I went to bed that night curled up as tight as I could in the fetal position. Afraid to close my eyes for the fear of nightmares and the possibility that I might not wake up. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but the fear was real. The room was eerily quiet as my parents were asleep on the other side of the house. The silence was occasionally interspersed with revelers from the pubs making their way home on the street outside our house. This made my brain work on overdrive. I was desperately hoping that the feeling would be gone by morning.
Very little sleep was had that night. The next morning, after getting what seemed like a 30-minute nap, I woke. Had the feeling gone? Was this just a bad reaction to something that should disappear as the substance was absorbed by my body? I sat up in the bedroom that I grew up in and looked around, frantically searching for a normal feeling. It didn’t come. I felt the fizziness in my brain was still as active as ever. I felt disconnected from my surroundings. Why? Why me? What had I done to deserve this?
The usual noises of breakfast time were coming from the kitchen downstairs. How do I face my parents? What do I tell them? Will they be disappointed in their blue-eyed boy? I was trying to rationalize the whole situation. Cannabis shouldn’t do this to someone. Acid – yes, but cannabis? Was I spiked? Did Gareth have something else in the pipe? I decided to go downstairs and face the morning. I would have to deal with what was in front of me.
That was the first realization that mental health issues were somewhat invisible to others. My parents didn’t seem to think there was too much wrong. Probably thinking I was a little hungover. I got through the morning without anyone noticing that I was desperately trying to keep things together. My parents had things to do that Saturday and left me alone in the house while they ran their errands. If I can just get through today, maybe things will get better.
It didn’t. My wife had stayed at home with the kids while I was visiting my parents. She called later that afternoon, oblivious to what was going on. I can’t quite remember how the conversation went but eventually I broke down and told her that something wasn’t right. She immediately started to arrange to get on the train with my kids and come to see me. She also persuaded me to go to the doctor to see if there was a test they could perform to find any other substance in my blood. This was arranged and only cannabis was found.
For the next few weeks, every day was like Groundhog Day. My kids were oblivious to what was going on, thank goodness, and I did feel more comfortable when they were around. By this time, my parents were aware of what was going on. My parents house became a safety bubble for me. A place of some form of comfort. The kids were Disney fans and one night we sat and watched The Lion King together. I don’t know why, but it gave me some form of release from my paranoia. It comforted me. I felt the closest to normal I had been since the event. The problem was my brain locked on to this. If I felt like the anxiety was getting too bad, The Lion King was immediately shoved into the video player and was watched from start to finish. Every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. When I look back on it now, it makes me smile. What on earth did my family think of me, sitting glued to Timon and Pumbaa? We still laugh about it to this day!
Going outside my parents’ house started to become really difficult. Agoraphobia had started to kick in. My family were doing everything they could to try and drag me back into the land of the normal by arranging to go to café’s, shops and other activities. All of these meant being around other people and I just couldn’t handle it. Whenever I left the comfort of the house it was as if the “fight or flight” instinct kicked in. I was hypersensitive to everything, everyone. I thought everyone was looking at me. Everyone knew I was mentally weak. Everyone knew I was a failure. It was a vicious circle and I just could not get out of it.
After 3 months, my wife and I decided we needed our own house. The stress of having my parents with us 24 hours was starting to take a toll on her, in addition to having to deal with me. We moved to a nice house a couple of miles away from my parents. And yes, I made sure we took The Lion King video! This was the start of a slow, long haul to recovery. A journey that would take another 3 months. I started to realize that I was the husband, the father of a wonderful family and I needed to get my shit together.
How do you fix a broken brain? Well, I can assure you there is no manual for that. The doctor’s wanted to put me on medication. Anti-depressants and beta-blockers. Fortunately, my paranoia would not allow me to take any pills. I was scared they would do something much worse. No, I was going to have to figure this out myself. I was going to have to get strong. Do an enormous amount of research. I was an intelligent young man, and I was going to fix this. The bumpy road to recovery had started.
Watch out for part 3 next week!