I’m definitely a far cry from who I used to be. I’m ok with that, mostly because the person I am now isn’t teetering on the edge of an absolute meltdown 24/7/365.
I’ve got comfortable with my depression and anxiety. I’ve learnt to use it as a measuring scale of where I am at. Sometimes I take a huge leap forward, sometimes I take a few steps back. I try to avoid terminology like ‘regression’ or ‘relapse’ because it carries with it the idea that you have failed or you need to start again. When you are at rock bottom for the second, third or whichever time, the last thing you need to somebody telling you…
Well, dust yourself off, it’s time to start all over again!In the right place, a very useful phrase. Not just after you’ve tried to kill yourself though.
You don’t just ‘recover’ from a mental illness. It’s not like a broken bone that heals with enough time, or a laceration that can be stitched back together. For some it can be a lifelong experience. I found I was relearning who I really was. I wasn’t hiding behind a smile anymore (for the record I still have a fantastic smile, if anything it is more genuine now).
My point is that I didn’t want to ‘recover’ the person I once was. That guy was a train wreck. There are parts of him I wanted to retain but I didn’t want to go back to that life.
I’ve spoken before about how I relied on alcohol to numb the anxiety. That is a very different thing from being an alcoholic. I wasn’t addicted to alcohol I was addicted to the absence of anxiety. That addiction to being free of anxiety formed some pretty unhealthy relationships with pretty much anything in my life. I guess you could call it an addictive personality, but that doesn’t mean I get hooked on stuff really easily. Don’t worry I’m still just as confused as you.
Let’s take a look at all the unhealthy patterns I was using to keep my mind at bay! If you are reading any of these and think ‘yeah that’s me’ I’ve got news for you friend – you’ve got some soul searching to do!
I went tee-total for quite a while. Sobriety absolutely helped me stay clear headed whilst I got my brain together, but by avoiding it altogether I felt like I was admitting it has a power over me. I’m not gonna turn this into an AA meeting because drink wasn’t making those bad decisions. I was. I am fully responsible.
For a long time I used alcohol as a means to excuse my shitty behaviour; it made everything go away for a bit and I couldn’t get enough of that feeing. It began to become a very unhealthy standard to always find me in a bar. Drinking alone is never a good sign either. I remember I once spent a whole day off with a few bottles of red wine on the radiator. The corner shop kept their Barefoot Merlot in a fridge and I really don’t understand why. Posh binge drinking?
Oh Jesus do I love my food. I avoided going out for a meal on a date because I look like a feral beast whilst I am eating. I’m lucky that my partner now can handle the red mist that descends upon me when it’s time to feed. I can polish off a plate of food twice the size of your face in minutes. Sometimes I’d cook two meals because I couldn’t decide what I wanted. No joke, I had a nickname at uni ‘Two Plates Rowley’.
Working as a chef for several years I’d like to say I’m pretty handy in the kitchen, which only makes it worse! I’ve picked up so many different recipes and cuisines over the years I can never decide what to eat! First world problems I know but have you ever cooked a snack to eat whilst you are cooking tea?
Honestly. I’m an idiot.
I also wildly fluctuate between feast or famine. I used to work as a manager in a nightclub and cram a 40 hour working week into three days. I wouldn’t eat Thursday, Friday or Saturday and then I’d spend all day Sunday like an absolute glutton.
Because that’s definitely healthy, right?
Well this could get awkward. I’m not gonna name drop anybody because that would be unfair to them and I am sorry for anybody reading this and their skin is crawling. Just stop it. Close the page now!
I felt compelled to be in a relationship most of my adult life. I’d never even kissed a girl properly until I was 15 years old. They were a myth to me. I was always a bit of a nerd at school. I got bullied a fair bit. Never got the girl. Boohoo.
Then puberty reared it’s ugly head and spat me out like a hormonal mess and somehow I got a girlfriend. I kept on chaining relationships together because I was terrified to be alone, but I was also terrible at relationships. Always pretending to be a better version of myself to an unrealistic standard. I tried to force ‘love’ and told myself that I was ‘in love’ but I don’t think those people fell in love with me. They maybe loved the version of myself I put forward but not the real me. I hurt some people along the way. I’ll never be able to properly apologise, but for what it’s worth I really am sorry.
It wasn’t until a year after I tried to kill myself that I spent some real time ‘single’. I lived in a massive house in Bath with my best mate (who was a girl!) and it was nice to build a healthy, non-romantic relationship. She really taught me how to respect myself. Thanks, you beautiful individual you know who you are.
I was back at work not even a month after I tried to kill myself. I was so convinced that I would be replaced by somebody who wasn’t a liability that I went back way, way, WAY before I was ready to. I always had this notion that sick days were a sign of weakness, throwing yourself in to go above and beyond what was required was the norm for me, so much so that it became very unhealthy.
I used to struggle with the work life balance. I missed out on so many events and celebrations with family and close friends because I prioritised work. I finally woke up in my 30’s and walked away from a very well paid management job because I knew that my mental health was more important. I couldn’t deal with the responsibility and I really envy those that can just switch off work mode and walk away once their shift is over.
That’s anxiety for you. Have you ever woke up at 2AM in panic sweats remembering the first time you ever got told off by Mr Barn for swinging on your chair at age 6? Oh just me then…
I was never massively into recreational drugs but I often found myself with the opportunity to dabble. Nothing crazy I promise and I’ll keep it really fucking simple.
I never, ever made a good decision whilst under the influence of drugs. Once I got stoned with a few mates and it took us 45mins to walk half a mile. Once I locked myself in my car because I was convinced a burglar was ransacking my house, but I’d forgotten that I had put my shoes in the washing machine. I could go on with the stupid number of stories I made a dick out of myself under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Much like alcohol, that temporary feeling of euphoria very, very quickly washed away. The hangover was never worth it; the feelings of dread and anxiety that would stick with me for the days after still send shivers down my spine.
Wait…Why am I listing all my most embarrassing moments?
I’ve found it really helpful for myself to just express my whirlwind brain. I talk to myself when I’m on my own. Not in a ‘All work and no play makes Nick a dull boy’ kind of way. It helps me process stuff and understand it better when I have it written down or hear it out loud.
I guess I owe you thanks for getting to the end of this absolute madness. You have indulged me opening up and telling you some of my worst traits. Shit, maybe we can even be friends?!
I also hope that somebody reading this might be able to recognise a problem before ending up in A&E after a suicide attempt. This is my life, I’ve lived it and I wouldn’t change any of it for a ‘second chance.’ It’s helped me form the person that I am today and I hope that if you are reading this and you learn something without having to put your friends and family though the pain that I did, my life might be worth something.
Either that or it’s a decent bit of click bait.