Guest Blog by Scott Hughes: Close to the edge

I’m a healthy 30 year old, have a loving son, a loving fiancé and a good job. Everything is going swimmingly – yet I find myself in an enclosed room, shaking and crying whilst two mental health nurses bombard me with questions….

I have no recollection of what’s happened. It feels like I am looking at myself in third person. Then I hear the words “I couldn’t go on anymore” then it starts to hit home, I’ve attempted to take my own life and I am now sat in the mental health unit at Llandough Hospital, with two mental health nurses. How did this happen?

Over the coming weeks, piece by piece, my mental health starts revealing itself. I have been consumed by depression and have spiralled out of control.

August 7th 2017 – a normal Monday, I got up at 5.15am, showered and changed, kissed my sleeping fiancé on the head and whispered ‘I love you’, I left the house and I collected my colleague and commenced the drive to work as usual. I arrived at my desk at 06:50am, but something is different this time – I have no intention of starting work. I write a crude note to leave on my boss’s desk; she doesn’t usually come into work until 10:00am, so the note will go unfound for 3 hours, plenty of time.

I get into my car and leave the office, I start driving – not aimlessly – I have a very particular plan in mind. I am heading to Southerdown, there is something about this place that has always brought me a sense of calm. I have already worked out the co-ordinates, I have several sheets of plain paper and a black biro – intended to somehow justify what I am about to do. I feel calm, I am tapping my fingers to a song on the radio as if what I am doing is part of everyday life. Looking back at it now, I would say it was cold and callous.

As I ebb closer to my destination, I start to work out my telephone conversation – I plan on phoning the emergency services, telling them the co-ordinates of where I am, and then jumping from the cliff tops. I’ve even located an area that would be less hazardous to anybody that wants to retrieve my body. My phone rings, it’s my boss, it’s nearly 08:00am, she shouldn’t be in yet? Oh well, I ignore it and carry on. Then the constant calls come, unknown numbers, family members, my fiancé, all go unnoticed by me emotionally. I turn my phone upside down and proceed.

I arrive at my destination and calmly walk to the top of the cliff, sitting for a moment and enjoying the sea breeze one last time. I am relaxed, calm and content. My phone lets off an unusual ring, which peaks my interest, its my fiancé, dialling me through WhatsApp – her picture is displayed on the screen, I find myself staring at her and I can feel tears running down my cheek – the first time I have felt any emotion. Then something snaps, “What am I doing?” “Why am I here?” a sense of panic sets in. Everything becomes blurry and the next thing I remember is driving towards my home town, sobbing uncontrollably. I answer the phone, it’s my fiancé, all I can say is “I’m sorry, I love you” – all I remember is something being muttered back about Police.

I arrive at my house, swarmed by Police officers and family members; I abandon the car and am immediately embraced by my partner. I remember nothing after this, a vague recollection of an ambulance ride.

I am given the option of being admitted to the mental health ward or being passed to the care of the crisis recovery unit in UHW. I opt for the latter, but am told in no uncertain circumstances, if I do not answer my phone, the police will be called and I will be brought into the unit in Llandough.

I am in debt, I have amassed this debt (£20,000) because of the depression, my way of coping was to spend lavishly on my partner and my son, as seeing them happy alleviates some of the pain. I had hidden all the letters and correspondence from my partner. No one was aware of this, as far as they were concerned; I was my normal cheeky self.

Why was I depressed, what had caused this massive break down in my mental strength, why did I do what I was so close to doing?

In 2016, I had lost both my grandparents in a very short space of time; I was very close to them and saw them more of parental figures than my actual parents. I didn’t have a chance to grieve, I was too busy organising the funerals as no one else could be bothered, my best friend’s father died in between both of my grandparents, so I had to provide a strong face to support him. My auntie, who is disabled, and lived with my grandparents, suddenly found herself in a battle to fight off eviction and so my time was then consumed in a lengthy public battle with the local authority. This took up the next 6 months. By this time, I couldn’t grieve if I wanted to. So I continued on as normal, or so I thought…..

My first day in the crisis recovery unit is a daunting one – I get collected by a nurse at 09:00am and taken to the unit at UHW. It’s surreal; I sit there looking at all the other patients, thinking “why am I here?” I’m fine, I’m still in denial. I sit with a councillor, a lovely, unassuming lady. She starts talking, and then I suddenly find myself spilling everything to her. I hadn’t eaten for 5 weeks, I’d developed a phobia of choking, my mouth would instantly dry up at the though of eating – I couldn’t sleep, I would spend every spare second of my time in isolation, I stopped socialising and I became distant. I had never realised this before, but suddenly I was very aware of my problems and for the first time, I realised, I was not okay.

The next few weeks, Monday – Friday 09:00-15:00, my time was spent with the crisis recovery team, constantly being assessed and helped, they slowly started piecing my life together, but would push me to do it, something which I struggled with at first, but as time went on, I realised that it was the drive and determination that I needed to go on.

I was pointed in the direction of Citizens Advice, to help me tackle my debt problems – the first hurdle was being open and honest with my fiancé and family. To my surprise, everyone is fine, no one is angry and everyone wants to help. I smile, the first time a genuine smile has graced my face for a very long time. I’m suddenly overcome with thoughts of the future and what that might bring.

I started counselling with CRUSE, a charity that specialise s in providing support for people struggling with grief. The next 2 months would be constant meetings with this, at first, it felt pointless but after 4 sessions, a breakthrough, I cried and cried and cried. I left there thinking the weight of the world was taken off my shoulders. Then everything starts to seem better – and where I was seems to be so far away.

Fast forward 9 months and I am here, writing this, in the hope that someone reads my story and realises that they are not okay or that a friend or loved one is not quite themselves.

I am expecting the imminent arrival of my second son, I cannot wait, I have so much planned, I am almost out of debt thanks to the support of Citizens Advice and my loved ones. I am saving money, something that I have never done before; I’m planning holidays and genuinely looking forward to the future.

I hope that, when reading this, you realise that you are not weak for feeling helpless, it is not normal to have thoughts of harming yourself of taking your own life, there are people out there just like me and you, who are struggling, it’s normal, there’s help out there. Regardless of how petty you may feel an issue is, speak to a friend, colleague, GP – anybody! Once you start to realise you are not yourself, you are on your way to being better. I have hit rock bottom but now I am on top of the world.

Its okay not to be okay…..

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