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Dear Support Person
By Johnny Mackay

It was all unexpected. Sure, life wasn’t grand but you know it was pretty good, I thought. In retrospect it seems like the changes took place overnight though I am not sure that is true either. My best friend and lover of 5 years decided to take up relations with another man. This was enough to force me to explore my own personal difficulties, shortcomings and relative commitment issues. I discovered that I loved her more than I loved life, more than I loved myself. Unfortunately, my new found passion for a life of solid relations with her and her alone, fell on deaf ears and I was told it was too late.

More than anything the ‘weight’ of the hole inside me was incapacitating, the darkness was unbearable, the pain relatively inescapable. I say relatively because, as a previously active person, I liked to walk and run. Here and now though, I did it not because I wanted to, not because it made me feel better but simply because I was able to disperse my thoughts and alleviate the crushing pain only when I was walking. Needless to say, in my ‘darkness’, I walked 4 to 5 times a day for 30 minutes to an hour each time. When I stopped, my blood and toxicity were almost touchable and seemed to ‘pool’ inside me; it was overwhelming. I had trouble thinking or talking about anything but my perceived troubles and on sometimes; I couldn’t walk either – literally.

In the middle of correspondence study with university work, it took but a few days to fail and quit. Whilst I knew I had to work to keep my house and pay my ongoing bills, my performance became quite poor. On some days at work, a simple carry of books from one shelf to another became unfathomably slow. On one day I broke out in tears on the bosses shoulder – she sent me home.

From home I refused to go anywhere and spent most of my time trying to cope with the pain and darkness. I became socially inept. And why would I want to be with people? Divulge the intricacies of my melancholy? As far as I was convinced, I had failed not once but on so many deep and important levels. I couldn’t face anyone including myself!

I was 40 years old; surely I knew how to cope with life’s upsets?

I was a creator, a philosopher, author and dreamer, how would this look against my passionate outgoing and usual self people knew?

I was a male. Aren’t I supposed to be strong and look after the women and children in my community?

And I was a father, what sort of example was this to give my children?

Consequently, I reached a stage of contemplation and planning with suicidal thoughts; I was ready to end the nightmare. Whilst my mother and sisters were greatly concerned for my well-being, I limited their contact deliberately. So too, the usual advice to ‘think of your children’ or ‘your future’ had no affect and quite possibly made me more determined to finish the chapter indefinitely.

Having said that, I was lucky. A long distance casual friend became my on call phone support, a casual local friend became my new best friend and crisis confidant and, my very own daughter (only 20 herself!), took time out to contact me every day and stay over with me a few times a week. I never asked any one of those people to do what they did; they were simply the right people for me to be around. It was good timing too, as things were just about to get worse, very much worse.

After a few sick days and a lagging performance, my boss called me into her office with the owner of the business to discuss their plan to support me – “You’re Fired!” Though the position paid quite badly, this was not something I needed, not then. It was only a week later that the engine in my van blew up rendering it totally useless. I had no money to fix such a thing, could it get any worse?

This was when the voice began. I believed it was God at the time and even now, am not sure it wasn’t. At first it was a Godsend after all, I was desperate for someone to share the experience (not just the tale) with and hey, God was as good as they come! He spoke to me calmly and without doubt talking every day and at night of better times to come. Initially I was unable to sleep and went four consecutive days and nights declining into an almost incomprehensible stupor. Eventually though, I came to accept the voice in part and sleep, at least a few hours each night.

My depression was a third bout after a serious patch around five years before and, another five years before that including a previous suicide attempt. In retrospect, accepting the perceived torment of living has never been easy. This was my worst ‘hit’ by a long-shot. Whilst it was ‘undiagnosed’ and may not officially be called clinical, it was certainly chronic – I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that. According to definitions currently available, it was Psychotic Depression because it included audible hallucinations – hearing voices.

The feelings of hopelessness, while manageable when walking, were unbearable when standing still. To cope, I began drinking – cask wine in general – about 2 litres a night and it helped me sleep. I began cigarette smoking too which I had done when I was younger. This time I smoked two packets a day and the anxiety of not smoking became worse than the toxicity I began to mirror in my stature, complexion, speech and clarity of thought.

My two friends and my daughter, their intensive capacity to listen and let me drool without judgement over and over every hour and every day, coupled with the manic walking program I was unable to stop, so began my unintentional recovery program. I paid some prices though. I lost 12 kilos and looked ill. It only took a few months to get myself to a state of pretence and convince someone to hire me; alas, my performance was still poor. I tried harder to no avail.

The organisation this time however, was supportive. I took counselling at their cost. Even though the first response was to get me on medication, I refused. Mainly I think because it was an admission of defeat and honestly? I would rather die than be defeated by myself. The counsellor listened and listened and listened and I talked and talked and talked. Occasionally, she would detect I had paused and offer input. Her biggest concern was the alcohol and so I agreed to her request of buying bottles instead of casks. With such a non-existent budget, my consumption was inevitably reduced. She was, however, pleased I was walking and told me that statistically speaking, walking 3 times a week 20 minutes a day, was equal to a first course of anti-depressants. I figured I was on a 6th or 7th course! This time with her was well-spent. Like verbal vomit, I needed to cleanse, which took many sessions with the counsellor, my friends and my daughter.

What a great privilege it is to have the honour of befriending someone who will listen without question or judgement. This was especially helpful for me because I was once an avid reader and planner regarding the self and issues pertaining to living well and in balance. I began to question where I went wrong and espouse out loud any and all thoughts to whoever would listen. I expect, looking back, that 99% of these thoughts were nonsense but I had to get them out of the way for the good stuff to follow. Slowly I began to analyse my life and see that I had succumb to ‘building on the sand’ syndrome. I began to source new material and revisit some old favourites. I began to make sense of what I had done and what I must do. Nearly a year later, I began to plan building again but this time, on rock. And that meant doing three things:

Taking responsibility for my own choices and my own recovery journey

Accepting and loving myself, whoever I was and whatever I had to offer

Taking action, albeit in tiny increments to begin, to produce results for helping others and helping myself

At that time, I didn’t need or want anyone to give me permission or acknowledge the validity of my thoughts or plans. No, what I needed was exactly what I was already getting – unconditional love and support, listening, openness, honesty, company.

No doubt the smoking took its toll on my lungs but after 12 months of heavy depression and alcohol too, things began to lighten. I regained control over my choices and goals and began to pursue their fulfilment. I took action, and results slowly began to manifest. Although they were not always conducive to the outcomes I had planned, small adjustments allowed me to retain some sense of control while altering the possibilities I was able to achieve. My self-esteem joined the rising ‘suns’. Eventually my ‘hit’ rate started improving.

And today? I am sure most people would say I am healed, never to return and a better version by far of the person I was before that time. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? Well I can only hope they are right. There is no doubt that the voice in my head, though dormant now for three years, still accompanies my journey with its silent presence – ‘I know you’re there’. Perhaps one day we will converse again and perhaps it will be an opportunity for further spiritual growth? – Perhaps.

And as for the depression? I know it is outside the door, miming the knock, waiting for the call to darkness. But what is different now, what is very different now is two-fold. On the one hand, I understand depression as expression, repression and opportunity – something that was once supported as a deep and necessary period of living growth – not a medical abnormality or illness needing suppression and elimination. And secondly, I understand and embrace a lifestyle which celebrates my creative gift, shares my knowledge with others, and maintains a spiritual connection which supports not only who we are, but what we are as well.

On the most brightest of sides, it seems that keeping oneself healthy and well using the tools of raw nutrition, exercise and meditation, may offer protection of defiant proportions. And at the end of the day, I will always have a choice. More than anything, a choice to pick up the phone or visit someone who I trust. In doing so is to begin, not so much an immediate halt to the symptoms or concerns I may be experiencing, but rather another chapter in the story that is uniquely my own. And that is where you – my support person – comes in …

Johnny Mackay Bio:

Johnny Mackay is a freelance writer and trainer. The author of Rebel Yell and Sonja’s Song and the Legend of a Thousand Tears, he has a decade of experience and accreditations in Disability, Mental Health, Training and Photography. He is a registered Celebrant and may be contacted through his website at www.awen.moonfruit.com

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COMMENTS (2) | depression, empowerment, self growth
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Comments

2 Responses to “Dear Support Person”

  1. Diane
    May 2nd, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    I just read the well-written story,“Dear Support Person.” His writing is interesting and moving He writes well. I loved the ending.

  2. JOHNNY
    May 2nd, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    Thank you Diane, your sharing lifts me and I believe I write in the hope of touching the passion in other fellow travellers. Please see more of my work on my website and/or request a mailout for my monthly articles.

    It would be amazing to have you join us

    Johnny

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