Waitin’ on a sunny day

“Here’s a little rock’n’roll lullaby,” he said before gently leading us into the most beautiful, heart- wrenching and glorious moment that I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear during my long and illustrious gig-going career.
I was hoping he’d play it. I really was. It’s my favorite song by him. Possibly my favourite song of all time. A brief play on the harmonica before singing three wonderful words:

“Screen door slams…”

Thunder Road.

Tens of thousands of people fell silent. We all knew this was special, this was a moment, this was the thing we’d all be talking about afterwards. I too, fell silent.

I also cried.

I don’t know why. Was it the enormity of seeing my idol playing my favourite song? I don’t know. Was it the emotion of the crowd, my fellow Boss fans somehow all channelling this fantastic snapshot of our lives upwards to the heavens, briefly hanging over the Grand Old Lady of Mount Florida before sweeping skywards? I imagine God sitting in heaven, being blown down by the force of this.

“Ah, Springsteen is playing again I see,” he says.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I wept. And as that single, solitary tear made its way down my sun-soaked cheek, I swore I’d never forget this. I’d never forget this whole incredible gig. I’d never forget the evening summer sun lazily disappearing behind Hampden’s sweeping stands as my hero played hit after hit for nearly three and-a-half hours. Then Karen wrapped her arms around me as I softly sang along to “Thunder Road”. That’s a keeper. And as the tear ran down and fell amongst the discarded beer cups and cigarette ends, I swore to myself that I’d never forget that. And I never will.

It’s been a funny old time for me recently. I decided to start writing about how I was feeling and what was going on in this head of mine, mainly to help myself out, but also to alert people that I know and love to my condition: my PTSD.

The reaction I have had to my writing is quite unbelievable. People seem to like what I write. Apparently they quite enjoy it. But the most important thing by a mile were the comments and interactions I’ve had. Some were good friends, some were people I know, some were people I don’t and have never met. Some had mental health problems and some were just like me.

I’ve been overwhelmed with the response. I adore each and every one of you, all of you beautiful creatures who have taken the time to get in touch, some to say “me too,” some to say “I wish I could open up,” some just to say how much they like my writing. Silly people, them.

It certainly has helped this week. I’ve started new pills, and fuck me, that was hard. Knocked sideways doesn’t even begin to describe them.

The label said: “MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS.”

Really? I take them at night but by 11a.m. the next morning my head still feels like a fish tank full of viscous liquid, sloshing slowly from side to side as I try to cope with the day-to-day tasks of working for a living. Brutal.

My mood swings have been off the scale. I try not to show all these things but I don’t know why. Am I trying to be a fucking hero or a brave wee soldier or something? I mean, I’m really ill but somehow I try not to show it to anyone. I try to carry on regardless. But I accept it to myself.

“You feel like this because you are unwell, Scott,” my head says.

“Aye, okay,” I reply.

I think I need to learn to open up more about my condition. I am not a hero. I am not brave. I am not going to man up. I need to open up.

I am off to counselling soon.

I am looking forward to it/not looking forward to it.

I know I will open up. I need to, not only for my sake but Karen’s. If I can’t be 100% with her, then I know something is deeply wrong. It’s just at the moment I’m confused about why I feel like this and why I have to feel like this. Why me, why you, why anyone though?

Well, we’re not well for a start. Not just a wee bit. Not just a tad. WE ARE FUCKING ILL. It’s mental. It’s all in the head, It’s depressing. It’s consuming. It destroys.

I don’t know about you, but this how it goes with me: I’m fine! Hurrah, I feel good! Here am I, just getting on with life being all happy and all that…WHAM! FUCK YOU! HAVE SOME OF THIS!

To me, it’s like this darkness has descended. It sits just in front of my forehead. I swear it’s heavy and that the shape of my face changes. I want to shake it away, to shirk it off, to break into tiny pieces and get rid of it. It stays. It affects my mood. I’m angry. I’m temperamental. I snap at people. I’m a bloody pain in the arse.

I don’t know why.

I’ll stay that way for a time. How long, I don’t know. The time isn’t a constant. It can be fleeting, it can be for a whole morning, afternoon, a whole day. I hope these dark days will become few and far between. I hope that something will happen, something will break and I’ll make it through. I feel like a typical Glasgow summer. I’m waitin’ on a sunny day.

Apart from my wonderful wife, something else is helping me. As I touched on before, people responding to my writing is something I’d never thought would happen. Well, I expected a comment or two but I’ve had a deluge.

It makes me feel stronger to hear that other people are suffering like me. Not in a selfish way, but it’s a nice feeling to know I’m not alone.
But there are times when I doubt myself. I get this odd sense of paranoia. I don’t believe my thoughts.

I don’t think I’m ill.

I think I’m kidding myself on and that I’m wasting everyone’s time. However, that was all blown away recently. Stranger after stranger lined up to say how in touch they felt with me. How they felt everything I was saying. How they related to my symptoms. How they heard me. How they were with me. That too, made me cry.

So if you read this and relate, get in touch. Say hello. Chat. Don’t ignore how you feel. Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare sit alone and think that nobody else feels like you do. They do. Don’t you dare allow that long ol’ black cloud to sit in front of you and do nothing about it. Don’t you dare feel so alone that you harm yourself. I’ve been there. It isn’t worth it. Believe me. Don’t you dare let yourself get dragged down so far that you feel no-one can help.

Don’t you dare let these thoughts enter your head. Yeah, you know the ones. Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare think that there isn’t a way out and you have no choice. DONT. YOU. FUCKING. DARE. There is. We can help. It may be raining now but I swear it’ll stop. It WILL stop. And then, all of us, all of us together, every single one of us mentalists, basket cases and downright loonies will step outside and enjoy the sunshine.

“It’s rainin’ but there ain’t a cloud in the sky
Must of been a tear from your eye
Everything’ll be okay
Funny, thought I felt a sweet summer breeze
Must of been you sighin’ so deep
Don’t worry we’re gonna find a way
I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin’ on a sunny day”

Comfortably numb

I’m not very well. Or at least I think I’m not. I hurt. I cry. I’m sad. I’m manic. I’m anxious. I hate you. I love you. I want to talk. Fuck off and leave me alone. I want to talk. I need to talk but something is stopping me.

No, I’m not very well. It took me long enough to realise it. I mean, I’ve been writing for a while now, sharing my experiences and advising you to get help if you’re feeling ill. Only, I’m fucking awful at following my own advice.

Hi, I’m Scott. I’m 35 and I’ve just been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or PTSD for short, if you like.

In 2010, an awful thing happened to us. It wasn’t the worst thing ever but it was pretty close. But this isn’t the right time to document what happened. It’s too raw, the wounds haven’t healed and it the pain is still too great. It was awful, just awful.
How did we feel at the time?

Empty. Lost. Angry. Distraught. Helpless. Hopeless.

As I said, the full story of this is for another time. I can’t bring myself to write about it. I really can’t talk about. Don’t want to. It brings it all back. Hideous memories that keep playing over and over in my mind. The problem is, people are noticing.

“You okay?”
“Yeah, just tired.”
“Is something wrong? You look upset.”
“Och it’s just something at work. Don’t worry”

Something happened last night. It was my daughter Amy’s end of year dancing show. Just before we were about to go in, my wife Karen casually mentioned something to me. To her, it was quite innocuous. To me, it alerted every trigger in my head and my mind commenced meltdown.
So just before we go into the dancing: WHAM!

I’M HIT, I’M HIT! I’VE TAKEN ON FIRE AND I’M GOING DOWN! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME? CAN SOMEBODY HELP?

I always wanted to be a pilot.

Anyways, so in we go. Now I’m not the biggest dancing fan. I really do find nothing less entertaining than dancing. Obviously when my little girl and niece are dancing, then I’m proud as punch. But the rest of the time, it’s just me and my mind, slowly spinning around, performing a deadly waltz that sometimes never ends. I’m trying desperately not to let my thoughts spiral into the black hole of those hellish and terrible memories.

FUCKSAKE do something Scotty. Okay, okay. I’ll count the chandeliers. Six. That was too easy. Count the fucking lights on the chandeliers then. Seventeen. What about the wee holes on the lightshades. Approximately eighteen, it’s hard to tell but I’d like to have a proper look. Meanwhile, some kids are dancing inappropriately to a shite song. Some people mention how good the kids are. I don’t want to talk to them and mutter something inaudible to them. I instantly feel guilty about it.

More dancing. Amy is on again. I beam with pride. Then back to the other kids. They’re jumping about to Calvin Harris. My Mum mentions that she hates this kind of music. Personally, I don’t mind this one. The darkness is descending again. What the fuck can I do now? I look above the stage. Six curtains. Hmm. Twelve backlights, four each of yellow, red and blue. Makes sense. Oh look, there’s stars on the backdrop. One hundred and ninety-two. I think.

You get the idea. I’ve been living my life like this since 2010. Have I been living a lie? Yes. Was I refusing to accept how I felt? Probably. Should I have noticed it earlier? Hard question. You think that you’re ill but you push it away. You put it away for another day. I can’t be ill. What would my employers think? What would Karen say? My parents won’t understand. Okay then, I’m fine. What I’ll do is write blogs. Yes, a blog! I’ll talk about my experiences and pretend that I’m fine. Will anyone notice?

I certainly didn’t. Something had to give. It did.

I accepted I wasn’t well a few months ago. Talked it through with Karen, went to the doctors and was put on Citalopram. I almost immediately felt better. I was pleased with my decision. I felt good that I’d accepted my illness and eventually the pills worked too. Went back to the doctor. She’s pleased with my progress. So am I. Up the dose a little. Feel confident. Time goes by. I don’t feel as good this time. I’m expecting the same kick as I got the first time. It doesn’t come. I’m disappointed. I’m upset. I’m depressed.

Now, there’s other things going on in my life that would get any normal man down. You know, all these little things that all ball up into a bigger problem. The stress of a house move. An illness that has caused a great deal of physical pain. Many other things. But add them all into a big mixing bowl alongside my inability to cope with my past, then we are well and truly fucked.
I went back to the doctor and mentioned how I was struggling with the past and how I feel it’s some form of PTSD.

“Absolutely,” she said. “Without a shadow of a doubt, that’s what you’re suffering from. Not the most normal case in the world, but definitely PTSD.”

Well, isn’t that just dandy and just my luck? I’m very unusual, I am. So my meds have been changed to those for a major loony and I’m off to counselling. Putting a positive spin on things, this just makes me feel more like Josh Lyman. I wonder if I’ll get to go see Stanley? (One for the hardcore West Wing fans there. No, I am not a loser.)

So, here I am. I feel like a fragile bubble of glass. This is me, just carrying on with being a wee glass bubble. Until something handles me too roughly, not carefully enough, I’m tender you see. I shatter. I smash into all these tiny pieces and although I am surrounded by people who nurture me and put me back together, the pieces I break into become smaller and smaller. It’s becoming more difficult to put me back together. The glue isn’t holding.

I just want to become whole again and not be this silly wee delicate bloody human. Don’t you know who I am? I’m Scotty Mac for fuck’s sake. Or I used to be.

I’m not doing great at all. But I have the best wife in the world and she’s awesome. I have good friends. My family is great. And I have my writing. It makes me feel better. In a way, this is a form of therapy for me. It’s a good way of getting these thoughts and feelings out of my system. This is why I write about my experiences. I’m not an attention seeker and I’m not after your sympathy. I’m not looking for a pat on head and a biscuit. Although, I do like a biscuit.

It helps me to share my feelings with you. It’s probably too easy to do this from behind a keyboard rather than face to face and that’s why I find the words just flow sometimes. I know for a fact that some of you guys will be feeling the same. I’m there if you want to talk. If you read this, then the next time you see me, ask how I am. Get in touch. Comment.

Mental health problems aren’t anything to be ashamed of. I’m happy to admit it. We’re all vulnerable. It doesn’t have to take something as bad as what I went through to trigger an illness. It can be little things. It can be many things. Just don’t be afraid to admit it.
Talk. Write. Listen. Ask.

We all need to sometimes.

You never know what kind of difference you’ll make.