7 February every year is a big date for me, a big date for my family – it has been a big date since 7 February 2001. It was the day I sunk, fell, to the lowest depths of my depression. I had been on a rollercoaster of depression all of my life (I didn’t realise that until after 7 Feb 2001) but for a couple of months leading up to 7 Feb 2001, I had been falling in a straight, a vertical, line, a drop which had been accelerating.
By 7 Feb. 2001, I was virtually house-bound. The depression had sapped every ounce of my energy and motivation for living – I had, to all intents and purposes, lost the will to live, I was numb, completely disconnected. My panic attacks had condemned me to an agoraphobic state of mind. For some reason, however, on 7 Feb 2001, I did go for a walk. I have no idea why but I walked to the bank (I have scant memory of the day, scant memory of this period of time).
Apparently, I collapsed on the road, a policeman came to my assistance, moved me off the road and called an ambulance. The medical staff in the hospital said that I was fine but that as I had hit my ear when I collapsed and it was bleeding, they wanted to keep me in overnight for observation, a decision which saved me life!
Midnight ish, 7/8 Feb 2001: cardiac arrest, the docs brought me back to life but could give no assurances to my family, they couldn’t say whether I’d pull through or, if I did, if I’d have a full recovery.
Long story (very long story!) short, I pulled through, a week in ICU in one hospital, a week on the cardio-ward in another hospital….home. I’d been given a clean bill of physical health. It was probably (almost certainly) the result of badly prescribed antidepressants, pneumonia (diagnosed after the cardiac arrest), the impact of the onslaught of depression and panic attacks on my body and the loss of the will to live. In essence, my body gave up.
New psychiatrist, changed meds…suddenly, I could see clearly, I was the proverbial blind man whose sight is returned to him. Moreover, I had clarity of thinking, the past made sense: I realised that I’d sufferd with/from clinical depression all my life. Of course, I laughed and had some good, some great, times during my childhood, I have great memories, but one can, as I put it, enjoy short term periods of happiness, ‘up cycles’, whilst on a long term depression low. The inability to concentrate, focus and persevere as a child, the introspection, the pessimism and negativity, the ‘downs’, suddenly it all became clear. Recently, I have wondered if undiagnosed/unrecognized ‘ADD’ (‘Attention Deficit Disorder’) played a part in my childhood behaviour (and if it accounts for some of my behaviour today) but that’s another matter.
How am I now? It’ll always be a rollercoaster. The important thing is that I can usually recognise what’s happening to me, understand and appreciate that when I do spiral, it’s the illness, that the dark thoughts are not the product of rational, clear-headed thinking. All I can do is sit it out and wait for it to pass. The problem comes when the drop is a big one, when I can no longer look in from outside, when I can no longer, with a clear head, recognise the illness, when I am of the belief that I AM thinking clearly and rationally. At those times, I am disconnected and numb and the thoughts can be very dark and negative but, fortunately, with the outstanding strength and support of my wife, of all my family, I come through these period (never forget/underestimate the hell that the families of depression sufferers have to endure!).
In February 2001, we had one child, a 2 year old son. I often think about the fact that if I hadn’t pulled through, he’d have had no memory of me – that will never cease to be a thought which freaks me out. I came out of ICU on 14 or 15 Feb 2001: our daughter was born on 16 February 2002. Again, of course, I’m always cognisant of how close we were to not having our daughter in our lives and the same goes for our youngest child, a son, who was born in 2007. I will always feel deeply indebted to the staff team in both of the NHS hospitals, the incredible men and women who not only saved my life but who ensured that I was able to retain my dignity in some rather undignified periods during my hospitalisation.
So, that was February 2001. A bad month in some ways but a brilliant month in others. It was the month of my crash but it was also the month of my survival, of my re-rebirth, of my being handed another chance, the opportunity of a new beginning.
The key to a brighter future, a future in which we experience genuine, deep joy, a future in which we know peace of mind, which comes to us when our bodies, minds, hearts and souls are in sync, the key to living an authentic life? Taking control.
I have been doing that over the last 4 years (almost 4 years).
I decided to eat sensibly (I was eating too much of the wrong food and was very overweight);
I cut out alcohol;
I started running (I was doing zero exercise, hated the idea of running but ran an official half marathon last year; my first official marathon is in a couple of weeks):
I lost 28kg (61.1lbs), down from 97kg to 69kg (I’ve settled at about 72kg).
I have recently started sleeping more. The right quantity AND quality of sleep is ESSENTIAL for good PHYSICAL and MENTAL health!
Read Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep’.
I can say a lot more about what I have had to do, what I am doing, about my thinking, my mindset, but it’s too much to include in this blog. I should write a book!
The journey that I am on is not a selfish one. I owe it to my family to do everything I can to make myself happy, to feel fulfillment, peace of mind and joy. The lives of my loved ones will be better if I feel good. Self-preservation, self-care, it’s a duty that we owe to our loved ones.
Twitter: @kobysfightback (and @kobysmusic)