When I was 6 years old my Granda – Fred as I called him always – took me potato picking, writes Luke Williams. My great grandfather had a potato patch and I had the privilege of picking them; possibly for the last time ever but I can’t quite remember. Anyway the harvesting was going fine – there I was with my heroic grandfather having the time of my life – until that it is that I fell face first (with shorts and t shirt on) into the largest patch of nettles maybe the world has ever seen. Enter Fred stage right at his heroic best, sweeping me up like I was literally the weight of a feather. Rubbing dock leaves over my entire body and carrying me home.
It’s July now, and I now think of the months between October and May as life throwing a nettle patch at me. Except at first it seemed there was nobody to sweep me up out of it and take me home.
See I got diagnosed with psychotic depression (I still hate the word psychotic; pictures of Christian Bale in American Psycho are not actually relevant) and it was, for want of a better word, entirely shit.
For the best part of 6 or 7 months I was pretty useless in terms of being a functioning human being. I had to take time out of university, I didn’t want to leave the house, I hated people coming round to see me and the psychotic part meant I was hearing voices that weren’t connected to anybody and seeing pretty frightening shadow people; all of whom told me the same things.
I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t worthy enough. I didn’t deserve love. People would be better off without me at all.
Without going into too much details this all resulted in a pretty bad self harm problem, scars I now carry that still remind me of the times I couldn’t comprehend anything, when I couldn’t sleep because I thought I was being haunted by demons or something worse if that exists.
This all probably makes me sound exceptionally crazy but it’s my story and in the past few weeks I’ve decided I want to own it. Obviously I’m still on a journey towards recovery and some days are better or worse than others but I’m trying.
Today’s it’s been 27 days since I last cut myself and I’ve counted every one of those days religiously and they’re mine.
Today I wrote this because I had a conversation where I was able to help someone else, someone who was struggling and I thought maybe my story is worth more than I thought, maybe I can give someone their first day or their fiftieth because the truth is we all struggle, some more than others, but everyone deserves to hope, deserves love.
And, I’m still learning that. Learning what it means to be loved. Being unwell cost me a lot of things, it cost me scars and graduating with others in my year. It cost me my relationship and my social life but it gave me things as well.
See it’s been friends who’ve swept me up from the nettle patch. Prayed for me when I couldn’t pray, given me routines to follow when I had no motivation to do anything, sang me songs, read me bible verses, text me to see if I was ok, urge me to go out, walk me round the park when I was scared to go out on my own, made sure I ate three meals a day. I could go on forever.
If it wasn’t for people giving me hope, showing me love that I didn’t think I deserved, I would’ve been stuck in the nettles a whole lot longer.
Hope exists in those conversations, the moments you realise someone cares for you more deeply than you thought they did, the times you know they’ve gone out of their way to talk to you, the times they get taxis home from your house because the last bus left a long time ago and the prayers you know they’re uttering for you each morning and night.
My doctors would tell you that the 2 types of medication I’m taking have resulted in my psychotic symptoms beginning to ease and my mood starting to lift.
This may be true. But I would tell you that the smiles from friends, the kind words and careful prayers have resulted in the clouds beginning to lift. The darkness turning to light and hope coming from what seemed like a place of hopelessness.
People are so important. And at some point you or me or whoever else is going to have to be that person to someone else; finding words when feel like we don’t have the sufficient ones, comforting someone when all that is left for them is despair, letting that person know that yes some days are shit, but there will be better days because hope is real, love is real and that person is worthy of both.