I’ve always been one to tell my friends to speak up if something is on their mind, no matter how big or small, a problem told is a problem solved. However, when it comes to me, it’s a whole different story. I’m blessed to have the group of friends I have, who I know I could always turn to if the proverbial ‘shit hit the fan’. It’s taken me a long time to put pen to paper with this article.
It arose after Freddie messaged me on Instagram after we had a discussion about the books we were reading. Both myself and Freddie have had issues in the past with our fathers’ health. I remember him saying years ago in our local pub, The George, that if I ever wanted to talk about it to him that he would be there for me. I have massive respect for what he is doing and the articles he’s published. Work like his should not go unnoticed.
In this article I want to explore how loss of those close to me has had an impact on my mental health and my perception of those and the world around me.
Where best to start than the end. By this, I do not mean the end of my own life but the end of someone closest to me and how her life was tragically cut short. The death of my ex-girlfriend hit me harder than the death of any family member I’d ever experienced. For days after, I tried to block out the rumours that she had taken her own life but reality hit me when the posts on social media began to flow through.
Seeing these posts whilst sat at work sent me into a state of agony, I was sent home that day because I couldn’t hold it together – at that point I just wanted to sit at home and not speak to anyone (which I now realise was not the answer to dealing with any problem).
Luckily my friends had seen the same posts and assured me that once they finished work they would come to my house to ensure I wasn’t alone. Even if you don’t want to speak about something traumatic which has happened to you in your life, having the presence of those you love is enough to divert your mind away from negative and dark thoughts.
At times, I would sit on my balcony and smoke until I fell asleep in order to try and alleviate the pain.
I’ve never dealt with death well. I’m sure no-one does. However, this struggle I had was exacerbated further a few weeks ago when my mum told me her cousin had died who was the same age as her. Instead of hugging her to console her I continued to prepare dinner for that evening and acted as if nothing had happened.
Trying to block these events out, repress these memories or the people themselves is not good for one’s self or the people trying to help you through the suffering – they want you to get through this as much as you do.
I realised I was putting up a mental wall to those trying to help me. Over a year later, after realising this current path was not beneficial to me long-term, I thought it would be time to seek professional help. Seeing a therapist was something I thought was only for the clinically depressed but having the perspective of someone who didn’t know me was what I thought I needed – I was wrong.
My guard was still up and after five sessions my mind felt like this woman sitting opposite me was patronising me with her constant nodding and words of reassurance which had no doubt come from a book she studied at university. I’m sure she was only trying to help me and guide me through the emotional anguish I was experiencing like all counsellors. However, in the end, I didn’t feel like it helped me at all.
Another year had passed and not much had changed; still smoking to forget my problems, my day at work and whatever else had annoyed me that day. I would go into each day with this negative mentality which would no doubt affect the next day and the next. At this point I thought that maybe weed wasn’t the answer. One night after working late (something which is rare to me) I came home, opened a fresh pack of razors and made incisions on my arm.
Immediately after this I looked at myself in the mirror and thought “this isn’t me”. I thought to myself, what would my friends think? That was my first and luckily, my last experience of self-harming.
Following on from this and after not much improvement, I thought that now may be a time to revisit professional help, this time going through the NHS. Again, my lack of wanting to let someone help me was my downfall. This time, the therapist was under the impression I had a problem with alcohol – anyone who knows me would say this is the least of my problems.
A few months later, after reflecting on my experience with these therapists I realised that if I didn’t want to help myself no one else could help me. My dad gave me a sound piece of advice. He’s no Buddhist monk but this resonated with me; “let go of the things you can’t change and change the things you can”. It took some time for this advice to settle in and after a messy bank holiday weekend I went to work, handed in my notice and told my friends in Australia that I’d be flying out there this summer.
I thought this trip was what I needed in order to get me away from the job I hated and the lifestyle I was living back home. Having put no thought into the trip I flew out to the other side of the world in hope that a break from smoking and daily trips on the central line would be exactly what I needed to avert my constant dark thoughts.
A week had passed and I’d spent nearly every night laying in bed, not being able to sleep until morning when my friends had left for work. Sitting there, with only my thoughts to occupy me allowed me to realise what I wanted was not in a different country nor with different people. I spoke with my mum the night before I booked flights back home to tell her that I thought I’d made a bad decision in coming here. I told her when I arrived back home I would make amends and sort out my life for the better.
I returned home 2 weeks into my trip to find all the paraphernalia in my room had gone. I was instantly angry at this but after a moment of reflection I realised my mum had my best interests at heart and this was for the better. My mum had always thought of weed as being something which was hindering me from reaching my full potential and at some points blocking me off from my friends – now, being more open to the advice of others I realised she was correct.
Since the death of my ex-girlfriend I’ve had the chance to reflect on our relationship, which has enabled me to strengthen the current relationships I have with my friends and family. Sitting here writing this I have the chance to look back on my previous self, who two years ago would’ve never put pen to paper to write about experiences which have now shaped me. All of the advice I’ve received since then I have taken on board.
There are people out there, be they friends, family or professionals who are there to help you through problems, no matter how big or small. One friend often said to me to get some exercise, get out of the house and take my mind off things – after writing this I’m off for a run. It might won’t last long but it’s a start.
I’ll leave you with a final thought and lyric of a song by the band ‘As I Lay Dying’ which highlights the theme of this article and which has helped me get through some difficult times in my life:
All these moments of pain
Must add up to something
Our bodies have been trained to keep it all in
But our hearts still hold on
Some say to release it, forget about your past
Instead we count the cost, it’s part of us
That doesn’t mean that we cannot move on
It’s just a memory of what we once were
No matter what it is we’ve faced
It’s now part of us
We can overcome
This article was written anonymously
Check out more articles like this in our Experiences section.