MHB 01: My Experience- 4 Years of Hurt
This is the first of my weekly mental health blogs. Throughout the year there will be a whole range of topics, and a whole range of authors. My guess is the breakdown will be roughly as below, though this may/will change as only a few scheduled so far:
- My Personal Experiences ( 4 blogs by myself)
- Specific Mental Health Conditions (2 blogs by myself, 15 blogs by others)
- General Issues surrounding mental health (12 blogs by myself, 6 blogs by others.)
- Celebrity (hoping to get a couple of blogs)
My Experience: 4 years of hurt
I thought that for my first weekly mental health blog it would be a good idea to explain the issues I have gone through in the past 4 or so years. It is very hard to describe some of the feelings I have gone through but I have tried my best and this blog doesn’t really go into the specific thoughts but more the consequences of my mental health issues. This has been a very hard blog mentally to write. I did consider not posting it, but was persuaded that I should. This specific blog will not make nice reading, though future blogs will be more informative and hopefully less emotive.
First four months:
It all starts back in late November/early December 2013, when over the period of about 2 weeks my mind completely changed. I went from being a happy person, in a job I liked, with enough friends and constantly busy doing things (sports, galleries, walks etc.) to suddenly being so desperately low, I struggled to do some even basic tasks.
I got through the Christmas period and on getting back to work after New Year everything started to fall apart. Alongside the mental side there were also some significant physical issues. These included not sleeping for more than an hour a night for several months in a row, completely losing my appetite, and my body generally aching. On the mental side I was feeling more and more isolated, very teary and a feeling of complete desperation that I just can’t do justice on paper.
During this period I managed to continue ‘working’, working not really being the right word I managed to turn up, do just enough to keep projects and deadlines on time, sometimes hiding tears whilst sat at my desk and at other times going down to the basement to hide in the toilets when the emotions got too much to hide. Towards the end of March I knew I could not continue working, my mind was so all the over the place I was worried I would make a mistake. And a mistake as a structural engineer (bridges specifically) could lead to genuinely serious issues. I therefore walked out of the job. I feel I need to make it clear the job did not cause my issues, I actually loved the job and specifically really liked my team and there were several members of the team I really respected.
Brixton: (prior to condition to 09/2014)
Just before quitting my job, I had gone to my GP who was worried about my condition. He suggested for me to take medication, and referred me urgently to a team for possible therapy though told me not to hold my breath to hear back from them. I tried various medications but found none of them had any positive impact on me.
On leaving my job I became more and more isolated, at times not leaving the flat for days at a time and my sleep issues and appetite were still very bad. I was crying for hours each day, sometimes screaming when my housemates were out at work and emotions were really low. I could see no positive future and my thoughts retreated further and further down a dark hole.
This all hit a head at the end of May 2014, when I took an overdose. This consisted of a significant number of antidepressant pills, a few other pills and immediately followed by 2 bottles of wine. There are only 2 things I have done during the whole 4 years that I am completely ashamed of and one of these was a message I sent to a friend whilst taking this overdose, which was not fair and not at all nice (I am deeply sorry for this). But an ambulance was called and I was taken to Kings College Hospital. After leaving the hospital the next day I went to my brothers flat for 2 weeks. I was assigned a home treatment team for two weeks but after a different person turned up each time, sometimes they didn’t turn up at all and sometimes hours late my brother and I agreed to part company with them as they were more of an inconvenience than a help. I remember saying at the time that I do not think this was an attempt on my life, I think I knew I was not taking enough to kill myself but was hoping that it would somehow trigger me into doing something to improve (however ridiculous that sounds.)
I returned back to my Brixton home, still very down. Not really sure what to do. After someone told me I was just being lazy and also under pressure from someone close to me I actually went and met my old boss at Buro Happold engineering and arranged to start work there again as a contractor rather than with a permanent contract starting in mid-September a month or so later. Unfortunately I was really low and being forced to do stuff that I was just not fit to do. I was becoming more irritable, angry with myself and more and more desperate. On top of this my two housemates had had enough and told me they were leaving in the near future, this was completely fair. It did though have an effect as it made me feel even lonelier and I was in no state to try and find new accommodation.
Beginning of September 2014 I had hit rock bottom again, extremely irritable, struggling to leave the house at all, crying constantly, and physically punching my headboard in complete anger at the situation. I decided on the evening of the 1st of September that I had tried as hard as I could, I could see no happy future and wanted out. I pooled together a selection of antidepressants (venlafaxine, sertraline, citalopram and mirtazapine)) and other pills I had. I took these with half a litre of vodka. This time I had taken enough that I genuinely thought it would kill me. I went to sleep hoping to never wake up again. But I guess it must have been an hour or so later I did wake up, my heart pounding and my head banging. I shouted and one of my housemates came and instantly rang an ambulance. I personally do not remember what happened from then till late the next day, I believe I had a fit (seizure) in hospital and an exceedingly high heart rate even late the next day. My first memories the next day are quite strange as I was hallucinating a bit, I was asking the doctor about the farm animals outside when there was no farm, and was spotting ‘Borrowers’ coming out of the plastic skirting board cracks.
I went home after this (my dad stayed for a day or so), but by now the housemates had moved out so was sitting at home alone. After everything that happened I was just emotionally empty, so lonely and struggling to get out of the house, not really eating. On top of this I was meant to be stating work again in 10 days or so. A few days later I knew I needed to do something so decided to admit myself as a patient at a Nightingale Hospital (a private hospital.) I will not go into this here as will leave a separate blog for the 3 days I was there. All I will say is that I was ASSAULTED within this hospital by a senior member of staff.
On leaving the hospital I went back to my house on my own, no one was contacting me at all during this specific period. I was desperately lonely and soon to be without a home as contract would be running out. I mustered all my energy to find a flat and found one in Camden and the 3 housemates chose me (they definitely wouldn’t have if I had told them less than a month earlier I had attempted suicide).
Camden: (09/2014 to 01/2015)
I moved to Camden and started my old job at the same time. It was stupid to attempt both these things at the same time. I survived 10 days in the job before I couldn’t hack it any longer, and just walked out. I survived in the flat for 3 months though mainly hid in my room only very rarely getting out, I did actually muster cooking a Christmas dinner though. I had an issue with the landlord as he kept just coming into the flat during the day when the housemates were out, without letting us know and this really affected me in my lowly state. Then in early January I just walked out (without telling the landlord) and my dad was in the UK so just dumped as much stuff in his car as I could, left all the other stuff behind and headed to France.
France: (01/2015 to 05/2015)
I stayed in France for a few months. This was not the easiest time as I was irritable and my dad is not always the easiest person to be around. It did though provide a stop gap for me. Eventually I had to come back, as was going mad in France, but had absolutely nothing organised in the UK when my ferry arrived in Portsmouth
Nowhere: (05/2015 to 08/2015)
So I got a train to London and had absolutely no plans. I just wandered around for hours eventually managing to stay in a hostel. A friend actually let me stay after that, where I definitely overstayed my welcome after being there for 4 weeks. When I was asked to leave I asked other friends and people for help but was unfortunately unsuccessful. The next 2 months were horrible, with some nights in hostels/cheap hotels, others sleeping rough outside my GP practice and a couple for times sleeping in hospital receptions. During the days I would just walk around as I had no base, sometimes I would just sit in a Weatherspoon’s, as it is the only place no one even looks at you if you look a little dishevelled and carrying a suitcase with you. Strangely at this point I was actually trying to see people as I needed some contact to stop me going completely mad. I played Frisbee with a team, and even went to a wedding. I was really struggling to get anywhere to stay and though not suicidal anymore was desperately hopeless.
Richmond: (08/2015 to 12/2017)
Finally I found a little studio flat on Airbnb in Richmond which I could afford and didn’t require proof of work or reference from previous landlord. This place was a godsend, it was completely self-contained at the end of a garden. Therefore it had no flatmates, no neighbours so I had no one I could affect or be affected by. This flat became both a haven and a prison. It was somewhere I felt safe but also somewhere I at times became more isolated than at any time.
I had been invited to a wedding in India in September 2015. I still don’t know how I built up the confidence to go to this. In fact I went to India for a whole month, as my landlord let me pay no rent for the month as it was the rugby world cup so they could sublet my flat for more money. I went on my own, covered lots of areas (Mumbai, Goa, Kerala, Delhi and Rajasthan), travelled on local trains, saw many things and went to the wedding. Considering how little I had done in the previous 2 years I am amazed I managed this. It was not all rosy, having several panic moments where my mental state declined but at all these I headed to the nearest Café Coffee Day (a coffee chain in India), which is strange as I don’t like coffee chains, sat in the AC room and read my book sometimes for hours until I calmed down again. Looking back on this trip I am incredibly proud of myself and I did in general have a good time, including at the lovely wedding. It is possible to say that this was the first time I had any happiness at all for at least 2 years though my mental state was still in a very bad place.
I returned to my flat in Richmond, and remained there for the following 2 years until leaving for this walk. My mental state slowly improved though I still had significant issues, I was still unable to work, at times struggled to leave the flat and had moments in tears but in comparison to before I had a permanent base, I was more stable, I got out to see friends more, I played more sport and my mental health must have been a certain amount better otherwise would not have been able to plan this walk.
The above roughly covers the previous 4 years in my life. It does not go into depth about the specific feelings, or any detailed description of the thoughts but these will most likely be covered in specific subsequent blogs. I have also in general left out my attempts to get help through the NHS, as I am leaving this to another blog.
It also does not include when friends/family have tried to help, or whether there attempts were helpful or harmful however well meaning.
On top of my mental health issues it has become apparent that there is also something more long term (which in reality I knew anyway), with the likely answer being Asperger’s, for which I have gone through a partial assessment, which they were unable to make a final diagnosis as they did not have access to my full developmental history. I will delve further into this in a future blog.
Apologies if anyone I know has been offended by this blog that was never the intention.
Finally this walk is already helping my mental health as it is allowing me to focus on something, use my brain for the planning/admin (which is never ending) and feel more connected to things again.