes. They all looked in pain, they all looked sad as if they were carrying the thoughts of the world on their shoulders. This moved me,and I remember wishing at the time that I wanted to help them. I was called in for my appointment and having read my notes and the notes from my GP the specialist said that they felt it was a waste of time my being there and that I was good to go. Good to go where I thought, so all my symptoms, my GP’s thoughts on them and the fact that I had been referred for a CBT course previously were all incorrect and a waste of time. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I am not a specialist in any way,but I do know myself and I knew that I neededhelp, there and then. I went back to see my GP only this time my GP was on leave,so I saw someone else. I was fine with that as I had seen this GP before, they were in fact the one who had diagnosed me with depression and helped me when this journey began in 2015. I explained what had transpired at the health centre and received a verbal apology from my GP. This was very kind,but I was not expecting one, I just wanted help. Having read through my notes my GP recognised that I had Bipolar Tendencies and so that is what I was diagnosed with by them. I was offered medication but said that I would like to self-help. I was advised to self-refermyself to the charity BuckinghamshireMind with a view to receiving counselling. I did this as soon as I got home and after a couple of days I received a call from them inviting me in for an initial consultation. About a week after I arrived for my consultation with Bucks Mind and this is where my story takes on a more positive theme. Again,I was questioned about my background and childhood and I told them everything that there was to tell. It was agreed that I would have a 10-weekcourse of counselling and so I was put on a waiting list. Counsellingstarted and for 10 weeks every Saturday morning I attended without fail. My counsellor worked with me to address my issues and gave me small mindset exercises to perform during the week until my next session. As the weeks passed I began to have a more positive outlook on everything. My moods were more stable,and I began to eat and sleep properly again, basically I began to rebuild my life around me again as best as I could. Several weeks have passed since my counselling ended and I am coping much better, I am eating healthily and sleeping much better. I have a more positive outlook on life and feel that I have been given another chance to help myself, to help others. Sure, I still get down days,but I am more equipped to deal with them now than I ever was in the past. Remember when I said that at one point my illness stood up and looked me right in the eye, well now I just look right back at it. I’m in the gym again but this time for the right reasons, building a healthy body and using what Bucks Mind taught me to build a healthy strong mind too .It has taken me a long time to refer to what I have as a mental illness. But I have,and this has helped me move on as a person. Bucks Mind were a blessing to me, they helped me see things in a totally different light. My journey was always about sadness, depression, feelings of failure and worthlessness. I never harmed anyone or myself and never thought about doing so. I knew I needed help back since 2015 and thankfully to my GP, Oxfordshire NHS Trust and Bucks Mind I got it. Anyone who suffers with ill mental health will probably hear the word trigger or triggers at some point. To this day I do not know for sure what has triggered my illness. Is it my childhood and that has ledto emotions and feelings that have come to the forefront of my mind later in life?Is it hereditary?As I think looking back that my father hadhis own issues. I will end my story by saying this, mental ill health is no different to any other ill health in that it knows no bounds and can affect anyone. It is nothing to be ashamed of and it does need people to speak out to help end the stigma that surrounds it. This in turn will hopefully help people who are suffering feel more confident in coming forward to seek help. I will be forever thankful to those that I have mentioned in my story for all the help that they have given me. I am thankful to my wife for standing by me and I am thankful to have been given the opportunity, like others have, to tell our stories in the hope that in doing so we can help others. Let’s carry on talking about mental health and let’s clear the cloud together.