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.

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19 thoughts on “Comfortably numb

  1. I admire your braveness and honesty. Mental health problems are no joke and I think that there is too much pressure particularly on men to “get on with it”. Talking is good, so is writing. Thinking of you and your lovely family, just know you are not alone x

  2. Scott. There are a million things I could say, none of them would be enough. Your bravery is a tribute to you and your amazing family. You will have lots more difficult times, but your ability to recognise the problem is the key to learning to cope, and to go beyond coping. We may be at the other end of the country but we are here for you! Love you all, stay strong, and be you, your children will grow up very proud of both of their amazing parents! Xxxxxxxxx

  3. Hi mate, as a fellow sufferer of PTSD it sounds to me like you are suffering with trauma flashbacks. I had these for years until I sought help and within six months with some help i managed to get back to some sense of normalcy. Wish you all the best for the future and hope you find some peace. XX

  4. I tried – (sorry – pushed the wrong button as per usual). Anyhow, I tried Citalopram made me feel worse,then I was offered counselling. That really helped. Still have good days and bad days when I just don’t want to get out of bed. My problem was triggered by – well you wouldn’t want to know. Hope your fog lifts a bit soon, my world is a little bit brighter 5 years on.

  5. What a great blog. You’re surely doing a lot of good for other folk with your blogging. Don’t suppose that makes you feel any better just now, but I hope that things will start to improve for you soon. Xxx

    • Actually, it really does make me feel better. I love any feedback and so many people get in touch to say “me too”. This ridiculous has to stop, maybe blogs like this can be a small step towards that 🙂

  6. The majority of us can’t fully appreciate what you have been through and are going through right now, even though you describe your dark moments very clearly.

    As a man, typically I try to solve a problem when sometimes just listening and understanding is enough. So I have one suggestion that is a shot in the dark, but may help you. Get the book “Unlimited Power” by Anthony Robbins. Some of it has some good advice as regards to “self-help” and really works if you apply yourself. It’s not a positive thinking book. It’s not a quick fix offering. It just gives you some mind tools to help you, because at the end of the day, it will be down to you in collabaration with support from your family and friends and the necessary drugs to get you through to the other end of the tunnel.

    I wish you all the best and hope that one day you can get through a day, a week, amonth or year free from your dar thoughts.

    Take Care!
    Mike

  7. I have PTSD too, it sounds like you’re suffering through a lot of flashbacks, for that I’m sorry, they’re a living nightmare to work through. What’s helped for me is years of talk therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy combined with medication and a very understanding family doctor. I hope you find some method of treatment that works for you, and I’m glad you have supportive people in your life. It took a lot of balls for you to write this post, thank you for your courage.

  8. Keep writing. Just… keep writing. Apart from and as well as, what all the others say, it’s good writing!! We are human; sometimes we feel machine trained but we ARE human.

  9. Keep talking! Keep posting to your blog! The boogyman won’t get to you as long as YOU see him coming.
    My 10 year old granddaughter is suffering from PTSD. It’s real & its debilitating! I have come to realize that Mean People breed Mean Little People, which makes is tough being 10!
    As I tell her, let your family hold you close. While you rest, your family will hold back the monsters.

    • Les – sending all the love I can to your wee granddaughter, no-one should have to suffer from this let alone a 10 year old. Thank goodness she has a familiy that has recognised she needs support. She will get better, with that amount of love in their life how could she not. x

  10. Thank you for your courageous post on your blog. You have encouraged others to speak up and know they are not alone. Please keep writing. Shame and stigma will wane when there are people like you who are brave and honest.

  11. Hi – I found online support groups for trauma very helpful, and blogging very helpful, in my healing from PTSD. Sharing the story with others who have been through trauma, who could listen and believe and be there was incredibly healing.

    One part of my getting better involved colouring in, which led on to other creative stuff. To give back to the WP community for the support I received, I began to upload free artwork daily to my blog, to create a free online colouring book. I intend to keep it up until early next year (Feb 2014) Please feel free to help yourself to pictures to colour in.

    The thing that happened with me is that the colouring in helped to bring up memories more fully, and when the memories were processed, then all the triggers vanished. Something to do with the side of the brain that accesses creative stuff – it also has something to do with accessing traumatic memories. Apparently a therapist can be a good idea when going through this.

    Colouring was just a small part of my healing journey. It is a part that I am able to share with others.

    All the best,
    WilderSoul

  12. I was diagnosed with PTSD last year, it was pretty bloody obvious that my world had come crashing down but I could not get a grip. I had been diagnosed with deprssion many years before but this was different … Eventually it be ame clear that medication was not going to fix it. I have been seeing a psychologist who specialises in trauma and I finally have my life back. It has not been easy and I am greatly changes by what has happened but he was able to help me using EMDR and Rewind techniques. After years of therapy and medication, which never really helped if I’m honest, I finally found a way to deal with the cause. I tell everybody about EMDR as it has.litteraly saved my life. Last year I wound up in a coma from a suicide attempt (one of several) so I shit you not.

  13. Hi Scott. Found your blog through the Good Men Project site as I’ve been delving into the world of PTSD for a novel I’m writing.

    The following passge struck me hard :

    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.

    ***

    What amazes, excites, inspires me about how you’ve expressed this is how you expose you make yourself. I imagine you as a box with Fragile – Handle with Care slapped on it, rattling around as you walk and talk and live and hope and dream.

    As a fellow writer what rocked me was how you exposed yourself, showing the fragility of yourself, the weakness. You soar in these moments. The truth and the power you emit through your honesty floors me.

    Thank you for your writing.

    Good luck and all the best

    Ken

    • Hi Ken,

      Thanks a million for your kind words. It’s replies like this that make it all worthwhile.

      Keep in touch and take it easy,

      Scotty

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