So, I have made it to 50 — the BIG five-o.
At first, I thought that I might not have made the best use of my time on this planet so far. But, I was wrong.
I met and married my wife in 2004, and by the following autumn, our beautiful son was born. Those two events have shaped who I am today, and I do believe that they saved my life.
In the years preceding those mentioned above, I worked hard and played even harder. Having enough money to go out drinking and partying became the norm, although my relationships were at times twisted, and always painful.
I had some stability earlier in life, but that was sporadic at best. My mum kicked me out just before I turned 17 and I ended up sleeping on a thin mattress on the living room floor of my grandparents small one bedroomed flat. That was the start of my sofa surfing years. From 17 through until my mid 20’s, I would live in over fifteen different places, either sleeping on a friend’s sofa or occasionally, renting a small room in a shared house.
What I didn’t have though was a place to call my own. I have never been taught about how to look after my money. Neither my grandparents or my mother took the time to explain the importance of things like savings and having a decent pension. Mine was a hand to mouth existence.
The culmination of all of this was in the spring of 1994 when I found myself homeless and plunging into a nervous breakdown of epic proportions. I was living in Brighton at the time, the people that I had been staying with asked me to leave, just at the point that I was at my lowest ebb. The following weeks are fuzzy at best, a complete mental block at worst.
I found myself in the psychiatric ward of a hospital, being cared for by some fantastic people, who, for the first time in a very long time made me feel human again. I have no recollection about how I got there, or how long I had been there. They kept me clean and warm and safe until I was ready to head back out into the world.
I was put up in a halfway house, a place that had support workers to make sure that my transition back into real life was going to be a smooth one. I had lost a lot of weight but was starting to eat properly again, and through my weekly therapy sessions began to piece together what had happened in the weeks and months leading up to my breakdown.
It all came down to stress. I had made some terrible choices, had upset a lot of people and had decided to run away from it all, hence how I found myself in Brighton.
The stress of my self-imposed exile, along with losing my job, being unable to pay the rent on my room in London, the break-up of the relationship that I was in at the time all became too much for me to bear. Something had to give, and unfortunately, that something was my psyche.
The doctor told me that many memories would be lost forever, events that had caused me so much pain that my brain had deleted them as a form of a safety switch. The resulting gaps in my memory are frustrating, although now and again I see glimmers of them, they are almost like forgotten dreams that come back to haunt me; I have no way of knowing if they are real or imaginary.
My recovery was a slow one. I found work at a car body repairer, doing crap jobs mostly, and I was placed into a brand new bedsit, all paid for by the government and a local housing association that helps vulnerable young adults. Things began to look up when I got a better job working for a car hire place. I was cleaning cars and vans, making deliveries and getting paid quite well.
After a while, I started to date the manager of the business, and after several months, I moved in with her. I thought that all of my Christmases had come at once. So began the next chapter of my life. For the next ten years, I would be in an on-off relationship with a woman that I adored, but that was playing dangerous games with my head. When enough time has passed, I will write about that whole experience, but for now, it is better left unsaid. It did, however, end up with my meeting and falling in love with my wife and becoming a father.
Becoming a husband and a father put a nail in all that had gone before and gave me the direction that I so desperately had been searching for. The road that I am now on has not been easy, and I keep making mistakes, but I now have something that I didn’t have before – purpose. Being a father and a husband keeps my compass pointing in the right direction. I still have some significant challenges ahead of me, but, I do believe that the next 50 years will be the best days of my life.
Until next time, adieu.