Living Alone

It’s been a while since I last blogged but with the skies clearing and my mind more settled of late I wanted to share how things are going.

I’ve moved out of the family home and now live about 4 miles away from my wife and two daughters. It’s been a busy and stressful period (as house moves always are!) but most of the essentials are in place along with the majority of the household admin you are forced to endure (council tax, utilities, insurance, etc).

I’m not going to go into detail about my marriage because it’s not fair for me to share stuff which relates to my wife, who I will always love and respect – especially as the mother of our two little girls. All I will say is that I have to take responsibility for the way things have turned out and I now have a period of personal reflection and growth to do over the coming months and years. I’ve lost the family unit which I took for granted far too often in the past but I won’t lose my wife as a life long friend and the love and connection I have with my daughters.

Returning to work after 5 months away has also been a rollercoaster. It’s the longest I’ve ever spent away from my job in the 16 years I’ve been there so it’s been tiring and a bit anxiety inducing getting back into a routine and returning to the fold. Throw in the fact I’m still on tenterhooks with regards to my daughter’s recovery from her illness, the house move and the separation from my longterm partner and I’d be forgiven for being a little wobbly. That’s where sobriety is important.

It would be far too easy to feel sorry for myself or justify using alcohol to help take the edge off. Especially now I live on my own. Sure, the girls have started staying over now that I have furniture but they primarily live with their Mum so I spend a lot of time on my own in a new village, living a sober existence which limits the amount of time I see my friends (because going to the pub is the default location for socialising around here).

I’m running, I’m busy making this new place my own and Yoga class is still a fixture each week. I’m aiming to work back in the office much more to avoid the isolation that working from home can create and I’m seeing a Therapist (as I have done since just before Christmas). I’m doing a lot of things right and the grip alcohol has had on me in the past and on occasions in recent history isn’t there at the moment. I’m feeling pretty relaxed and optimistic about the future so it’s imperative I use that current mindset to springboard myself into a positive Summer. Even just seeing more of the Sun since the end of March has been a mental lift.

I continue to use the fundamentals of AVRT (Addictive Voice Recognition Technique) as my default approach to managing any feelings or internal conversations about having a drink because knowing my ‘beast’ – it’ll latch on to me when I’m alone and feeling a bit bored or reflective. I have little desire to drink socially these days and will generally be ok when I’m in environments where alcohol is present (despite making a conscious effort to minimise my time in those places) but it’s when I’m alone in the security of my own home that I find things ramping up a few gears. That’s when I have to dig in and use the tools which have served me so well since February 2021. Prior to me entering recovery 26 months ago I was drinking most days and binging pretty much every time I did pick up alcohol. I was bloated, depressed and at times suicidal. I felt more alone than I ever have despite having my loving family right under my nose. Yes, I’ve had a few moments of weakness in the last two years or so but thankfully they have been few and far between when you look at how much of this time I’ve spent sober and mentally stable. I won’t dismiss that progress and nobody can take that away from me either.

I can’t change the past but I can learn from my mistakes and experiences to shape my future. I will work hard on me every day. If I do that I know I can be the best Daddy, friend, family member and work colleague to the people around me.

Depression Daddy

It’s no secret that I suffer with diagnosed depression. It’s something I’ve tweeted about and mentioned in my Blog a number of times.

Depression effects people in many different ways but for me it’s both physically and mentally debilitating to the point that I can barely keep my eyes open or even muster a conversation. Thankfully my depressive episodes are a lot less frequent these days and I put that down to the various self care tools and mechanisms I have put in place such as taking daily medication, exercising and abstaining from alcohol.

That said I have just come out the other side of a pretty bad episode. I try not to scale my depressive episodes in terms of severity but they have varied in both longevity and symptoms over the years. On this occasion I saw a nosedive in my mood first of all on Thursday which quickly lead to an increase in agitation, extreme fatigue, thoughts of self harm and by Friday Evening – a desire to drink alcohol.

On the one hand I didn’t practice what I preach because I didn’t talk to anybody but on the other hand I used AVRT to crush my addictive voice. I felt good on Saturday morning reflecting back to the nauseating battle I had the previous evening.

I went for a run on Sunday morning but I was already downplaying the positive energy a run normally brings by the time I set off out the door. I knew I wouldn’t be running far as I’m carrying a small injury plus it was my daughter’s birthday so wanted to get back for her day ahead. I hobbled for 3km and returned to the house in a foul mood. I recognised my foul mood wasn’t fair on my daughter celebrating her 4th birthday which just intensified the self-loathing.

Now if I was comparing my various depressive episodes I would say that this wasn’t so bad because I actually managed to get out for a run which also meant I managed to get out of bed, put clothes on and brush my teeth. Some of life’s little basics which depression can so often turn into climbing a mountain! I remember about 3 years ago I struggled to get out of bed for several days due to my depression – not washing, eating or getting dressed. I suppose there is little to no value in comparing the severity of my depression when it surfaces because I can only focus on the present. What I experienced, felt and did three years ago is irrelevant.

By Sunday afternoon I was struggling to stay awake and focus on what was in front of me. I had no interest in doing anything and just wanted to be alone. Not easy when you live with two young daughters who want their Dad’s attention. I had thoughts of just leaving the house and driving far away. I guess I was in the early thinking of suicide. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last time I think of this, in fact it’s common for people to have fleeting thoughts about it. I think there is also a misconception from many that just because you admit to having these thoughts you suddenly need locking up.

The only way I can describe my most recent thoughts about suicide is that I was consciously thinking about the mechanics of planning it and luckily this lead me quite quickly down the path of who would be impacted and the mess it would cause for them. That’s why it stopped there and then. I realised it was the wrong way out. I will never understand the final thoughts of somebody else who has taken their own life and they are no longer here to tell us what was at the forefront of their thinking in the final moments of their time on this Earth.

Yesterday (Monday) wasn’t a sudden return to Happy Daddy but I did wake up feeling as though some of the heavy weight had been lifted from my chest. My eyes and mind didn’t feel as cloudy and I had the desire to get outdoors. I chose to go for a walk around a local park along with a coffee, grabbed a sandwich then took a trip to the local library to return some books. It gave me an opportunity to feel the Winter Sun on my head, the crisp air in my lungs and to move my legs at a pace which doesn’t constitute running!

I just need to keep doing what I’m doing. One of my favourite quotes is “Storms don’t last forever” and with that in mind I know that healthy mindfulness tools such as my running, blogging, self gratitude, yoga, sobriety and connecting with my family and friends will help minimise the damage that my mental health conditions try to do to me. What I won’t do is NOT write about it. Some people would prefer I don’t share my private life and how I feel but I know it helps likeminded people out there to read about a story which resonates with them. Not everybody will want to share their struggles publicly and that’s ok but I find it not only helps me but gives hope to others. After all I’m still here!

I don’t have the answers to defeating poor mental health once and for all but I certainly know how to fight it.