Rob Cook

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On mental health


I tried to kill myself. I left work early. Panicked, scared, my world closing in around me. I thought I had done something terrible that I couldn't remember. I drove round for hours trying to find the right spot. There isn't one. Not for this. Eventually I parked up just down the road where I walked the dog.

I didn't want to die. I felt I had to die. I was scared of ending it. I was terrified of carrying on. Tearful, scared, ashamed. Truth be told I can't pinpoint what I was feeling at that moment. I didn't want to die. I had to die.

There are times in your life when you seem able to draw on a strength greater than your own. I felt like a pathetic coward at the time for not doing it. I believed I would burn in hell for not going through with it. I don't know where the strength came from. I'm eternally thankful it was there for me.

My breakdown rapidly progressed into psychosis. I heard voices in my head for the first time in my life. At first euphoric, then terrifying. I trusted no one. Suspected everything. My head filled with intense and intricate delusions.

I was hospitalised. Intense fear, anxiety, and suspicion followed. Paranoia. Suspicious of everyone that tried to help. Doubted reality. At one point I believed I was about to be abandoned to hell. Not just a thought. Not just a feeling. An intense knowing that this was hell, this was real, and I was going to be left there. It's the most terrifying experience of my life. Also the most transformative and essential experience of my life.

It took four weeks to get me medicated, talking, and safe enough to go back home. Two days before Christmas. Thank you to all the staff on the NHS for that miracle.

I've relapsed since, and spent another two weeks in hospital as a result. I'll be on medication for life. I'm OK with that. Mental health is hard, use all the help you can.

At the time it all seemed so sudden, unexpected. On reflection it was a slow, gradual build up. Plenty of signposts along the way if only I had taken notice.

Be honest with yourself about how you feel. There are no wrong feelings. Its how you chose to act on them that matters. Find a way to express what you feel without hurting anyone (that includes yourself). Run, draw, paint, sing, dance, hit a punch bag, stand in a darkened room and yell at the walls for a while. Find something that works for you. Do it. Do it badly. Do it wrong. Its the doing it that matters.

Talk. To your partner if you have one, family, friends, people at work, people on the bus, the person serving you coffee. Practice this daily. Don't worry about how you will be perceived by others. Interact with the world. Try not to judge anyone in it.

Do things you enjoy. No one else gets to be you. No one before or after will love what you love, feel what you feel, the way you do.

Don't check out early, however dark it seems. We would miss you.