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Driven To Despair, But Finding The Reasons To Live

I remember seeing it so well. The fear. The shock. All unable to speak. Tears roll down their faces when they hear the truth. My colleagues, my friends, my brother. My mum. 
And it was all my fault.

And this is my story.

Normally this would be where people introduce themselves and tell an interesting fact about themselves. But what if you don't have anything good to say about yourself?

I constantly mess things up for people around me. I'm always making people go out of their way when something goes wrong. I'm forever letting those I love down. I am not a good person anymore.

I used to be, however. I used to be the life and soul of the party. That guy that people just wanted around. Hardly a hunk but could charm regardless. Everybody's shoulder to cry on and friend to laugh with.

I guess I was always headed here. I was always doomed to reach this day.

It’s impossible to pin-point where this all began. Maybe it was at school? Bullied for falling in love. Is the love I feel for another lad wrong compared any other guys for his girl? Maybe it was from college? Experimenting with everything that we could just to pass the time, did I destroy myself then?

Maybe it was after when my friends dispersed around the world and I stood still having only scraped through?

Maybe the feeling of unemployment for the first time since I was 14, that changed my life?

Maybe three deaths in six weeks was the clincher, but maybe it was all of these things? 

But I know when I started plummeting; it was the night I got the news an old friend of mine had taken his life.

You never know how you will react to news like that. I always imagined with dread how I would act - fall to the floor, silent. It didn't work out that way. I don't remember much of the 24 hours following that, but I know it ended with me breaking, screaming into my brother’s chest as he tried to offer me support. Then deciding to leave, off to drown my body in town. 

Over the next few months I tried to put my friends passing to the back of my mind and within six months, news of two other deaths reached me. But it was already too late. 

I was already ill.

At only 21, I had managed to drink myself into debt. How pathetic am I?! It makes the hurt go away, sometimes at least. If it didn't, the pain of my lit cigarette against my skin blocked it for me. 

Considering hide and seek was never my strongest skill (I was always hiding in the closet), I hid this self-loathing very well. And I had the perfect defence tactic... if someone is getting to close, push them away for good.

My way of protecting myself very nearly killed me. 

Fast forward another six months of isolation, anger and grief. I've planned every detail. I've secretly said my goodbyes. The letter is written. There's only one thing keeping me going now - that glorious feeling of the wind rushing past me as I fall from the bridge to me death.

I was alone. Nobody cared. My friends were bored of me and my misery and didn't want to know. I was a burden on my family. I owed so much money. I had no future. I had lost everything I cared about. There's only one thing I can do to help those I care about now. My death was the best gift I could give them. 

I don't remember a lot of that day at work. Something gave me away. I remember being in a room at work, alone with my boss. I remember her question so vividly...

"I need you to be honest with me. If you left this office now, would you try to take your life?"

Tired, vulnerable and broken, I nod.

I was left in the room alone while my mum received, quite possibly, the worst call of her life. She won't talk about that call. But although she was there within 20 minutes I couldn't help feeling even more pathetic. I had failed. I was still alive.

I don't remember the night ever being so long. I was desperate to steal my keys back and drive to the towering structure. The thought of that fall, that beautiful fall. Stolen from me, just like the world and its horrors had stolen my soul.

Sitting at the hospital. Two nurses and a student interrogating me. The anger I felt was more than I ever felt. How dare they use me as some kind of a course for some student to learn from? Is that all my life was now?! I'm determined now. They want to hear how I feel? Fine. I want to die. I want my pathetic shell to be broken all over and my body burned and thrown out in the trash. But there's something else... I hear her sobs. The amazing woman who has dedicated her whole life to me - she was breaking right next to me. This is it. This is the point where I have to choose. She already nearly lost me when I was born. Does she deserve this?

After their discussion outside, the three members of staff came back into the room with two others. 

"We have a bed in the mental health ward. We would like you to stay..." 

Squeezing her hand, I tell them in no uncertainty...

"No. I can't. I cannot leave my mum" 

My mum explains she needed a friend. A family friend, friends with our family for years, lent an ear. When she heard how badly I wanted to die, her heart broke too. I didn't expect this... my household is one thing but this?! 

Two days later, I'm sat at home. Messaging to my best friend in the world. I tell him the bare minimum I can - but I forget how well he knows me. Two hours later he is here, bringing the rest of our team with him. My four best friends are stood in front of me. They tell me they need me to be honest and tell them what's happened. I see in their eyes that I have to be honest now.

"I want to die."

As I explain they stand in shock. The girls with tears rolling down their cheeks, one lad looking winded, while my best made pulls me in for a hug. They stay with me tonight. Hours of talking, reminiscing, and for the first time in a long time, real, true, laughter.

Support keeps on coming, extended family and friends sharing their love, showing me I do have some kind of future if I choose to take it.

My boss, having been calling me daily, mentions that she will need tell my colleagues that I will be off work for a while. Knowing any workplace, the rumour mill is going to be in overdrive. But then, everything is in the open now. 

"Just tell them the truth, tell them I'm ill"

 I did not expect it. Messages from my team and further afield sending me their love and wishes. People I thought hated me are literally crying due to how ill I am. 

That was when I realised...

I'm not abandoned. I’m not hated. I'm still the same old me, that's who people see. I'm not a burden, my death is not what they want...

My family, friends and colleagues are standing with me. There's only one thing I need to do now.

I need to fight this illness. 

I need to survive.

Connor Sams

Between 2003 and 2013, 18,220 people with mental health problems took their own life in the UK. In 2016 alone, 5,668 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were male and 25% were female.
Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales. 
Depression is the predominant mental health problem worldwide, followed by anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
In 2013, depression was the second leading cause of years lived with a disability worldwide. In 26 countries, depression was the primary driver of disability.
None of us are alone with this. One in four people will struggle with their mental health this year. One person in fifteen has made a suicide attempt at some point in their life.

Here Connor speaks directly to you. "If you are struggling with anything, please speak up.

I know its hard but you can get through this.

If you know of someone who may be ill, or if you are experiencing any problems with your mental health, please talk to someone.

Help is out there. Break the silence.

Because Silence Can Kill..."

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. Talk to us any time you like, in your own way, about whatever’s getting to you.
  • You can contact Samaritans anytime, free from any phone on 116 123. Our number won't show up on your phone bill. Or you can email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch, where you can talk to one of our trained volunteers face to face.

Chinese New Year 2018: The Year of the Dog

By Jenna Outhwaite

We are a nation of dog lovers, so this year’s Chinese New Year will have a special resonance, especially on Friday night, which sparks the big annual celebrations in the Far East, and now nearer to home.

In Chinese astrology, each year is related to a Chinese zodiac animal according to the 12-year cycle. The Dog occupies the eleventh position in the Chinese zodiac, after the Rooster, and before the Pig.

 Dogs are renowned for their loyalty, they will not abandon their friends or family so it is little wonder those born in the Chinese zodiac’s Year of the Dog are considered fortunate because they are ideal for help, advice and just for being a really good friend.

However, if you are born between tomorrow (Friday, and February 4, 2019 things don’t look so great, but despite being naturally anxious and worried on the inside, they will crack on and not let anything get in te way once they have made their mind up about something.

The Chinese regard the next lunar cycle as unlucky for those born in 2006 and every previous 12 years (within the Chinese new year) are set for a challenging year.

These dogs need to avoid red this year, which is tough because the Chinese celebrate the new year by decorating with red paper and hand out money to children in red envelopes in order to ward off the evil spirit Nien.

If you want to impress Ruby or Martin at Laws Cottage, in Chelmondiston the give them the greeting xin nian (new year) kuai le (happy) in Mandarin, which is pronounced like: shin nee-an kwai le.

The Bristol Arms in Shotley traditionally hosts a Chinese New Year feast and 2018 is no different. To book your place click here or call 787200 

If you're born in a Dog year, the following are usually deemed lucky for you:

  • Lucky numbers: 3, 4, 9 and numbers containing them
  • Lucky colours: green, and purple
  • Lucky flowers: rose, cymbidium orchids
  • Lucky days: the 7th and 28th of every Chinese lunar month
  • Lucky directions: East, South, and Northeast
  • Lucky months: the 6th, 10th, and 12th Chinese lunar months

Unlucky Things for Dogs:

  • Unlucky colours: blue, white, gold
  • Unlucky numbers: 1, 6, and 7
  • Unlucky direction: Southeast
  • Unlucky months: the 5th and 8th Chinese lunar months

In Chinese element theory, each zodiac sign is associated with one of the five elements:

Type of Dog

Year of Birth

Characteristics

Wood

1934, 1994

Sincere, reliable, considerate, understanding and patient

Fire

1946, 2006

Intelligent, hardworking and sincere

Earth

1958, 2018

Communicative, serious and responsible in work

Gold

1910, 1970

Conservative, desirable, cautious and always ready to help others

Water

1922, 1982

Brave, self-centred, selfish and well-versed in dealing with financial issues.

When Callie Met Shazz

By Jenna Outhwaite

Who knew a dog could change a life so much?

Probably anyone reading this who owns a dog actually.

However, this dog in particular has changed someone’s life in more ways than you can imagine. Sharon Kennedy, who lives in Shotley, has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. In short it results in bones that break easily. 

After waiting patiently for two years, Sharon finally received Callie from Canine Partners. “She was definitely worth the wait,” according to Sharon. Callie will be three years old (in human years) in July.

Callie lives a happy life helping Sharon out with everyday things. She will answer the door and pick up anything Sharon may need, including the phone and Sharon’s shoes. She takes washing from the washing machine and puts it into the tumble dryer. When Sharon and Callie go walking, if Sharon were to drop something i.e. her keys, Callie will be on it straight away. Sharon feels more confident going out and about now she has Callie. “My life has never been better, Callie has changed my life,” said Sharon.

Callie was trained from the age of six weeks old up until the age of fifteen months which was when she was gifted to Sharon. She wears a jacket and a badge telling people not to stroke her. However, not everyone reads it and pets her which distracts her from doing a job. She is a friendly and social dog and loves attention, but she knows when to get her job done.

Sharon recommends that “anyone should have a dog just for their mental health” as she has been so much happier since Callie arrived.

Coming Soon...

Why Wherstead is Wherstead


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