On February 16 2018, Adam Hudgeon’s Monday started like any other. He showered, had his breakfast and headed to the gym. He hadn’t slept well and still felt groggy but he thought nothing much of it. That lethargy was creeping in as he struggled on. He laboured on the treadmill, his legs turning to jelly no matter how hard he willed them on; each weight felt heavier and heavier. Confused, he headed home and poured himself a coffee. A caffeine kick was definitely in order. But still, the lethargy clung to him like a shadow. Adam fell asleep with the coffee in his hand. Something wasn’t right. He wasn’t to know it then but as he reflects now, Adam deemed that Monday the day “my life turned upside down”.
His mind was full, clogged to the brim. He was struggling to process the debilitating collapse unfolding within himself; as though he was outside of his own body watching his demise. The day at work dragged. Time stretched out forever, as vast as oceans. Adam was at war with himself; his mind bubbling in a cauldron, on the brink of something unexplained, something bewildering but frightening too.
Eventually, he headed home. His son played computer games while he had a relaxing bath to unwind; to let his weary brain breathe. Suddenly, a surge of blistering heat scorched its way through him. Adam felt uneasy, shaken, violently sick and frenzied. He struggled to keep his eyes open, a sharp sonorous ringing rendered him deaf; he was drowning in white light and a furnace of panic. His head floated with frenetic force; a rocket explosion of paralysis. He couldn’t utter any words as his Mum found him nor when the paramedics were frantically assisting him in his living room.
“I couldn’t believe a panic attack could do that to someone. I could see the fear in my Mum’s eyes when she found me”
3 weeks later and Adam still hadn’t left the house. His whole life changed inexorably from the moment he had the panic attack. He cut himself adrift from friends and family. He scrambled desperately to make sense of this crippling anguish that had ripped his sense of self in tattered remains. He quit his job, he moved house, he took pills, he had medical examinations but nothing changed and nothing made sense anymore. For Adam, there was no longer an Adam to speak of. When he looked in the mirror he saw a ghost of who he once was staring back at him; a lost soul trapped under the weight of the world; a weight thrust upon him for no discernible reason. Why? Why now? Why him? He was, up until this point, a happy go lucky person with lots to live for.
He continued on the merry go round of life but in a ghostly, automated state. This life was a shell masquerading as Adam, drifting endlessly through trivialities, feeling nothing. A suffocating numbness stifled this Adam to enjoyment, to love, life, feelings of any kind. He saw nothing but a ceaseless void; a grey horizon longer than life, stretching out until death. This was a life in purgatory. As he says himself, this isolation only made matters far worse:
“I locked myself away and tried to fight it on my own. I couldn’t tell my mates because I felt ashamed and embarrassed”
To fully emphasise the severity of the situation, Adam notes the following.
“I couldn’t even sit in a room with my own son because I didn’t want to let it happen in front of him”.
After 6 months of encasing his own self-loathing under a shroud of shame, Adam realised the only way to save himself was to release the valve. To talk. To own his own demons. To shatter the stigma into oblivion.
“I’ve realised I’m not weird. I’m not crazy. I’m a fit 27 year old who let this thing control their life”.
He’s getting there. With the help and support of loved ones. Now, he wants to help anyone suffering a similar internal struggle. As his impassioned facebook post indicated, he welcomes anyone to come to his house for a chat. Adam knows only too well how lonely the mental health battle can be. If the weight of the world is too much for you to bear, Adam wants you to know there’s a safe place to share your story. By his own admission, he cannot offer medical advice but what he can do is empathise. The first step to getting better is banishing any notion of shame, of accepting you are unwell and that you are worthy of love.
“Talk even if it starts with a computer screen. Get it out. Feel that release. That’s when you start to feel you can see the person you used to be”.
We read more and more stories of the growing mental health crisis and, sadly, we can become jaded to them. It’s so normalised now as to be commonplace. And yet, the lack of NHS funding in mental health is truly staggering and wholly at odds with the increased rate of those suffering.
As Adam expands further “If you break your leg you get seen to in A & E within 4 hours yet people get so bad with mental health issues they can’t go on and resort to taking their own lives. I can’t imagine what some people are going through to get to that stage. That just shouldn’t happen”.
The waiting lists are increasing yet the investment is lacking. It doesn’t feel hyperbolic to suggest we are on the verge of a mental health crisis.
“I’m doing this because my 5 minute appointment with my GP isn’t enough. I’m doing this because I got put on a 12 month waiting list to see someone at the NHS”.
Take note policy makers and purse string holders. The conversation of mental health may be alive and well but such discussions will be futile unless significant investment is prioritised.
If you are affected by any of the issues highlighted in this article, local signposting is available here. If you are facing a time of crisis, do not wait, contact your GP, A&E or the Crisis Team on (01624) 642860.