Before reading this article, you might want to read the two following articles to get a better understanding of what I’d already been up against and experienced, prior to the events described in this article.
The story so far
This is an explanation of the environmental issues that I currently understand to have “made me the way I am”.
The hand of help is slipping further away
How the scarcity of services and the mutilation of the NHS as a whole, by this government, is making those who most need mental health services feel.
The gates of hell swung open…
Now I need to write about a particularly painful period of my life which stretched over almost two years, but was at its worst for around 6 months or so. I say I need to do this and that is the right word. Wanting to do this just doesn’t come into it. The first five paragraphs are the build up, with the real meat of this piece starting after that. I hope that this will be the final piece of the outpouring and that subsequent posts will be more about the experiences of the formal diagnosis and hopeful recovery.
In late 2015 I was made redundant from the best job I have ever had in my life. It was working in various technical roles for a fairly large – £60m+ reducing to £50m+ annual turnover, charity based, social care provider in the field of learning disabilities and autism. I had been there for 6 years in all, but was made redundant as a result of their need to reduce overheads thanks to the harsh cuts imposed by the Tory government. Most distressingly, I was told and repeatedly told for almost a year leading up to the actual redundancy, that I should get another job because mine was not going to exist for too much longer as almost all IT functions were going to be out-sourced. Perversely, I carried out the work in simplifying the network WAN infrastructure that was to negate the need for my role in supporting, maintaining and managing that WAN. I enjoyed that work and I felt I left a small legacy behind me for them, but it was a bitter-sweet pill to swallow.
After my redundancy, I was lucky enough to walk into a new job almost straight away. However, the previous year or so had taken a heavy toll on my mental health, affecting concentration and energy levels, as depression has a tendency to do. I didn’t make it past probation in the new role, as I wasn’t performing to my best. I was told that I wasn’t what they were looking for after all. This messed me up even more, shattering any self confidence that I had, which was very little in any case.
I wasn’t so lucky in the jobs market and my redundancy payout dwindled heavily, being a private rent tenant and having to pay the school fees of my son from my second marriage. It has never been my choice to send my son to a private school. Their mother made that decision. When I raised concerns about the costs of also sending my daughter there, she stopped me seeing them. She told me bluntly that she’d handle it and that neither of them want me in their lives. Not surprising that she can as her father owns the house she and the kids live in, along with several others around Bristol. A true benificiary of Thatcher’s “right to buy” council house scheme. Meanwhile, I had to give up my flat and move out. I could only see myself being homeless, as a single man in his forties with no dependents living with him gets no housing help, mental health problems or not, regardless of the financial contribution to society in the form of income tax and National Insurance that they’ve paid.
I was very lucky that good friends had a spare room to put me up in for a while and I could put all my furniture and belongings into storage. This helped immeasurably. As it happened, a few days after giving my notice on the flat, I got a new job working as a Support Engineer for a company that produces and sells a software product used in server environments. I won’t name them for obvious reasons.
On the first weekend that I was staying with my friends, my mother died, very unexpectedly after having to be put into a medically induced coma. I never got to speak to her after the onset of the initial illness. Certainly not once it was clear that she wasn’t going to make it. Bear in mind that I had been estranged from her for around 10 years, which you’ll understand if you’ve read the other posts in this blog, so this was particularly mind blowing for me and stirred up a lot of emotions. On the day of her funeral, one of my younger brothers almost died after swallowing his tongue during convulsive fits. We were able to pull his tongue back up and he was even able to attend the funeral, but not be a pall bearer, after an assessment by the paramedics.
I took a week off work as compassionate leave, to stay with my bereaved step father for a few days, intending to begin my own grieving after the funeral, in private. I was only a couple of weeks into my probationary period in the new job and after the last probationary period ended badly, I didn’t want to take any more time off than absolutely necessary. I soldiered on, still struggling, but working hard at learning the new technology. A couple of weeks after the funeral, my younger brother who had had the convulsions died unexpectedly in his sleep, apparently from a perforated ulcer. He had been drinking heavily for a long time and basically drank himself to death. My world crumbled around me.
As there was nobody else to do it, another of my younger brothers and I took to organising things. My brother did most of that and I was and still am incredibly proud of him and how he carried himself during that period. We had to try to find a way of giving him a suitable send off and managed to arrange it to the tune of just under £3,000, without a plot or headstone. Luckily family on by deceased brother’s ex-partner’s side ran a JustGiving campaign to raise funds and almost half of the total amount was covered for us, by the immense generosity of those who knew my brother. This was an incredible thing to have happened and I am eternally grateful for it.
So, another funeral to go through and it was painfully tough for all involved, but went with immense dignity for a bunch of rough necked reprobates from the council estates of Bristol. I salute us all.
Again, I had taken a week of compassionate leave for the arrangements and the initial shock. I returned to work, but really wasn’t ready. My immediate line manager was very supportive of me over this, an EU immigrant I might add for the UKIP and Brexit lot out there. I was allowed a further two weeks of compassionate leave. I returned after that, again not feeling quite ready, but also feeling that the clock was ticking on my probationary period. I kept training myself on the software and related infrastructure elements and eventually passed my probationary period. What a relief! Well, I thought so at the time.
During the remainder of my probationary period, the only really good thing of 2016 happened to me. My first wife – the true love of my life – and I crossed paths and knew from the outset that the flame was very much still there. We’ve both changed an awful lot in the 15 years that we’ve been apart and she has had a lot of experience of mental health issues in that time. However, this did invlove moving again and sorting out all my furniture and such like. Credit to her, I honestly don’t think I would have made it through the last 6 to 8 months without her support. She is strong and stubborn and I need that as my modus operandi often sees me pushing and testing a partner in any serious relationship. Another blatant symptom of C-PTSD. She has been and continues to be a rock to me and she is helping to build a trust and sense of settlement and security within me that I’ve never had before. I get lots of hugs and cuddles from her, as well as the ever so funny Husky, who I swear was human in a former life. I feel like I’ve truly come home.
Back to work. Completion of the probationary period saw me put onto the standard rota, and extra on my salary to take it up to £30k pa. This is the sort of wage bracket that my skill-set puts me into, so I am quite fortunate on the national earnings scale. The flip-side to this, was the standard rota which involved being on call, one week in four. That was the beginning of the end. You see, being on call meant working from 11 am to midnight, Monday to Friday and responding to the on call mobile from midnight to 8 am. It would also mean responding to that mobile throughout the weekend. So, that’s a minimum 65 hour week stuck in front of a screen, plus being at the mercy of that mobile phone and having to get it absolutely right every time or the customer loses a hell of a lot of data and production time. I was quite unlucky during my on call periods and would almost invariably be woken up 3-4 times, for 2-3 hours at a time each on call week. I even spent 14 hours dealing with a customer on my first Saturday of being on call from 6 am. We were allowed to off-set on call cases against the standard working day, so if I was woken up and working for 2 hours in the small hours, I wouldn’t have to be in the office until 1 pm that day. However, no concession was made for the time getting back to sleep or the effects of the broken sleep. Add to that the fact that I was back in on the Monday morning after the on call week, through to the Friday, on 9-5 and it made it a 12 day stint, beginning with a hellish 7 days. I’d find myself almost getting back up to strength from that lot, just as the next on call week came around.
Here’s the kicker for me. When I queried the hours, which weren’t strictly necessary given the team structure, I was told that it was modeled on the NHS shift patterns so it was okay. “Really?” I stammered, “because you never hear of people being overworked into exhaustion in the NHS, do you?” Then I was told, if you don’t like it, find another job. Pure and simple is the cold-hearted IT industry. Then the supportive environment crumbled and so did I. Nothing could be done to alleviate the problems for me and I confessed that I was suffering from depression. I hadn’t wanted to admit to my long term depressive illness issues, so to them I put it down to the two bereavements. I had issues with my medication not quite being up to the job during these extreme times and eventually I had no choice but to hand in my notice. I formally finished that job in mid January of this year.
My new GP has been very understanding of my mental health issues and the added effects of the recent past on this, but at this stage cannot really do any more for me. I have had suicidal thoughts and feelings of great hopelessness, coupled with severe feelings of panic and anxiety for a few weeks now. I’m currently waiting for an appointment that I have arranged, in which I plan to ask and if necessary plead to be put forward for screening of the C-PTSD that it looks extremely likely that I suffer from and is almost definitely the true root cause of my recurring episodes of depressive illness over the last 30+ years. I only hope it and the appropriate treatments are available in the East Bristol area. If I can get that formal confirmation and result, then I hope to finally get on the correct path to recovery.
Wish me luck!
Update 23rd April 2017
After asking my GP for a mental health referral, I was given a leaflet for Bristol Wellbeing services. At the end of the call we were both quite upset at the inappopriate decision of my GP to put me on to them and not refer me to Adult Mental Healh services. Apparently I’m an acute case. I’ve been screaming this for years.
My anxiety levels are now at a record high and my energy levels at a record low. The toll this has taken on my personal relationships has left me with the threat of homelessness, as my partner is no longer willing to tolerate me. The ultimatum of get a job within two weeks or get out, has been delivered. So now I am broke, jobless, not getting the help I so desperately need and about to become homeless. I really can’t take any more of this and have no hope of any help or any way out of this, other than ending it. Why am I so cut adrift after paying my taxes all my working my life, into middle age? Was it all worth it?
Update 26th April 2017
I have become homeless. Thanks to intervention from the Avon and Somerset Police and the Bristol Mental Health crisis team, along with Bristol County Council, I am not on the streets. I’m currently in a Salvation Army hostel. It is battering at my anxiety being in this environment, but I know it could be worse.
I wrote about it here, it is the recommended next article: