In which The Author is back from the brink
As you can probably tell, I didn’t go home on Wednesday and swallow a shedload of Co-codamol. I was very sorely tempted, mind you, but a barrage of texts and messages on Facebook told me that my friends were really worried by my state of mind.
I went to bed, didn’t get much sleep (as I hadn’t for the previous few days), and first thing in the morning I rang the GP again. Dr Jones was busy with her morning surgery, of course, but the receptionist said she’d pass a message on. Then I gathered my paperwork (except the bits I couldn’t find), tucked a box of painkillers into my bag – just in case – and headed for Aberdare. I had some time to kill, so I called into Servini’s for a hot chocolate. While I was in there, an old friend of mine came in. She came straight over to me and gave me a hug. We sat for a while and chatted about her own experiences of depression. It surprised me, but it turned out over the course of the day that she wasn’t alone. After she’d gone, I drank up and made my way to the Jobcentre.
To my surprise, it didn’t go as badly as I’d expected. I’ve got some leeway to get a new mortgage statement. Otherwise, it went quite smoothly. I even made the lady on the other side of the desk laugh a couple of times, which can’t have been easy.
While I was waiting to be seen, Dr Jones rang me back to see how I was feeling. I told her that I was dreading the meeting, and that I’d ring the Crisis Team whatever happened. I simply couldn’t bottle up the stress any longer. Indeed, as soon as I left the Jobcentre I made that call. Fifteen minutes later I was on the bus to Merthyr.
I don’t know what the highways department has done to the town since the roadworks finished. They’ve built a new bus lane which funnels every single service southwards out of the station. The northbound buses have to loop around at the bottom of town, run up past the college, and then rejoin the main road system at exactly the same point where they did six months ago – after a detour of half a mile or so. I’m sure it makes sense to someone in town planning, but it makes no bloody sense to me.
After that, the No 27 service took us on a magical mystery tour around the huge Gurnos estate before arriving (eventually) at Prince Charles Hospital. The whole journey – ten miles (if that) as the crow flies – takes about fifteen minutes in a car, or the best part of an hour and a half by public transport. I’d hate to have to do it every day, or even once every so often.
I arrived a minute or so before my appointment, but when I’d spoken to a chap named Barry on the phone, he’d explained that things might crop up unexpectedly. They’re not called the Crisis Team for nothing, after all. By the time I got there, Barry had finished his shift, and I was met a few minutes later by a very pleasant chap named Jason. It’s a truism that you know you’re getting old when policemen and doctors start looking younger than you. He was probably in his mid-thirties, and it’s quite possible that I’d sold him a textbook or two in my previous incarnation. He led me through a maze of corridors to a comfortable room with armchairs and settees, and asked to wait while he had a word with his colleague. He returned a few minutes later, and we chatted for ages about all sorts of things. Jason made copious notes, and after a little while we were joined by his colleague, an even younger doctor named Laura. She didn’t say so, but I guessed she might have been on her rotation.
We talked for ages about my school days, my experiences of bullying, my abortive university career, my time in the book trade, and my current situation. They asked me about my general state of health (both physical and mental), and suggested that I might be a suitable case for referral to the Primary Care Team.
There was a leaflet for New Horizons on the table in front of me. It’s a charity which runs a drop-in centre in Aberdare, and I’ve met a number of their clients over the years. I’m sure the organisers mean well, but I was a bit dismissive of them, frankly. I explained that I knew someone who’d helped set it up, and she felt that it was now very far removed from its original intentions. Jason agreed that I was probably too ‘high functioning’ for their activities anyway. He said he could imagine me leading a discussion group of some sort, rather than sitting passively while someone else did the talking. I wonder what gave him that impression, eh?
It was an incredible relief to sit down and talk about my feelings with people who were sympathetic and caring, and (most importantly) who knew what options were open to me. Jason suggested that Citizens’ Advice might be able to help me with my financial situation, so I’m going to follow that up. He’s also going to write back to my GP with his opinion, and we’ll see how things go from there. At least I’m talking to the right people now.
At the end of the consultation, Jason refunded my bus fare. That was an unexpected surprise. I got to the bus stop just as the 27 pulled in, and the return journey was much quicker than the outward leg. I got back to Aberdare just after five o’clock, and almost immediately Dr Jones rang me to see how my appointment had gone. It was nice to be able to give her some positive feedback, a massive contrast to our chat the previous day.
I know it’ll be a long road ahead, but at least I’m not alone any more. In particular, I’ve been overwhelmed by kind messages (and kind words, too) from my friends, all of whom have been amazingly supportive and helpful. Also, it’s been a surprise to find out how many other people have been in a similar position over the years. I won’t breach confidences here, but several old friends have shocked me by relating their own experiences of depression, stress, or burnout. It seems that we’ve all put on brave faces for as long as we can, but sooner or later it takes its toll.
It’s hardly surprising, is it, when there are so many external pressures on us all. I think the situation will get worse before it gets any better as the Nineteenth Century grows closer, instead of more distant, with each passing day and bizarre whim of the Powers That Be. For the time being, though, I’m glad to report that the painkillers are back in the drawer, where they belong.