I acknowledge now that I waited way too long before asking for help. My story is positive in the end - I’m doing alright just now and have been for a couple of years - but there is quite a bit of muck to rake through. I’m unsure how useful it is to share it, but I can’t really think of any other way to show how much progress I’ve made towards the light, without going into some of the dark.
It was a bunch of CDs in the wrong cases that brought me to my knees. The moment that I identified that, yeah, you know what, I actually needed to talk to someone about how insane I was feeling. Things got quite a bit worse than CDs, later, but it was the Nirvana discs in the Madonna case, and all those ancient NOW! compilations loosely scattered around the CD rack that was my first jumping off point.
The gravity pull of my depression, anxiety and panic disorder at that point was so strong that the most mundane of tasks felt insurmountable. If I couldn’t manage to clean my teeth or shower for days on end, then how could I reasonably be expected to scale the Everest of a household chore like tidying? In a lucky moment of clarity I must have looked at the CDs, myself, my life and the destruction and chaos all around me and managed to call my family, probably crying. They helped me get to a doctor. It was the first step in a long and ongoing cycle of recovery, remission and relapse that I treat with caution still today.
I’ve always felt a bit 'wrong'. Socially outside the norm, not smart enough, not sporty enough, not cool enough, not manly enough. I had friends as a kid at school, but somehow I’d managed to isolate myself and become nearly invisible as I ground my way through the early days of a half-decent career.
The combination of the emptiness inside and lack of self-worth I think crept up on me, slowly over the years. I was that frog in the pan of slowly boiling water that is cooked and done for without realising it.
I was repeatedly signed off work, spent time in a couple of psychiatric units for what I guess people still call a 'mental breakdown'. I had counselling, CBT, I took meds, I would get a bit better and then I would have another crash.
In these later crashes I discovered I could attempt to fill the emptiness in me with booze and I’d feel like a motherf*ckin lion, for a short while. I took to drinking a lot, then a lot more, then every day. The months went on, white-knuckling my job, my life. The crashes came like waves, more menacing and a shorter distance apart each time. I started hearing voices. It was girls; three young female voices dredging up every terrible thing I’d done in the past, every negative thing I’d ever felt or thought about myself. The utter, annihilating terror I experienced in those moments of psychosis is beyond vocabulary, beyond language.
I’d waited too long to ask for help again. I got more help, this time via heavy duty anti-psychotic medication. My employer hired a very skilled and wonderful bloke to effectively do my job for me while I sat like a blank dummy at my desk from 9 to 5, numb and vacant from the meds. Meanwhile my drinking spiralled until eventually I smashed my head against the pavement in a collapse and fractured my skull and my brain haemorrhaged.
It was a spectacular full-stop.
In the aftermath of all that wreckage I’d like to be able to identify that lightbulb moment of clarity that made me realise I’d reached the limit of my endurance, but I can’t, there’s too much blur. I do know I must have had it though, because something did change.
Maybe it was the cumulative effect of the various treatments and learnings I’d received; maybe my survival instinct and will to survive kicked in; maybe a higher power saved me. It actually doesn’t matter, because today I’m alive and ploughing onward, sometimes getting it wrong but trying my best, and some days are tougher than others.
My life feels like it has started properly, finally, these past few years of mental clarity and sobriety. I asked for help too late before, so I ask for help when I need it now. The daily maintenance I do each day to maintain clarity and the strength from within me, keeps me going.
We're sure you'll agree, it's an amazingly insightful, honest and, at times, brutal admission from Lee about the struggles he 's had. Not only has he come out the other side, he's learned so much about himself and used it to empower himself and others along the way. We're delighted to have Lee on board with us, so we can help share his journey and support him to continue making fantastic progress.
Does anything in Lee's story ring any bells (the musical kind, not the Whisky) with you? Did you find solace in a bottle? How did you cope? Let us know in the comments below.