Trigger warning: PTSD, Bullying, Death, Depression.
In 2002 I had just finished my A-Levels and was all set to go to university, but I was sick and tired oh school, it felt like a waste of time and at that time more and more people were saying that university degrees were not providing the job prospects they once did and more and more people were living in debt, unable to pay off their student loans. I was young and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, I didn’t know what I was good at or what I enjoyed doing so I went job hunting and stumbled into a minimum wage job on a factory floor making car parts.
After a year they asked me to apply for the job as an apprentice engineer in the office based on the qualifications I already had; it was a company that liked to promote and train within to win awards. Over the next 13 years I moved around the engineering department, slowly moving up the ranks in a job I loved and was good at. The job was a pleasure to go to, getting to build, program, maintain production lines, robots and automated machinery but there was only one problem and that was the managers.
As I got higher up I had the head office asking for more and more unreasonable things which I’ve heard many people say who work for badly run companies but it was the managers immediately above me who put me under the most pressure. Dealing with them was so stressful I would have arguments with them in my dreams at night, I’d wake up screaming and punching the air as if I was fighting for my life.
Even though I was an engineer the company paid very little, which was why they liked to hire from within so I still lived with my parents. In October 2005, just 3 weeks before his 69 th birthday my Dad was rushed to hospital after he collapsed. He had the misfortune to need medical treatment when all the doctors were busy or at home in bed, when my mother and I went to see him the next day we were told that he was rushed into theatre that night but never woke up. This was the point when my life started falling apart.
Once I lost my dad, I took up a lot of sports, trying to improve my health so that my heart didn’t give up the way his did, I took up martial arts which helped me cope with the stress of work and cycling. About two years after O took up cycling, I was riding along the coast one day when I felt a sharp pain in my knee, I had to limp home but the pain was so bad I had to go to the doctors. The did an MRI scan on my knee but couldn’t find any problems with it so they put me on painkillers and told me to exercise it. Slowly over time it did get better but it took years and while I was on the medication it caused sever side effects. I was eventually diagnosed with depression and put on antidepressants, these came with their own side effects which needed even more medication to counteract.
My mental health was in a very poor start at this point, my logical mind that made me such a good engineer started to fail me. I would make stupid and dangerous mistakes both in work and at home which destroyed my self confidence and only added to my depression. I was in constant pain, hobbling round on a walking stick in my 20s and then my mum got sick.
She went to the doctors and they said it was a chest infection, she was struggling to breath and needed a fan to be blowing cold air onto her face all the time. At night, she had to sleep in a chair sitting up, I was terrified that she would stop breathing in the night so I’d stay up, watching and listening to her breath. After two months and stronger antibiotics I woke one Wednesday, I’d taken the day off work to stay home and look after her but something was wrong. I could hear her struggling, not just to breath but to talk. She’d had a stroke.
The left side of her body had gone, it looked dead, but she was oblivious to it. I told her to stay on the bed while I opened the door for the paramedics and just as I reached the door I heard the worst noise I’ll ever hear in my life, it was the ringing of the radiator as she fell against it. There was a massive bruise on her head from where she’d hit during the fall, I lifted her back onto the bed and soon the paramedics came.
She was rushed to hospital, the same hospital where my dad had passed away 10 years before and my sister came up to help me take care of the house and ready it for her return when she got out. A couple of days after she’d been rushed to hospital her condition was the same, the left side of her body was unresponsive and she was struggling to breath. One of the doctors, a specialist called me into a room, he sat me down and told me they’d done some tests. It wasn’t a chest infection, it was cancer, stage 4 and it had spread to her lungs and was slowly drowning her. That day I sat beside my mum and told her that she was going to die.
She took it well, all things considered, the only thing on her mind was getting home, if she was going to die she wanted to be somewhere familiar. It was at this time when my sister, knowing that our mother was going to go asked about her will and found out that even though she didn’t have one she didn’t have anything. See, my sister only ever talked to my mother when she was in trouble and when she needed something so after my dad died, we moved house and the house was put in my name. As an engineer I was able to afford the mortgage and the new house gave my mum a big garden for her to spend her days. Knowing that she would get nothing my sister made her excuses to leave and never saw her mother again. It was only 10 days after her fall that I held her in my arms as she drew her last breath, watched over by the home care nurses who were helping me take care of her.
After the funeral, I was alone, learning to live and look after myself while struggling to walk, taking antidepressants and still having to go to work for people I hated. Within a couple of months I got sick, the stress had destroyed my immune system and even a common cold was crippling me. I had been off work for 2 months with a cold that was getting worse not better and just before my birthday I had a temperature over 40 degrees. I felt like I was going to die, I lay in the bath with the cold water running on my head to try and keep it cool. That was the wake-up call to get out, I had to get away from my life while I still had a life to get away from