Previous Post: Decision Time ?
In August 1978 I left New Zealand as a fresh-faced naive 18-year-old male out to explore the world and see what it had to offer. At the time I didn’t realise I wouldn’t return for another 11 years with the exception of a couple of holidays. I initially headed for Canada and stayed with my Uncle and Aunt for three months before touching down in England in early December. After spending a couple of weeks finding my way around I got a job as furniture mover in London. After a month pinging every muscle in my body I realised that clambering up one metre wide spiral staircases with a fridge strapped to my back just wasn’t for me. I left after a month and subscribed myself to a job as a porter at Cane Hill Hospital in Coulsdon, Surrey. Cane Hill Hospital was an asylum for the mentally ill and any geriatric whose families wanted them out of sight and out of mind. Most of the patients spent their days stuck to vinyl red chairs with a concoction of drugs that paralysed their faces and had them dribbling from the sides of their mouths while they waited to be wheeled away from their hell in a galvanised mortuary trolley. It was a sad existance…one of which I became very familiar with as I toe-tagged each poor soul before throwing them into the fridge.
Cane Hill was my workplace for 6 months and it was a place that opened my eyes to the lives of the mentally ill and the sordid and murky world of the nurses home. No, I didn’t live there but I frequented it halls on a regular basis in the hope that a female nurse would take pity on me and show me what to do with my appendages. I was out of luck on that front but I was lucky enough to meet a lovely West Indian nurse called Cecile. We both got on better than the Black and White Minstrels but unfortunately for me my first foray into having a regular girlfriend was cut short when we went on a date to Croydon in South London. Being a pasty white gingernut from New Zealand with an attractive West Indian girl tethered to your arm in Croydon in the late 1970’s was like having a death wish and doubled your chances of having your balls packaged into sausage’s with both the “yardies” and “national front” having a stake-hold in your life expectancy…either way your balls were there for the losing. Shortly after that date Cecile and I went our separate ways with my lasting memory of her being a 45rpm record she bought me called “I don’t want to lose you” by “Kandidate”. I still have that record…I dont know why, but I do…probably another decision I can’t make !!!
Anyway I digress from the subject…….While working in this lunatic asylum I became good friends with a guy called Dave who had a good way, or should I say, had his way, with the female Philippine orderlies that plied their trade in the hospital kitchens. Dave spent more nights out of his room than in it…and always seemed to be well fed..for some reason. Dave and I spent a lot of time together and became good mates and in early 1979 he invited me up to Newcastle to stay with his parents, meet a “Geordie” and drink Newcastle Brown ale till I fell over….its rocket fuel and still gives me a headache. I remember on that trip that we had to sleep together in the same bed and as a naive Kiwi that all seemed pretty innocent to me until I was woken one morning to screams of “Mike, Mike what are you doing”…..trying to kiss your best mate with a dawn breaker is no way to cement a friendship. A few weeks later before going to Israel Dave dropped a bombshell on me and said that he was bi-sexual and had a propensity towards men…oh how things could have been different !!!
A few weeks later Dave and I were walking back after a night on the booze at the hospital social club. Dave and another friend Matt had decided to go to Israel and work on a Kibbutz. Me, well I was doing what I do today, I was procrastinating because I’d decided to go back to New Zealand and join the police and I couldn’t make a decision either way. I had just enough money to get me home and spending it on a trip to Israel would have meant delaying it all and throwing my life plans into turmoil. I couldn’t make a decision, because I was scared to tell my parents and I remember my brain working overtime because I didn’t know what to do. As we walked back to our rooms Dave stopped and said Mike there is an old saying my granddad told me “Sometime you find your destiny on the road you take to avoid it”. I didn’t realise it at the time but Dave convinced me to go to Israel and that decision had me joining the Metropolitan Police in London 2 years later. His Grandad was right…and I did find my destiny…by joining the New Zealand Police…in 1991.
So how does all that waffle relate to how I was feeling after my lowest point in respite care?….Well, for those few weeks after I couldn’t think about anything else but whether I should stay or leave the police. As far as I was concerned I had embarrassed myself with the actions I had taken and I found it very hard to face anybody linked to Wellington or the police. I shut my life down to everyone I knew as I battled to get some semblance of order into my daily life. Really I shouldn’t have been thinking about my career but at the time it was my career that had spun my life around and kicked it in the backside. That wasnt right but it was what I was thinking. As a result my thoughts gravitated towards what I could do to stop the hurt pounding my head every minute of the day…getting out of the police was my one comfort stop.
I thought that maybe the overdose was a sign that my time in the New Zealand Police was up and this breakdown was that other road I should take. I remember thinking about others who had left the police, whether by choice, or through mistakes they had made. There was a perception I had that everyone who had been forced to leave the police by way of charges or disciplinary matters seemed to fall on their feet and continue a succesful career out of it. On the other hand other people who had left the police voluntarily had been unsuccessful in another career and spent years trying to get back into the police. None of my thoughts were a “reality” but I rolled those thoughts over and over in my mind to the point where they were just a muddle and for me both choices were going to send me down a rocky road. Thirty three years in the police had surrounded me with a comfort zone and that zone was very hard to break out of because “certainty” dictated my decision-making. Certainty ? certainty of a wage, pension, leave and a job that you had for life….subject to a mental illness !!
So what happened to me with all this thinking ? It tapped away at me until my fragile confidence shattered in front of me and my self-worth plummeted and I started to think that I was no good for anything. It was morbid and my morbid thoughts etched themselves into my life and eventually started to scratch away at the people closest to me. For Katrina, I was very difficult to live with as she tip-toed around me while I wallowed in my own self-pity. She deserved more than that but when you suffer from depression you are selfish…and although you don’t mean to be you can’t see any light where you are and self-worth is trashed and thrown out with all the other rubbish.
I didn’t have to make a decision about my career in those first few weeks and eventually the hurt slowly subsided as I brought some reality into my situation with the help of Mental Health. I still don’t like myself and at the moment I’m just keeping my head above water, but… as you will find out in later posts…sometimes I sink as I continue to question everything that happens to me. As you can see nothing has changed in nearly 40 years.