When things turned dark
Men’s mental health article
Off the bat, I feel it’s wise to explain things before I start. As a child, I saw some harsh things over my life as my mum suffered serious mental health issues leading to severe depression.
She tried to take her life 37 times – overdoses, cutting her wrists and trying to jump of a bridge – she would go into dark phases. Our family would suffer, as my siblings and I would be put into foster homes and the care system, leading to child abuse on my side.
I have memories that would break the hardest mind but, like many before me, I choose to leave that in the past (the past is called the past for a reason).
I think the hardest part of my childhood was seeing my mum on the lock up wards for months at a time. Those places were a nightmare that no kid should see. All I could think when she done this was how selfish she was (as I just did not understand the mental health crash). This resulted in me not speaking to her for many years across my life as I got older, which I now regret – that was until the last six weeks before she passed away in 2010.
Okay, that was not the only reason – it was because she ignored my pleas of what was happening to me on the wing at the four-week boarding school when I was 7.
So, when my mind started to play up and I started to fall into a dark state, I kept saying to myself “You’ll be fine, it’s not happening” but I kinda knew things were spiralling, as my mind started to break yet I could not tell anyone through fear of being seen as weak.
Almost every day you watch TV or read online about men’s mental health, but you really don’t think it will affect you.
We men have this inbuilt system that says we don’t cry, we are warriors in life – we don’t talk about our emotions (especially me) and we bottle things up sometimes until it’s too late and then things just hit the fan as I found out in 2020.
To be honest, I think this is how we were educated in the 70’s and possibly through the 80’s too.
I’m from the 70’s and this was a generation that had to endure some hard situations. Our parents kicked us out the house in the morning on school holidays and we just survived the day, returning home only for food and sleep.
In the 70’s and 80’s, parents actually slapped discipline into us – we had respect for elders and authority. Teachers had a voice and were allowed to discipline us with a clip round the ear, or with the threat of a cane, slipper or other means by the school headteacher. In those days, the world was not so messed up as it is now, as things were black and white.
We kids ‘knew our place’, but times have moved on now – the communication era and social networks have screwed lives up and trolls find its easier to reach in and damage others lives from behind a keyboard.
The world was not full of do-gooders and the cancel culture was not like it is today. Now you say what you think out loud and suddenly you are public enemy number one.
Some who have read my ‘Path to Master’ article know about the sexual and physical abuse I suffered for four years at a primary boarding school at the hands of a convicted paedophile who took his life on the day of sentencing.
Believe me, I fell into a dark depression prior to the Covid era and it lasted a few months, yet no one knew.
In 2020, you could see on normal media TV things were bad in China, then Italy and other countries started reporting high infections and BOOM! The U.K. had it and untold amounts of deaths followed, so we were all petrified.
The media made the situation a hundred times worse, to the point we all ran away from each other when walking our dogs. Separation seemed to be the main aim, but frankly it was a time of complete BS and hysteria.
At this time, a situation also unfolded in my family dynamic where my then 24 year old daughter had stopped talking to us, so my emotions were in the air. Still, I had to remain calm and stand tall each time I went to class, despite wanting to shout from frustration and anger which was affecting me.
I had to muster on, as a heavy dark feeling had immersed my life. It felt like a death had occurred, but there was no funeral to help process things – I was mourning the loss of my child, or at least that’s how it felt.
Next came the lockdowns – my mind was breaking, but I just tried to remain strong. Inside, however, darkness was consuming my life, yet I could tell no one.
I do recall those first couple of weeks, I felt like I was in a dark ditch. I did not want to speak to anyone about it. Friends would call me about their problems and I’d just do my best to help them. The truth is, we were all suffering. I mean, like millions of others, we were imprisoned and all our civil liberties were removed out of stupidity by a government that has no real clue to rule (or as many now think, it was a plan to control us).
I was feeling extremely low, finding myself unable to breathe or concentrate (even focus) on the future most days. It felt like everything had ended, like heavy bags on my shoulders. I remember in those first few weeks of lockdown being alone at home and things hit so badly, I seriously just wanted to end it.
I looked at my life and thought “I can’t take it anymore, maybe I should just end my life”. I just could not see past the day I was in and this feeling of worthlessness and not having a reason to get up anymore just consumed my life, but truth is I refused to let the darkness lead me down the path my mum had been on.
At this time, my sisters were siding with my daughter, so it felt like another betrayal.
On my worse day, something happened and I hit rock bottom in my bedroom – no one’s at home and I am sobbing for no reason. I can’t see a way forward in life, then a calming voice in my head said “This is not the way, pull yourself out of this”. I thought about those around me – my partner, my other daughter and sisters, my friends, heck my students who were like family and thought to myself all of these people do need you.
I realised someone cared and someone needed me. I felt like a light had entered my life again, as darkness slowly turned to light. I began to plan things again.
The first was setting up online classes in early Covid lockdown – this helped, but there were many dark days that I thought I can’t do this. I kept on trying to be strong and willing myself to be positive, but there were times tears fell from my eyes after a session (and during them).
When I was alone, I wanted my family (what was left of it) to see strength, yet I did not know why I felt so low still. Was it due to losing that human contact which was a bitter pill to swallow?
I’d feel pain from battering the punch bag when I was so angry and low, breaking my knuckles twice over 14 months in lockdown.
Another thing that helped was I set up ‘Moodlifters Session’ – this was putting my DJ rig out in the front garden and playing music every Sunday.
People flocked from all over local streets having their ‘exercise’ up our street. First session out, people looked at me weirdly but, once I’d done one session, the street was packed every week.
The local TaeKwonDo legend was now showing his musicality as a DJ and the residents loved it… Yep, I get bookings from this even today.
We would go out and sit in our gardens – some weeks I was so sad and low, yet I played to help others.
Losing a daughter was tough, as it felt like someone had ripped my heart out – on top of that, my DJ business was broken (all bookings and weddings cancelled and almost 15k lost) and my TaeKwonDo business was falling apart fast as students quit online classes the longer it went on. All around me just thought he’s fine, but truth was I was hurting…like pain I’d never felt before.
Gradually things lifted daily, the weekly gatherings in the street helped and I could carry on my DJ skills – it helped many mentally and me loads. Some locals moaned, but the majority ruled.
Truth was all I was doing was supporting my street and hundreds of locals via music, yet no-one knew how low I actually was at times. Sometimes I could not see past that day, but staying busy was helping my mind to focus on the positives in life.
I believed it was depression – I have first-hand experience of mum, but I never thought I’d suffer with it… I mean I’m strong, right?
Anyway, even before the lockdown, I had to force myself to get up, bath, answer business calls, put a smile on at all classes, yet what I wanted was someone to say “Are you okay?”.
At one crazy point, I remember being alone – my phone rings and I am shouting at the phone for no reason, saying leave me alone! I don’t know why; I think I was just so low inside – life was kicking the crap out of me.
I kept myself so busy, even starting this online ITF magazine that now gets tens of thousands of downloads an issue.
I found being busy helped me and it was my saviour. Tracey saw some low times, sometimes I’d say “I don’t care about you, we are finished”. I was hitting out at the ones I loved the most and all because I chose not to speak up.
2021 we are back at class, the magazine is working well, the last session of the mood Lifters had been done and over 150 residents stood outside my house applauding us and showering us in gifts of thanks.
So weird, as in 2021, I’m also inducted into a Hall of Fame, then another one too later that year. In 2022, the U.K. Hall of Fame also inducts me.
We have now won countless awards as a club and my DJ company has won top awards too.
The clubs have regrown and, as of June 2022, my daughter has returned to our life along with a beautiful Granddaughter. We are trying to rebuild our life with her, but it is hard as there’s always that fear she will go again.
The point is, at my darkest point I hit rock bottom, but I sure as hell clawed my way back up again. If I can teach you anything from this, it’s that you must talk. I still don’t talk enough, as trust is something I can’t give due to my childhood.
Keep busy and that darkness will disperse and turn to light. Get a project or job and build on it. Sitting alone on social media, gaming or smoking dope will not work as this only enhance paranoia. Find something that pushes your mind, body and general health.
Would I have taken the path mum did? I think it may have been possible as I had never felt so low, but thankfully something told me to keep fighting. Fortitude and digging deep helped me, but it was sure as hell a hard slog.
I’m lucky, as a physical workout works for me. To me, if you are suffering, go to the gym and push your body hard – once the endorphins kick in, you will feel better.
If you are facing the same, please speak to someone. Try to refocus your life and think positive thoughts daily. You are worth it, you are loved and needed by many, but you must try and be strong as once the darkness descends over you, even the smallest thing becomes the biggest worry (at least that is what happened to me).
I still have dark days, rarely now, but I keep saying “One step forward at time Chris, you can do this”.
Life has a tendency for kicking you when you are down – the trick is keep getting up. After all, Man is responsible for his own destiny.
So, we are the only ones who can change things through determination and grit.
My final thought is this. Stress is rubbish – if you leave it around you, your home becomes cluttered and eventually you will get lost. So, like rubbish, throw it out and in doing so this will keep your mind clear – at least that’s my thought process now.