Happy New Year? Call The Doctor

I promised that I would try to tell of my experiences and how I came to be where I am now.  It sounds so much like one of those X Factor ‘I’m on a kind of journey’ things doesn’t it?

For me though it’s very real and not just something to gawp at via a plasma screen.  This part of my ‘journey’, is harrowing for me but I’ll try to tell it as best I can.

It had been a rotten Christmas.  I found out on Christmas Eve that one of my old friends had passed away.  Not one of your everyday, go for a coffee, see you at the parents evening, casual friend.

No, he was the sort that helped you out no matter what.  The type of guy who drove 200 miles just to hand deliver your birthday card.  The type that if you rang up, out of the blue, penniless and in trouble, dropped everything and got you through it.

Our friendship had spanned the decades at a variety of places in the UK but generally in the North East of England.  Plenty of drunken afternoons and nights were spent.  And now he was gone.

Not only that, to my shame, I only just found out that he had gone.  He had passed away in November.  He was on my Facebook link, had shared a drink and a night of chatting with him not too long ago.  How the hell had I missed it all?

I not only grieved for him, I felt shame for not knowing sooner, and not therefore being able to give any comfort to those who had spent a month mourning his loss.  It felt dreadful.

Christmas came and passed uneventfully.  I stayed in, with my friend’s birthday card he hand delivered to me up among the meagre decorations.  No money meant no going out.  My son spent his in his home with my ex.  It was a quiet and depressing festive season.

No matter.  New Year just around the corner.  I’d happily arranged to pick my son up from his local train station, as he was skint, to stop over with me for the night before he saw 2014 in drunkenly with his buddies.  Rightly so!

I turned up at 1pm as arranged.  Which turned to 1.30pm.  Then to 2pm.  I rang his home.  My ex said he’d said nothing.  I was heartbroken and returned home.

What I had waiting for me when I arrived home was a Facebook message saying he wouldn’t turn up at the station until 4pm at the earliest, way after I’d left to collect him.

I now didn’t have the money to go back once more, collect him and return home again.  I was heartbroken, and also sad that his friends were more important to him than I was.  I guess I was the same at that age though, so there was no anger, just that sadness.

Anyway, New Years Eve came and at least my girlfriend would cheer me up.  We’d known each other for five years, been seeing each other for two, shared hundreds of thousands of loving texts, and innumerable days and nights together.  She really was ‘the one’.

She’d started a new job in November and I had seen a bit less of her.  Still, those green eyes, full of warmth, her chestnut hair, sense of fun, and infectious smile stayed in my mind, keeping the embers going until the next time.

I sent her a number of texts, saying how things were, like we usually do.  Nothing.  Ah well, must be busy.  A couple of hours later another one sent.  Zip.  Another a few hours later.  And a phone call.  No reply, no response.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

I sat, a feeling of despair enveloping me, then sloped off to bed way before midnight, having been rejected by the two people I loved the most, the two people I’d gladly give up my life for.  I turned off the lights, and put the tablet on my bedside.

On the tv app, one channel was running a whole series of Doctor Who to see me into 2014.  I know the series was one with David Tennant.  Other than that the details are scarce.  For me it was a comforting background sound and vision and nothing else.

Doctor Who Crying

As the night wore on, all I could think of was my boy not meeting up, and my girlfriend not so much as speaking to me.  It must be me.  I must be someone truly awful to make them turn away.

As the clock ticked down to midnight, tears streamed down my face as I lay in bed.  Unemployable, in poverty, in debt, without a soul in the world. I was miserable beyond belief.

I could hear the fireworks outside as 2013 finally became 2014.  I couldn’t see them though.  My eyes were smudged with tears, my mind and soul tortured by the week I’d just endured.  Only The Doctor could save me.  Just take me away to a parallel universe.  Or any universe.  Anywhere but here.

I eventually passed out, crying myself to sleep.  My self worth was through the floor.  But something kicked in.  As I contemplated the first breakfast of 2014 – a cup of water – my first thought was “This isn’t right.”

It wasn’t, either, was it?  My next thought was “This can’t go on.  Go and see your GP”.  Eventually, I sent another message to my girlfriend, telling her how I cried myself to sleep.

Apparently she was ill with a flu virus.  She came to see me as soon as she could, three days later.  And she really wasn’t well  at all, coughs and snuffles abounding.  What an idiot I had been.

And, in retrospect, she did me a favour.  The situation may have been, eventually, over-reaction on my part.  It highlighted, however, how deeply depressed I had been.

All those days and weeks just staying in, not doing anything, brooding over my faults, my self-esteem getting lower and lower.  To my mind, though, that was just being normal.  It had become that too.  Until that fateful New Year’s Eve.

I may not have got The Doctor.  But in the end I did get help.   And if you have felt even 1% of what I did, you get help too.

Now.

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A Petal On The Uphill Road – Yours For A Fiver

Friday.  Therapy day.  Right, let’s get this over with.  That may have been my previous thoughts.  Today, though, it’s different.  Friday.  Therapy day.  Let’s see what today brings.  The world may not be my oyster just yet but I can see the shellfish stalls in the distance.

I’ve gone through mental hell.  Now I’m coming out of the other side.  Depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal thoughts, it’s all been there.  Unfit to do my job – my first paid one for five years and so, so much voluntary work.  No income, rising bills.  That I could perhaps all of dealt with.  Certainly if one at a time.

What tipped me over was the girlfriend.  Whether by design or fault, she’s ripped my heart out of me and thrown it away.  No bitterness though.  I still love her, even though it’s over.  It’s the being over, though, that made life unbearable.

Not today though.  Today is a good day.  Spring is in the air, there’s a spring in my step.  I wander by tennis courts and see the senior citizens having their fun.  Must look up that tennis club.  I’d like the exercise.  It’d help me so much.

Onwards.  I’ve never walked this way to the therapist before.  In fact I’ve never been in this part of town.  Time ticks towards the appointment start.  Of which I have no idea.  Left my mobile at home, and have been doing for a while.  I somehow feel liberated without it.

And lost.  A slight panic overcomes me.  What was I thinking of?  I’ll be late.  Then, for some reason, came a thought.  ‘So what?’  I smile in the mildness of the spring sunshine.  It doesn’t matter how I get there, so long as I do.

Just which way though?  Right or straight ahead up a steep hill?  At the very moment I wonder, it falls before me.  On the uphill road.  A petal.  A beautiful one at that.  I have no idea from what tree but my smile becomes broader.  I pick it up.  As a metaphor it’s perfect.  I wander on that uphill road.

My sense of adventure, of freedom – and believe me, when you’ve stayed indoors for a week because you’re so screwed up, that’s exactly what it is – has paid dividends.  A beautiful detour has led me to within a few hundred yards of the therapist.  Must remember that route.  So I can use another one the next time.

The therapist, Lesley, has clearly seen an improvement in me.  Her smile is warm as she leads me in.  Dark hair, just past her shoulders, big dark eyes too, and a lovely smile.  I’m too old for this transference lark though.  I’m at the age where I can see a good looking woman in front of me but not have any lewd thoughts quite comfortably.

The hour or so flies by.  We talk a little about what’s on a form, answer some questions, but a lot of it is anecdotal, veering off at a tangent, and even a giggle or two.  I explain to her how the Spice Girls have helped (that’s for another time) and she’s genuinely impressed.  Lesley may be the professional therapist but I can also do a bit of body language reading.

“A couple of weeks ago, I could see the lack of self confidence wrapped around you.”  She uses her hands to show something pounding on her chest, signifying what I was doing to myself.  “But I can see such a difference, such a change, it’s really good to see.”  She smiles.  I do, too, almost embarrassed by the moment.

How did I get here though?  To this place where I’m going for jobs and getting interviews I’ve no right to even consider.  Where I have places like Tesco ringing me up, sending me stuff, apologising.  Where I’ve worn down Eon, demanding an outrageous amount, simply not caving in to their pressure.  Where I look upon my girlfriend, at long last, as my ex-girlfriend, and anticipating the next helping from the food of love.  Where life is, at last, getting better.

As you know by now, it was via a petal of a tree.  “That’s a magnolia tree that came from”, Lesley confirmed, “I’ve got one at home.”  As the session ended, feeling as good about myself as I’ve been for some time, I said goodbye and then, smiling yet again “Give my love to the magnolia tree.”

And that’s how this came to pass.  I’ve gone through a dark, dark, phase of my life.  Places my mind has taken me I never believed existed, the misery, the suicide plans, the feeling of hopelessness, the knowledge, not just the thought but the knowledge, that the world would be a better place without me.

Gone through it though.  Gone through it.  Gone.  Thanks to Lesley, thanks to that magnolia tree, thanks to therapy, and thanks most of all to the power of my own mind, I’m on the way back to where I want to be.  Tennis player, driving test passer, do-er, achiever, lover.

What do I want to achieve with this though?  I’m going to talk about my dark days.  Unbearably dark at times.  They may strike a chord with you.  Or you may notice the same thing with a friend, family member, or other loved one.  If it makes just one person feel just a tiny bit better, that will in turn make everyone around them feel better.  Suddenly, one person becomes many.  My job will have been done.

And today’s happy ending?  Well, that Magnolia petal, it didn’t last long in the clutches of my hand.  But on the way home, I picked up a gull feather, for no other reason than remembering a good walk home if something great comes up, with the magnolia petal already fading away.

Within a few hundred yards of home, and then a few minutes of getting there, something small but great does.  I find a fiver on the pavement.  Then when I get home, a second interview for a job.

Magnolia Tree

Sometimes, life is good.