For years I blogged every day, when my life was at its worst, when I was at the depths of despair and I could see no way out. Writing became my anchor point, it allowed me to articulate what I was going through and it helped in removing what garbage was in my head at time. Writing was an important part of my day, it was there, it was routine. I didn’t have to think about what to write as I just let my head and emotions do the talking. There were no rewrites, it was raw.
Thankfully that was then and this is now. A somewhat unrecognisable person from the one I was. I rarely, if ever take myself back there, there is no need. It is recorded in this blog, I have written copies tucked away but there is no point in hitting the rewind button. I have memories of listening to cassette tapes as a child / teenager on a tape player before I progressed to a ghetto blaster then a sound system. The younger generation will never appreciate the squeaky sound of a tape rewinding, orsimultaneously hitting the play and record buttons when making a mix tape or recording songs from the charts. I guess my point here is that I have moved away from the representation of tangled tape mess with creases and tears. I still have the reflected imperfections but those are just part of me, part of the recording, those that will always be with me even when I press fast forward.
Now I do not have the need to write every day. I do not have the feelings and thoughts of my past. I do not need to use writing as a form of therapy, but it is something that I enjoy doing and something that I will continue to do. I feel that perhaps it is time to pick up where I left off with the book. I left it because I was not sure how it would end, not that we ever do when we are talking through our experiences especially when it comes to mental ill health. I had to hold off on chapters because to some extent I had no control over the outcome and some of the decisions that were being made for me medically and professionally. Now those decisions have been made, some forced, some jointly, buteither way I have ended up in a happy and a secure place. Words that I could not imagine typing as recently as 12 months ago.
I am doing well in work after changing roles in November of last year. Having spent most of my police service in CID as a detective in public protection, I have moved to a uniform role within our public service centre managing a great team. I am in an environment where I never thought I would ever step into again with great support. I am able to recognise my triggers and put processes in place to prevent sliding down the helter skelter on an uncomfortable straw type prickly mat.
People often ask me how I did it, how I got myself back to being George. Firstly, I did not go back to the George I once was. The person I am now is a better George in so many ways. I am not saying I recreated myself, and I am not saying I was bad before, but I had to take a long hard look at myself, dig deep, and through a combination of methods peel the layers back and start from scratch. This did not happen overnight, but started in 2016 when I asked for help.
If I was to say what really helped it was time and importantly time alone. For someone who has zero patience, telling someone that it will take time is not something that you can comprehend. Unlike recovery from a physical injury or illness, you cannot put a healing time on mental illness. My vulnerability and mental ill health will always be there, but I understand that and I appreciate what it can do. Effective recognition and management of it is key and if you let it rule you then it has the potential to destroy you. Perhaps being strong willed with ferocious tenacity and a competitive mindset also subconsciously went a long way in helping. I never let anything or anyone beat me before (even my young nephew at tennis) so why let something so worthless and pathetic beat me into a life of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation?When I was in such states I did not care or see a way out, but perhaps I did not give myself enough credit.
I could write a whole blog on what helped me and maybe I will, but what worked for me may not work for you. What I would say though, is that you cannot rush these things. The brain is a powerful organ, so beautifully crafted, so intricate and so encompassing. It knows you better than you do and will work things out and heal in its own time. Sometimes it may need medication or therapy, sometimes it may need down time and time to reframe, rest and reset and sometimes it needs a kick up the butt (so to speak).
Accept there is no magic cure, accept that there is nothing to be ashamed of, accept yourself and most importantly be proud of who you are.
I wrote this on Sunday and it initially formed a continuation of my previous blog but it became too long to post in one go. I also think it is a little rubbish so debated whether to post it.
Firstly, just going back to something else my therapist said as it will become relevant later on. It has been said before that I have a high level of functioning and intelligence. In addition I am apparently someone who likes to take risk, live on the edge, push boundaries and limits and be the ‘all’ rather than the ‘nothing’. I have displayed some classic examples of this over the years. I am told that I thrive on excitement and I have to keep going, I crave new and if there is no stimulation, my mood drops and boredom quickly sets in. I am not happy with just surfing the edge of the wave, I need that wipe out. When I was off work, I had to keep developing my brain by reading and writing. To sit still would have been dangerous for me. Sitting still and ruminating would have led to more of a destructive lifestyle. Like many people with mental ill health I suffered from a lack of concentration, motivation and lethargy. This was due to a combination of medication, a messed up head and the evil fear of the unknown.
One last go
I am now 9 months on from returning to work. Whilst I was deemed unfit to return, my ‘unfitness’ was deemed not permanent. I had a decision to make and decided to give it one last go. The decision was made easier as I was allowed to work from home, which thankfully my role allows. I could not have gone back otherwise. I reflect on how I am now, compared to how I was back in March 2016 and I couldn’t be more different. A pale, thin, unwell stress head compared to a happier, fitter, never been this un stressed person. This is down to my line mangers effectively monitoring me coupled with redefining what’s important.
Whilst I have gone into my office twice since January, I am under no pressure to do so. My therapist further suggested that I put some routine in my life, which admittedly is lacking and in some respects not helping. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants each day changing the times which I work depending on head space. I have decided from next week to have more set times during the day and maybe visit the office once a week. I have even done some sort of provisional timetable.
Saturday was probably one of my biggest tests since returning to the job so far. I would like to say that it was my infinite wisdom, but is was more like my rash impulsivity, that led me to sign up to take part in the pride parade with the police. Cue Saturday and a trip to Cardiff Central Police Station for the briefing. I worked in Cardiff Central for many years, in fact I have not worked anywhere longer. I was a PC on a response team and an acting sergeant in both the child abuse unit and the domestic abuse unit. It was where I learnt of my promotion to sergeant in 2012 and where I had some of the best times of my career.
Unfortunately, I was now battling with phobic anxiety to the workplace. I stood on the steps looking at the building I knew so well, my heart beating faster than what it ever does running, being closely matched by breath frequency. My head was telling me to run like Gump in the opposite direction, my were feet fixed to the floor and my hand was gripped on tightly to the warrant card in my pocket. As my mind raced, I knew that running was not an option; it would have meant failure, a word that no longer fits into my vocabulary. It was about celebrating who I am, who I have become and not a day for hiding away.
I knew that all I had to do was get myself up to the fourth floor gym for my briefing. I did not have to go anywhere near the parade room which can be full of activity as officers come and go. I just had to get myself to the gym. I could do that, I like the gym after all. As I opened the main double doors, I was immediately hit by the familiar smell of the life I once knew so well. It was like I had never been away. But I had, and I was now different. As I took the tightly gripped warrant card out of my pocket and whacked it on the door for access it was like I had stepped back in time. The carpet was perhaps new, the old front desk to my right, the brown wooden panels, those same double doors in front of me had not changed. Flashing thoughts of the lifts to the side that I would never use as they liked to get stuck.
More double doors
I pushed the next set of doors open (yes that is 3 sets in 15-20 metres) and hit the stairs. The cream(ish) coloured steps with black mottled spots which I have walked up so many times were uninviting. As I walked past each floor I mentally ticked off who used to work there. Not something I purposely did, but it was something which I became aware of doing. The different colour carpets which I could see through more brown double doors with glass panels reminded me of which floor I was on. Between the third and fourth floor the lights were off or not working, yet another thing which has not changed in over seven years. As I stood at the top in the dark, I realised that my heart was still beating at a crazy rate and I was out of breath. I took a couple of seconds to compose myself before pushing through the next set of double doors, then the next.
As I headed towards the gym. When I say gym, I mean a very old sports type hall where we used to do officer safety training. I recognised one or two faces, said hi, grabbed my pride t-shirt and went to get changed. Returning to the gym, I found a quiet space and sat on the floor, back against the wall watching people as they threaded rainbow laces into their shoes, had their faces painted and ate the breakfast provided. A friend came to see if I was ok, which I was. I then got distracted by a really cute little dog. Playing and fussing with the dog became my focus, my escape. Dogs are definitely therapy.
After the briefing I headed outside feeling somewhat overwhelmed and emotional. I was ok, I just needed to be out of that situation. For someone who does not like noise, crowds and struggles to people, you may be wondering why I decided to get involved. I was wondering the same thing. Looking at me, you would have had no idea what a struggle it was. I suppose I wanted to feel part of something again, I am proud to be a police officer and living on the edge, challenge and excitement is what I am about right?
Did I enjoy the parade? I actually don’t know. It was hard and I felt a sense of relief as I saw people I recognised in the crowd. A bit of what I knew, some familiarity was a welcome distraction. It was nice to meet some new colleagues and good to catch up with some old faces. I even stayed out for a bit to see what the celebrations were like.
I must say I was glad to get home with a bag of chips, jumbo sausage and gravy.
I have had a few thoughts recently about changing the structure and content of this blog. I started writing back in 2016 when my mental health nose dived and continued to do so for years to follow. I found getting the mess and confusion out of my head and onto paper therapeutic whilst helping me reorganise and reframe what was going on inside my head at that time. When I started to journal I had no intention of making my life so open and it wasn’t until the following year that I decided to create a blog for others to read. At this point I had a platform to do so and soon realised that many people resonated with my ramblings.
Jump forward to 2022 and my whole life is a far cry from what it was then which is why my thoughts around this blog have changed. Put simply, I am in a good place, my life is heading in the right direction and I am the happiest I have been in years. Yes, I have blips, more of that shortly, but the overall positive mindset has negated the need to write. This coupled with a return to work in January and being quite busy socially has not left me with much time.
I became bored of all things mental health what with it being the focus of my life for 6 years. To be in a constant state of consuming doom and negative emotion takes its toll physically as well as mentally. I did not want it to drain me and become who I am or what I am about. Over recent years the talk and emphasis on mental well-being has grown massively and I am proud to be part of the early movement on this; but for me I felt it was time to pack it away and let it go. I acknowledge that becoming unwell shaped the person I am today and even though I did what I did in times of desperation I do not regret any of it. I am glad things happened as they did but I am so very thankful for how things have turned out.
My plan was to ditch the mental health talk and link it to my business ‘360 Fitness & Recovery’ (which goes live in September) to develop a sports medicine, and fitness knowledge hub.
Then last week I met my therapist
I am very aware of any significant changes or fluctuations in my mental health. Anyone who has experienced a mental Illness will have triggers or generally know when things are on the decline. For me I was conscious that things had not been quite right for 2-3 weeks. Leading up to this, things were great and I was happy. My thoughts, feelings and emotions then started to head off onto a different track and I was unable to shake off the negativity. It was like I wasn’t supposed to be happy and my inner head was pulling me back to the life which I had been accustomed to. Don’t get me wrong, things were not bad or nowhere near the depths of previously, it was just a rumble or a blip.
Myself and my therapist had an interesting discussion around this and I can only make sense of it by likening it to falling back into my comfort zone. Back into the zone which consumed me for 6 years, a life which I knew how to survive in and to live in. Being happy did not feel right, and in some way it felt alien and undeserved, as if it wasn’t part of the plan for me. This wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t tell myself to fall down the rabbit hole. I didn’t want to experience the thoughts and feelings that were troubling me. They were just there, like a gaping chasm ready to gobble me up. I have managed to get a hold on this and have hit the reset button in order to reframe what was lurking at the back of my mind.
One of the questions my therapist asked was if I still kept a journal. Saying I didn’t she advised me that I continue with it. I thought about this and realised that she was right (as usual). I know that I need to write and I still need to throw ideas around on paper or a keyboard. I do still need to talk about my mental health, it is important, but it will not dictate my plans moving forward with this blog or my life.
Balance is key (in many forms of life apparently), so that is how I will approach this blog. Thinking about what I said about being bored of mental health and writing about it is true but it helps me. I believe there is room for mental health chat and room for new ideas. There will also be an overlap as thoughts and ideas develop. To keep what goes on in my head in my head would be remiss of me. The important thing is, is that I do and write about what I feel is right.
Since I made the decision to return to work, which begins tomorrow (as I have had a month of annual leave) many people have asked me how I feel about it. My response has somewhat changed over the last 4-5 weeks and as the day approaches, I have become more confident about what I am about to do. Give or take the two months where I retuned and then left again, April would have marked 6 years that I walked out unable to cope with life.
So much has happened during that time, most of which is documented in earlier blogs. When I reflect, it is difficult to imagine that the person then was the same one who sits here now typing this. During this time, many people told me that things would get better. To me these were just empty words in my head, unable to see a way out.
But guess what people, things do get better and life slots back into place.
This comes from someone who stood on the edge of the cliff (more than once), took an overdose (more than once) and found myself lost on a beach planning to drown. I have been picked up by the police, been admitted to A&E (more once), seen a number of psychiatrists, been under the care of the community mental health team, had a number of different diagnoses and continue to take medication.
There is no magic word or formula which I have used to get me into this position to return. I am not cured, and I am not fixed. All I can say is that I understand myself better and that has taken a great deal of time. I know my triggers and I appreciate what works and does not work for me.
Admittedly, work is a trigger but I know within myself that I have to give it a go. Even writing this I feel quite emotional as tomorrow is going to be the start of something new. I am telling myself to put the past behind me and look towards new beginnings. This may sound a little cliched, but it is true. I firmly believe that the last 6 years have made me a better, stronger and more rounded individual, even with all of the bumps, hurdles and mountains which I have had to climb.
I do not regret what has happened and I would not change it.
So many positives have come out of a truly dark and desperate few years. I was given a platform to talk mental illness / distress / wellbeing and with this new people came into my life. Some people I have never physically met through the world of Instagram and Twitter I now call friends, an example of the positive side of social media. The people who I hang around with now I never knew 6 years ago, its mad how life can switch around its axis and bring people to you for a reason.
Over the years, I have spent time in numerous coffee shops, all who know my order. I write this sitting in my local Starbucks, hot chocolate in hand. Over the last 12 months or so, this place has become my go to. So many times I have walked in here when feeling rock bottom, but conversations with staff and simple words helped to pick me up. They do not know how much they have helped me and the depths of what exactly they have pulled me through. I am so pleased that I now call many of them friends and I will never forget how such kindness and conversation helped me. I certainly will not be a stranger when I return to work. Thank you.
Now I know the time is right.
I have never been mentally stronger and I am happy in my personal life.
The next few months will no doubt be tough at times but I know that I have bubble wrap around me to protect me from the knocks. I expect to hit peaks and troughs, I expect things will go my way and that things will not. This is life and how I deal with it will be a massive test to me mentally. If I struggle I know not to be afraid to hit the pause or stop button and ask for help. I have better support than ever, and I know whatever happens I am not in this alone.
Going back to the first paragraph on how I feel, I suppose I am looking forward to it, but at the same time I feel anxious and scared as to what lies ahead. Thankfully, I will be working from home, and for the first couple of months concentrating on re-training and getting used to the systems again. I still cannot go into a police station due to the level of anxiety, so for now I will remain a HQ resource and return to the public protection department. Even turning on my laptop and seeing the South Wales Police logo will be a massive step.
Tomorrow I meet with my line manager and tomorrow DS 4045 Lloyd will be once again.
The decision to take on the 186 miles of the Pembrokeshire coastal path just appeared in my head, just like ideas about what to have for dinner. I made up my mind quickly and thought that it would be a good, even a fun thing to do. I wanted to get away, I guess to hide from life for a while, to escape reality and to do something different, something worth while, and importantly something which would be good for me. With no plans to go abroad, I decided that this would be my holiday, my time away. The practicalities with Olly staying with my parents, who at the furtherest point live no more than an hour or so away from where I would be worked out, and that was it. Decision made. The ordinance survey (OS) maps of South and North Pembrokeshire were ordered and promptly arrived allowing me to match up miles per day to camp sites. I worked out that I could get from St Dogmaels to Amroth in 8 days.
As someone who has only one experience of camping (as a girl guide), my knowledge on best practical equipment was somewhat limited. I spent countless hours researching and watching YouTube clips to find the best of everything for my budget. This, combined with a few trips to Go Outdoors to check on the weight of these items turned me into a camping equipment expert over night.
The idea to the start line took less than a month and on Friday 6th August I was ready to go.
Day 1 (Friday 6th August 2021)
After packing, unpacking and repacking my 55L bag numerous times it was time to leave the comfort of my parents house where I had stayed the night before and head north of the county to St Dogmaels. After a few obligatory photos at the start line, I along with my parents and Olly set off on the 1.3 miles to Poppit Sands, where they then waved and barked me off.
The start at St Dogmaels
After taking in the view of the beach and coast, I headed off up a very steep hill. Not the start I wanted. I knew that I was not going to be able to run with the pack on my back so resigned myself to walk and enjoy what was around me. According to the coastal path calculations, and my plan, I had 21.9 miles to cover to take me to my camp site in Dinas Head. It did not take long for my bag to feel heavy, but I did not let this deter me from a big day of walking. I followed the little acorn signs directing me along the path and kept the sea on my right as I walked through farms, fields and rugged ground.
I was instantly struck by the scenery, I took time to study the vastness of the ocean. Around each corner was a different shaped cove, unique in its standing and appearance. No two shapes the same. The sea in its wildness crashing against the rocks beneath me. Above me was blue sky with minimal cloud; however, the ferocity of the wind became my enemy as I battled it with every step, not knowing the best way to handle it as it came off the sea and swirled around the cliff top. There was no shelter and there was no escape as I walked along narrow and uneven paths. To my right, the cliff face dropped down, to my left blew some sort of bracken, fern or wildly growing weed. I kept telling myself that if I was going to blow over then to make sure it was to my left. My baseball cap was already on backwards so not to blow off, but soon enough I had to take it off and clip it to my bag. The wind plus the added weight of my bag and steep descents on craggy rocks often made me stop and think about exactly how I was going to tackle the section. I soon worked out the nature of this part of coastline as a steep down hill to a cove at sea level was soon followed by a dreaded up hill climb. I would like to think that I am relatively fit, but when you have steep steps, rocks, mud and uneven terrain on narrow paths it becomes more of a challenge and perhaps one that I may have overlooked. It was technically difficult, more so because of what I was carrying with me.
It wasn’t long before I did fall over as I lost my footing whilst climbing up a hill. Thankfully I fell left which resulted in a couple of thrones in my hand. There were times when I had to crouch down and slowly manoeuvre myself around the cliff as the wind was so strong. It was the only way I could balance myself. I felt like some sort of ninja turtle. I was averaging 2mph. Somewhat frustrating when knowing I could run that distance in 15 minutes.
I walked miles without seeing a single human being. I was out there on my own, with my own thoughts and in my own world. The first person I saw was a man running towards me. He looked like a pro, by that, I mean he was carrying poles, wearing compression clothing and had a small back pack. I jumped left into the hedge so he could carry on along the narrow overgrown path. We exchanged pleasantries and continued on our respective journeys.
I quickly learnt that no gate (of which there were zillions) never opened the same way and the stiles got bigger the tireder I became. My tactic was to throw my bag over then sit and rest on the stile until I could get moving again.
Acorns and stiles
As the sun warmed up, and after a challenging 7.1 miles, I sat on the pebbles at Ceibwr Bay and ate the picnic which my mum prepared for me. I made the decision to eat proper food throughout the day and not rely on energy packs or drinks. I would be burning in excess of 4000 Kcals per day and would be exercising for 7-8 hours.
As I sat down I felt the peacefulness wash over me. I felt a calmness about everything, it was as if I had escaped the monotony of life and everything felt right. This is why I decided to do this. This was what it was all about. I sat there watching a dog playing in the stream, s/he was having the time of their life. Two children close by looking for sea life by the rocks and a small group of adults chatting on a picnic blanket. There were two other ladies with dogs and that was it. It was like a secret cove that nobody knew about. I could have stayed there for the rest of the day, just soaking up the early afternoon sun, but that would have not got me to my camp site.
With a belly full of pitta bread, cake, crips and an apple, it was time to pick up my pack, which I named turtle and head off. Putting a heavy 55L pack on my back was difficult and over time I learnt tricks on how to do this, but from a low position on the beach it was difficult. I managed to get the thing on without toppling over and decided that my next stop would be at Newport. I saw a sign telling me that it was 8 miles away and swear in my head as that would take me at least 4 hours.
The peacefulness of Ceibwr Bay
Bored of my own voice in my head, I decided it was time for an inspiring audio book from some ultra runner. I stick on the headphones and I am immediately disappointed by the boring tone of the narrator. I switch off, remove headphones then randomly start humming a stupid tune. I must have hit delirium.
As my Garmin beeps and tells me that I have covered 10 miles, 2 people appear in front of me carrying large back packs like myself. We have a brief conversation and they tell me that they are also walking the coastal path and it was their last day of 14. I felt like poking them in the eyes, but instead wished them well for their last section as I plodded on to Newport.
The coast is deceiving, it has this ability to look beautiful, as the shapes, contours and colours along the headland blindsight you into thinking that what you can see ahead in a straight line is close. The dips, swerves, gradients and hidden coves tell a different story as you follow the crow who clearly wants to the take the piss and not the one who has gone ahead in a straight line. As I saw Newport in the distance I tried not to get disillusioned, instead, I gave myself a kick up the butt to keep moving. It was hard to get into any sort of rhythm due to there being very little flat or even ground. The descent into Newport tested my new found hiking skills as I had to bend down, putting my hands on nearby rocks to keep me stable as the wind kicked up around me. As I rolled into Newport (literally) the half a mile up into the small town to get some refreshments was not what I wanted. I had no other option as both me and turtle bashed our way through a small Spar shop. I headed back down the hill to the path eating jelly babies thinking that I only had another 7.8 miles left of the day.
Unfortunately the 7.8 miles turned out to be a lot more, which was another theme of the day. Was the coastal path correctly measured, or was my Garmin GPS and data significantly out? I found that Garmin was adding at least 2-3 miles on to each section that I was doing which was massively skewing my plans and screwing my head.
My first campsite was located on Dinas Island and as time crept on and the wind continued to gust all I wanted to do was get there. I knew I was close when I got to Cwm-Yr-Eglwys, a small place centred around some church remains on a grassy area where some teenagers were sitting. I didn’t have a clue where I was going as I lost track of the small acorn signs. I had no phone or wifi signal, and thinking that my OS mapping would not work, I took out my big multi folding map. I had thankfully screen shot the address and some directions to the campsite, but these did not make sense from where I was. The campsite was also not depicted on the map. Total bollocks. Pick a direction. Any direction. I walked back past the teenagers and headed towards a caravan park and towards a hill. Adamant that I was not going to walk up the hill, I put turtle down on a bank and once again studied the map. My reluctance to walk up the hill sent me back the way I had just come from (yep, past the group of teenagers again). By now it was early evening and the sun was still thankfully above me.
I stood there, like the lost tourist I was. My neck, shoulders and back in pieces. I was just about to ask the teenagers for directions when a male and female walked towards me. I looked down at my map when I heard the male say ‘hi, fellow Ironman’. He noticed the tattoo on my wrist as he pointed to the one on his calf. We instantly had that mutual appreciation and respect, like a special bond of toughness. He asked where I was going and after some more chat, pointed me in the right direction, which was thankfully not back towards the hill. Thank you lovely people.
Relieved to see the acorn sign (less than 100 metres from where I was standing) I continued along the path to Pwll-Gwaelod beach. Too tired to appreciate it at this point I headed towards the camp site after spotting a sign. Thankful to have finally made it alive I followed the direction of the sign which happened to be up a very long hilly drive.
I have been very fortunate over the years to travel and stay at some fantastic resorts. On arrival at said resorts, my luggage is taken off me, I am given the option of champagne or juice, I am greeted by pleasant (mostly) staff behind the reception desk, handed a key card, a map of the resort, taken to the nearest buggy and transported through the resort in warm temperatures to my room. My luggage arrives shortly after, my bed is turned down as I tuck into the complementary water, chocolate or fruit.
Back to reality. I am stood in a field in force 10 winds on the top of Dinas Island. Too many expletives to type here. In front of me were about thirty tents and vans / motorhomes. The wind was cold and a few people were sitting outside their tents in thermal clothing having a BBQ. Just to the right of the entrance was a male and 2 two females. I asked them where I was supposed to go. They said to ring the owner of the site to let him know that I had arrived and advised me where the sheltered area was. It appeared that wherever I went it was going to be windy and that no doubt tomorrow I would be in a different field. You can imagine the deep joy I was feeling. I found my pitch, unpacked my tent, fought with it in wind, wrestled it to the ground and just lay on it. I could not move. My body had decided to give up. This is how I was going to spend my first night. Laying on top of my tent.
It was then like 3 superheroes, the male and 2 females approached me and offered to help. For the second time in an hour I was being helped by kind strangers. Relieved that I had a practice build of my tent in my garden, I confidently, and somewhat professionally explained what went were. Finally, twenty minutes later and at 8pm my tent was up ready for me to climb in to. Thankfully not hungry as there was nothing near by, I put on my fluffy Christmas pyjamas, looked at the painful blisters on my feet and hid in my sleeping bag. It was light outside as I lay there listening to the wind, hoping and praying that I did not blow away (obviously not possible, but my brain was playing tricks on me). A few hours later, heavy rain joined the wind. I lay there putting all my trust and confidence into my well researched Vango tent.
Due to the way I changed the recording on my Garmin, I do not know exactly how many miles I covered but I know it was more than the 21.9 it should have been.
Sometimes I see something and I immediately think how real or how true this is and how it resonates with me in such a powerful way. Nineteen simple words ‘so many people from your past know a version of you that know longer exits anymore. Growth is beautiful’. This can also be flipped in that people who know me now never knew me as I was five years ago.
It’s amazing how things change, we only have to look back over the last eighteen months to see that. Every one of us affected in some way. Some lives have changed more than others, some reshape a life without a loved one, or worry about the prospect of employment. Others watch their new lockdown puppy grow into a bigger bundle of fluff, whilst others have somewhat changed their habits and routines. We talk of pre COVID and the new normal as rules are slowly phased out.
For me I talk about pre help and post help, or my old life and my new one. There are only a handful of people who I associate with now who I did pre help (April 2016). It’s like that life existed in some weird universe and I have since been re-made, recreated and perhaps moulded into someone new. Of course this is not the case as I remind myself of my sense of reality.
Let me take you back to pre help as I chuck some descriptors out there: focused, busy, stressed, non stop, worried, anxious, perfectionist, motivated, successful, hardworking.
I was someone who was supposedly happy, I had everything I could ever want. In a materialistic world, I had the car, the nice apartment, the holidays, the good job. I had relationships and all the love I ever wanted, but the words I threw out in the above paragraph chipped away in the background, they kept eating away at me, unnoticed, like a silent assassin ninja bunny.
Going back to those nineteen words and I think of the people who knew me and who I saw on a regular basis. Those were the people I worked with. Those were the people who I stood by, who stood by me as we dealt with deceased people, bereaved relatives, children who had been abused, vulnerable, elderly people, homelessness, addicts, shop lifters, victims of domestic abuse. The list goes on and this could all be in one day. The closeness and the bond you have with colleagues in the police is like no other I have experienced. It is a special understanding, It is a feeling and a job that is difficult to explain to those who have never walked it.
Apart from two or three good friends I no longer see those who I worked with. When I first went off sick, the contact was there but over the years this has dwindled away. People move on and life moves on. I had to distance myself from that world in order to heal, I still do. There are too many reminders and even writing this brings a great deal of sadness. I am still friends with many people pre help on social media but even then I apply a filter to my brain.
Fast forward to where I am now, some 5 years later. I have a completely different way of life, outlook and perspective. Whilst I am still worried, stressed and anxious about certain things, the way I manage and handle my life is better. Everyone who I associate with now are all post help so they would not have known what I was like as that police officer in uniform, or that detective sergeant. People know me now as George or George & Olly, the runner, the writer, the one who goes to a coffee shop everyday, the one who does mad challenges. These friends would not have known me as the one who made life changing decisions on a daily basis, or who influenced strategic policy decisions. They would have not seen me pale, gaunt, stressed, moody and constantly tired (unless they saw the photo on my warrant card).
I have changed over the last 5 years and more so in the last 18 months. I am happier in myself, I am freer, I have regained some confidence and I am definitely more sociable (within reason). I belong to two amazing run clubs and I am loving my outdoor gym. I have an awesome group of friends who are kind of ok 😂
This is not a comparison of friends pre or post help as I love you all. It is just different. I am different. Whilst my core values and beliefs are still there, my attitude to life and in general is different. Many things which I used to care about I don’t, and many things that I never had time for have become the central part of my life.
We all move on, we all change and friendship groups naturally evolve. For me, it took a major turning point in my life to point me in a different direction. A direction of hope and a direction with future.
Pre help, I never even liked dogs. Now look at me. Growth is beautiful xx
It’s been a while since I have written anything here and there are many reasons for this. It is not that I haven’t wanted to, far from it. It is predominantly down to keeping busy and not being able to make public what is currently my reality for both professional and legal reasons. The fact is that I am still frustratingly stuck in a cycle of doom with my work situation. It has been 5 years and 3 months since I walked out of my job as a then Temporary Detective Inspector within the police.
So much has happened with my case, and if I told you now, you would not believe or comprehend the how’s and why’s of certain decisions. I am thankful to every professional I have seen, including my GP, a number of psychiatrists and my current therapist. All of which have agreed that any return to the police service would be detrimental to my mental wellbeing. I still maintain, that if I was asked to return tomorrow I would not turn up. The incredible fear and overwhelming level of anxiety is too much to handle. Words of my therapist resonate with me in that the trauma experienced with ‘the job’ is too big and even a graded exposure would not work. Everyone who sees me on a regular basis and knows me can see this.
My social media life has always been very open and transparent. I have a public profile and a platform which enables me to share what I get up to. If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter you will see this. My posts are mainly about all of the exercise I do (and Olly dog of course). Those who understand mental distress will also appreciate and understand that physical activity is beneficial to myself and those who suffer or struggle. I can’t help feeling that during my time off the finger has been pointed at me. In addition, so has my ability to intellectually function on a level that you would not associate with someone who suffers from depression, anxiety and phobic anxiety been questioned (I have graduated 3 times from university in sport science and medicine. I have a brain). It is well documented in my medical reports that I have a strong desire to achieve, I am a perfectionist, I have a fear of failure and everything I do has to be the very best. That’s what got me here right?
It is also documented by medical professionals that I am able to continue to function outside of the police but put me back into that situation and my ability to function won’t exist (my words). This was evidenced by my previous 2 attempts to return. Does anyone know what happens to me, or how I feel when I see a police car pass me in the street, or when I turn on the TV and see some cop reality show? No. I cannot even entertain entering what was my familiar and much loved work place.
This is what it is all about and not the fact that I can go and run a marathon.
Can you imagine how I feel when I hear ‘if she is well enough to exercise, get herself to events and organise herself, then she is well enough to return to work’.
Maybe today I am just having a rant, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because over the last few days I have lost my will, my fight, my desire. I have given up with listening to such pathetic and nonsensical shit. I actually feel discriminated against and my illness invalidated because I function and exercise.
Ironically, I sit here on a wooden bench on Penarth seafront. I sip a hot chocolate whilst Olly people and dog watches all that pass by. Those familiar with my earlier writings will understand the significance of this place. Maybe, that is what prompted me to write today.
Maybe I should have turned to alcohol, got bolloxed everyday and stunk of my own piss rather than exercising. If we want to look at out dated stereotypical norms.
I metaphorically ask the following:
Does the fact that tomorrow, If I wanted to, I could run a marathon, or cycle 100 miles mean that I do not suffer from any form of mental illness? And what if I smile, take and picture and post to social media? Does this mean that I am happy and that all is right in my world? Remember, behind every photograph is an untold story.
Does the fact that I can verbally string two sentences together and write mean that I do not suffer from any sort of mental illness? How long has this blog taken me? How many rereads? How are my levels of concentration? People only see the finished article and think nothing else.
We only have to look at some well known and incredibly talented people to realise that people, can still function like me outside of their triggers (however hard that may be). You may even be the same yourself or know of someone.
Of course, I am not going to give up on where I am. I will continue to (supposedly) inspire people and show the importance / benefits of exercise and mental wellbeing. I will soon embark on my next journey. A 186 mile run / walk of the Pembrokeshire coastal path. It’s time for me to reset, forget the world and enjoy the beauty around me. Having grown up in Pembrokeshire it is something that I am very much looking forward to. I will journal my way through it and I hope when published it is something that you will enjoy reading.
I must point out that I am currently receiving support from my organisation. Please do not think this is directed at them. They want this resolved as much as I do and are doing what they can to progress this matter. These are general comments and observations which have come my way over recent years.
When I initially read this, I instantly knew that this does not apply to me. Not anymore anyway. It once did, but not in the world of sport, training, races or events. I have never cared about anyone else’s training plan or programme. We are all different. We all have different abilities, fitness levels and skill sets. Ten miles of running for one person, maybe 2 miles of walking to another. It is all relative.
Where I did become hung up on such thoughts were based around work and the competitiveness of promotion. I worked hard in my own way to pass the Sergeant process, CID exams and Inspector exams. Even though I worked my butt off. I would always feel guilty if I knew someone was doing more than me. Could I do anymore? No. Did measuring myself against others help? No.
What you get from someone’s ruler is stress, anxiety, lack of confidence, and self doubt. I could go on. The best thing to do is get your own ruler. Remember those shatter proof ones we had at school that we always tried to break but they would only bend. That’s what we need to be. Flexible on how we approach things. Flexible with our goals and expectations based on our ability and time.
Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing. Focus on you.
Next in this series will be the story of the protractor and compass 😂
Today marks the five year anniversary that I asked for help. I remember the day as if it was yesterday as I stood in my office, looking out of the window at nothing in particular. The main HQ building was having major construction work so there were builders and vehicles coming and going, but everything else was a blur. It was minutes to 8am. There were papers sitting neatly on my desk (I hated mess, still do). I was working on sourcing new alarms for our victims of domestic abuse and had put a proposal together regarding numbers needed, connectivity, finance options, ease of use and training.
I was spinning many other plates and juggling day to day demands of a Detective Inspector in a very busy Public Protection Department. I knew what was sitting in my email box as I would check my work phone or laptop in the evening and morning, just to clear some work before my actual working day started. I would always tell my staff not to do this, but typically it is something I always did. There are so many out there who do exactly the same.
As I stared out of the window and checked the time on my phone I knew what I had to do. It was 8am. The magic time where the GP phone call rat race starts to get an appointment that day. Thoughts were spinning around my head as I rehearsed what I was going to say when the receptionist asked me what the problem was. All I knew was that I was tired, maybe burnt out, a bit down in the dumps, fed up. My thoughts were that perhaps some physical illness was plaguing me. I had previously suffered with anaemia, was it that? It did not matter as the phone line was constantly engaged. Thoughts of whether to carry on with the redial game or to just give up and carry on with my day. I sat down, looked at my screen and decided to multi task hitting the redial button whilst replying to emails which were popping through.
Redial, redial, redial.
Gulp, the automated message had kicked in telling me if I was having chest pains, signs of a stroke, or severe bleeding then to contact 999. Nope, I wasn’t having any of them, just exhausted. I have no idea what I said to the call taker in the end, but I had an appointment for after work. Now what do I do? Plan what I want to say? That never works. What do I want to say? I have no idea. The fact that I had recently had failed IVF, and in the last 4 months had split up from my wife, was unsuccessful in my inspectors board and had knee surgery to remove some bolts probably had something to do with it. Oh, and the fact that I had wanted to end my life, more than once and was saved by a friend.
I have no idea what I did in work that day. I put the happy George face on and continued in the hardworking and professional manner that I conducted myself in. My 2 close friends within the department knew what was going on, but I did not show any weakness to management. I was doing well in my role, I loved my job and it was evident that how I was feeling was not interfering with work.
I made sure I left for work on time. I straightened everything on my desk (yep true), packed up my bag, making sure I had my work phone (for email checking later), said my goodbyes and off I went.
I don’t recall the 25 minute drive from my office to the surgery, but no doubt I was running through things in my head. Was I wasting their time? Was there actually anything wrong with me? Can I back out now?
I have talked about how the standard 10 minute appointment went on for over 30 minutes in earlier blogs. What I did not realise until sometime after this appointment was that this was my first call for help. This was the start of what has become my journey over the last 5 years. The path of destruction, suicide attempts, antidepressants, TV, therapy, and my platform to speak out and help others. Importantly, this became my journey of discovery, my journey of finding me. It became my openness to recovery, it became about me. It led me to Olly, it led me to new people, new friends, new ideas and a new life.
Importantly, opening up 5 years ago today saved life.
If you are reading this and recognise you need to speak to someone, then do it. Hey, if I can do it, anyone can.