Notes From an Independent State

07.04.14 (Day 106)

16.42

I’ve been advised to keep a diary to support my benefits application when we present DWP with another sick note, this one for the chronic depression. Let’s hope they don’t fuck this one up.

The hand-written journal and the blog on which it’s based are a diary of sorts of course and although they’re warts-and-all, there is a little journalistic licence employed. But no embellishment here.

I often put a positive spin on things in the blog as well (glass half full, smiling through etc.) But not for this one. This is about how I really feel: the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. This is for medical purposes. Perhaps it might even garner some sympathy for my plight from those who doubt me. I doubt that. But stranger things have happened: that horse becoming Pope. For one.

The last three to four months have been documented in the blog but there’s a lot there for a newcomer to read, so from the beginning and the last 106 days, since I’ve been on the road, in summary:

Having worked in print for most of my working life (about 27 years), alcohol has been around me all the time. In print, deals are done in a bar on a Friday afternoon (the best ones anyway). That is not an excuse and neither is anything which follows that could be construed as such. I fully accept that I’m largely responsible for everything that’s happened and that alcohol has helped me along the way. And that I’ve allowed it to do so. What myself and various professionals and agencies are trying to identify is where it all went wrong; the underlying reasons for my depression and the catalytic events. Then I need to record honestly how I feel now.

Alcohol is a depressant of course and therefore it and depression do not good bedfellows make. But I’m alcohol dependent and depressed, the two helping one another along. Both are diagnosed conditions for which I’m receiving and seeking treatment. If nothing else, this more diary-specific entry and the blog together will provide an insight into the mind of an individual; a record of descent.

A key event that springs to mind – a catalyst – would be when I was robbed at knifepoint in Lewisham in September 2011. My marriage was already in decline then, I’d been made redundant from a very well-paid job and my wife and I had set up a print management (broking) business. By my own admission with hindsight (a fine thing, with hindsight), I pretty much forced her into setting up the business. I’m lazy by nature if I’m honest (and I am), didn’t want to find a job (although they were thin on the ground in the industry at the time) and thought there was an opportunity to put my skills to use for us rather than someone else and to fulfill a long-held ambition of running my own company; also to achieve the unattained status of company director, even if it was self-made. My wife done most of the work in setting things up (largely against her will but she loved me) and I handled the marketing side of things. That’s the story and I did play a part but not as big a role as I should have.

We’d recently become parents and my wife had suffered post natal depression but I still put upon her with my insistent, persuasive ways. I treated her badly, drank in secret and made her life a living hell I’m sure. I did play my part as a father by sharing early mornings at weekends but it doesn’t go much further than that.

There are two ways of being sorry: saying that you are and actually feeling remorseful. With my wife it’s the latter and those with her are some of my many regrets which I beat myself up about daily.

So I was drinking, shirking and letting my wife carry me. Then the robbery happened. What really pushed me over the edge was the Robbery Squad’s conclusion that there was little chance of convicting my assailant as he fitted a description the same as a large percentage of the male demographic of South East London. I’m not racist but I do like my sandwiches cut into triangles.

So I hit the bottle. Hard. To numb things. I felt ineffective as a man because I’d not fought back against the robber. On the fourth day, after 72 hours of being drunk, my wife saw me with proper Delirium Tremens: shaking and hallucinating. She suggested I might need help. Eventually I ended up in the care of a psychologist, was diagnosed with PTSD and underlying depression, which had apparently been latent for a long time.

Not long after that, the marriage collapsed. Not entirely my fault but that’s between myself and my ex-wife. It’s only my laundry I’m airing here (and outside).

If my writing jumps around a bit more than normal and doesn’t follow a strict chronology (I do have OCD, or CDO: I like to have the letters in the right order), it’s because there’s so much to commit. But I’m just letting it flow, using it as therapy – an outlet – and the blog is a transcription of  the hand-written journal verbatim. It’s meant to give an observer or assessor an insight into my psyche (good luck with that one).

When the marriage ended after nine years, I was truly devastated. I’d always had the upper hand I thought but it was as though I’d pushed things too far and now I was getting my comeuppance. Goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend. You were the one, you were the one for me. I still have feelings for that girl. Things did turn nasty towards the end and even though this is frank, there are certain things best left for face-to-face discussion. We know what went on. Suffice to say that I get angry where others get upset.

And there were plenty of stressful things which we both faced together during that marriage. Meniere’s Disease, the PND, sleepless nights, running a business, 16-hour working days, seven days a week, harassment from some nuisance neighbours which led to mediation; a shitty flat in a horrible area. And me. But for some reason, she loved me and had my children. She still has them.

I certainly became an issue towards the end; my wife describing living with me as like walking on egg shells, such was her fear of my volatile nature.

I developed a gambling problem too and most nights I’d see my wife off to bed before sitting up for hours playing online poker, often chasing losses.

I did do the school runs, the cooking and the housework: I’m not all bad. Lots of little rights don’t cover a big wrong though. She couldn’t cope with me. I scared her.

As I write this frank account, I’m moved to tears over someone I thought I’d stopped caring about and I’m realising that this will come to a point where it must be to be continued, rather than finished, so I just appended “Part One” to the title.

My children still loved me the last time I saw them (they know their daddy isn’t well). A child’s love is unconditional. Those two little people are the ones I miss the most and I desperately want to see them as I know they’re changing but I have to get better before I can.

My wife and father-in-law helped me financially when I found a place to live on my own in Bexley; not paying for me to leave but ensuring I had enough money for something better than a hole in which I’d probably kill myself.

Bexley was good to me. I had a nice little bachelor pad in a converted Victorian mansion house, lovely neighbours and a communal garden with a swimming pool. The kids stayed over at weekends and they loved the pool. Summer afternoons in the garden with the neighbours and all our kids, by the pool and with a barbecue were wonderful. For a while I’d found myself again; had a new life which I loved. I learned to enjoy my own company again. Then the business went and I did too. I let myself go and that part of my life with it.

After getting to know Bexley (and vice versa), a number of unsuccessful relationships came and went. Those girls were often to the exclusion of the kids, as I’m relationship dependent.

My wife and I remained on amicable terms but eventually we had to cut loose on the business, which we’d continued to run together from remote locations; her doing most of the work still. It was like another separation and I truly felt alone. All over again.

Even with limited finances (and a creative accountant), I was almost always out in the village in the evenings. Loneliness was uncomfortable. I wanted to know where everyone was and that I wasn’t missing out: paranoia and insecurity. We drank. I’d buy drinks for other people just to be with someone, even though as often as not I was happy on my own. I’m a contradictory character.

In February 2013, the true love of my life came along. We’d been friends for a while and things developed. We fell in love, she moved in with me, then we moved on to a bigger place together and got engaged. But I fucked that one up as well.

I had it all: a beautiful home with a gorgeous girl. I was punching well above my weight there in my own low opinion of myself. But she truly loved me. I just didn’t get it and my insecurity and paranoia caused me to distrust her and question her. Coupled with a mutual love of the drink, that relationship ended too. There are details which won’t be revealed here but which will in private meetings (I’m ashamed but don’t shy away). In any case, it was my fault and I’d let another one go. The loss of her is my biggest regret. Not a night passes when I don’t rue that passing.

The wife got a new bloke, I’ll get the kids back but I don’t think right now that I’ll ever get over my life’s love. I won’t get her back but I can’t imagine there being another. I tried (once) but that went awry and I just miss my soul mate.

A degree of brevity has crept in now (laziness perhaps, as I’m tired and realising again how much there is to say and I’ve said most of it before.) But the point was to say how I feel right now, today:

  • Depressed. Very, very sad and low
  • Regretful
  • Knowing I should move on but unable to do so. Clinging to the past and what I threw away. Angry with myself. What might have been but it’s gone and there’s no rewind button
  • Angry and frustrated by people, my situation and even inanimate objects which seem to conspire against me
  • Tired but unable to sleep as so much goes on in my head and I can’t switch off until exhaustion takes over. Then another three hours’ sleep
  • Vulnerable
  • Paranoid
  • Self-aware

Too many thoughts. Need sleep. To be continued.

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