Great Escape Podcast episode 11 - Me... part of my own story

Uncategorized Jul 13, 2019

In this episode I've decided to talk a bit about my own life, which in some ways is quite difficult because I don't think my life's anything particularly extraordinary. I lived it, it's what's happened. Well, I'm living it, not in the past tense. And in other ways I'm aware that some of the things that I've done have been relatively extraordinary. Some of them have been incredibly painful, both for myself and for other people involved, and it's quite difficult to talk about some of those things without being aware of who might be listening and what they might feel about my view of the world. So please, as you listen to this, be aware that some of the people I'm referring to are still alive, are still around, and their view of these events may be quite different to my view. I try to be fair, but we all see things from our own perspectives. And when I talk about some of the stuff that I've done in my life, as some of you will know I've survived a broken neck, which was a pretty traumatic experience and took a long time to recover. I've struggled with alcohol and prescription opiate addictions. I've struggled with depression for most of my life since I was a early teen. I've also survived two microlight aircraft crashes, which I can blame nobody but myself for. And I've helped build some businesses around the world which have done amazing things, not just from a cash flow and profit perspective, but from the impacts that they've had on the country that they were built in. But those stories are not for today. I've also had phenomenal business failure. But then, every entrepreneur has a story of failure or two, or three, or four behind them. And those people who seemed to be overnight successes were almost always people who had done an awful lot on the way to getting to that point. But the story that I wanted to tell this morning is one of a difficult relationship. And it really was a relationship in which two people offered each other the world, and both failed to deliver on the promises that they'd made coming into that relationship. And what I found, for myself, is that the circumstances we were trying to live in together really were doing incredible damage to my mental state. I was becoming angry all the time, I was phenomenally depressed to the point where I could barely function on day-to-day basis. I was lashing out in, in my anger, and screaming and shouting at people. I really was a deeply unpleasant human being to live with. And I was aware that I was a deeply unpleasant human being to live with, I was unpleasant to myself. I wasn't treating myself well, I was putting weight on. I was using food as my, sort of, comfort in that particular circumstance, and not good food so I felt terrible, physically as well as mentally. My work suffered to the point that it really was becoming obvious that I was gonna have to leave that job or something. I had to change. And in the end I actually became suicidally depressed. It really was to that extent that it seemed to me that the only logical conclusion, the only logical way of solving this situation for everybody, not just for myself, was to end my own life. And other people I've spoken to who have survived that phase of suicidal depression, it's sometimes said that somebody who takes their own life has been incredibly selfish, have sort of extracted themselves from the situation. But I can honestly tell you that that really isn't how it seems in those moments. How it seems in those moments is that me ceasing to exist really is the only logical conclusion and solution to this situation. As I say, other people I've spoken to who have felt that, that's been the way they viewed it as well. If I cease to exist, everybody else will be happier, everybody else will be better off, everybody else will be in a better place. And that goes to explain something of the, or demonstrate something of the state of mind of somebody who is that depressed. The thinking is completely altered, it's completely skewed. It doesn't make any sense on so many levels. And yet, inside your own head it really does seem to be the only rational decision to take. And you don't really want to take it, because none of us really, really wants to cease to exist, except you really honestly, truly feel that it is the right thing, and therefore you do want to do it. And therein lies a dichotomy that the brain struggles to cope with, and that makes the depression worse. Some of us suffer from depression and it is clearly a genetic thing. It can run in families. Some of us suffer from depression out of the blue. But in both situations it's often made worse by trying to square a circle that really ought not to be squared. Or trying to live in a situation which really is incredibly difficult and incredibly painful, but in which you think you have to carry on, you have to find a way of making this work. And the stress hormones get released into the brain and fill every inch of the brain with fight and flight chemicals, adrenaline, cortisols, all of these other things. And actually, that the function of the brain, the normal function of the brain, becomes damaged and altered, so that the brain is basically in a panic state almost all the time. And it sometimes is referred to after the event, as the person ends up with something called amygdala hijack. Basically, anything that is even mildly stressful, suddenly the amygdala, a very ancient and deep part of the brain, fires into action and produces a huge fight or flight response. And so you end up having panic attacks for the smallest things. And it can take an awful long time for that reaction to be trained back into normal behavior. So, I was in a marriage in which things were really, really difficult, incredibly painful for both of us, and in which I would see no way to actually resolve the issues, either with my wife or with her children who we were living with. And I knew I was letting them down, and I knew I was letting my own children down, who I didn't live with. I was letting myself down, and I was letting her down. But at the same time, I was being let down. And I just couldn't see how to make it all work. So, about Christmastime that particular year, I ended up having what I describe as a nervous breakdown. And psychiatrists will say that there's no such thing as a nervous breakdown, so, okay, some kind of existential crisis, some kind of moment where I simply couldn't make sense of anything. It really was just surreal. And I doubted every decision I was making, even just whether to have lunch, or is this the right thing to do, is this not the right thing to do. And I came to a point where I really was totally suicidal, and I'd actually planned how I was going to do it and where I was going to do it, and how to make sure that it wasn't going to be unsuccessful. That in itself was incredibly painful because I have a very strong desire to live, which largely came from when I broke my neck. And the recovery from that was painful and long and hard, and the physiotherapy and the ages, and ages, and ages it took to get back to, kind of, a fully functioning human being. And the night that that accident happened when my mum told me that it was unlikely I'd ever walk again. In fact, she told me that it would be unlikely that I'd survive that night because of the damage that I'd done to my spine. And I promised myself that whatever life would be, whether it was quadriplegic, or paraplegic, or whatever, that I would live it, that I would live it to the full. So decades later to find myself contemplating and planning my own suicide seemed incredibly difficult, incredibly weird for half of my brain to be looking at this situation, going what on earth are you doing? You promised yourself that you would do your best to live. And the other have of my brain, with equal conviction, going nope, this is the logical conclusion. This is how this situation gets better for everybody. And I won't go into the detail of what happened that day, but fundamentally, through a serendipitous phone call, I drew back from actually taking my own life, actually killing myself. And that phone call came, quite literally, only a couple of minutes before it would have been too late. And the person that made that phone call, to this day, doesn't know what a moment of perfect timing that phone call was. And so I ended up back at home. And the situation was awful, and the situation was getting worse. And I was struggling to make sense of anything. I was continuing to be incredibly angry and shouty at people, which really isn't the way I like to live my life. And one day there was a massive row in the house, really, really huge screaming match. And again, I don't want to go into the details, because this is a very public forum, but suddenly I realized that the only way I was gonna get better was to not be in that situation. I was off sick at the time, so I wasn't working. And I turned, I went upstairs, I packed a bag, and I walked out of that family home. And it was an incredibly difficult thing to do. But in that moment I had realized that I really wasn't going to be able to solve these problems within that environment, and that the damage it was doing to me simply meant that the only solution was to get out of that environment. I packed that bag, I got in my car, and I actually drove to the office. And I slept on my office floor for three or four days until I bumped into some friends on a Saturday morning. And they said I looked fairly terrible, and I just broke down and told them the situation. And they made me come home with them, and they gave me a bed. For many weeks they put me into their home and gave me that space. And my wife and I spent weeks and weeks in counseling and couples counseling, and trying to find the way forwards, trying to find a way of putting this relationship back together. And I wanted to, I truly, honestly wanted to. But every time we hit one or two particular subjects, it was obvious that there just wasn't going to be a common way forwards. And so I had to start coming to terms with the idea that the change that I had feared was necessary, the ending of that marriage, was actually going to happen, or needed to happen, and that that was the change. I tried to find all sorts of other ways of changing things. None of them came up with a solution that was going to work, either for us as a couple. But in that sense, and I know this is a selfish way of looking at it, but for me as a human being, and if it wasn't working for me as a human being, it really wasn't worth doing. And so I had to face the reality that that marriage was over, and make the plans for living a separate life, and going back to being single, and working out which way up life would be. So I made plans, I found myself somewhere else to live, found myself actually back at work remarkably quickly. Because now that my mind was not being torn apart by the challenges of home, even though work was very stressful, and the reality is I did leave that job not long afterwards, I was able to go back to work and do what I'd been doing. But one of the really difficult things to allow myself to realize was that, actually, that marriage had to end, that the only way forwards was to draw a line. And, you know, I carry the pain of that. Some tell me I should release it. And I should, I should go and sit down somewhere and scream and shout and be angry in the car where nobody can hear me and release the pain and anger that I carry from that. But over the intervening years, I've been able to build a life where I'm not trying to live with this massive, bizarre dichotomy in my head, with two things that are trying to be true that patently obviously aren't true. And I have been able to build a new marriage that is peaceful and calm and loving, and where there aren't constant rows, and where we support one another in a mature and loving way. It has taken an immense amount of work and self-realization to observe the things that are, that I needed to change. It's all very well saying this situation needs to change and blaming everybody else, but often we have to recognize that it's decisions that we make that lead us into these difficult and uncomfortable situations. And that situation is only ever going to change if we realize that the change is there. I know a guy who has been married, I think he's now in his fifth marriage. And to those of us looking in, it looks like he's marrying a cookie cutter of the same woman every time. And yet, it's blatantly obvious to all of us that that personality mix is wrong for him. And yet, he keeps perpetuating, in a way, the same error. He marries this particular personality type, almost identical in physical make-up. And, sure enough, within a few years the same problems appear and it all falls apart. And I think to some degree, without wanting to be judgmental because nobody can never know what's going on inside somebody else's marriage, the problems are of his own making because he hasn't spotted the pattern. And the pattern is he keeps making the same choice. And there is that saying, you know, if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got. So it is necessary when we make changes to escape from difficult situations that we have to look inside ourselves to work out what do we have to change of ourselves in order to not end up back in that difficult situation. So there we have it. That's a summary of a immense change that I made in my life a few years ago. It was phenomenally painful for everybody involved, and I acknowledge that. And I'm sorry for the part that I played in causing that pain. I recognize that it wasn't all my fault, and it very rarely is. There's usually two people in these kinds of things. I hope that's encouraged you. I hope that's given you some things to think about. And I hope that if you find this podcast helpful, any of the episodes, that you're able to share it with friends or family you think will also find it helpful, that you're able to subscribe and like, which will help other people to find the podcast. And if you'd like to, you can send me messages. Twitter @stuartlmorris, Instagram @stuartlmorris. Email [email protected] Really looking forward to the next episode which will be out on Wednesday morning, and talk to you soon. Thanks very much.

The Great Escape titles music was created by Darren Reddick

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