My journey through panic and psychotic depression

Panic attacks and psychotic depression are hellish

This is the 5th in a series of “My journey through Anxiety, depression and psychosis.Please click here for Part I Part II, Part III and Part IV if you wish to read the backstory.

Image from Mercola.com

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.

Angry dad — Simplerecovery.com

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.”

Big Ben at New Year — image from Thesun.ie

“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.

Why do men hit women? — image from Shutterstock.com

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.

Making a birthday cake —Image from Birthdayinspire.com

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.

Family party celebrating New Year —
image from Blogcheapism.com

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.

Stop domestic violence —image from Mhlnews.com

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 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?

You can read the next part here

My journey through a psychotic depression – part I

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.”

“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.

Ripple Effect

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.

JOSEPH HESCH, FEBRUARY 20, 2019 / 

My story, Part II will follow shortly. You’ll learn about my hell during a Psychotic Depression; symptoms, effects and recovery.

You can read the next part here now.

*Ecstacy makes people feel very happy – hence the name, ‘loved up’ – users often feel love and affection for the people they’re with and the strangers around them, they feel energised and alert.

**ECT is an invasive type of brain stimulation that’s sometimes recommended for severe depression if all other treatment options have failed, or when the situation is thought to be life threatening. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/treatment/