Search for the route to healing
This month's contribution on wellbeing comes from a solicitor who offers a candid personal account of accepting the need for help, and searching until he found it
I drove into the deserted car park, parked the car, stopped the engine and took a deep breath.
From somewhere, deep down inside me, a seemingly endless series of dreadful, breath-stopping, gut-wrenching sobs welled up and burst out. On and on it went. Just like a little child, I couldn't stop myself. My lungs ached, my sides hurt.
I wasn't in control of myself. And that was the most frightening part.
You see, I have always been in control. Ever since I can remember, I had always known that I had to depend on myself: no one else was going to do it for me and I had to just get on with it. It was deeply shocking and traumatic to realise that I was no longer a fully functioning, effective and useful person.
Others had always depended on me. That was, after all, who I was. In my late 40s, I was the reliable husband, father, employer and general confidante and adviser to my clients. And now, at a stroke, I couldn't fulfil that role. My insides churned. What was to become of me, my family and my career? All I could see before me was a black hole and I was falling into it.
On the end of the phone
Something, however, of the old me was still there, because despite these horrifying thoughts, I knew I had to do something. I had, in fact, known that something was up before I even got into the car that morning, although I hadn't been prepared for the enormity of what had just happened.
Obviously, I had, deep down, known that I needed some help, as I had brought with me the number for LawCare. I dialled it into the carphone. Through the tears, sobs, hesitations and embarrassment, I managed to tell the lady who answered how I was feeling. She was very supportive, told me that what she had just heard were classic symptoms of depression and suggested that I should go, immediately, to see my doctor. She took my details and said that another lawyer would be in touch.
Being diagnosed in this way was something of a relief. Many people had depression. Not that I knew anything about it, but I knew that I could go to the doctor, I could tell him how I was feeling and he would explain to me why I was feeling this way and he would fix it.
Or so I thought.
I went to the doctor. I told him how I was feeling. He gave me pills and told me to take time off.
I was shocked. This wasn't what I had expected. I needed to know why I was feeling this despair and how to get better. A pill wasn't going to tell me. I asked him if I could see someone in mental health and he, somewhat reluctantly, referred me to a psychiatrist. As, however, with all NHS referrals, you have to wait for an appointment. But I couldn't wait. I knew the local psychiatrist, as he was a client, and so I phoned him. He said, yes, he would be able to see me but there was a waiting list of about five to six months.
I was shocked, again. I could hardly make the decisions necessary to make a cup of tea, so I knew I was incapable of working but, on the other hand, I was self-employed and couldn't afford to take that kind of time off.
The volunteer from LawCare called me and was a great practical help. With her help, I found the strength to make the necessary arrangements for the business.
But I still had to get get better.
Luckily for me, I had a secret weapon. My wife.
I hadn't told her how I was feeling before it all happened. Mainly because I didn't know how I was feeling. I knew that there was something wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I had been short tempered and restless, but we all get times like that. My mother had died a few months previously but I hadn't really thought about that. I did not really want to think about it. I was over it. It was fine. I was getting on with life.
My wife was frightened too, although she didn't show it at the time. We had a very traditional relationship. I was the only breadwinner. She brought up the children and I brought in the money.
We talked about it. She felt that it was to do with my mum. She moved into action. She arranged an interview with a bereavement counsellor. I went, and it was good to talk. With the amount of crying that I did whenever my mother was mentioned, it certainly clarified to me that she was at the heart of it.
I was, however, dissatisfied because I felt I was wallowing in self-pity. Lots of people lose their parents but they don't have a breakdown. Why had I had a breakdown? It didn't make sense.
But with the help of my wife, I gradually came to the realisation that it was still up to me. I knew people who took sedatives and I didn't want to be like that for the rest of my life. After a week I had stopped taking the pills and determined that I was going to find someone to help me.
The route to healing
My wife was wonderful. She started researching and we took a scattergun approach. I was going to try anything and everything. Acupuncture, hot stones, Reiki – you name it, I tried it.
This took months but, happily for me, after about five weeks, I managed to get back to work. I wasn't very effective but I was producing income.
I do believe that I must have tried about 20 people before I came across a hypnotherapist. I had no idea what a hypnotherapist was. As far as I was concerned, this stuff was all mumbo-jumbo, but I was desperate!
I can't say that that particular hypnotherapist was very effective. She wasn't, but I got the feeling that this was the therapy that was going to fix me. I persevered with that lady for quite a while, but I was having to travel many miles to get to her, so I tried to find someone closer.
The very first time I met my new therapist, I knew I was going to get better.
And the amazing revelation was that it wasn't she who was going to fix me. I was going to fix me, but she was going to help me do it.
Through darkness to light
In my case, age regression therapy brought to the surface of my conscious mind, the deeply held but unconscious childish beliefs that had driven me all my life. My mother had upped and left when I was about four or five, and my beliefs had revolved around the idea that if I was a good boy and did well my mother would come back and look after me.
When my mother was dead and unable to come back, these unconscious drivers no longer make any sense and my brain couldn't cope and broke down.
It all makes perfect sense now, but there are some things you don't question. It's just how it is. As Donald Rumsfeld said, there are some things you don't know that you don't know.
So, my advice to anyone who doesn't know why they ares feeling what they are feeling is to go and see a hypnotherapist. All the therapist does is give you the opportunity to look inside that part of your mind that you are unconscious of. That can be a frightening thought. One person I spoke to said that they were never going to do that because there were too many tears.
Yes, there may be many tears, but you will come out the other side a functioning human being, a much better person, someone much more appreciative of those who love you and much clearer as to your own motivations – and those of your clients.
It worked for me.
Bruce de Wert is a solicitor in Wick