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I walked out of that first meeting feeling really drained. I wandered down to meet Katrina for lunch but I wasn’t the best of company as I couldn’t concentrate on anything she was talking to me about. I was too busy thinking about the answers I had given the staff at the crisis team. It was embarrassing really as I sat there with a 1000 yard stare, trying to show some interest in what she was saying.
Over the next few days my whole life felt like that…I would see people and they would be asking me questions but really I wasn’t engaged at all. All my thoughts were in the negative as depression took a grip of me and I tried to stop myself falling into this dark hole. Previously I couldn’t cope with work and life decisions and I expected that when I got to the sanctuary of my home that I would rest up and relax to the point where I could get some sense back into my life. It didn’t quite happen like that at all.
I remember people trying to get hold of me through Katrina and an element of panic setting in as I tried to make a decision as to whether I could speak to them or not. Was it work, would they ask me how I was. I tried to speak to some friends and work colleagues in an effort to bring some normality to my thinking but in reality it felt like I was being hit with a sledgehammer and afterwards I found myself mentally shot to bits. During those conversations I found myself trying to talk positive about my personal life and work but in reality all I wanted to do was slam all the negative aspects of both and try to make myself feel better. I didn’t say those things because losing it would just have highlighted the frustrated state I was in and that would have just made things worst. Instead I tried to slurp some positivity out of my mouth and tried to convince them I wasn’t as bad as everyone would have them believe….it didn’t work.
My next few days were a difficult time for me as I tried to get a grip of myself and find something positive to grasp onto. My motivation levels were shot and I really struggled to find anything that could keep me from thinking about the negative things that had happened over the past few days and months. My concentration levels plummeted to zero as my head tried to find something simple that I could do in my daily routine that would help me get through the day and take my mind away from those dark thoughts. It was hopeless really as I was physically and mentally exhausted and doing anything mean’t decisions and I just wasn’t capable of making any. As stated in a previous post I use to get angry with Katrina in the mornings as she fired simple questions at me like “do you want a coffee” “would you like eggs for breakfast”.
Eventually living at home and trying to live a simpler life became difficult for me and eventually for Katrina. I was utterly useless and was no help to her at all. I spent my days washed out and unable to cope with anything. I couldn’t help with making dinner or do any simple chores around home. I went into a state of panic whenever the phone rang or I had to speak to anyone. I struggled to leave the home and going to the supermarket was an utter nightmare. Anything that had some form of mental stimulation drove me mad…TV, Music, Shopping Centres were all just a personal torment as I couldn’t cope with the constant barrage of noise and decisions that I might have had to make.
With all that mental frustration came thoughts of suicide…I wouldn’t say they were real ones but the thought of not being here certainly crossed my mind a few times as I got sadder and sadder about my predicament. I couldn’t see a way out of it and I certainly couldn’t see a way back into the police or any other sort of work at all. I remember lying around at home and crying thinking how much easier life would have been for me if I had popped a few more of those pills and didn’t have this turmoil to deal with.
That was my life for the next couple of weeks…it wasn’t a life really….I just hung around and sunk further into depression. I never dealt with anything and stumbled my way through phones call to the crisis team and two further meetings with them.
The third meeting was nearly three weeks after I had taken my overdose. It was to be my first with a clinical psychiatrist and lasted for nearly two hours. During that two hours I ran over the circumstances of my overdose, what drove me there and what had been happening since my release from hospital and my subsequent visits to the Crisis Team. I went into depth about my frustrations at work, my personal life and the inability to cope with anything. My honesty with them was to be my final undoing as it hastened them to make some decisions and recommendations that were to have a significant impact on my life.
The doctor told me I wasn’t coping…. and that she wanted me to go into respite care where I could get some relief from everyday life. They were also concerned about the frequency of my suicidal thoughts and as a result wanted to prescribe me blister packs. We came to an agreement that Katrina, as a nurse, would manage my medications and she would take them to work so I was not a home alone with the temptation. Going into respite care was to be my decision and I left the clinic with that one thought occupying my mind.
The rest of the day was spent in a quandary as I struggled to make a decision about admitting myself. Katrina came home at 4pm and we argued about whether I should go or not. In the end neither of us could make a decision and I phoned the crisis team and spoke to Danny one of the workers there. He told me that the team had a meeting after I had left and that they all believed that I should go into respite care for a few days to get some relief from the depression that I was going through. That conversation helped me to make a decision and I said to him that I would admit myself that night.
At about 6pm I packed a bag and Katrina drove me to a house on the North Shore. It was an innocuous sort of place and out-of-the-way and to be honest you would never have known it was a care home. We both walked in and were met by a nurse who showed me to my room. Walking up the stairs brought a realisation to me that I wasn’t well and that I really was in a bad way. I was very anxious and kept questioning whether I had made the right decision. The nurse quickly showed us around upstairs and then left me and Katrina alone to say goodbye. There was an airy silence and it was like being at an airport departure lounge with family. We were just having quiet time and waiting for the inevitable time when she had to leave. It became too painful in the end and we decided to put each other out of our misery and that she should leave. We walked down the stairs and I followed her out to the car…I wasn’t happy but I knew she needed rest from me as much as I needed to get some respite from the turmoil I was going through. I watched her drive off and then turned and walked back towards the house. I was on my own and I would be for 4 to 7 days…or so I thought.
I walked back into the house and introduced myself to the other nurse who then went through the process of admission. A wander through the house showed me where the quiet and activity rooms were. The place was well set up for someone who could make use of the facilities, I wasn’t sure I was one of them. The nurse and I sat down in the quiet room and I filled out the necessary paperwork. The blister packs with my medication were an indication to me that they were expecting me a long time before I actually made the decision to go into respite. The nurse then took me through and introduced me to three other people who were staying there at the time. They were making use of the communal kitchen and living area and, to me appeared to be well at home there. I tried to appear relaxed but deep inside I wasn’t sure that this was for me and anxiety began to spread through me like a South Australian wildfire. I looked at my watch and it was getting on for 8.30pm and I took the opportunity to say goodnight and make my way to my own room and the sanctuary of my own company.
I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and looked at myself in the mirror. I remember looking into my eyes and seeing nothing but a frightened man, a man who didn’t know what to do, a man who had driven himself to a place that was about to drive him into a darkness that would reveal all his frailties. That look in my eyes blasted me back to a time in the 1990’s, to one moment, where I saw the same look in the eyes of a fellow policeman who a day later took his own life. To this day I’ll never forgive myself for not trying to do something to help him. Thinking of that moment rattled me and I reached over and locked the door to the bathroom and began to cry. I cried for about 10 minutes as the realisation of just how alone I was took hold and sent me into a state of panic. I eventually gained some semblance of control and made a dash for my bedroom.
I closed and locked the door and started to think of something I could do….I had nothing and I made a decision to put my pyjamas on and get into bed. I was alone and for the first time in my life had a real feeling of emptiness, I had no one around me, no Katrina, no family, no friends…..I was in a house full of strangers and a room full of regrets that we’re going to plaque my thoughts for the next 20 hours. As I lay in bed a state of numbness came over me. I lay there thinking about nothing, it was like I had an acceptance of my fate, an acceptance that I was fucked in the head and that who I had been for 56 years was just someone I thought I wanted to be but in reality it was all just a facade to hide the real Mike. I started to cry again as I thought about Katrina and my loneliness. Eventually the trauma of the day took a hold of me and I fell asleep…the drugs I was on ensured I slept for some of the night but I woke several times with my mind throwing itself back to where I was and my current whereabouts….I was so emotional that I just wept every time I thought of my current mental state and all the regrets that I had.
I don’t remember the time but I woke in the morning feeling drained. All my energy was now concentrating on where I was and what I was going to do. I lay in bed trying to hear what others in the house were doing…people were coming and going but I was too petrified to even set foot outside my room. I couldn’t get my head around why I was in respite…I couldn’t work out why they thought I would get some quiet time with people I didn’t know.
I tried hopelessly to get into some routine. I made my bed and folded some clothes. I was too frightened to leave my room and couldn’t face the thought of going down for breakfast. I sat in the only chair in the room and stared out the window. I was alone, very alone and I felt really empty. I didn’t know what to do and I remember thinking that I had 7 days here on my own, 7 days with strangers, 7 days where I would have nothing but my thoughts as company.
As I sat and looked out the window I started to think about the people I loved, I thought of Katrina, my daughters, my family past and present, I thought about my friends and my work colleagues and all the other people who had past through my life. I remember sitting there and looking out at the sky and then all of a sudden I was hit with a wave of emotion. I saw it coming like a dark cloud of regret as it slowly enveloped me as I started to think about everyone in my life and the negative thoughts that had plastered themselves to the inside of my head and slowly eaten away at my rationality. I now had none and that dark depression blanketed me and was so heavy that I burst into tears as the enormity of where I was in my life took hold.
I put my head in my hands and cried….my life flashed through my head and passed out in a flood of tears that saturated the brown carpet beneath me. I cried uncontrollably for 2 and a half hours non stop, and I mean non stop…the carpet got so saturated to the point I had to put a towel beneath me to stop the carpet from staining. For two and a half hours, 56 years of negativity poured from me like a river of regrets as I ran through all my childhood, young adulthood and adulthood. I thought about all the regrets I had in my adult life and my inadequacies I saw as a father and a husband. I remembered all those significant jobs I had attended as a policeman, those jobs that stick inside you like an untreatable festering sore. I thought about the police officers that I knew who had killed themselves, I thought about all the death I had seen in the police and the one victim I was responsible for….for two hours my head hurt and my heart was torn apart as I so regretted that man losing his life and I thought about all those other things that had eaten away at me over the years.
I won’t go through everything I thought about because it’s not for this post. You will find this hard to believe but after nearly three hours I stopped and was left with nothing. I ran out of tears and it was if I had run out of negative thoughts as they all laid soaked on the white Briscoes towel. It was a bizarre feeling really because I thought I wanted to cry but I had ticked everything off the list and there was nothing else left. Sure..those thoughts were still there but some of the guilt that went with them was now lying at my feet.
During my dark depressive state I vaguely remember the nurses knocking at my door and asking me if I wanted anything. I was too distraught to take anything and put them off opening the door. Shortly after I cried my last tear I was informed that a nurse from the crisis team was coming to meet me. I hadn’t washed or shaved and looked like I had been dragged through a baling machine backwards. My eyes were bloodshot and when I dragged myself into meet them you could tell the male nurse who had seen me a week earlier was slightly shocked. The nurse told me that they were concerned that in the 16 hours I had been there that I hadn’t engaged…that was a bit of an understatement because I hadn’t even left my room. I remember sitting opposite them and crying as I ran through the turmoil that I had gone through since arriving. I felt so vulnerable talking to them as they looked at me to see a shell of a person who had nothing left inside to give.
I told them I didn’t want to be here…I had decided I couldn’t bare not being close to the people I loved and I wanted to go home where I could at least chip away and build my own road back to normality with the support of the mental health team and the people around me. Between us we decided that I had given it a try…if thats what you’d call it…..but it was not for me and arrangements would be made for me to go home. The nurses left me with a feeling of relief and the first signs of a glimmer of hope.
I went back to my room totally wasted but with a sense of ease. I was embarrassed about the way I looked and tried to take some pride in my appearance and went to have a shower, shave and put on some clean clothes. I never left my room again and waited in the chair for the next three hours, waiting for Katrina to pick me up. I never thought about anything…I can’t even remember what I did for those three hours…in a way I was in a state of shock….I had been pummelled with a hammer for three hours and it was going to take months to recover.
Katrina arrived about 5pm and came up to my room with the nurse. I signed my paperwork and said thank you…I couldn’t wait to get out of there and I never wanted to return. Seeing Katrina was like someone letting a fraction of light into my dark hole…that light wasn’t going to go away because she was to be my rock for the next couple of months and without her and the support my friends and family gave her, I would never have made it.
You may think that going to respite for that night was a bad move….when I look back on it I suppose it can be construed that way. For me I don’t look at it like that …for me it was something that I needed….I needed that realisation of loneliness and emptiness to make me realise what a bad state I was in. I needed that 3 hours of crying to empty my head and start to fill my thoughts with some positivity. It is a long road back but I think I needed to hit my rock bottom, to go forward. If I hadn’t gone to respite care and I had been left to my own devices I may have hit rock bottom somewhere else and the consequences may have been totally different….maybe those blister packs came in handy after all…..
Categories: My Story 2016