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FIRST PERSON: The write way to recovery

I am writing this because I was nearly one of the 13 men who takes their life every day in this country; I was in a dark and dismal place yet chose not to share my thoughts with anyone, thinking that, as a man, I should be able to cope.  That’s what REAL men do, right? But then I discovered the power of the written word and my life changed.

In 2007, my treasured business became a victim of the recession and, despite working all the hours in the day to keep it afloat, I went bankrupt the next year. This made me think I was a failure, a mindset that eventually led to the breakdown of my marriage. I had to leave the family home.

What followed were three more years of turbulence in my life that I had neither encountered before nor had anticipated. Consequently, I sunk into what seemed like a never-ending pit of depression, anxiety and stress. Yes, I contemplated suicide several times. It was constantly on my mind and seemed like the only way out. The only things that stopped me were the thought of leaving behind my sons and how it would also affect my dear 80-year-old mum.  

Yes, I had friends and family who had seen what I had gone through. Though I talked to them and they knew I was down, I never really let them in on the true extent of my depression. I didn’t want to expose my perceived weakness, and didn’t want to admit how bad it really was and that I couldn’t cope. So I battled on, finding some inner strength from somewhere just to survive – mentally, physically and financially.

What helped me to recover was to write a book. I have written about my journey over the past six or seven years – not as a autobiography, but as a novel and draws from my experiences throughout that time. It focuses on what a guy goes through when he hits rock bottom and how time and self exploration can help.

My healing started when I wrote to myself.  In 2011 I started with a few notes on a pad to get things off my chest.  Soon, I found myself exploring scenarios from my past and 100,000-odd words later I had a novel. It was a massively cathartic exercise for me – soul cleansing, even – and it wasn’t until I read it back that I actually fully realised and understood what I had gone through and how lucky I was to still be here to tell my story.

Writing my novel made me look at myself, my life and what it had become. In an interesting twist, the experience also made me realise how important my amazing dog had played in keeping me alive! Our special, endearing relationship has taught me many lessons about the pure simplicity of life.

My book explores many life challenges and emotions: regret, remorse, guilt, sadness, depression, suicidal thoughts, financial ruin, depravation, uncertainty, insecurity, loss of confidence.

There are sporadic instances of happiness, laughter, humour, fulfilment and eventually acceptance and awareness of why it all happened and why the road on this journey was so rocky.

The book is my story, my truth. We are told there is always light at the end of the tunnel but when you are at your lowest low, and in the darkest, gloomiest, saddest place in your life, it is hard to believe or understand. My journey taught me there is hope. I learned so much about myself, life, human nature and now know that no matter what, adversity can be turned into positivity even though sometimes it can seem impossible.

My life is far from settled even now but I remain content that I have come through the worst possible stage of my life, and survived to tell the tale. I am glad to still be here, to have my two special sons in my life, to have my health, to appreciate life and have the opportunity to make the best of it I can. Writing intensely about my past allowed me to bury it and not live in it as I had been for far too long.

I found peace in my mind, heart and soul and, in achieving that, knew that everything else would eventually fall into place. There were times I didn’t think I had or deserved a future. I learnt that if you find peace in yourself, you can then deal with your problems or, at least, your problems don’t seem half as bad. A simple rule, but something that writing my story really helped with.

I expect my story is similar to that of many guys out there. I realised that opening up about your problems is the best way to beat your demons and learn to live for tomorrow.  As reluctant as I initially was to share this very private recollection, if my story connects with just one guy out there and encourages them to ask for help, or if it stops one more man from becoming one of the thirteen a day, then I would gladly share it with the world.

Photo by Rachel Johnson. Creative Commons license here.

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