“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life.”
Disclaimer: I am not the most talented writer. People who do this for real will be able to put their words and thoughts across in a far more eloquent way than I can, and those with a greater understanding of psychology and coping mechanisms will be a better source of research based help. What I will always try to do with my writing is be as honest and relatable as possible and I truly hope this may speak to even one person and resonate in some way – but opening warning: this journal discusses themes of depression, mental health and suicidal thoughts.
It’s always been a key message in sports and movies – the classic hero arch: the greatest victory in coming back from the brink of defeat. Over the years we’ve heard so many iconic quotes that truly inspire, conjuring images of raw grit; where an iron will prevails when it seems all hope is lost. To look at an entirely cliche but apt example, Any Given Sunday has one of my favourite speeches on the matter of coming back from seemingly impossible odds. Al Pacino delivers a very human and grounding message, put into context with his character reflecting on his past failures in life to give more levity to the upcoming battle.
“We are in hell right now, gentlemen believe me. And we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us, or, we can fight our way back, into the light.
We can climb out of hell.
One inch at a time.”
These unwinnable struggles, these battlefields of attrition aren’t always fought in the physical world. Our fight isn’t necessarily one which is won over an enemy or opposing force. I want to talk about mental battles, and by that I don’t mean in those situations where we need a strong state of mind to drive through physical adversity; more the impacts of depression on how we see ourselves, our futures and our fights. The situation I’ll talk about is entirely personal and perhaps will not ring true to many, but the feeling of there simply being no way back is sadly a universal feeling many of us will face at some point in our lives.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years. I’ve treated wonderful people badly – putting them through emotional turmoil for a myriad of different unjust reasons, made decisions that I can only describe as questionable at best, leading to the regular contemplation of the viability in the construction of a time machine to right some of those wrongs. When I look back, I wish there was a way for me to make amends with everyone personally in some way. In some cases I have, leading to gaining great friends. Others disappeared out of my life entirely – coming with that the acceptance that chasing them to try to fix a guilty conscience would be a selfish endeavour. Personal closure for one’s own mistakes isn’t a noble pursuit despite what we may tell ourselves.
I have a habit of sabotaging my own happiness. In the past whenever it has come to the big moments in life, I have always found a way to do the wrong thing, as if I was testing a breaking point. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I always thought people would be better off without me, I tell myself if I give them a way out they’ll take it and realise they’re better off without me; viewing myself as, in the end, a negative influence and a bad choice. Looking at it from a rational perspective, I was in fact pushing people away, making them feel like I was giving up on them.
I did this to someone I cared very deeply for, embracing the self destructive streak entirely whilst remaining perhaps voluntarily blind to it, deep down knowing exactly what was happening – and yet steering into it with reckless abandon. One can frame decisions like this in a positive light, but therein lies a far deeper issue we have in the human condition. If we frame ourselves in any given situation as virtuous, or even worse – embrace the role as the victim of circumstance, where is the change? When do we own up to our own bullshit, look ourselves in the eye and face our self made demons, destructive qualities and flaws?
The reality is, I deserted the person that relied on me the most in their time of need. Taking ownership of your mistakes and finding atonement in righting the wrongs you have committed is how we tell ourselves this ends.
When do we accept that at times, we are the villain?
This isn’t a movie.
Sometimes, you are just too late.
There are people out there who have been through far worse than this, and I don’t want to try to compare the relative grief and despair of situations. Every one of us is so unique that different experiences and challenges will affect people in drastically varying ways. For me, this was the moment I realised that I could find a way to break anything – and more importantly, for no good cause. I couldn’t get out of my own way. I would replay the moments in my head where I had hurt people with my irrational decisions. I tormented myself with a never ending loop of seeing the fear they had that I was giving up on them, I felt physically sick knowing I had caused such sadness that I would never get to fix. There would be no atonement.
My one anchor in the storm had been ripped out. By me. I was now aimlessly being swept away into the darkness. I couldn’t imagine life going on, nothing seemed to matter anymore, I told myself I was destined to ruin everything for myself, and constantly hurt the most amazing people that saw something in me, something I didn’t feel worthy of.
It’s not something I take lightly, but at this stage I unfortunately started looking for a way out. I felt so numb and broken that I truly regret to say that I considered suicide. I would like to think it was just a fleeting moment, perhaps a half formed idea that existed for a moment in my mind during a moment of weakness; but memory has a habit of twisting what was.
The person I consider myself to be would never consider such a decision. I am normally quite structured and stoic in approach, if perhaps a little hot headed. The pain that doing something like this would cause to the people around me would be an entirely selfish act, taking the easy way out to end what I was feeling; in turn leaving an unfillable void to everyone who cared, everyone who hadn’t given up on me. With hindsight, an irreversible act to escape my situation which would have inflicted a sadness on those around me that wouldn’t have the benefit of ending.
When you’re in such a broken and dark mental place, you don’t see the consequences of your actions. It’s not selfish, you are just blind to your own significance. You forget what good you can do for people, you forget that people care for you, you tell yourself it’d be best for everyone. Your demons, your anxiety, and the voice that tells you everything that is wrong will drag you into the darkness, attempting to deafen and drown out the light. In my case it would promise no more hurting the people who cared for me the most, offering a way out to, making the continual playback of painful memories I subjected myself to stop. I was staring over the edge into the abyss.
This was when it was the darkest, where it seemed like all hope was lost. It felt like nothing would ever get any better, life had irrevocably changed.
I promise you, things get easier.
I heard a great saying today, I learnt it was something my uncle used to say; the sun will always burn away the clouds. I cannot say this enough, you will get through it. How we cope, the moments that make us realise that there is something worth fighting for, some purpose to make us not go gentle into that good night will be different for all of us. Those moments will come. That purpose will come.
You will find a way back.
“It is we ourselves who must answer the questions that life asks of us, and to those questions we can respond only by being responsible for our existence.”
– VIKTOR FRANKL
For me, I was lucky enough to have a small number of people, both close friends, and those who were almost strangers at the time, who refused to give up on me. Who shouted so loudly that even when I felt engulfed by the storm, I could still hear them calling to me, steering me through my darkest hours. Forcing me to find the surface. They were my lights helping guide my way back, but I think the thing we must put the most weight into is quite simply that they helped.
They did not drag me out of the depths of despair in a heroic rescue when I needed them most. They simply reminded me that they were there. Despite how it may have felt, I was not alone. Even when there were voices saying just that, deep down I knew. I knew there were people ready to fight my corner. This place where I found myself was a darkness of my own creation. The voices beckoning me into the abyss were versions of my own. The demon’s telling me I wasn’t good enough, that I was a broken person and it was too late – were me.
The darkness was mine.
The demons; mine.
I was the master of my own suffering. And so, I would be the master of my redemption.
How can we expect someone to save us from a hell that we have created? In the end, you will save yourself. Those around you will help you find your way out, but you will find your way out. It will not be a sudden and instant realisation that returns you from the brink – but in the act of dragging yourself back you will find a true and pure strength.
I promise you, it gets easier. I had days where I felt so numb that I couldn’t physically move. I imagined my future set to this backdrop, dark rooms and isolation.
Your demons, your darkness. Your redemption.
Time is not only a great healer, but also allows for reflection and perspective. You are so much stronger than you realise, and more people care than you allow yourself to believe. I hope we can be the voice, or allow you to find the voice that helps you find your surface. With hindsight I can now see that the battle I was in was a war with myself – the pain inflicted was my own doing leading of course to the hunt for a saviour would start and end within. In the moment it felt smothering and all consuming with no way back – a truth that would be dispelled in its entirety with time.
Having come to terms with that period of my life, looking back in the illuminating light of reality: I know that it was a battle I was never supposed to lose. Accepting that I made bad decisions that I can’t take back – I chose to be defined not by guilt and regret – but to always be one of the voices that called to me at my darkest moment. I will forever strive to be a light to those who are lost to their darkness. For anyone out there that is going through an invisible battle, I hope if nothing else that you never feel alone, that there is always someone ready to stand with you. If you ever do, there is no weakness in calling for help. You are more valued, loved and needed than you could ever imagine. You are stronger and capable of so much more than you let yourself believe. You can always get back up. You can always fight on.
There’s still time left on the clock. Get up and go again.
I would return from the darkness – and forever keep a part of it with me.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
\\ Dylan Thomas
We stand together. Always.
For The Pack,
Not all battles have to be fought alone. If you think your problems are becoming more than you can handle please speak to someone. Talk to the people around you. If you find that you’re uncomfortable talking to the people you consider friends, people you aren’t close to can at times allow you to open up further as there’s no fear of judgement. There are also people who specialise in such mental health issues and would be a great outlet for you.
They are open 24 hours a day, 365 day a year.
The Samaritans (UK): 116 123
STRIKING CALIBRATION: PHASE 1
Warm up drills for striking programs.
THE VIKING DIET
Eat like a modern raiding Viking.
THE LONE SAGA
2 weeks in isolation in the wilderness.
TO HEL AND BACK
A self imposed hell month in the relentless pursuit of sigr.
I AM THE HUNTER
An infectious mindset of attack.
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