It’s the end of the whole Mental Health awareness thing and so I thought I’d share a few thoughts:

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a tough old cookie. I’ve been through a lot.. the *insert your own prefix* abuse while growing up, (or possibly while not growing up haha) marriage, divorce, a few messy break ups, the loss of family and friends (physically and otherwise), the enforced absence of being able to be a father, brief homelessness (twice!), twice emigrating to foreign soils and leaving my world behind for a relationship which eventually died, and not to mention the probability of loitering on the extremely high functioning autistic scale.

But through all of this.. to the outside world, the appearance of being “ok” has maintained to a point that, what’s cooking underneath isn’t even considered.
And I’ve considered that a win! Until now.

I think I changed a lot in February. There was a break up. A first proper relationship since being married where I’d been able to shout it from the rooftops that yes.. I was with someone, and then I had to call it off due to principles, which i then stupidly went back on. The details of that are no longer important, nor the failure of subsequent attempt to rekindle it, but what is, is that people noticed.

People hugged me. People messaged and asked if I was ok. People sympathised, nay… empathised with me, big men, small men, and people who I’d seen as only on my periphery of social interaction put their arms around me! I was noticeably distraught and that’s just not something I’d ever shown before. When I divorced my ex wife, not a soul knew in our social circle. No one had a clue that all was not well, and that I was really not well at all. I daily battled with suicide while everyone believed my life across there was nothing short of idyllic for me. Beautiful (and busty, let’s not deny it!) wife, no need to work, nice flat, lots of travel etc. All things that to the outside sound marvellous, but from the inside were actually vapid, devoid of any depth (apart from the bosom haha!) and meaning because for years that sensation of not belonging clung to me, ate at me, devoured me until there was nothing left of me. And no-one saw. Not even the wife, the person I was closest too. So when it came to the end, simply no one could understand how this came about.

And thus.. there was no help offered because no one knew I needed it. I moved back to Wolves and buried myself in work and music, a cathartic drowning of pain ensued facilitated by Guinness and Crabbies and John hammering out Stargazer and Dominion (Mother Russia!) every Saturday. And still to the outside world I was fine. I’d survived, maintained my normal demeanor (playful when engaged but generally just outside the circle), and again I took this as a win!

However, man…. did I struggle! I can come off as the most carefree guy around but inside the struggle was as titanic as what ensues after 5 hours when a guy with IBS gives in to the temptation of a vindaloo! I look back now and have no clue how I am still here. In truth a fortuitous meeting with a friend probably saved my life in Jan 2018 and from then on my stability in terms of where I’m living, and subsequently workwise too, levelled out. And so… with that in mind, it was almost exactly 2 years to the day that I moved in to my place that this change became apparent.

What happened? What changed? Honestly I’m unsure. I think perhaps I’d just about accepted who I was again over the preceding weeks. I’d travelled in November and had an amazing time there.. shared Xmas and Burns night with friends.. and..there was a lass on my arm who I’d fallen for quite hard. I’d genuinely changed into no longer having this protective wall up that I’d needed for years in order to survive. Or rather… I’d thought I’d needed it. But.. I’d let people in! People had got past the aloof guy at the bar… all reticence and puns.. and seen me as a person.

I started this with “Anyone who knows me” and.. I realise that in truth there’s not very many that do. “The Wall” by P Floyd resonates with me so much because, I’ve actively kept people at bay, but also those walls put there from my childhood were given to me looong before that. My mental health has been under attack from as long as I can remember because of daemons haunting me and I’ve used writing as an outlet for years. Probably also as a veiled cry for help too at times, although this was more than likely too subtly done for anyone unsuspecting to notice.

And the point to all this? It’s simple. And hugely important. Especially now. Please, I implore you, if you’re struggling, know that others are too, and they’re also there for you too. I’ve struggled, and i’m the stubbornest sod I know. As someone once said to me “It’s not easy banging your head against some mad bugger’s wall… and you’re the maddest bugger I know!” (I miss you Julia ). And yet, I shed tears with friends in February! Me! I … allowed that! I’ve changed. And I’ve stopped carrying everything myself. And you know what, i thought I was strong doing it myself, but what was stronger, was letting others help!

Here’s a pic to illustrate how I’ve changed in 5 years. On the left is me in Leiden where I was probably at my lowest… the right.. a couple of days ago!

It was mental health week. Let’s make it mental health strong instead!

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