The Black Shroud (written by John)


I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.

**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**

Thank you John for your openness in ‘take over 11’

As a teenager I was a very outgoing, I had a lot of friends, I was very sociable, I went away on holidays and had nice girlfriends. I had always wanted to join the police so at the age of 22 I did. I went away to training school and enjoyed the structured environment. One day I received a message to contact the reception. I did and was told that my beloved grandmother was dead. It hit me harder than I could ever imagine. I remember vividly a black shroud descending down on me which clouded everything.

Suddenly I was no longer good old dependable John, I was paralysed, not able to enjoy anything, with an overwhelming desire to hide myself away from everything and everyone. It was exhausting just trying to appear normal. I found that I couldn’t remember aspects of law and struggled with the exams. Somehow I passed out of training school, even managing the drill display at the end.

I guess I have struggled with depression and anxiety all of my adult life. I wasn’t diagnosed properly until my mid twenties, when the pressures of being a Police Officer really started to tell.

I am routinely visited by the black shroud, which restricts everything. It makes me have an incredibly low opinion of myself and bombards every waking moment with negative thoughts, which have evolved over the years into very real suicidal thoughts. I have always had a very high sense of justice, a high work ethic and detest letting people down. This collective drive of mine kept leading to burn out, I would always put others before me, even though inside I just wanted to run and hide.

Slowly but surely my mental health deteriorated, but I just kept going as normal, working long hours in ClD, helping people as a federation rep and putting myself last. I would then charge my batteries a little on rest days and start over again.

I would arrive at work 30 minutes early, as I would always have a small anxiety attack in the car park. I would sit there in my car not able to breathe, sweating profusely and sometimes crying. I would then go into the office and switch the fans on to dry out. I did this for years.

I’m a great believer now, that the brain will give you warnings and then stop you if you don’t adhere. This is exactly what happened to me. One morning I found I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stop sweating and I couldn’t do ‘normal’ things. I had absolutely no idea how to start my car or tie my tie. I had a period of sickness and genuinely thought about taking my own life, on more than one occasion. Thoughts not action, but extremely frightening.

I never told anyone, I was ashamed that someone like me was suffering from a mental illness. All I saw in my mind was the film “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest”. I wasn’t being ridiculed by people! I went into many different departments and did very well, thanks to the periods I wasn’t enveloped in my shroud. But it was always there, hovering above me, I could feel it arriving and leaving.

I got very good over the years of masking my illness, and my colleagues were sometimes non the wiser, although I was never able to socialise, I just couldn’t do it. The surprise on their faces when I informed them that I was suffering from depression was a picture.

I couldn’t pretend anymore, my work was being effected by my inability to concentrate or sleep properly. I haven’t slept properly for over 20 years, always waking at 3am. Alone with my thoughts as my wife relegated me to the spare room, my mind went into overdrive. Little thoughts became huge problems and I would get up not refreshed and not really capable of performing at any level, never mind the extremely important job I was performing at the time.

I have tried every anti depressant out there, some good, some bad. I am now taking Lithium and an anti psychotic. These make me feel like a zombie, spaced out and without feelings. Not so good for a Police Officer, which is why I am to be medically retired after 27 years service.

My mental illness has taken over my life.


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