Shrove Tuesday

Day 60: It’s been two months since my last drop of alcohol. The day in question remains pretty clear in my mind. Up to a point. I was off work because the girls were on half term and we went to the park and played around the house for most of the morning. Nothing too out of the ordinary. It was a Tuesday. My wife was at work. Wouldn’t be home until 5pm.

I remember my oldest daughter’s room was a mess so I started cleaning it whilst they played in the youngest daughter’s bedroom. I wasn’t overly stressed and I wasn’t consciously depressed. I was craving a drink though. Maybe it was boredom, the monotonous day I was living and also the fact I knew for another 3-4 hours I’d be cleaning and entertaining kids before my wife returned home. My little girls are not difficult to look after and I love them dearly but the life I was living like so many others was draining. Working from home, parenting and pottering in the house with nowhere to go. No socialising with friends. Having a drink took the edge off and made me relax.

It was about 3pm when I decided to have a drink. I had some cans of Red Stripe lager in the garden so I had four of them as I sorted out the bedroom and checked the girls were behaving. My wife returned home, she’d had a stressful day at work so I encouraged her to have a bath and I’d make the girls some pancakes (it was shrove Tuesday) The craving for more drink after my afternoon beers was there and I remembered I had a bottle of Gin in the garden box. I made several trips into the garden to take sips from the bottle. Back on to the house to continue helping the girls make pancakes look pretty with their array of fillings and toppings. My wife oblivious to my secret drinking that day.

It gets much more vague after that. The evening consisted of me acting strange around my wife. Looking vacant and not making much sense when I spoke. I was taking Propanolol at the time but popping these prescription beta blockers like sweets. I became unsteady on my feet and confused. All in all I hadn’t had that much alcohol by my standards – especially given the consumption had been spread over about 5 hours.

What followed was my exit from the family home, bare footed and in my nightwear and running off into the nearby fields and woodland. The police were called. I returned home at some point and then tried to run out again which resulted in a scuffle with the two policemen. I don’t remember this. There is a hole in the plaster of my living room wall as a souvenir of the event though. Paramedics arrived, I was taken to hospital under police guard and after a number of hours a Doctor asked if I’d voluntarily agree to entering treatment as an inpatient at the local psychiatric hospital. I was told if I declined they had the powers to section me under the Mental Health Act.

Whilst I don’t remember anything post pancake making and the conversation with the doctor in hospital I do then remember being taken by the police to the hospital at about 1am. And that was that. I haven’t drank since. Since Shrove Tuesday.

Chicken or the Egg?

Day 56: I was out walking this morning after the school run and was wondering what came first with me – Depression or Anxiety. The mental health proverbial of the chicken and the egg. I remember displaying symptoms of anxiety when I was in Junior school. I was bullied when I was around 9 years old and I started trying to get out of going to school. I would tell my Mam that I had a bad tummy. That wasn’t an untruth in the scheme of things. I didn’t have a sickness bug but I was experiencing my first anxiousness. This would manifest and I would go day after day including weekends worrying about school. Not just the bullying but the fear of social interaction, mixing with others and my worries of not being able to answer all of the academical questions in class. I was a smart kid. From a young age I enjoyed reading, writing and drawing. I’d spend hours in my bedroom designing my own comics, writing stories and oddly creating my own football league tables with made up team names I’d create using local place names. I remember a couple to this day – Picktree Rovers and Low Fell United.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the outdoors too and would play football in the street every day. We lived close to woodlands and farmland so I’d go exploring and build ‘dens’ with my brother and best mate Jonny. I was happiest in the company of myself though. I still am. The anxiety is less crippling when I am in the safe knowledge of my own company. Not a hindrance to anybody. Not responsible for anybody.

Depression is a tricky one to think back to. With anxiety the physiology was a big part of it and I have remembered that from my days in junior school. Depression certainly wasn’t talked about when I was growing up in the 1990s and even after a classmate completed suicide in secondary school aged about 13 we never got any real support or ever discussed it with the teachers. My parents never mentioned it to me.

When I was a teenager it was seen as normal to be moody, to isolate and to feel like the World was against you. Parents would ignore it and we would feel less and less confident to approach them. I say that in the plural sense because I remember many conversations in later years with friends who experienced the same. My parents were loving and they would give me the security of a stable home but did I ever have the confidence to approach them and say I felt down? That I had thoughts of running away from everything? Wanting to escape my life.

Maybe that’s why I joined the army at 20. Not to serve my Country as such or because I’d always wanted a career in the military. It was the easiest way to get away from everything and everyone in my home life. Maybe I thought I’d leave my anxiety and depression behind too. Based at the other end of the Country. My bed and breakfast taken care of. My day to day dictated by corporals. No freedom to think or do anything spontaneous. I dunno. I didn’t last. I was medically discharged following an assessment by a psychiatrist and army doctor. My short stint in the Army did nothing for my head. It just added more regret and failure to my already fragile mind.

I feel like today’s post is a bit scattered. For you reading this there will be a lot of gaps and I apologise for that. I will fill in the gaps the more I write and share. My depression and anxiety has been a bit more intense the last few days so I’m riding this little storm. I’m still sober. I’m still back at work and I’m still getting out for daily exercise. Storms don’t last forever.