Well, it’s the last day of 2019 and tomorrow, we’ll start the New Year 2020.
This year saw me starting my blog – only in August – and I’m delighted with the steady increase in followers, the fantastic comments, the advice, the support and the likes. It hasn’t been easy at times, particularly my posts about my personal experiences. However, I’ve just read through them and, do you know what? They hurt a little less. The power of writing, eh!
I’ve chosen to share my Top 10 blog posts and as I sifted through all the numbers, I was surprised to see that “My journey through a psychotic depression Parts I – V” consistently attracted a high number of comments, all of which were supportive and positive. So I thank you for that.
You can click on the blue links if you’d like to read any of the following blog posts.
10. Tips to help you with your anxiety and panic attacks
Because it’s New Year’s Eve, often a time for reflection, and some people might experience emotional difficulties, I’m also adding this post:
Useful mental health contacts. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, please seek support.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for passing by, for reading some of my posts and for taking the time to comment. I’ve really enjoyed reading all your blogs too; I’ve been inspired, I’ve learnt, I’ve reflected, I’ve discovered, I’ve been impressed, I’ve cried and I’ve laughed out loud. I’ve honestly had so much fun in our blogging community and I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year brings.
If you see anything of yourself or your own experiences in this post, perhaps you’ll feel relieved that you are not alone and seek help. Maybe you’ll even recognise some of the symptoms in a friend or family member? Hopefully, you’ll gain insight into different mental health problems and understand how difficult life is for people who experience mental ill-health?
Please click here for Part I Part II, PartIII and Part IV if you wish to read the backstory.
Ah yes. New Year’s Eve. Our almost sixteen year old son was just about out the door with his long-term girlfriend when he said “Dad, why are you wearing my new shirt?” Tony replied “It’s New Years and we’re going out. I like it. Why, what’s up Geez?” Eye roll here – “Dad, it’s my new shirt and I wanted to wear it tomorrow for my brother’s birthday party,” and Tony almost exploded, calling him all the names under the sun, effin’ and c-ing, telling him he was a selfish little sh*t, and said “I paid for it, we got it for your Christmas, I’m effin’ wearing it.”
“All you had to do was ask.” my son huffed.
“Who you effin’ talkin to? Eh? And I ain’t got to ask no one nothing mate. It’s my house and I’ll do what I effin’ want.” (He’d conveniently forgotten that I bought and continued to pay for the house, during one of his long absences).
Our son had never raised his voice to either of us but I could tell by his stance and quivering lips that he was a) angry because his dad was shouting at him and b) upset about the shirt, the fact he was being yelled at and being called ‘mate’ by his dad.
Tony rarely raised his voice to the boys and the boys were never witness to any of the beatings I got – as they spent a lot of weekends with their grandparents and cousins, whom they adored. However, both boys were black belts in Karate and I was terrified that one day, like today, our eldest son might be provoked by his dad and lash out at him. But my son and I both knew; not to go there – his father would hit back and would fight to the end, just to prove a point. We’d all seen Tony headbutt his really mild-mannered friend to the ground one day, cracking his head open. So we knew what he was capable. of.
In that moment, I was afraid. As a mum, I didn’t like seeing my son angry, humiliated or upset, particularly as he was on his way out to a party with his girlfriend. I shot them both a warning look and ushered them out swiftly, with a big smile and and hugs. I whispered “Off you go Sunshine, I’ll speak to Daddy.”
I turned and there was Tony; in my face, his eyes popping, fists clenched and the veins in his neck pulsating with rage? He started to pace the hallway and I realised, luckily, that I was dressed. Seeing the opportunity, I grabbed my bag from the kitchen worktop, dashed out of the front door and raced to my car.
I popped round to my best friend’s house, all bubbly and full of cheer to say hi for New Year. I couldn’t tell her – and certainly not tonight, probably not ever really, I was too ashamed. I sat with a glass of champers and, swallowing hard to get rid of the giant boulder in my throat, we clinked glasses. I smiled in all the right places and joined in the banter ’til about eleven o’clock and then went home.
I felt sure Tony would have gone out without me by now, to meet the girls he worked with and their partners, all people that I knew. However, there he was on the sofa, with a pal, drinking beers and smoking dope. “Alright darlin’, I’ve changed my shirt, we going now?” he grinned stupidly. My heart hammering, I looked at him incredulously and said “No, I’m not.”
“Come on you dopey cow,………” I shook my head. You could hear a pin drop……. then cheerfully he babbled……. “No? Alright. You sure? Okay, we’re going, ain’t we George?” he nodded towards his pal. As they were leaving I reminded him it was his son’s birthday party the next day, so not to get too drunk please. “No worries darlin’, see ya,” and off they almost skipped, like a couple of silly teenagers. I poured a solitary glass of champagne and watched t.v. until I saw the New Year in, then went to bed, miserable.
Sleep evaded me, and I near jumped out of my skin when I heard Tony lumbering up the stairs, sometime after three-thirty. Pretend you’re asleep, I told myself, over and………. too late – the bedroom door almost came of its hinges as he burst in and lunged at me, catching my ear. I later realised it was torn as he’d ripped out an earring in his haste.
Then his fists; I felt the punches to the sides of my head, I could hear my hair being ripped out at the roots. I felt sick and my mouth seemed as though it was full of cotton wool. I couldn’t shout. I wanted to scream but my voice wouldn’t work and instead, I yelped and sobbed pitifully like an abandoned puppy.
Through it all, I wondered if the boys were home and I actually prayed that they weren’t. I’d have hated them to see me being dragged around akin to an old ragdoll. I felt deeply humiliated. Why wasn’t I fighting back? Why wasn’t I stronger? I didn’t defend myself, instead I curled into a pitiful little ball; my pathetic thoughts hitting me as hard as the blows.
Not satisfied, he yanked at my hair, time and again, and kicked out at my ribs and my back until I fell to the floor. He looked like a giant, standing up there on the bed. He threw a pillow down at me, got undressed and got into our bed. I lay there crushed until, thirty seconds later I heard him bloody snoring.
My mind in turmoil, I tiptoed from the bedroom and went to the bathroom to see the damage. Fortunately, apart from my ear, there were no telltale marks or scratches on my face. Any bruises around my ribs and back would manifest themselves in a day or two. I managed to get the loose hair into clumps, curled it all up into a ball and flushed it down the toilet. At this point, I checked the boys’ rooms. I didn’t expect either of them to be there and they weren’t. As I already knew, our youngest was with their grandparents and the eldest at his girlfriends.
It was gone four now and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I snuck downstairs to start making the birthday cake and do some baking for the party. I had plenty to keep my mind occupied but by sevenish, I was flagging. I’d have a couple of hours sleep as most of the big jobs were done and people weren’t due ’til after two. I snuck back into our bed – he didn’t like me sleeping anywhere else – and dozed off. I woke at the sound of the front doorbell, the clock said ten past ten, and thinking it was the boys, I jumped out of bed.
I raced round our room picking up more fistfuls of hair and tiptoed along our landing. Just in time to hear Tony telling George “Yeah, sh*t man. I gave her a bit of a slap last night. Listen mate, give me ten and I’ll be ready.” I flew down those stairs — to confront them both, chuckling away in the kitchen. “A bit of a slap,” I spat at them, “Really? It was a bit more than a slap, don’t you think?” and I threw the hairballs at him, “and – if you’re going out, you’d best be back here by one, with a smile on your face and ready to help me set up for the party,” I stormed into the living room and turned the stereo up full blast – I couldn’t bear to listen to him, or his pal. Tony got dressed and a tad shame-faced, he slunk out the door.
He did come back, merry and full of smiles, laughing with all the guests; ten kids and up to forty adult family and friends. I’d always enjoyed this particular party on New Year’s Day and our son’s birthday. Everyone ate, drank, sang loudly and danced merrily ’til way after midnight. By that time I was invariably shattered.
The boys had gone to bed and most of the tidying up had been done by mum and the others. I thought I’d throw myself on the sofa, drink my coffee and reflect on the day. Just at that Tony, still smiling and happy, said “I’m of to bed darlin’, you coming?” You could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather. “No, not yet,” I offered quietly. I was scared.
The veiled threat was in his face but, knowing the boys were at home, Tony didn’t do anything other than growl in my face “There’s something wrong with you. You’re effin’ frigid,” and without coming up for air, he continued “all effin’ smiles and nice to everyone else, but not me. You effin’ C, ” and he stormed off to bed.
The next day, after the boys went out to see friends, you could cut the atmosphere in the house with a knife. I said to Tony “The next time you hit me – and there will be a next time – you are out that door. I. have. had. enough.”
He attempted a conciliatory smile. But he knew. He could sense the change in me. I’d been preparing myself, mentally and emotionally. I just wasn’t ready — this time.
I really thought I’d be finished writing about my journey by now, but still it goes on. Please bear with me — until the next time.
If you haven’t read Part I and Part II and you want to, you can find them here (Part I) and here (Part II).
If you see anything of yourself or your own experiences in this post, perhaps you’ll feel relieved that you are not alone. Maybe you’ll even recognise some of the symptoms in a friend or family member? Or it’s feasible you’ll gain insight into different mental health problems and see how difficult it is for people who experience mental ill health?
……….I was struggling desperately. I couldn’t see an end to the pain. I felt scared, worthless, hopeless and I honestly felt suicidal. It was then that I had my own ‘break down‘. And that’s exactly what it felt like; both physically and mentally, I was broken.
I was having panic attacks throughout the day and particularly at night, keeping me awake. Alongside the huge purple sacks under my eyes, the weight loss, dizziness and nausea, I looked bloody awful and felt even worse. It was torturous; twenty-four-seven, week on week and, with no end in sight, I wished I was dead.
Natural Stress Relief
I tried every natural and herbal stress relief, sleep inducing, over-the-counter remedy known to man, without effect.As an aromatherapist, I made up lots of pretty little bottles of stress relief oils then bathed in them and doused myself liberally. However, despite all the lovely citrusy, spicy and fruity oils, all I could smell was the lavender, reminiscent of my grannies old underwear drawers. This didn’t work either.
As a qualified massage therapist, I was aware of the benefits so I booked myself in for a few sessions. However, the first lady almost pecked at me like a small bird trying to feed itself for the first time; there was no pressure applied and she missed areas of my body out! The second time, I went for seated massage, which ought to involve sitting on the massage chair with your upper body leaning forward, your arms on armrests and your face peeking through a hole. Looks comfortable, right? This lady, who’d attended the seated massage course with me, had me sit on a swivelling office chair! With my muscles tensing, I tried using my feet and legs to keep the chair from spinning, to no avail so told her to stop. She couldn’t understand why I refused to pay?
I joined the local gym and went seven days a week, twice on Sunday; pounding the treadmill and pedalling like fury on the exercise bike. I got so wound up if I couldn’t go to the gym for any reason but made up by jogging on the spot and running up and down our stairs. I tried most everything to relieve the constant anxiety and to wear myself out so I could sleep, but even the excessive exercise proved fruitless.
Hallucinations and paranoia
I was permanently exhausted and after three nights in a row without sleep, I started to hear, see and feel odd things. People (I didn’t recognise the voices – but they were very real) were talking to me and about me, saying I was no good, I was dirty, together with lots of other negative comments and expletives. I could see things; mice running along my wooden floorboards and unidentifiable faces at my windows. Worse still, one night I was wide awake curled up on my kitchen floor, with my back against the heater and it came to me – I’d killed someone.
I remembered how and where I’d buried that someone; by a huge tree outside my aunt’s flats, but I couldn’t think who it was that I’d killed. The next day, I saw a police car and thought ‘This is it. They’re coming for me.’ Jeez! I was terrified. For months, if I saw a police car down our street, I’d turn and retrace my steps or go round to my back door. If the police were in the square at the back, I’d whizz round the front. I sometimes wondered if I should just hand myself in and let them find out who this someone was that I’d killed. In hindsight, obviously if they were after me, they would have got me.
Mad, nuts or crazy
Although close friends and family were aware of my break-up with the boys’ dad and knew how devastated I was, I couldn’t tell anyone what was going through my head. I was afraid they’d think I was mad, nuts, crazyand that I should be locked away. Seeing mice or rats scurrying under my sofa and the unknown ugly faces frightened me, but if I closed my eyes at least I would get some temporary relief. However, the voices were incessant and unbearable; the constant rabble of people discussing what only I knew as my fears. They played on them, they were cruel, repeating the negative thoughts I’d so often had myself. They knew which buttons to push.
When I attempted to sleep in my bed the voices seemingly delighted in keeping me awake with their constant and irrepressible verbal abuse. One day, after work and before picking up my youngest, I bought a cd player, ear plugs and a few ‘out there’ cds with relaxing music, water sounds and dolphins in the background. I played these throughout the nights but still, my heart pounded in my chest and thundered in my ears, my breathing was irregular and the panic attacks raged.
By the time I got the boys up for school, I was a wreck; my eyes were red-rimmed and it felt like there sand in them. I was sluggish and jittery, but I somehow managed to hide it from the boys. My job at a high end clothing company was demanding, which helped abate the voices for a few hours but the anxiety, depression negative thoughts and panic remained. Colleagues at work noticed the 4 stone weight loss and saw how my clothes fell from my gaunt body. It certainly wasn’t a good image for the brand. Fortunately, a good friend in the sewing department kindly offered to take them in.
I even tried extortionately priced hypnotherapy but I couldn’t relax enough to go into a trance-like state. However, I’d bought myself a Paul McKenna relaxation video and when the boys were I bed I’d get it out. I’d half sit, half lie in one of my padded beach chairs, directly in front of the t.v so I could get the full effects of both the visuals and the sounds. Amazingly, I managed to relax and as the video ended, I’d carefully take this relaxation up to bed with me and finally managed to get a few good hours sleep. Sometimes it didn’t work and I suffered the torture again but I was so grateful for the times it did work.
What’s the problem?
After a while, not sure how long as I was in a constant haze back then, I took the boys to see our GP about their asthma. Once he’d seen them he sent them out, turned to me and, with his hand resting lightly on my arm, he said “Tell me, what’s the problem? You so thin and though you smile, I think you very sad.” The floodgates opened and it all came tumbling out; I sobbed and wiped the tears and snot on my hand as I explained how the boys’ dad had been seeing someone else and about the breakup around eighteen months ago. He told me to let the boys go home, he would make some telephone calls and I was to come back in to see him.
Having spoken to a colleague who agreed to see me, like – now, at our local general hospital, Dr Nga was going to drop me off! I knew it was a general hospital, rather than a mental one, but I soon found out that there was one mental health ward there.
I thought back to how, as kids we’d all say stupid things like “The men in white coats will come to get you.” or “You’ll end up in Stratheden, (our nearest asylum) you will.” We were all terrified just at the mention of the asylum.
Well, one day mum said my stepdad was taking her to hospital for a few days and I asked if I could go with them. Dad said no, mum said “Yes; she’ll be fine.” So off we went and when I noticed we’d gone past the hospital, I didn’t think too much of it – until I saw the huge sign looming up – Stratheden Hospital.
I assumed and hoped we’d just drive past that too. However, when we pulled up at the foreboding buildings and the grounds surrounded by high metal railings – and gates that were opened by the porter who otherwise sat in his wooden lodge, reading a paper. I was petrified and felt a certain shame; my mum was going into an asylum. Oh my God!
From the car park I could see people roaming around, some with an odd gait, others making strange utterances. A lady with long scraggly grey hair, wearing unusual clothing, waved at me frantically then cackled like an old witch. Not sure if it was designed to frighten me, but that she did! Mum and dad got out of the car but I wasn’t allowed to go into the building with them so was left sitting in the car and told not to open the doors to anyone. Ha, as if.
In later years I would learn that mum had been in an asylum once before and on both occasions she had ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy), which is given under general anesthesia. Doctors use a course of ECT
if you have severe or life-threatening depression where your life is at risk so you need urgent treatment
and to treat severe depression where there’s a lack of response or intolerance to medication.
I’d say it looks barbaric but ECT is said to be one of the fastest and most effective ways to relieve symptoms in severely depressed or suicidal people. Some people find ECT helpful while others don’t and repeated ECT is only recommended if you have previously responded well to it, or if all other options have been considered.
Back to the future
Dr Nga had dropped me off at the hospital and fortunately, although I had suicidal thoughts, the Consultant Psychiatrist and the Psychology team were confident that I had no intention of killing myself – I’d said even though I felt suicidal, I knew I couldn’t do that to my sons. I couldn’t possibly leave them with that legacy. So, no admission was necessary and three years of weekly painful, gut-wrenching counselling followed – on and off, because sometimes I was too afraid of myself and my responses to the psychologist. I didn’t want to hear what I had to say, so how would the counsellor feel?
I do hope you’ll continue to read My story, Part IV (The finale) which will follow shortly. You’ll learn about my suicide attempt and the hell I went through during my Psychotic Depression. Thank you for staying with me.
If you haven’t read Part I and you want to, you can find it here
Tony didn’t come back that day, or the next. His mum did though and she sat with me while I cried some more. She’d brought with her some of those tissues with lotion in them to keep your nose from chafing and while I appreciated the thought, they should come with a ‘sneeze alert’ cos when I did sneeze, a great big shower of snot burst through the tissues onto my fingers.
We both laughed. I loved his mum dearly (she has since sadly passed away) and though she meant well, she could be very forward. She’d asked if everything was okay in the bedroom? Maybe I’d put on too much weight? highly unlikely as at 5′ 4″ I was a slight 7 stone 101b. Was I spending all his money?
As usual, on Saturdays, I got calls from family and friends, asking how I was or whether I’d be out later and I engaged with them all cheerily before putting the phone down and bursting into tears – again. I couldn’t tell them, not yet anyway because, despite how I felt about Tony, I didn’t want anyone else to hate him.
Telling the boys
As agreed Tony’s parents brought the boys back Sunday afternoon and I had the hellish job of telling them that daddy wouldn’t be coming home but that he still loved them. The boys’ faces never crumbled or scrunched up when they cried, they were pretty as pictures, tears just gathered in their huge brown eyes then spilled down their cheeks.
My heart was breaking for them as I smiled and they leant in for hugs; not sure if the hugs were for me or for them but they wouldn’t let go and I could feel their small bodies trembling. Christ Tony! I could kill you! I thought bitterly. The “Why mummy?” almost crucified me but I had to answer kindly and gently and explain that daddy would still see them and they could see daddy whenever they wanted. The poor little things should never have had to go to bed with heavy hearts and a funny tummy my baby (five year old) said.
A cheerful 5 minutes
Two days later the boys were really excited when I picked them up from school. They handed me Valentine’s day cards, their seven and five year old scribbles telling me not to be sad and that they loved me lots. It was just too much, too painful that they thought they had to cheer me up and I cried and sniffed all the way home in the car. I couldn’t help it. It was supposed to be my job to look after them, to make them feel safe and to cheer them up, not the other way round.
However later that night Tony’s mum phoned and cheered me up and even made me giggle momentarily. The little madam he left me for tried to put Valentine’s cards and gifts through her letterbox and each card she posted was ripped up by his mum and dropped back through the letterbox along with the gifts. His mum usually never swore but on this occasion, in her Spanish accent, she cussed the girl, told her to eff off, to go away you little tart and keep your rubbish as she shoved out yet another gift.
Weeks passed, I hadn’t eaten and weight was falling off me. My colleagues at Head Office of a high-end fashion chain noticed and were kind enough to take my clothes in for me. The whole team were going out one night and Tony offered to babysit in our home. So dressed in a super new outfit I was ready to leave when Tony laughed “You ain’t going out in that are you? Not with your fat arse.” Something I’d moaned about ages ago but certainly couldn’t complain about now at well under 7 stone. The b*stard was with that madam but still felt the need to put the boot in!
The street fight
Off we went round the trendy bars in Islington, all the while I was pulling at my skirt, feeling desperately uncomfortable. Around 10 p.m. I couldn’t stand any more and I wasn’t having fun so I went home. As I neared the corner of my home I could hear an almighty row going on and it only took seconds to realise it was coming from outside my house.
It was Tony and her so I stood and listened. I heard him tell he to get away from the house, she’ll (me) be back any time soon. And I could hear the cheeky mare shouting she didn’t care so I turned the corner and the two of them froze. I walked past her then him into my home and told him he could leave now but the interfering little bitch whinged “It’s ‘is kids as well you know. You can’t tell him what to do.”
“Really?” and I spluttered as I realised who she was – only the ugliest girl out of the three he worked with. The one who’s blue eyeshadow and red lipstick looked like it had been drawn on by a three year old. Her black high heels were so worn down, the material on the heels had curled up and showed the white underneath. I laughed hysterically saying “Is this her?” then turned to her laughing and said “I think you should leave now.” She spun her chewing gum round her finger and replied “Nah. I’m with him, why should I?”
“Cos there’s two little boys upstairs in bed. If nothing else, don’t you care about them?”
“Nah! I don’t actually.” and before I knew it she had a tight grip on my hair and was pulling me out into the street, down onto the pavement. I was momentarily stunned but after a lot of toing and froing I managed to get on top of her, holding her arms to stop her from attacking me further. By now Tony’s punching my head, yelling at me to get off her when out of the corner of my eye I could see a recognisable car pass us then reverse back and stop.
Two pairs of shiny black boots came into view and a kindly policeman took my arm and said “Come on love, let her go. I think we know what’s happened here but you need to let go.” I did and watched as tart picked up her clutch bag, scrabbling to pick up her makeup and hair brush while she ranted, calling me an effin bitch.
Now I’m not proud of this but I almost threw myself at her before the kindly policeman put his hand out and said “Love, if you carry this on, we’ll have no choice……” then turned to Tony saying “Mate, you need to sort this.” “Yep, okay.” said Tony looking at me “I’ll just put her in a cab then I’ll come back to yours.”
“Ha! I don’t think so. If you put her in a cab then you can get in with her.” His mum was furious the next day when I popped in for coffee before work, especially because he’s punched me several times. I felt so ashamed.
After this, the little tart took to following me around, going to my local bars, always wearing a cheaper copy of the clothes she’d seen me in the week before, barging into me and trying to introduce herself to my pals as Tony’s new girlfriend. She and her pals would follow my car home so I drove as slow as I could, just to annoy her then on reaching my front door, I’d get out of the car, sit on the bonnet and light a ciggie. They’d eventually gotten bored and driven off shouting obscenities from the windows.
Wise words from a good friend
She started calling my home from 11pm onwards and hanging up. I knew it was her because she did night shift at the cab office they worked in. Then she began calling early evening and hanging up, knowing Tony was round to see the boys. This was all really stressing me out when an older and wiser friend said “Look, you know Tony, you know how he works. She doesn’t. When he comes round to see the boys, offer him a cup of tea, a sandwich even and let him read the boys a bedtime story. The longer he stays at yours, the more p’d off she’s going to get. When he’s gone, phone me if you need to shout and swear, but keep him there ages.”
It worked cos the cheeky little tart started phoning, asking “Is Tony there?”
“Hang on a minute.” I’d tell her and I’d shout upstairs where Tony was lying on the boys’ beds reading “Babes,you out of bed yet? Tart’s on the phone.” and before he could get down, she’d hung up. Another night I might say “Hang on, he’s in the bath” or “He’s in bed, who is it?” I knew it was causing nightmares between them because my cousin lived in her flats and told me about the rows and physical fights they had. In my mind, if I was suffering then so should she.
Months on, I wasn’t eating or sleeping and while I was in bed I started to get these odd sensations; I could feel my heart thumping but I could also hear it pounding in my ears as I lay my head on the pillow. My fingers and toes were tingling and I was finding hard to catch a breath. Lots of jumbled thoughts were racing round in my head and I felt scared for some reason.I’d have to sit up quickly and put the light for a while.
Some nights I found myself down in my kitchen, wrapped in my dressing gown, sitting on the floor with my back to the radiator, smoking incessantly and drinking hot milk (I’d read somewhere not to drink caffeine at night time). I’d take myself back up to my room before the boys woke up and collapse into bed exhausted both physically and mentally.
I was always on edge, I was jittery and easily agitated at work. Noises were exaggerated and aggravating. Like the crunching into a massive apple each day at 11 a.m. by the girl at who sat opposite me at work. I got up from my desk one morning with the sole intention of shoving her big fat apple down her throat but fortunately something made me walk past her and upstairs into the ladies, shaking like a leaf. I didn’t know what had got into me.
Pre the www I joined the local library and picked up books like the Relate guide to relationships, on moods and stress, where I learned what the odd sensations were i.e. anxiety, stress overload, panic attacks. Moreover I learned tips on how to manage relationship breakdowns. But most of all I learnt that I was doing the right thing by the boys i.e. not miscalling their dad (in front of them), being polite and calm when Tony came round.
I had their dad explain (not me) to them why he couldn’t have them some weekends, so that he saw the disappointment on their innocent faces. I had mastered how to speak to Tony calmly and could see that this unnerved him. I loved these books and read many more (they’d later be called self-help books) – you couldn’t keep me away from the library.
Still, having to deal with Tart’s constant provocation, Tony’s foul mouth and his refusal to help support the boys because I was using his money for my Friday night out! was taking its toll. What with having to keep smiling for the boys, ferrying them to their beloved activities, often seven days a week because their dad couldn’t be bothered to even take them to Sunday football, I was struggling. I couldn’t see an end to the pain. I felt scared, worthless, hopeless and I honestly felt suicidal.
I do hope you’ll continue to read My story, Part III which will follow shortly. You’ll learn about my suicide attempt and the hell I went through during my Psychotic Depression. I will end with My story Part IV. Thank you for staying with me.
The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is suicide prevention.
Today, in recognition of World Mental Health Day I’m going to tell you my story – publicly – for the very first time and already it’s unsettling me. I didn’t realise how difficult writing it all down and seeing it in print would be. However, I want to do this in the hope that it will help others to open up and raise awareness of how mental ill health can happen to any of us at any time.
My relationship breakdown
The first time I split up with my ex, after almost nine years, I was thirty and our sons were seven and five. I was absolutely devastated as I hadn’t seen it coming. I believed we were happy and everyone thought we were the perfect couple. However, one thing always came between us. He’d regularly smoked cannabis and by this time he was taking E’s (Ecstasy)* which I totally disagreed with and I didn’t like being out with him when he was under the influence. I also detested his ‘come down’ from the E’s which could last for days. It’s said that regular ecstasy use may lead to sleep problems, lack of energy and feeling depressed or anxious and along with these he was moody and angry.
We were with friends in a bar one night and I could see his mouth twitching, his jaw muscles tightening and moving and I told him I wasn’t happy that he’d taken E’s while out with me. He laughed and said “You need to take something Babes. Come on, lighten up a bit Darlin’. I was just saying to Maggie, we should go clubbing more.” Clubbing? More? We’d never been clubbing.
Oosh! It hit me like a physical blow to my guts! I was rooted to the spot as I remembered – he’d been on the phone (landline, before mobiles) a lot recently, female workmates had called him and he’d called them all darlin’ and he’d been out at least once a week (on lads nights) wearing suits I’d had cleaned for him, the shirts I’d ironed and the aftershave I’d given him for his birthday.
Walking from one bar to the next I said “You’re seeing someone?” and Tony replied “Eh? Sorry, what did you say?” giving himself time to form an answer. I knew then that he was cheating though he denied it. With my head spinning and my heart breaking we spent the rest of the evening with friends in our local, me all the while desperately hoping that it wasn’t true. When we got home I calmly said “You’d best pack cos you’re not staying here.” More to see what he would say or do. He laughed nervously and thought I was joking. “Where will I go? I can’t leave now.”
“It’s not my problem. Go to your mum’s,”
“Babes, look, we’ll talk in the morning. Come on let’s go to bed.”
Pft. I told him I wouldn’t be sleeping with him,“You might have caught something.” I’d sleep in the one of the boys’ rooms as they were at their grandparents round the corner. The effects of his drugs were wearing off because he started yelling “Your effin’ frigid you are.” and “I ain’t going nowhere you stroppy cow. You’re an effin’ nutter. Effin’ nuts just like your mother!” he spat.
Ouch! He really knew how to hurt. I’d told him some time ago that my mum had been in Stratheden (an old asylum in Scotland) many years ago and had Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)** as she had severe depression. The nasty imbecile, trying to detract from the real issue here, just threw this confidence right back in my face. Stomping up the stairs and banging doors he eventually went to bed and within minutes I could hearing him snoring like the damn pig he was, not a bloody care in the world!
I sat awake on the sofa unable to sleep all night, crushed and sobbing uncontrollably, thinking about what to to do next and what to say to people. My mood swung wildly from sad to angry, anxious and confused, fear and denial as I drank one coffee after another and smoked too many cigarettes.
Tony was mostly a good guy
Tony wasn’t always a monster. He was actually a good guy (without the drugs). He made me laugh, he was affectionate, kind and generous, he was popular and had lots of long-term friends who adored him. He was a great dad; he did most of the night feeds and loved playing with the boys, taking them to all their activities and to the Arsenal games. He loved a clean house and enjoyed decorating our home, he’d often wash the windows and blinds without prompting. He came from a huge loving family (Indian and Spanish) who thankfully adored me and thought I was a good influence on Tony.
We’d often go out in the summer on huge family picnics where there’d be up to fifty of us all in Regents Park, Hyde Park, Kenwood Park, at Alexander Palace or at the beach. Friends who joined us couldn’t believe how many people were there and were amazed at the range of food; tortilla’s, croquetas, paella, Russian salad, whole chickens and hams, breads, cheeses, samosas, onion bhajis.
We’d be there until it got dark, playing swingball, cricket and football with the all kids. We regularly had Christmas dinner for around twenty people where Tony would keep everyone entertained and all the New Year parties were held at out house along with the boys’ birthday parties which went on way into the night.
“Cor, it stinks down here. You been up all night?” rasped Tony as he wearily descended the stairs in the morning, still with his stupid nervous smile. I almost felt sorry for him. He made us both coffee then slumped on one of the two sofas and reached for the television controls. Too slow. I grabbed it first and put it out of his reach, behind my back on the other sofa. “Have you nothing to say?”
“Aaww, this ain’t one of them ‘we have to talk’ thingy’s is it? Anyway what do you want to talk about?”
“Last night. What was we saying? I can’t remember.” To be fair, he probably couldn’t remember too much after the fog of drugs and copious pints of beer. But I didn’t believe he could remember nothing and I knew he was just playing for time. “What’s her name?” I asked. He giggled anxiously and didn’t answer me – a sure sign he was cheating. “Ah, it’s one of those girls from the office.” I said. “Which one?”
He still refused to answer so I told him to start packing, still foolishly hoping he’d tell me it wasn’t true. The fact that he went upstairs to pack, so easily, with no arguing just confirmed it was. He packed some bits saying he’d come back for the rest, then he left and I watched from the kitchen window as he walked away without a backward glance. As he disappeared from view I locked the door. I turned, slid down and with my head in my hands I cried as I’ve never cried before, snot mingling with my salty tears.
When I eventually stopped crying my thoughts turned to the boys and off I went, howling again. How on earth was I going to tell them? I couldn’t bear to think of their gorgeous little faces, big brown eyes made even wider with disbelief as the life they knew would be turned upside down – just like that. That selfish b*stard, I hated him! What was worse, I knew he’d be down the pub laughing and joking with his pals.
Aaarrgghhh! I wanted to scream from the rooftops. Instead, I called his mum and dad to tell them the news and asked them to keep the boys for another night as I couldn’t face them right now. Not with my red-rimmed piggy eyes and blotchy face. I didn’t want them to see me so upset and I honestly hoped Tony would come back and tell me he’d made a mistake.
His mum and dad didn’t believe he’d leave and thought this would just blow over, bless them. Then I cried again. The thought of not seeing all my lovely family, missing out on weddings, picnics, celebrations and family gatherings. See it’s not just the couple involved in a breakup; think – when you throw a pebble into a lake and you see the water ripple outwards – it affects the bigger family and friends circle.
It makes no sense to consider a life where we never met. We met and that’s it. Whatever pebbles we disturbed started rolling down life’s mountain, either missing other stones altogether or eventually triggering landslides where I always seemed to be standing. But these avalanches of angst, or anxiety, never touched you, just the anger at all my dust drifting by, obscuring your view of what you found most important. Your reflection may not look like it once did in that mirror pool. No, age didn’t cause the change. It’s really the ripples of concentric circles that your fleet of pebbles set off now that they’ve finally come to rest upon what might’ve always mattered to you most.