On the edge of the Abyss

On the edge of the Abyss

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    I am in the middle of a desolate wasteland balancing on the edge of an abyss looking in, all I can see is darkness looking down into the abyss, as much as I struggle to look for the bottom of the abyss I can’t see anything because of the darkness, the wind rushing through the abyss sounds like the screams of a thousand tortured lost souls abandoned with no hope. Looking across the rolling wasteland as far as the eye can see, there is no horizon, the flat cracked dry earth incapable of supporting life is overshadowed by the dark clouds as the bitter cold wind rushes across the dead earth into the abyss. The unnerving silence is broken periodically  by the sound of the tortured lost souls try to escape from the abyss, screaming in vain for help and hope that will never come from the darkness, faint ghosts try and escape the abyss, ghost of people who ended up in a dark place because there was no one to talk to, no hope, no shine of light, they get so far out the abyss before been dragged back in. As I am tethering on the edge looking into the abyss contemplating giving up all hope and surrendering to become one of the many tortured lost souls.

    A couple of weeks ago my wife’s friend saw me outside my daughters’ school as I had dropped my two daughters off for school and grab me for a quick chat. She could see I was unhappy and I was suffering, she tired to talk about the subject but I didn’t want to talk about it, the mention of the subject kicked in a defensive mechanism and I didn’t want to even think about the subject, I didn’t want to admit I had a problem and I needed to get help from someone. Just as I was about to leave, she gave me a piece of paper about the Bury Military Veterans service and asked me to promise that I would call them before it was to late.

    Parking up and walking up the path towards the door of the doctors surgery seem to be the longest journey of my life, my mouth is dry and nerves are building up with in me, I feel ashamed and a failure for seeking help, by the time I get to the door I am feeling physical sick and ready to throw up. I shouldn’t be having to do this, there is no spark left with in me, I have failed by wife and kids, I feel tired and worn out, my nerves are in bits, as I walk through the door I start to feel emotional and I want to turn and run, run as fast and as far away as possible, but I am not a coward and only cowards run however I felt like a failure and a coward but I was tired and worn out and for the sake of my self and my family I needed to seek help.

    Booked in at the reception on some touch screen monitor, not that I was complaining because at this stage I didn’t want human contact with anyone, my head was hung low, my self-pride had been worn away from been unable to settle into a environment that was alien to me, I found my seat with my back to the wall watching all the doors going through the process of threat assessment everyone who was sat in the waiting room, my exit was all ready planned in case something happen. I am sat on the edge of my seat; my heart is racing, and my muscles feel tense ready to react to everything. I can see people talking however I can’t hear the words apart from failure, failure, failure. Then I saw my wife’s friend and started to panic, if she saw me then she would want to say hello, see me in a state and then text my wife and she would be on the phone to me. I just wanted to blend in with the surroundings so I couldn’t be seen, and no awkward questions were asked, in fact I didn’t want any human contact whatsoever, don’t speak to me and don’t look at me. Waiting to be seen seemed like and eternity, each second felt like an hour, each minute felt like a day, I felt like I wasn’t in the room, but my mind was all foggy, it was only less than a week ago that I tried to take my own life, couldn’t even get that right then it had taken me at least a couple of days to build up the courage to phone the doctors for an appointment, I was happy I was given and immediate appointment to see the doctor. It then broke through the foggy I could hear my name been called to go and see the doctor. As I got up, I could feel everyone looking at me, their eyes burning into me.

    Walked into the doctors surgery and he asked me to take a seat and then asked the question that open the flood gates “How can I help you”. I broke down and through my tears and emotions I told the doctor I was an Army Veteran and I desperately needed help, over the next twenty minutes I told him about the nightmares, not feeling able to settle in civilian life, always been tense, expecting to come under attack from everywhere and I just kept going, always been on edge and tense, the flood gates had open and everything was coming out, I didn’t feel a need to talk but I had to talk and get everything out, then the doctor asked me the following question which for some reason sticks in my mind “ do you have a suicide plan and are you close to completing it” my instant reply was “ yes I have tried twice” he then asked when my last attempt was and I replied over a week ago. By the time I had finished at the doctors I was a blabbering mess, yes, a grown man, a proud man, a Soldier who was now a Veteran had been reduced to a nervous wreck cry in front of the doctor. I felt ashamed that I had been reduced to this state, what would people who knew me think of me now, people I had served with see the state of me what would they think, I felt I was in a dark place screaming for help and nobody was listen and there was no way out.

    When you are at your lowest point then the only way is up”

    The doctor offered me anti-depressants, which I refused, I didn’t want to become a pill zombie as I believed this would only make things worse, it wasn’t a solution to the problem at all. I had seen to many people dependant on pills just to get through the day and I didn’t want to turn into a pill zombie dependent on small white pills to get through a day to day. The doctor said he would write to the Bury Veterans Military service and refer me however this could take some time; he also gave me an option of phone them myself for a quicker referral.

    As I sat in my car in the car park with this piece of paper with a phone number scribbled on it try to summon up the courage to ring the number and ask for help, my choice was either to phone this number and suffer the humiliation of asking for help as I stood on the edge of the abyss looking in or next time surrender to the abyss and complete my suicide. My hands were shaking as I dialled the number and listen to the tone as I waited to be connected to someone, because it was late I got an answer machine with some robotic automated voice, for the love of god, in my hour of need I end up speaking to a machine with a robotic automated voice, I hate answer machine at the best of times and this was the worse time that I ended up speaking to a bloody machine, so I left my name and number with the following message.

    “My name is Owen Dykes; I am an Army Veteran and I need help before it’s too late”

    Suddenly in the darkness shone some light in the form of a phone call, a phone call I had been waiting on. As soon as the voice on the phone identified themselves as from the Bury Veterans Military service, a wave of emotions over came me, hopeful this will be the answer to my problems, I wasn’t sure this was the right course of action because I was admitting failure, failure at been able to settle into a new life in civvy street, failure at been a father and a husband, however I had nothing left. I was tired and my nerves were worn away, so I needed to do something, anything. After a brief conversation with the voice they asked me to come in for an assessment, I found myself not hesitating in saying yes, I could feel some weight been taken off my shoulders and this light getting slowly bigger and brighter. However my next biggest challenge was how do I tell my wife what I was going through, how would she react to the suicide attempt, the fact I wasn’t happy and not a day went by that I wished I was back in the army, over the following days I thought about nothing but the assessment appointment and how could I tell my wife, I supposed I kept a lot back because I didn’t want to hurt her, I didn’t want her to know I was a failure and couldn’t cope but the big question in my head was how do I tell her what’s going on in my head.

    “On Average Veterans wait 12 years after leaving the service before seeking help”

    I am sat in the waiting room on edge and nervous, I didn’t want to be there but I needed to be there, there was no choice, my hands felt sweaty and my mouth felt dry, my mind was going into over drive and full of everything, felt like I was getting to a point of over loaded, I kept clocking people entering and leaving the reception area, slight bangs were making me jump, I felt I could see people talking but I couldn’t hear the words that were coming from their mouths. People going in and out of offices, when am I going to be seen, have they forgotten about me, it seems I have been waiting for hours then the all familiar dread and fear started to settle in. I want to run, run out of the building and keep on running till I couldn’t run no more, my heart rate was already starting to escalate and my muscles were ready starting to tense ready to run, then my name was called, I turned my head and this lady was opening an office door calling my name, once I had identified my self she invited me to come in. As I entered the door there was a bloke also in the office, as she invited me to take a seat, she introduced the bloke as a member of staff who was ex Royal Navy and was training to be a counsellor, as well as noticing the tables and seats there was a box of tissues on the table that I would put to good use later on. We started off with how long I served, were I served and then it started, slowly the gates opened and as the gates open I couldn’t stop talking, I felt I had to talk, as I talked then all the bottled up emotions suddenly burst out and I couldn’t contain them anymore, over the next two hours we covered everything, my service overseas, by brothers I had lost, coming out the army and try to settle in civvy street, my problems in civvy street, my suicide attempts and it went on, the flood gates had well and truly burst open and because I was talking and getting everything out into the open it started to feel better, I was off loading a weight. At the end of two hours I was an emotional mess but I felt better for getting everything out into the open, I was then given a diagnostic, I had PTSD, survivors guilt, social isolation and depression, amongst everything I found it hard to believe I had PTSD, I didn’t think I had PTSD and seen enough to warrant having PTSD but I had PTSD, the next steps were explained to me and I was then booked in for a session every two weeks. Now was the time I was going to take back control of my life and start to climb out of the dark hole I had found myself in, now I was talking, I found I felt better within myself however I still had to find a way to tell my wife what was going through my head, I was still on the edge of the abyss looking in, listening to the sound of the tortured lost souls try to escape from the abyss but I found I had taken a step back from the edge.

    Seeking help for mental health can seem like a daunting task, especially when the roller coaster of mental illness has you trapped on the ride”

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Borough of Bury Veterans Association