My human was doing quite well for himself. Nothing remarkable, but middling feels like the correct word. He had worked since leaving school, sometimes in shite jobs sometimes not, but he had always worked. He had been made redundant from a job and decided to go it alone. This would not be the wisest thing that he ever did, but humans learn from mistakes, and in many ways, it has made him a better person. However, what it also made him, what still frustrates and annoys was that this started his descent into a pit of madness. In opening up about this, we decided we’d be completely open and honest. There will be times when my human was an arse, there will be times when he was not particularly likeable. You should know that now before we begin, you should understand that this is raw and open. What you should also know though is that I ended up with him, so in the end, all is well… sorta.
Now we will commence. I worked from school, as I have said, and was a complete arse. I am not even talking about minor things here, in school, I was a bully in school, and then I continued to be the same outside of school in my ‘adult’ life. I looked after myself and only myself. I was not on the politician level of narcissism, but I was not very likeable. I’d have disagreed at the time, now I would not. I tell you this to paint a fuller picture, many would argue its karma, and maybe that is true. There is a particular element of that at times in the universe, as I am sure you have all experienced. So, not a nice guy. You may get to the end of this and decide he got what he deserved, maybe you are right. Perhaps you are not, who can know.
The first job comes and goes, second follows and third arrives. The third I was good at the third I enjoyed. I excelled at it. I was with the company some time and was overall well-liked. There was one person, we shall call him Roger, he suffered from stress. Nobody can tell you how harmful stress can be, one person can deal with it, another is broken by the tiniest amount. I could deal with it, I just could not understand how someone could struggle with it. I never went to some people’s lengths and proclaimed “just pull yourself together”, but it did cross the synapses of my mind. I still have no idea how bad it was for Roger, I can only empathise from afar now that I understand. I hope he is doing well, I suspect he has since retired.
We climb the ladder, you have to hit the peaks before you descend. A climb comes before a fall. I have to hit my summit, and I did in opening his own business. Same trade just doing it myself, and it was a disaster from the start. That is not entirely true, it went okay for a while but then plummeted like a metaphoric stone telling us of the future. We shall skip the excuses, the why, what, and how. It is tedious and mostly irrelevant. The business failed, as did my mental health. So we start our fall. First came the bills, a common enough tale. I had pushed and pushed to keep things going, and when the house of cards finally fell, I was in the shit. Many people would not have considered it a significant debt, it was not, but it was still enough to push night and day. This is not just a worry that “stresses you out”, this is a scream that starts from the moment you wake. Continues throughout the day then continues to plague you when you go to bed. When you finally fall to sleep, you then wake up, and the torture continues. Then you look at the clock and realise you have only slept for a few hours. So as we are building a recipe of despair lets throw sleep deprivation into the mix, the bowl of human madness has room. A few years pass, I took a few jobs that never seemed to last. I did some freelance work, dabbled in the family trade of (re)upholstery. Things were awful, the stress never left, but, I managed them as best I could.
As time passed, something else crept into my life. At first, I did not notice it like a tide drifting towards it was slow and steady, maybe. It could have just been the stress occupying my mind, so it shadowed the creeping mist. It could have been all of this and more, I won’t pretend to understand the human psyche. It suddenly dawned that I had not been outside for a long time, other than that of my partner, I had no human interaction, nor had I sought it. And do you know what? This did not bother me. This is the slithering of agoraphobia. It slid its way in unnoticed, my partner was happy to continue what she did so that neither of them commented. It just crawled into my life. Imagine, if you will, that you go outside and all is fine on a Monday, Tuesday you try to go out, and you freeze. This is not just a slight scare, this is a terror that grips you and won’t let you go. Chilling you from the centre of your brain, shooting to your feet and freezing them in place. It is an irrational fear until you experience it, then in that split second, it becomes perfectly rational. Suddenly the monster that scares you is not under your bed waiting to grab your feet, it is in your head, and it has already grasped them. When I manage to make it outside, on those rare occasions, it can be freezing, I will still sweat like a fat dude that has run a marathon without any training or practice.
Ever darker now, we shall drop heading to the bottom, to the lowest of lows. We shall now fall into anxiety. If anything annoys me the most, I think it is this one. I can cope to some extent with the stress. The agoraphobia generally is manageable when I am somewhere my mind sees as a ‘safe place’. This one though, this one is unavoidable and was unmanageable for a while. Many people will say that they are worriers, many of us are. I cannot, nor would not, say that any of them are better or worse than I. I worried about everything, from the tiniest little thing to the most considerable thing. I think everyone worries to a degree, it is the degrees that make us all different. To give you an idea.
If the letterbox goes, I flinch.
If the telephone rings, I wince.
If I don’t hear from someone, I panic.
And on, and on. You get the idea. Everything and anything will cause me to worry. Even now as I am sat here writing this, I am worrying. It is completely and utterly maddening. I have nothing to worry about, yet here I am, my mind is racing with different things. Juggling forty-two other things trying not to drop one. What if this, what if that. It never ever stops. Continuous repetitive infuriating tinnitus of fear statically hissing in my head all the time. A record that skips back and forth between one section, and I cannot turn it off. With help, though, I can lower the volume.
Until this point, you are seeing the fall. You are watching my mind tumble into the darkness. We have not hit the dark yet, we are still falling in a light from above, a light lit from sanity and normality. That all changes here, this is where we lose that light. No light from the tunnel’s start and no light can be seen from the end if it exists at all.
I will bang on about politics relentlessly, I can rant about it day and night. I have probably been more mouthy and opinionated about Labour when they have been in power, as I feel they should do better. The Tories, well they are Tories they do what you expect them to do. I do not want to go into that here, no more than is needed. This is about me, not about them. I do have to feature them because they lead to the depths. I had been signed off for a while with the illnesses above, and with depression. When the Tories came to power, they “reformed” the social security system, and for the first time in my life, I was pushed close to the edge. I know it was not as bad as I remember it, but I just cannot think of it any differently even now. My mind tells me it is not possible, but I remember daily phone calls from the DWP. Letters are dropping continuously through the letterbox, all pushing for me to go back to work. I like to work, I would be working now if I could get a job I could do at home and would accommodate my ‘quirks’. I want to work, but I remember this being ruthless. The pushing, the questions, the letters the demands and I broke.
I shattered into pieces, a hammer dropping onto the fragile but brilliant muscle (yes I know it is not) that is the brain. It completely broke me. I would wake and worry. The worrying led to me pacing, the pacing and worrying led to me being snappy about things. It leads to hair loss, it takes you to the unforgiving world of constant headaches, and finally, it holds your hand and leads you to thoughts of self-harm. By the time I was treated, I would wake, worry, consider killing myself, pace about, and then lie in bed until I finally would fall asleep. Then the cycle repeats, day after day, week after week and month after month. I have a lot that I could say about my ex. However, I cannot even begin to understand how she and the children ever dealt with me. The local mental health team got involved and (re)diagnosed me with anxiety, agoraphobia, stress and depression. I would have been committed had it not been for the agoraphobia and my partner saying that she would look after me. They told me this at the time and have told me since. I was millimetres from commitment, the agoraphobia saved me from that, they thought it would make me worse. They visited weekly at first, then fortnightly and finally monthly. I was treated at home, and I have been prescribed a mixture of pills that I am still on to this day. They turn the volume down, dim the lights, make everything dark.
Eighteen hundred words and we are approaching the bottom. Nearly there, it is pitch black now. We can see nothing. If you have stuck around, then I thank you. If not, then you won’t see this, so ha fuck you.
The depths, the bottom, places where we never want to be. I have mentioned my partner, I have mentioned the good. We now hit the worse. I am not going to dwell too much on this, it is still painful. She was my carer and my appointee, everything went through her. She would, for example, collect my medication. At some point, I know not when, she started talking to someone online. You have to keep in mind that while I am in no mood to defend her that you are only hearing my side, you are only seeing one side of the coin. She told me that they had not issued my prescription, and she was dealing with it. I was off my medication for about six weeks, one night, we had an argument. Nothing major, I am a pretty calm guy, but we argued. She packed up and all bar one occasion I have not seen her or the children since.
Bang, we have hit bottom. We have smashed into the very deepest depths and are now just waiting. Waiting for what happens next. I did not know where to go. I did not know what to do, I did not know who to speak too. Whereas the first time I had needed them, the local mental health team were faultless, they were superb. This time they offered next to no support, a few telephone calls. I do not blame them, I cannot stress that enough. They have had budgets cut to the bone, shuffling of departments and more “reforms”. I do not, never have and never will blame them. I have to do something, I am drowning here in my own well of sorrow. I drink, I cry, and I sleep. That’s it, I am a mess.
I phone the doctors, and then I find out that my prescription has been issued, it just has not been collected. I have two months worth waiting for me, so I arrange to have that delivered. I still cry, I still drink, and I sometimes sleep. Some days I am out until early the next morning. Literally leaving the pub when they kick me out. Three in the morning staggering home, falling into bed and waking then at eleven starting again. I’ve run up credit cards, I am not eating I am just existing, floating in my own gloom. I can’t tell you how I survived. I really have no idea. I’d like to say the pills kicked in and as I rattled and drank I returned to some kind of normality, but that isn’t it. I’d still cry, sleep and drink even after those had the time to kick in. I can’t say it was my partner or my children as I have still not seen them, nor do I know where they are. The partner I could not give a shite about, the children though, not a day passes when I do not think of them. Meeting Lilith again (we had known each other before) helped, but I was over the worse by then.
She though, and this is important, helped me climb. She is helping me all the time. No matter how low, no matter how far you fall, it does not matter how deep you get. There is always someone. You have to hold on to that in those darkest moments. It won’t feel like it, you may break, you may shatter. You’ll look at things and just see blackness, but it will happen. You have to believe that. I wouldn’t have, so I do not expect you too, I want to plant a seed, and I hope if you made it this far that if it is ever needed, it will grow. The bottom of the fall is water, seeds sprout in water. If you do fall, let that seed grow and remember.