At my lowest ebb, a million hands reached out to save me from myself
When you need rescuing, all you have to do is ask.
“You always have to learn things the hard way!” mum used to admonish me when I’d made a mess of things.
Or she’d quip, “Why do you insist on going to the school of ‘I Told You So’?” She had a point. I hate being told what to do.
Whenever advice or guidance is given to me, I don’t see it as the kindness of strangers, gifting me the lessons they’ve learned the hard way, to save me from a world of pain and hardship.
No. I experience it as the evil wiles of a world trying to control me.
So naturally, my forty-nine-and-three-quarter years spent in this life so far make for an interesting if terrifying litany of near misses, huge disasters, and epic dramas that – unfortunately – Netflix is yet to turn into a series.
I’m in recovery from diabetes and its complications, having ignored good advice about self-care, and spectacularly hitting rock bottom last year. (I have permanent residence in Rock Bottom, because I visit it so frequently – for different reasons, of course.)
Every morning, I take 18 pills to reverse my diabetes, while also dealing with high blood pressure, cholesterol, vitamin deficiency, anxiety, and depression.
Once a week, I inject myself with the latest concoction designed to curb appetite, fight liver disease, and modulate my blood sugar.
I’m taking more chemicals now than I ever did at the height of my rave and clubbing days in the ‘90s. Swallowing all these pills before breakfast is a challenge not without risks.
A couple of months ago, I had a series of catastrophic sudden depressive drops. I’m not talking a bad case of the “sads” here.
I’m talking three times in four days where the sheer drop in mood and the panic that followed had me reaching for solutions that would require a trigger warning if I had to describe them.
As we’ve since found out, this was all caused by my meds not playing nicely with each other.
After the third episode, it was clear I couldn’t solve this on my own. I needed help.
I reached out to friends and family, but this was bigger than any help they could give. This was going to take a team to save me from myself.
A professional team. A psychiatrist, therapist, endocrinologist, and my NA sponsor. I was essentially in a mental health ICU situation, depending on these people to keep me alive.
My sudden disappearance from life online and offline brought many questions from friends and family who I hadn’t yet told about this.
My life became a series of check-ins with this “ICU team”, tweaking the dosage of my meds, replacing one with another, and getting very specific about what I ate.
I kept a journal for us to wade through the mess, looking for triggers that amplified whatever my meds were causing.
Work was incredibly supportive, giving me the flexibility to deliver on my tasks without being tied down to a place, a desk, or a nine-to-five schedule.
Friends were there, or rather, by design, they weren’t. They gave me the space I needed to find my way back to sanity.
They excused me from participating in social life and online chats. After a while, when I was feeling slightly more human, they welcomed me back, as if this huge mental schism hadn’t happened.
There was no awkwardness, no distancing. Those who knew me well enough rolled with my dark gallows humour, as I tried to find ways to put my thoughts around what had happened.
Three months later, and I’m back. Same old Dave. Same old everything. Not just by my own efforts, but by the doctors, family, friends, and colleagues who added the treatment, support, love, and time I needed to recover.
To me, this has profound echoes of 2012, when I began my sobriety journey.
I decided to do it publicly, opening myself up to strangers on the internet, through my blog and my tweets, detailing every day I managed to stay sober.
Back then, my sister described the overwhelming support I received from strangers online.
“When life gives you a challenge that feels bigger than you,” she said, “know that you are not alone. There are a million hands holding you up as you take each step forward.”
That is what these past three months have been. A million hands, a community of people, picking me up and helping me move forward when I couldn’t stand on my own.
There is community everywhere. You just have to ask.