Today has been a good day rounding off a good week. Although my head now feels like a cactus it is great to have done something positive and raise lots of money (nearly £1000!) for a great charity. I’m also very relieved to finally have work lined up after nearly a month of unemployment. It might not be the most exciting or glamorous role, but it’s nice to know there are people who want to employ me, and it will be great to have a structure to my week. Now that I’m in a positive frame of mind, I feel more confident in sharing a post I wrote a few weeks ago at a time of despair. I’m much better now, but I think it is important to share how my mind was working at one of my lowest points. I do this because I’m sure that I’m not alone, and I want you to know that you are not alone. Things have got better for me, and I know they’ll get better for you too. I’ll write another blog soon about some of the changes that have helped, but for now, here’s some words I wrote at a pretty low time.
In my heart, I knew that we’d end up talking about risk. That was a constant theme of every session. When I was asked “How has your week been?” I was honest and open, and I worried my counsellor. I talked about how my negative thoughts would spiral out of control, leaving me in a dangerous state of mind. As we finished, they asked if they could call the mental health first response team because they were concerned about me. It took 30 minutes to find me a room with a phone for a first assessment – 30 minutes of people knocking on the door of the room I was in, 30 minutes of them apologising to their next client, 30 minutes of me just wanting to leave and go home.
The voice on the phone listened. Truly listened. It helped force out the tears that I know were there. It heard me as I explained I’d had moments where I’d thought “what would happen if I just…” It heard me explain my guilt for a wife with enough on her plate and a mother with no-one else to ring. It heard me saying I felt I needed more help. It acknowledged what was going on. And it said that they wanted to send someone to see me the same day.
When something happens the same day you know that it’s serious.
I went home and painted walls, explaining to the builder that a mental health worker was coming because I was at risk of self harm, but asked him to carry on and pretend we weren’t there.
The only habitable room in all the redecoration mayhem was the spare bedroom. It’s small – too small. The spare bed takes up more than half the floor space, and there was only one chair. Thus did the scene play out.
I sat on the bed. I was asked to start from the beginning, which is to me an indication that he was listening. He said he’d make eye contact even though he was using his laptop.
Soon he couldn’t keep up with my story. He asked for a pen and paper. He looked across regularly, but it still didn’t feel right.
I told him everything. Everything that you already know, and some things you don’t.
When I told him I was a virgin, he stopped.
No, he said, that can’t be. Your married. How have you survived? Is your marriage even real if you haven’t consummated it?
At a time of mental health crisis, I was asked whether one of my darkest secrets meant the most positive force in my life was invalid.
In reflection, I’m aghast. At the time, I was shocked. I needed to be listened to and validated, and his judgement was so unexpected I didn’t know what to say. I had to explain… I had to justify my entire marriage.
He asked me – specifically saying that this was a personal and not a professional question – how I coped.
Later I was told I should buy a car as insurance in my area is the cheapest in Bradford.
Shortly afterwards I was told I don’t have depression. Sure I’m a bit upset but – and I quote – I’m not “diseased” in the mind.
At the end, I explained that I was scared because previous courses of counselling have helped me out of a hole. This time, I’m falling deeper and deeper. I was scared I’d lose control of my thoughts again. I was scared what might happen if that happened. I was scared if I don’t get a job and I spend more days in isolation that I’ll be in a worse place. And when I told him that I didn’t feel that counselling was helping, but that I’m too nice to say anything, and that it wasn’t just politeness but an inability to say something that might hurt someone else, I was asking hoping he would help. Hoping this would be the moment when we would work out what help I need. Instead, he told me to bring it up it my next session… And then he walked out of my life.
Now it’s two weeks later and I’ve got my next appointment with the counsellor tomorrow. I don’t know what I’m going to say, but I’m getting good at projecting normality. I also know that telling someone they aren’t helping me is such an alien thought I feel uncomfortable saying it. But I also know that something needs to change. Some nights I can’t sleep, but the medication I’ve been given to help me sleep knocks me out until lunchtime the following day. Today I’ve achieved nothing more than painting half of the ceiling in one small room. I want a to get out and get a job – I know that seeing people every day will be a part of my recovery – but I just don’t have the energy.
Things aren’t getting better.
I’m alone every day.
Job applications are being rejected.
Temp agencies aren’t getting back.
I need help.