The band Travis wrote a song called "Why Does It Always Rain On Me". You might know it. I don't think it's a very happy song.
It starts out with "I can't sleep tonight, everybody's saying everything is alright". That's a bit sad. He might just be an insomniac but I think he has more on his mind.
The chorus starts with "sunny days, where have you gone?" But I'm not that sure it's about the weather this song.
My favourite line in it, because it resonates with a friend of mine is this one "I can't stand myself…..I'm being held up by an invisible man"
It might be a good time to stop reading now if you like. It's not getting any better from here on this blog. Although that is the end of the Travis lyrics, but not all the lyrics.
So what this blog is really about is my friend Saul, I'm going to tell you part of his story. I’ve known Saul a long time and he confides a lot in me and agreed to me sharing.
His pressure release valve hadn't been working. When it gets like that he said that he didn't know what to do. He had so much frustration and rage and anger inside him that it had to come out or he would explode.
So he used to let it out in the only way he knew how.
And he did that by hurting himself.
He told me he first did it about 20 years ago when he punched a wall about ten times on the way home. It hurt a lot apparently and he ended the night with bloodied knuckles, but he said it helped in a strange way.
Then it became more serious for Saul about 15 years ago for a period that probably lasted 4 months. He’d been through a rough patch. Hardly anyone knows, or knew. He reckons that some people suspected at the time but swift explanations about cats scratching him and accidents with barbed wire fences seemed to be accepted.
He says he remembers how scared he got when he cut his arm deeper than he meant to.
But he also remembered the feeling of relief he experienced afterwards. And how somehow the pain got out of him. Saul told me how he remembered how feeling the pain escape was better than the feelings in his head beforehand.
He wrote me a letter at the time which I remember well as it included the line 'I cut myself and watch me bleed, my anger subsides and so does my need'. That captured how he felt in a nutshell. It was like a weight was lifted for him. Turning the emotional hurt into physical hurt helped, people understand that, he could understand that.
Sometimes hurting himself was the only way Saul knew how to cope with feelings like sadness, self-loathing, emptiness, guilt, and rage.
It's helped him feel in control.
It's helped him not feel numb. Not feel like an empty shell. To actually make him feel something.
It helped. But he hardly ever told anyone because they wouldn't understand.
I was worried about Saul. But he told me not to be and that he didn't do it for sympathy and he didn't want people to worry. He also made it very clear that he didn't want to die. He had just found a different way to cope with life when it was tough. And he wanted to cope with it. And to live. He didn't know how else to cope.
Saul isn't mad or mental or crazy, or whatever term people may choose to use. And he certainly isn't dangerous as the only person he would ever ever hurt is himself. But he does understand him hurting himself can hurt others emotionally for a number of reasons, because they care for him and he causes them to worry about him.
And he hates hurting other people.
If you know him he doesn't need you to call anyone or rush round. He really doesn't. He only let me share this as he thought it might help some people who know him understand him better.
Saul is still just Saul. But you now know a secret he's been carrying and hiding for years.
He's just always struggled to cope with things and ended up loathing himself and then found it hard to know what to do with those feelings of loathing. And that's what happened. Years ago.
He rang me before Christmas 2016. He told me it started again in 2016 after 15 years off. Saul was older now. According to the web it seems to be mostly but not exclusively teenagers who struggle with this. Why has he gone back to something he hasn't seen since his twenties?
I don't know the answer. I'm not sure that he does either but its clear things had got on top of him again, that his other coping mechanisms weren’t enough. All I know is that Saul told me he really needed that release last year. He cut his legs that time, and his side as no one could see there, because he didn't want anyone to see. But he also started to burn himself with an iron. Of course he told people that these were 'accidents', and he got clumsy with the iron. I didn't believe him, but I did believe him when he said they were also a combination of intense physical pain and intense emotional relief. He was hurt and was hurting but he felt better. He later told me he once burnt himself back in his hotel room after an interview, he was so convinced he had done badly, so angry at himself for not being perfect that he needed some way to vent.
I don't expect you to understand Saul. I expect you to think he is strange, odd, weird, stupid, dangerous maybe. Why would someone hurt themselves? But I hope you don't think those things. Some people drink. Some people fight. Some people cry. Some people take drugs. This is just what he did. He didn't want to kill himself but he didn't realise how much his actions were hurting others, were hurting those he cared about most.
But whatever you think about him it's ok.
I like him. He's just struggled sometimes. Lots of people do. If self-worth is low and you don't love yourself it's not a big step to hating yourself, or hurting yourself, or it wasn't for him.
He is embarrassed about them as well.
He's worried about what you'll think of him. Really worried. I had to persuade him to let me share this.
He only let me share it because he is confident and comfortable that he has changed and this behaviour is in the past and to show the importance of sharing and being open for yourself and to help others.
But I hope that like me if you know Saul you'll still want to.
He's still the same person.
Some of his scars are just visible and some are still hidden.
Lots of people are like that. Probably more than you realise.
Saul is doing good things now, he got professional help to be able to deal with things better.
He got professional help because of the support and love of his best friend. She's incredible. You need your friends when things are tough.
He now believes, no actually that's wrong, knows that he's never going to do that stuff again, he's found other ways, he actually can't believe he was in that place and genuinely feels and knows that he's different now.
He also hates how much he hurt other people by hurting himself, how much he must have put on them, how they must never have been able to stop worrying, how the impact of his mental illness created such a strain on others.
He really hates how he affected his best friend who was the main person who kept him afloat during those dark days and who he misses every day. She saved him but it affected their friendship and he's still working on repairing it and is scared he has lost someone so special. But he's not resorting to hurting himself to cope, which bearing in mind how much this friendship means to him is a testament to how much he has changed, and learnt.
It took a lot for Saul to invest time in himself in both his physical and mental health and get better. But he did it and he feels better that he did, and glad he was pushed, encouraged and supported to.
He told me he's helping others now, that that helps him feel good and how that brings some positive from something so negative.
So that's Saul's story, his secret.
He's alright Saul. He really is. He's sorting himself out. He's looking after himself.
So don’t call him, you really don’t need to and he wouldn’t have let me share this with you if he thought that would happen.
Just say hi next time your paths cross, maybe give him a knowing nod, maybe tell him he was brave to share (but definitely don't tell him he was stupid to), and accept him for who he is.
I think he’d like that.
And if you're in a bad place, or have a friend like Saul, talk or listen, don't judge, give them support and encourage them to talk and let things out.
People have tough days, weeks, months even but that doesn't define who they are. The mind is a powerful thing and it can be a battle everyday, but like Saul with love, care, support and perseverance you can get out of the darkness.
He has, he chose the light, and I'm super proud of him for that.
Welcoming another guest blogger today. Stephen is a colleague at work who I've never met, we've never spoken but we've connected because of openness about mental health. I encouraged Stephen to share because it helps me so much and I'm delighted he agreed to. Initially he said he wanted to be anonymous, but then changed his mind and said he had nothing to hide. This makes me proud of him. He should be proud of himself.
Take Care. Paul
Mountain High - Valley Low
4 days in to February and I’m physically and mentally exhausted. Monday morning blues, or is it Monday morning worries, or Monday morning anxiety and fear of the unknown.
Last Monday I was on top of the mountain looking over the views and endless opportunities and paths that my life has for me. Today I’m looking out into dense fog and feeling disorientated, trapped in a place where I can’t see a way out, I feel that panic and churning in my stomach again, those little signs that my anxiety is trying to ride over me again.
I worry and I catastrophise about so many things in my work and personal life…..things that haven’t even happened but seem to swamp my thoughts.
So February – lets kick start this one off, had a my first ever car accident in 11 years of driving (Me, Myself and I were ok, so was the other person) – I drove my self home a few miles after exchanging details, made myself a huge cup of sweet tea, - and I tried to process what the hell happened in the last hour.
Well I couldn’t, my whole body and brain was tingling , my senses were overloaded, I was on adrenalin kick, I was …experiencing what anything other human would, but for me it was all new and unknown and overwhelming. I started doing the what if’s, why did I go that route home, what if I went straight home, what if ….this wasn’t helping. The one thing I know I could do was ring my dad, sister, partner and a friend – physically they couldn’t do anything but emotionally they could be with me on the phone while I let it all out.
Reality is that I will end up bottling my anxiety and emotions by the time I get home – I know what I should do, but its so hard.
Having that over me this weekend, raised my anxiety; about driving, about work and about aspects in my personal life, I came to face Monday morning and I feel drained emotionally and physically.
If I just start BREATHING, and taking a little control of my thoughts and anxiety by writing them down, today will become less foggy, less disorientating, and tonight all I want to do is go home, hug my loved one, my cats and let all my anxiety and emotions and feelings out that have tried to overcome me in the first 4 days of Feb.
I have faith, I have hope, I have love, and I have family and a few close friends; and I have strength and determination. It’s easy to say this but to turn words into actions all the time when I’m feeling very lost is a constant battle that I’m constantly learning from. Ill keep doing what I know best, talking and writing.
What will the rest of February bring, only time will tell.
Mr Paul Wyse