So we know from an earlier post about Theresa May’s speech that suicide is a major killer of young men, women and men under 54. So that is what I am going to write about. It will not be the most comfortable post in this blog. Some of you may want to stop now but I hope you can read on. I feel that it is important to open up this subject if we are to make inroads and move our thinking forward. This is my story, it is not, unfortunately, unique.
I used to think ‘how could you ever get in to a place where you thought that suicide was the only option left to you’? This wasn’t just the bravado of youth, but my logical thinking that any problem could be resolved. But it is remarkably easy to find yourself in that place.
In my case it was grounded in 2 factual elements that came together and triggered the following events. The first one was a sense of hurt or fear that accompanied Gill being ill and hospitalised for 2 weeks. It was serious but not life threatening, however, it created a sense of potential loss that set my threat/response cycle off. This on its own was not something unmanageable. Then a project I was managing began to go wrong. Again, not in a disastrous way but enough to kick start a threat to my self esteem and perfectionist streak. By now my hypersensitive threat/response cycle was going completely off kilter. Magnifying smaller issues in to larger threats and dulling my response to those threats. At the same time as this negative spiral, my need to maintain an outward calm, responsible sorted manner was harder and harder to maintain. The perceived failings fermented the anxiety and the strain of holding it together drove the depression. You would think that this was an emotional response and at first I think it was but now a fierce logic kicked in. I was asking myself binary questions driving me down various dead end streets. In my mind, I was going to lose my job, lose our house, lose Gill…..
I struggled to talk to anyone because I didn’t understand what was happening, I now know from recent conversations that people who knew me could see that something was going wrong but none of us could articulate it.
So how did it feel? Even now I don’t really know, the depression was oppressive, crushing. I couldn’t sleep at night and I couldn’t get out of bed during the day. I was in a place where I had 2 or 3 self fulfilling negative cycles. The lack of sleep meant that I was perpetually tired. I literally couldn’t see the wood for the trees. But I wasn’t scared, or at least not as scared as I would have expected to be. The time I was scared was at the end of a conversation with the lead psychiatrist in the hospital on my admission. We had discussed my thoughts. At the end I said to him, ‘you do not need to worry about me, I am not emotional enough to do anything’. His response frightened me, he said. ‘unfortunately you are the ones we watch like hawks’. It was reinforced when I was hanging up a pair of trousers in an open wardrobe, I looked up and saw that the rail had been 80% cut through. I thought ‘that’s sloppy workmanship’. It was 20 minutes before the penny dropped.
So what was the turning point? At a certain point there was a small kernel in my brain, probably deep in the reptilian part that deals with the basics of survival, that tapped in to the emotional part of me that loved Gill and knew the hurt that it would cause. That is when I went to the doctor and 6 weeks later I was in hospital.
Seven years later, with the benefit of time and distance I am being encouraged to explore that part of my psyche. Not to wrap it in concrete and try and bury it in a hope that it won’t come back and bite me.
Day 24 – 40 mins
I was planning to go out early this morning but had a little lie in which, with hindsight was a mistake. By the time I go out late afternoon rather than being grey and drab it has become, grey, drab, miserable and wet. I drive up to the transmitter on the Underbarrow Rd. The light mist on Highgate has become a proper fog. I park up and I can barely see the base of the transmitter and by the time I get back it has disappeared completely. I set off, I head down Gamblemires Lane (great name but beaten by Grisleymires Lane in Milnthorpe). The intention is to photograph the lime kiln under Cunswick Scar but I can barely see it so I head on down. Today is a day to really concentrate on foot placement, bare rocks are slippery and tree roots are lethal. I get to the bottom of the lane and then turn round and head back up the lane. At the top I turn left and head to the top of Cunswick Scar in my normal figure of 8 loop. Visibility is less than 30 yards, the fog/cloud dampens sound so that the A591 is just a low level rumble, even my footsteps are muted, a combination of the fog and the damp ground. It is not raining, but it is that type of drizzle that slowly soaks you through. But in a strange was I am enjoying myself, not in a masochistic sort of way but in a ‘good to get out on the fells’ sort of way. I am 3/4 of the way through the challenge, only 8 days to go. Near the end I stop to grab a shot of some trees in the mist.
Trees in mist – Cunswick Scar