December 22, 2020, my last working day of the strangest year any of us will have ever experienced.
The sun is shining but the air is crisp, condensation billowing from my breath as I share banter with the lads on site. Morale is high as we’re all on a half-day before breaking up for 10 days of pure bliss, indulging in all the festive fun that awaits.
Christmas really is the most magical time of the year, isn’t it? Dinner time arrives and it’s time to go home. Fairytale of New York by The Pogues blasting out as I make my way home – it’s my favourite Christmas song so I may have listened to it more than once! So, I pull up at home and my partner Heidi is waiting at the door for me, greeting me with a hug. “Last Christmas as a two!” I said, as I fully intended to make the most of the time off as I knew how hectic life would become once my boys are here. Only that wasn’t to be, my mind had other ideas.
For the rest of the day, I felt relatively good, we had a scan at the hospital to see the boys which only heightened our anticipation for their arrival. After the scan, we spent the evening relaxing before we settled down to watch a film. I found the new Joker film on TV so we decided to watch that, which I now regret as I feel that was a trigger to some intrusive thoughts I started having after watching it.
As I went to go to sleep my mind was racing with nasty thoughts, these thoughts sent my heart racing and I became panicky beyond belief. With the rush of a prickly tingling surging through my body once again, I was arguing with myself in my own head. I just needed to get to sleep and that would be the end of it, tomorrow will be a better day. How wrong was I?
I woke up the following day the same way I ended the last. Nasty thoughts swirling around in my head, heart racing, prickly tingling all over and I felt a heaviness through my body that felt as though I was being dragged down by my own demons. It was by far the worst experience of my life. My partner was trying to communicate with me and I had to keep leaving the room as it was unbearable being in the same room as anybody, I felt awful and there was no sign of it slowing down, wave after wave of panic attacks were really hitting me for six.
I felt as though I was trapped inside the mind of somebody else, watching them move around rather than me controlling my own body. I was losing control of my own mind which frightened me into believing I would completely lose it and become a threat to people other than myself, the truth was that I was just frightened but I couldn’t rationalise my thought process. As the intrusive thoughts continued, I made a silent pact with myself, almost bowing down to my demons, I decided that if I were to become a threat to anybody, it would have to be myself, nobody else deserves to suffer because of what’s going on in my head.
I spent a lot of time sitting on my own trying to use breathing techniques to bring my heart rate back down but nothing seemed to work. It would seem okay for a few minutes but as soon as I went to interact with my partner my heart rate escalated very quickly and I started to panic at the thought of becoming a threat again. I really started to beat myself up emotionally at this point so it only drove me further into the rabbit hole, I was spiralling downwards at a rapid rate with no sign of stopping. I would never intentionally be a threat to anybody but these types of thoughts are not easy to rationalise, are they? Again, I was telling myself I just needed to make it to bedtime.
Again, I thought tomorrow will be a better day. Again, I was wrong.
I woke up on Christmas Eve feeling even worse than I had felt the previous two days, I was grateful that the intrusive thoughts had shifted their attentions away from other people but I was disturbed as to how much darker they became. I spent the vast majority of Christmas Eve sat on my own, shaken to the core at how badly my mind had changed from the usual fun loving things I’d enjoyed only a few days prior. I was so confused as to how I managed to get into this slump and it seemed as though I would never escape from it.
My energy had been zapped from me completely, I was tired of spending every waking minute of the day in a constant battle with my thoughts. It only got worse as it dawned on me that I was about to ruin Christmas for everybody, pushing me down even further. I decided I needed to get out of the house, alone. I put my shoes on and marched around our local area in a bid to clear my head but I punished myself further and the intrusive thoughts managed to blight me once again.
As a car came hurtling up the hill I was walking down, my mind told me to jump in front of the car, over and over again. As the car drew closer I became frantic. I needed to get away from all the chaos, everything became a struggle as there was nowhere for me to turn as the black cloud of anxiety followed over me wherever I turned. I was scared to be at home but I was scared to be around everyday life, so what was I meant to do? I headed home and hid upstairs in a quiet room in a bid to escape the torment once again using breathing techniques to no avail.
I was in a pit of despair. Nothing was easing my struggle. I managed to make it to bedtime but decided that I’d sleep on the sofa and see if being on my own might help me sleep better, I stayed awake almost all night picturing different scenarios that all resulted in me not being around anymore, I spent a lot of time wiping tears from my face and telling myself things will get better but I gave up believing that tomorrow will be a better day.
I managed about an hour of sleep on Christmas Eve and that wasn’t down to excitement. I woke up on Christmas Day to Heidi dancing around the living room, excited that it was Christmas so I decided that I’d put on a brave face for her sake, I’d try to ignore all the torment my demons were putting me through to ensure Heidi had a good day. She deserved that at least. She had been so patient with me over the last few days I owed it to her to make sure I didn’t ruin her day as she absolutely loves the festive period.
All started relatively well, we began to exchange presents and I was smiling on the outside, then all my senses started to heighten again, I began to panic. I was trying to hold it together but wave after wave continued until I couldn’t hold it any longer, I had to go back into hiding again. I decided I couldn’t hide forever so I got myself ready and we headed down to my mums to see the family. Everybody was in high spirits but I was depersonalised in the lounge once again, alone.
I knew I had to tell people what was going on, so I just blurted it out to my mum, I told her that I was struggling and I didn’t know why. My mum sat and listened to everything I said, I felt like a weight had been lifted, I was relieved. It was almost as if my demons were scared of being talked about, they eased up for the rest of the day and we managed to have a good day until it was time to go home, I didn’t want to go back there as I knew my demons would be waiting for me. We went home and I tried to act as though everything was okay, playing mind games in my own head but it didn’t work. The black cloud swirled around me and I knew there was another night of misery ahead. Right on queue, in came the intrusive thoughts. My mind telling me all night that there was a way out of all of this but it wouldn’t be pretty. I began to ask myself if there would ever be a better day.
I reached my lowest point on Boxing Day, my mind went into full-on attack mode, it was relentless, terrorising me more and more with every breath I drew in. The tingling switched to vertigo, the racing heart became palpitations and the depersonalisation was the most severe I had ever experienced. I was drowning in a ferocious tide of negative thoughts, each one darker than the last. My mind telling me to throw myself in front of cars, off of buildings, you name it, I thought it. I rang the doctor in tears, scared for my own safety, I told him I needed to be sectioned, there was no way I was stable enough to carry on like this.
The doctor was very understanding, he sat and spoke to me for a good hour about all the things I had been suffering, he attempted to reassure me that I wasn’t losing control of my mind but I couldn’t fathom any other scenario after the ordeal I had suffered over the last four days. I felt like I was done, that was me finished and it was only a matter of time before something happened to me through diminished responsibility. I started to picture what my boys would look like and again I was in tears thinking that I was failing them by being in the dark place I found myself stuck in.
At that exact moment a friend of mine reached out to me completely out of the blue, he told me he too had suffered in the past, we spoke for hours through text message and I felt the clouds clearing with every message I received. I found myself longing for the next message to come through just to get that little extra peace of mind as I read them. I started to feel a bit upbeat but I stayed vigilant to the idea that it could all come crashing down again within seconds.
Over the following days, I used what little energy I had left researching my mental illness. I decided it was time to fight back, it was time I took my life back from the clutch of my demon’s paws. I put a plan together, as I started to execute my plan I could feel my struggles slowly get easier and easier. I’m not out of the woods just yet but I’m travelling along the exit trail. It’s been a gruelling journey but thanks to the simple changes I made to my lifestyle, I’m now seeing better days…
The contents of this article are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a doctor or mental health expert if you have concerns about your wellbeing.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily represent the official policy, position or opinion of Stroud Times.