In December 1996 I had an experience which my GP euphemistically refers to as “An Extreme Reaction to Stress” essentially I suffered a massive collapse of self, a complete breakdown which ended in a suicide attempt. It was a nasty dark experience one which I never fully recovered from. Why did my gp phrase it that way? simply put at that time the majority of the reception staff went to the same church as my family one of the elders worked there and I sang in the church choir. He was trying to protect my family from the shame of having a ‘potential suicide’ in the family.
There was a great deal of ‘we don’t talk about that’ going on mental health especially suicide and depression were no no’s in my church. Probably a lot of churches come to think of it. So what triggered this extreme reaction to stress? probably a lot of things most of which I never received any counselling for. To start with when I was a kid probably 3 or 4 I saw a man gunned down in our cul de sac it was quietly dealt with by the RUC. Then when I was six we were forced to move when our estate was rocked by sectarian violence we were forced out of our home, the home I’d grown up in and had so many memories in, later when at secondary school I saw another boy die right in front of me roughly three feet away. I received no counselling for any of these incidents, no help what so ever I was supposed to accept it and move on.
I don’t like to talk about one other incident it was probably one of the worst experiences of my life and happened when I was a child. I was attacked by a man he dragged me into the bushed and well I don’t think I need to say anymore. No one believed me no one listened so I buried it and threw up any time I had to walk down past that area. The final nail for me was my health I was ill a lot spent a lot of time in and out of hospital. In 1996 my family had all gone away or were out I was on my own when it all came crashing down around me. I couldn’t cope with all the stuff I’d been bottling up and tried to end it all the suffering and guilt.
Its 2013 now and I’m still here, still struggling with the anxiety, panic attacks and depression but I’m alive and now I write. I no longer bottle it up and I stopped going to church or worrying what the elders or indeed what any religious person thinks. I’m still religious I still believe but I practice in my own way.