It has been a long time since I was truly active and put much into the community, I don't actually know that many people that I knew are still around, but.. here goes.
I have recently (By recently, I mean 3 years +) gone through what is probably the hardest time of my life. (I'll go more into this later) I have.. sort of.. come out on the other side of it. It is still a matter of recovering. As part of my own musings, I started wondering how I could do something positive on the back of it.
As it happens, Aetolia was in my mind recently and how much time I put into this, so, I thought that opening up about my own experiences "After Aetolia" might be of benefit. If speaking about my experiences helps but one person in this community I had (And still have) so much affection for, it is worth the time it takes me to write it.
So, that is the preamble out of the way. As the title says, I want to talk about Mental Health. In the last 3 years I hit a really dark place, but that is skipping a few steps, so I will start from the beginning.
Most of you know me as Kylan, but my name is Peter. This may seem silly to put my actual name forward, but I feel that I need to distance myself from "Kylan". I am an IT Pro of approximately 10 years of experience. Please bear with me, I feel that giving context is important.
At the start of 2015, I was on a mini career break. I just came out of a particularly grueling contract in November of 2014, so decided to take December out to recollect myself and plan the next step of my career. Earlier that year, I agreed to move to live with my father. He was struggling and was at risk of losing his home, so having my income would ensure that he was comfortable while he dealt with his struggles.
In March, I started a new contract, a rolling monthly contract for approximately 6 months. Things were going well and we reached the first weekend of April, which was a bank holiday (National holiday) weekend.
On April the 4th everything changed. My father stopped by to ask if I needed anything while he was in town, no, I wanted to lie in. I had put in a lot of hours the last week. Later, I went out - I was a smoker and needed cigarettes, so I was heading to a nearby shop for smokes.
A shout from next door drew my attention - someone was knocking on the doors on the street, looking for me.
My father had collapsed in the street near my house. Passers by had stopped to call an ambulance and administer CPR. An off duty nurse stopped to assist. What followed was the most surreal six hours of my life. I remember getting bundled into the front of the Ambulance and getting rushed to hospital.
After waiting for what felt like an hour, my father had passed away. The shock kind of gave way to adrenaline as my mind started racing. I had to stay at the hospital after identifying my father - I had to be interviewed by a police officer representing the coroners office. As my father had seen a doctor last 3 months ago and there were no signs of ill-health beyond manageable conditions, I had to be interviewed.
A note: I have a sister. She had been estranged from myself and my father for about 10 years.
As part of the "hand over" from the hospital, I was given options for bereavement counselling, for support. I declined all of it, my mind was racing with everything I needed to do.
As soon as I got home that day, I phoned everyone I knew as a friend of my father. I had to call my mother to contact my sister. The Sunday was more phone calls.
On the Monday (A bank holiday), I called the manager at my contract and explained what happened. I explained I could not fulfill the contract as I had to plan the funeral, so I would hand in my notice on the Tuesday morning. He (Thankfully) talked me out of "Doing anything stupid" and advised me to go in and speak to HR (As a contractor, HR strictly speaking did not cover me beyond my agreements with the company).
Thanks to advice from HR, I was able to begin looking at planning the funeral. There was a problem - I had no financial reserves. I had just taken a career break and my reserves had not recovered. I could not afford to pay even the deposit on the funeral.
This entire period was me running through purely on adrenaline. I struggled to secure a loan for the deposit because I had no "collateral" behind it. All I had was a rolling contract that I could not secure a loan against as it could be dropped with a week's notice. I went to my employer and asked for a longer contract if the intent was to keep me on for 6 months.
My employer did one better, they offered me a permanent contract due to my performance in the first month. I had the stability I needed to secure a very costly high-risk loan for the deposit.
The funeral went ahead as planned - my sister did nothing and was only interested in one thing: how much money will I get?
Of course, I had no idea.
I approached my father's solicitors and found that he had left the house to myself and my sister (The will had not been updated since 2003, so his intention to leave my sister out was never realized). To further complicate things, the Executor of the Will (The person entrusted with the estate of the deceased) had not only retired, but had also passed away himself. This meant the duty of the Executor fell to me (The next of Kin).
The next year is a blur of me, a novice, trying to piece all of the financials together. This involves speaking to creditors, solicitors and trying to settle everything for all parties to the Will satisfactorily. We agreed that I would buy the house.
I agreed with my sister that I would pay for all bills up front and all expenses would come out of the estate. Everything that was left would be split evenly. It took me a year alone to get "Probate", which is the right to act on behalf of the deceased. I had to declare all financial details. One problem was that there was a debt that the debt holder could not tell me about -this took almost 8 months alone.
After I got probate, I could negotiate with the creditors and arrange the sale of the property. I reached October 2016 and had agreements in place with all creditors. Over the last year, my finances were stretched to breaking point. I could just about afford to go to work and back and continue paying for all of the expenses of the estate.
February of last year, I finally got a mortgage approved and it had to go through the legal frame work.
Due to the legal complexity of the case, the supplied lawyers could not complete it, so the mortgage provider agreed to use my own. Due to the complexity of the case, this would go on for several months.
April of 2017, I was finally able to grieve my father. In the time between him passing away and now, I just did not have the time outside of a few minutes at the funeral service. I had to give a speech, then I could cry, then I would have to put my mask back on and greet his friends and distant family.
I did my grieving on the anniversary of his passing in 2017. I was drinking and talking to a friend. She was supportive throughout the past years. She had some.. bad news and it hit me hard. I distanced myself from my friend - something I regret even now.
I continued with working with my solicitors, then in June we were ready to go. Then a letter from a lawyer for my sister came, demanding to see all of the financial information, which I provided.
They kept coming back with more and more questions - I could not cope. I went to my solicitor and deferred it to them. My sister was denying all knowledge of our agreements, claiming that I should pay for everything for the estate, etc. Her solicitors blocked the sale of the property and added a string of demands.
Finally, in September, I broke. I had a very limited support network and got myself through the previous two and a half years by gritting my teeth and pushing on and on. "I will get past this" turned into my personal mantra. "This will not break me" "I will not be defeated by this".
Every set back, felt like I was being knocked to my knees before I had even got back on to my feet. Each time, I tried picking myself up. This time I could not.
So there I was in September of 2017 - I am sure I had been dealing with depression for at least two years, but there was always something more important for me to tackle - something else to turn my mind to.
I identify my breaking point as when I first thought about committing suicide. Any time I contemplated, there was still this defiant side of me that stopped me from acting on this. I could not count on it. I could not burden a friend I rarely spoke to about this.
I sought help.
My doctor advised me to approach the mental health service (Which I did) and they put me on a high priority - I was effectively on suicide watch.
My mood was so low and I was so stuck in my own mind that I got into a routine that if I wasn't working, I was sleeping. On one occasion, I slept the entire afternoon of a Saturday. My mom was calling me every weekend - I think to reassure herself that I was alive as much as to make sure I was okay. On this Saturday, she tried calling me. No answer. She thought I was sleeping, so waited an hour and tried again. No answer.
She called what I call "my surrogate family" - an old family friend nearby that look after me as one of their own. They sent their son to check on me. Of course, the door was locked and there was no answer.
My mother had called the police, fearing that she would get confirmation that I had taken my own life.
However, the police officer knocking on the door woke me up - it is now almost 9pm. My step father had got home from a day out at the pub and was driving from my mom's to check on me. I called my mom to let her know I was okay.
The officer spoke to me about my problems and offered encouragement - he has dealt with mental health problems himself. My step father turned up after the officer had left (Probably for the best) - saw me through my window and left without speaking to me.
I continued seeing someone every week to monitor my health, talk to them about everything that had happened. Christmas came and went, as did the New Year. I had no hopes for this year.
So this year, I finally got the go ahead from my sisters lawyers who agreed with everything I had told them last year after speaking to my solicitors.
I finally got my mortgage and the house completed in April of this year.
Since then, I have been working on rebuilding my life. It is still very much a matter of recovery for me. I own my home, I have time to look at my own life and work out what I want. For the last three years, my life has been on hold while I dealt with everything.
I don't know how I got so far. How I did not break sooner. I distanced myself from friends, locked myself into focusing on everything else. People attributed it to me being "strong" when I felt anything but.
People would tell me I "am a great person" or something similar. I could not find that in my darkest moments. I could not look into a mirror and see anything to admire.
Were it not for a small spark of defiance left, I don't know that I'd have made it through. I isolated myself from everyone close to me. I am "better" now, but still recovering. My darkest hours are behind me, and so I have also banished any thoughts of taking my own life.
During the struggles over the last two years, I did return to Aetolia a few times to lose myself in something else. Kylan was everything I was not, a familiar mask I could put on. My returns to Aetolia did not last for long - I told no one about my struggles. I wanted to forget them. Kylan was confident, a pillar of support to few. When Kylan's experience got even in the same sort of place that I was in, I withdrew from Aetolia again and isolated myself.
I want to finish up by saying that if you find yourself in hardship, seek help. Speak to friends, family and seek professional help.
If you are in the UK, you can contact The Samaritans
or Your Doctor
I do feel that I owe a few apologies to some people:
Anyone that I/Kylan committed to working on a project with/for. I am sorry.@Sofiel
- You provided a bright spark for Kylan and gave me something small to at least smile at. I am sorry I disappeared without explanation.@Nola
You were one of the few Aetolians I kept in somewhat regular contact with. Thank you.
I hope this offers some explanation.
If you have made it this far, thank you. I don't know if I will commit to Aetolia again for more than brief stops, but it may be that I find myself compelled to return in the future. If you do want to contact me, however, I am on Discord under the name Sid#9463
If you find yourself going through personal hardship - it doesn't matter what it is - seek help. You are worth it. People care about you. Do not forget that, no matter how hard it is to remember. Do not be like me and try to force yourself through it. Things will get better, but we have to work at it and that requires help sometimes.
- Peter / Kylan