Like a pile up on the motorway waiting to happen
When deciding to change my website from exclusively an art platform I had to think long and hard about how open and honest this new site would have to be. As solely a blog/diary it might just have been something to share topics, articles and news that I found interesting and that those reading might enjoy. However, as an art work that aims to reflect the different aspects of who I am as a man as well as an artist, I felt it needed to be more frank.
Mindful that such an approach could be seen as a bit self-indulgent or narcissistic, I remind myself that one if not the principle purpose is the opportunity to share my journey with others hoping that somehow it might help them navigate their own lives. Exactly how that might be I guess is debateable. Maybe it will trigger conversations or ideas or perhaps someone will relate to parts of what I write about, whatever it is, I would ultimately like to think of it as a record of key parts of my life that might on some level or alternative universe, be of interest. What´s the point of discovering things throughout life if we can´t share them with others ? It´s up to them however, if they chose to listen of course !
When it comes to mental health issues I for one have experienced various degrees of mental disequilibrium at different times. As a child I think it was clear I was the ´sensitive´ one of the batch. I recall being told many times to stop being a "cry bah-bie", I also recall being told that I would cry " if someone looked crooked at me ". Needless to say, my young brother took great delighted in proving this to be true! Anyway, I managed to get through those years relatively unscathed. Surprisingly seeing as for a young sexually confused pubescent, it might have been a lot worse. I think, I kept myself busy working (I was constantly working part-jobs from the age of 13!) or playing my piano accordion until I was mentally numb enough not to care about the troubles of teenager.
Mental health issues were slow to develop. I think for a very long time, depression and stress related over-eating and over-drinking were so familiar that I didn't notice. I just put everything down to being self employed and working too hard to survive. It is only now looking back I can see how many warning signs there were. On one occasion I had to go to hospital as an emergency for a rash that covered almost my entire body. It lasted for weeks and despite having a team of dermatologists examine me and horse doses of antihistamine injections, I never found out what the cause was. Today, in retrospect and joining all the dots I am certain it was internalised stress. One GP came close to diagnosing me when she literally reproached me for being so ´hyper´ in her consultancy room and said I should go to a stress management course. She was right, I was ´wired´ to the moon and didn't even know it as it was so familiar. Oh, how hindsight is a great thing as they say.
My dad died suddenly and the grief of that smouldered for a couple of years. Again I didn´t notice but others did. I went to counselling but it wasn´t a good match so I think I just bumbled along. Besides, the stresses of work were far more dominant. The following years saw the global financial collapse and the impact it had on our business just added to the ´pile up on the motorway´ that was waiting to happen. And happen it did, but not before I stepped down from the company and moved to the UK to look after my mother who we were told had about a year left due to a number of illnesses. For three years I was her nurse and full time carer 24/7. One of the most profound periods of my life. It was an honour to care for her and something that I will cherish forever. Surprisingly it was also a kind of distraction that kept me focused on her, putting my mental wellbeing on the back burner. Until it wasn't.
When she died the tsunami arrived. It was as if the wounds from the previous 30 years had been ripped open and wanted part of the action too. The next six years is what happened after the motorway pile up. Too long a story for now so I will summarise as best I can.
At first the numbness kept me going, drifting from day to day through the endless practical necessities of loosing the last parent. Not knowing what, how or where I would be the next hour never mind the next day or week. I carried a little pocket diary around and wrote down anything I had to remember. It was if my brain was on shutdown or on minimal functionality to conserve power. The constant desire not to wake up was often addressed with thoughts of how I might achieve that. The false-starts at life, the fake smiles, self-loathing, destructive overeating and drinking and the pretence of enthusiasm for plans and projects, the PTSD, the relentless mental and physical fatigue, the A & E trip for a potential heart attack that turned out to be ´just´ another panic attack and the sobbing meltdowns that only a few special people witnessed. All finally gave way to a smattering of hope that would wane from time to time but nonetheless be one step closer to finding some inner peace and a reason to see the next day. Moving to the country has been crucial plus the help of some incredibly special friends and the love of my life, my rescue dog, Heidi, I am beginning to see the joy life has to offer. It´s still a work-in-progress, and I only very rarely now have the odd wobble and self doubts but that is all part of living your life ´consciously´. I give thanks for all my blessings the moment I close my eyes to sleep and the second I open them when I wake. This project, cathartic as it is, I hope will be one that continues to unfold strengthening my purpose whilst helping others along the way.
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