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Christ like (1 Viewer)

Christ like

This book is dedicated

To the memory of my Dad
Love for my Family and True Friends
Respect for the Royal Priesthood, purveyors of the Spirit of Truth

by Damian John Paul Brown (First 21 pages)

Preface

It was only a short while after my Dad died that I began to gain the wisdom to understand the mildly prophetic sermons of Father Paul in my Parish of Christ the King and Saint Antony.

This particular Sunday, Father Paul stood on the left hand side of the altar, as I faced him, to put forward his intelligently thought out sermon, and I remember the simple line that satisfied my doubting mind. “We are all Christ like”, were his words. At first I was delighted by the freedom from suppression of a nagging illness that had affected my mind. I had read in a book when I first suffered from mental illness that schizophrenics often thought they were Jesus Christ. Let me explain that I am not schizophrenic, but I am diagnosed with manic depression, or bipolar disorder, and I have twice been in hospital because of this, but I thought that I was schizophrenic at times, which depressed me as they used to say there was no cure.

Manic depression is a physical illness of the brain resulting from the lack of certain naturally occurring chemicals that give you the feel good factor. The treatment that I receive prevents the chaos of being up one minute and down the next, and I will go as far as to say that the care I have received from my Consultant Psychiatrist and others has resulted in my life being enhanced and is making me a better person. But I will leave that for you to decide, as you read on.

I am writing this book for two reasons, one to help people who may suffer from mental illness, and two, to help those people with a lack of faith to gain a sense of True Faith and a belief and trust in God. Or maybe I would just like normal people to enjoy themselves and have a good laugh.

1

“I’m going to Confession.” I confessed to my Mum, hoping that she could tell me what time it was taking place. She didn’t know, so as it was getting close to midday, I set off for Church. My Mum had asked me if my girlfriend was going as well, and I had to tell her that she wasn’t. I had asked my girlfriend to go with me, but she had said “No. I haven’t done anything wrong.” But we had, we’d been shagging.

I walked the 300 or so yards to Church, at least thinking there would be a sign stating the time for Confession, but there wasn’t and the Church was locked. I went home and walked back about half an hour later, and again the Church was locked. Immediately the theological part of my mind thought I was being denied three times as St Peter had denied knowing Jesus, but when I walked back a third time I met the Priest just opening the Church door. I greeted him with “Hello Father”, and immediately started thinking that the whole point of the anonymity of Confession had been ruined, but I was determined to get things off my chest that Saturday and get on with enjoying my life again.

I went into the Church and crossed myself with Holy Water as I always did when I had been attending Church in former years. I allowed the Priest time to settle in the confessional box. I was feeling anxious and not able to think how to explain myself, and the things I had been doing that had brought me to such a serious decision to go to Confession after many years of not attending Church. There were no other people in the Church when it was time for me to enter the box.

My straight talking mind started to take over as I knelt in the small cramped box, and looked at the grill with the curtain behind it. I had been in this box many times as a child, and I started to feel more comfortable as I started my confession. “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been many years since my last confession”, then thinking back to the advice that had been given by an Irish Catholic friend of mine, who had said “Never tell a Priest about shagging!” I said, “I have committed many immoral acts and had immoral thoughts”, and knowing that the Priest could not really decipher anything from this, and give me counsel, I clutched for forgiveness by saying that I suffered from depression, which was true at the time, as I was very physically depressed.

The Priest just relieved all my fear by saying, “What would it take to relieve this depression?” and without stumbling to think of an answer, I just said, “To pick up on my hobbies and interests”. Which ended the confession, as the Priest just told me to read the text pinned up in the box, which I did without making neither head nor tail of it, and I walked out of the box a little confused but with a great sense of relief.

There was a middle aged man waiting to go to Confession, hanging off the end of a pew looking really anxious, on one knee, and I still wonder to this day what he had to confess, because he looked really seriously concerned. I just walked out of Church, not staying for Mass, as I was going to attend with my Mum and Dad on Sunday.

Sunday morning came and I went to Church, not walking with my Mum and Dad, as we all walked our separate ways to Mass, sitting together close to the back. When I walked into Church, the Priest who had heard my confession was there and I just greeted him with “Morning Father”, and he seemed surprised, but happy that I was attending mass. I don’t remember much from this mass as before I was receiving the correct medication for my condition, my memory was very weak, but I did learn that the Priest was named Father Paul.

Although I felt better with attending mass, and when I was younger, attending mass had helped to cure a bout of depression when I had to leave Polytechnic, my depression got worse and I had to seek medical help.

I remember that it was a Friday afternoon when I went to the Health Centre to see my Family GP who knew my history very well, and a man who I could talk to and explain my concerns to. To be frank and honest, I was not getting a proper erection and was not enjoying sex like I used to, but when I got to the Doctor’s reception I was told it was not my normal Doctor on duty. This peeved me a little, but I waited for my turn, thinking that I could get some medication to bolster me up.

My turn came and I walked into the surgery. Shock, Horror! It was a lady Doctor. I immediately presumed, rightly or wrongly, that she wouldn’t understand my man’s problem, so I got uptight and wanting to talk to a man, I said, “I’m depressed and I want to see a Psychiatrist.” The Doctor detected my urgency and said “Well you can’t see a Psychiatrist now, it’s after 5, they are off duty”, which I found a little patronising. But the lady Doctor just got her sales head on and said, “Try these, they are new on the market”, as she wrote out a prescription, and I saw her write a quantity of 60 tablets that I hadn’t heard of, and in my state of depression and frustration I honestly thought of taking an overdose of the tablets and solving all my problems in one. The Doctor must have detected my mood, as she then scrubbed the prescription, looked at my notes, and prescribed me 3 days of a medication that I had been on before. That was a lucky twist.

Once I got my prescription from the Chemist I was feeling better, as I knew they would at least help me sleep better, and my girlfriend and I had planned to play badminton together. I took my medication that evening, and another day, and it soon came time to play badminton at the local community centre. I did enjoy the game of badminton, and I remember the walk back home was enjoyable and my girlfriend and I were talking about things like we used to, rather than me just being quiet and disinterested.

For some reason, I stopped taking my tablets that I had been prescribed, it was probably that I felt better and I had been bolstered up both physically and mentally and was feeling alright and more confident. I was expecting a visit from the Consultant Psychiatrist who I had seen before, whom I had confidence in as he had treated me well.

It was a weekday afternoon, and I was sat in the living room with my Mum and Dad, which was unusual as I was usually working, running my Internet business. My Mum detected something was wrong and asked “Are you alright?” and before I could say “Yes”, there was a knock at the door. My Dad answered the door and in walked my Consultant Psychiatrist. At first, I was quite glad to see him, but he was concerned that it was about 7 years since I had seen him. I needed to get something off my chest that I felt guilty about and I asked my Mum and Dad to leave me alone with the Doctor as I didn’t want to upset my Dad by what I was about to reveal.

My Mum and Dad vacated the room and I confessed that I had taken some amphetamine drug about 6 years ago, but the Psychiatrist just said, “What’s happening in your life now?” I felt a bit dejected by this as he usually would pep me up and give me good advice. He obviously detected my despair and he asked me “Do you want to go into hospital?” This shocked me, as I didn’t think I was coming across so badly, and I couldn’t say yes or no. I felt like just curling up in a ball and my hands just went behind my neck in fear, looking for protection from the awful situation I was in. The Psychiatrist just made the decision to put me in hospital and he asked me where the phone was. I was so scared of going into hospital that I couldn’t answer him, and he asked again. I still did not answer, and I didn’t comprehend the seriousness of the situation, and to my complete surprise, the formerly mild mannered Psychiatrist of mine, ran across the room, offering me out, saying “Come on then!”

This was a crazy situation, I was scared of going into hospital, not the physical prowess of the Doctor, and I wasn’t going to start a fight with my Mum and Dad being in the next room, let alone bringing violence into my loving home. Luckily the Doctor came to his senses and went to the door, going into the hallway where he found the phone. I stood up and watched as he phoned the hospital to book a bed. Then he just said to my Mum and Dad, “His life’s a mess, he can’t even make decisions”, and rushed out of the house.

The next day I received a phone call, the Psychiatrist just said to me in a friendly way, “Damian, pack your bags, you’re going in hospital.” as if it was a holiday, and he told me someone would pick me up in the afternoon. His manner kind of reassured me, so I packed some clothes and other stuff in my sports bag and thought maybe it was for the best.

When the driver came, my feelings had changed and I refused to go with him, and so he had to ring the Psychiatrist who made me realise that it was best to receive some proper treatment and I quite reluctantly went with the driver and my Dad to the hospital.

I don’t know to this day where the hospital was, but it was in the middle of the country somewhere and it took us about an hour to get there. I would have enjoyed the ride, apart from the fact that I was going into an unknown entity. When we got to the hospital, a nurse who was very bright and bubbly greeted me, and I cheered up a little and started to think that it may not be so bad.

I would describe the hospital as posh and the people there were posh and it may have been a private hospital, and when I was shown to my room I found it to have an en-suite shower room.

My Dad stayed with me for a while, and then it was time for him to go, and my heart sank when we said, “See you” to each other, as I didn’t know when I would see him again. I was left alone in my room and all I could think of was escaping, looking out
of the window, being prepared to run across the fields to freedom.

Eventually, I left my room to try and speak to someone and I turned a corner to find my Psychiatrist sat in an office with a big inner window, and when he saw me he saw that I was anxious and he stood up and followed me to my room. He asked me to sit on my bed, as I was agitated and I was expecting some kind of reassurance from him, but he just tried to comfort me by saying I had a nice room with a shower.

He asked me a few questions and said that there would be another doctor to see me, as he wanted a second opinion. I was introduced to a lady Psychiatrist who was very good looking, and in any other situation I would have liked to talk to her, but I was very reserved. I was left alone with her and she gave me a diagnosis and a name for a condition that was about 4 words long, and then she gave me a test. She said to look straightforward and to tell her when her finger came into view. I wondered what she was trying to prove, and I laugh now at her sly trick. First I saw her finger from the top, then the left, then the right and then it came from underneath, and yes, she was just giving me the finger in a clever way, and that hospital thought I was taking the mickey, when they understood nothing about manic depression.

Teatime came around, and I was shown to the dining room where I saw the other patients who were quiet and quite obviously ill. I chose a meal from a long table and at least the food was good, but as I was enjoying my meal, a male nurse just came with the quip that someone was taking the mickey, which may not have been directed at me, but I was feeling quite strange and paranoid. As I started to feel better with the food, some laughter came to my attention from the other side of the dining room. I looked across and there were about 6 people at a table being really sociable to each other, I wasn’t sure whether they were drinking wine or not, but to this day I wonder whether they were cured patients or part of some review board that hospitals have in place and they were all well. It just made me realise how ill I had become.

When I had finished my salad and whatever it was, the male nurse who made the quip invited me to select a sweet which I really enjoyed and I had such a hunger from not eating properly in previous days that I could have stayed in that dining room with those happy, sociable people until I was as happy and as outgoing as them.

I had to leave the dining room when I finished my sweet as I didn’t have the gall to ask for another, and I returned to my room. I was looking forward to bedtime and wondering how long I would be in hospital for, but I didn’t feel very well at all. I look back on it now as if it was some adventure, but there is a lesson to be learnt.

That evening about 5 different nurses came to my room and introduced themselves to me, which I found quite amusing as I am one for remembering faces but not names and more often than not I forget a name as soon as I am told it. But the nurses had no miracle cure or any skills in counselling an ill manic-depressive.

There was a phone in the room, yes it was really like a hotel, and I got a phone call saying it was my girlfriend and did I want to talk to her. Of course I spoke to her, and she was quite shocked that I had been admitted to hospital as she said I had been all right when we had played badminton the previous evening. She told me later that she had been crying on the phone but I hadn’t detected this because I was so ill and unaware.

I was given some medication at about 10 O’clock and I got a good night’s sleep, thinking that I would get better in a week or so in a comparatively stress-free environment. But next day, when I had conditioned my mind to getting better in this hotel like hospital, I was told I was being transferred to the hospital that was local to my home. I just accepted this and was transferred that day.

“This place is a shitehole”, said the nurse who was dealing with my admission to the local hospital. I wondered what he meant by it, and whether he knew what the other hospital was like. He told me that he would be my nurse who was responsible for me, and he did try to talk to me. I was just sitting at a table and he came up to me and asked me how you program computers, as that is my trade. I wondered why he asked me this, and I couldn’t give him a proper answer as I was ill and it is hard to explain how to program a computer without knowing a person’s experience of computers, but I think he was looking for an alternative career to Psychiatric Nursing, and I gained a little bit of self respect as I knew how lucky I was to possess such a skill, even though I had no interest at the time in creating a computer program. When you create a computer program, you get a real buzz when it works properly.

I mentioned to this nurse that I needed some extra medication to what I was being given, and I was given a sister drug to my normal medication that had helped me recover previously. In the end, this new medication made me feel worse rather than better. Psychiatry is often experimental in finding the right medication for specific patients. What works for one person may not work for another.

The ward I was on was a mixed ward, and I did not settle in well at all. Apart from the fact that I didn’t feel like talking to others, none of the other patients were sociable towards me. There was a smoking room in one corner of the ward and when I sat near to this area when I was watching television, there was often laughter and friendly conversation going on, and I thought it would be good to join in, but being a non-smoker and having little confidence, I never entered the room and introduced myself.

For about 3 days I didn’t converse with any of the other patients, and this was getting me down, so one morning, as I lay awake in bed I decided to introduce myself to anyone I met on the ward that morning. I went over in my mind what I would say and it was like preparing a public speech, which had always made me nervous when asked to do so at school, and I knew I would come across as kind of false, but it was a hurdle I had to overcome.

When I got up, I had my breakfast of cereal, which I never seemed to enjoy, and then walked towards the smoking room to try and find a friendly person. When I got there, there was one patient just walking out of the room, a lad who would often go into the smoking room to cadge a cigarette, and he slept in the same part of the ward as me, and so I thought it would be good just to introduce myself.

I said something like; “I have been quiet since I have been here. I’m Damian, what is your name?” The lad answered with his name, and then just walked past me. I immediately knew that it was not going to be easy for me to fit in and I just went to sit down and watch television in my usual place.

In the afternoon I went to my bed, not being able to settle and I was pacing about next to my bed, hidden from view by a curtain. The lad I had introduced myself to was lying on his bed, and another patient walked into the room. He was a really big bloke and he started talking to the other lad. I thought about trying to join in the conversation, but before I drew up the courage to speak, the lad just said, “He’s a queer.” and I assumed he was pointing to me, which he was. The big bloke just said, “Are you going to batter him?” I suddenly got very paranoid and imagined myself getting a queer bashing when I was completely heterosexual and just depressed. I expected the lad to come running through my curtain to beat me up, and I was not in the mood for a fight, but he just answered “No”, to the big bloke, which relieved me, but I felt offended at being called a queer, and I was not well enough to correct him. I was actually quite scared of the big bloke turning on me, and so I just waited behind my curtain until they went away. This was doing my confidence and health no good at all, I could do without it, amongst my other problems, I felt helpless and wondered whether I would ever get better, as being in hospital was really depressing me.

The next thing I remember was waiting for the ward round on Friday morning, which was making me very anxious, I had lost confidence in my Psychiatrist and I was told later that I was on 10 minute watch for my own safety. Friday morning came around, and I was asked into a room for consultation. I walked into the room expecting just to see my Psychiatrist, but to my horror, there were 3 Doctors present. I immediately became paranoid, and thought I was going to be committed permanently. My Consultant Psychiatrist asked me to sit down and he detected my paranoia, and so he asked me to close my eyes and open them and say the first thing that came into my mind. When my eyes were closed I was thinking “I’m gay”, but I knew this was not really true and I had been affected by the relationship with my girlfriend turning sour, and so when I opened my eyes and spoke, I just automatically said, quite hastily, “It’s all financial.” which was true as I was in a lot of debt and had no proper way of paying it off, but when I said this, one of the Doctors just looked at me with paranoia in his eyes, which frightened me even more. My Consultant took control of the situation by asking me simple factual questions that I knew the answers to, and he asked me to make a list of my debts for the next ward round.

I was relieved to walk out of the room, but I started to worry about the debt I was in, and how stressful it would be compiling a list and facing my problem head on. I managed to compile a list throughout the following week and on the Thursday night I explained to my main nurse that I was really worried about the Friday morning ward round, and he said that he would come in with me, which alleviated some of my anxiety. The ward round came, and my nurse was nowhere to be seen, but another nurse came to me and said he would come in to support me. As I was waiting, I was sat across from this nurse and I showed him my list of debts, and as I did this I was sweating profusely due to both stress and the side effects of the new medication I was on and I knew in my heart of hearts that I would never be happy again, or so I thought. It is better to be lonely on your own than lonely with someone else.

I can hardly remember the rest of the Friday morning ward rounds and how I was being assessed, but I did get better with time and a lot of patience. The nurse who had supported me in the ward round above became easy to talk to and one day, soon after that ward round, we went for a walk and enjoyed a coffee together at the main hospital shop, where I was having an intelligent conversation with him and asking him what had brought him into his vocation as a Psychiatric Nurse. My health began to improve from then on but my depressive state was like a black cloud hanging over me all the time.

Whilst in hospital, meal times were really the only things to look forward to, but it was difficult sitting at a table, not talking, when sometimes others in the room were having conversations. I often felt very left out and isolated even though some of the nurses were good in inviting me to play board games.

What I found to be the worst part of the day, was when a nurse asked me to fill in my food order for the next day, this action just signified that you would be in hospital for another day, when you were always waiting in hope for news of your release.

Supper was the best mealtime of all; the nurses would make loads of toast and bring it out on a big tray with packets of jam. To be honest, this I found was the best time for being sociable amongst fellow patients, it helped when someone poured a cup of coffee for you and asked how many sugars you took, and there was a certain camaraderie at suppertime.

A few weeks into my stay in hospital, I found myself playing cards with other patients before suppertime, and immediately we were gambling coppers to make it more interesting, and I remember one of the female nurses humouring us by saying, “I hope you’re not gambling there!” It was through participating in this that I started to feel myself again and I began to enjoy myself a little.

Soon after, I discovered from one of the patients that there was a pool table in a room near the Occupation Health area of the hospital, and that day, 3 of us went to have a game, and it was a relief to be off the ward for a while, even though I was not supposed to go off the ward without seeking permission first. I was feeling happier and it was a bit like being down the pub, but without the beer and the barmaid. I was looking forward to being able to play pool during my stay, and I was in the frame of mind that I wouldn’t be in hospital much longer and was on my way to a full recovery.

The next day, after the first day of playing pool, a nurse told me that I was being transferred to another ward, and I asked if this was because I had been playing pool without permission, but I was told that was not the reason. Two of the older female nurses on the ward who had played board games with me, showed utter dismay when they heard the news, which made me feel good that they would miss me and they knew I was getting better, but I was quite despondent as I had become very hopeful about my recovery on the original ward that I was on.

Almost immediately, I had to go and pack my bag to move to the new ward, and as I did this, hope changed to despair. I could think of nothing positive in being moved. I had started to function properly again and I thought the Doctors were making a mistake. There was nothing I could do about the situation and I had to prepare myself for a new environment and to get to know strangers again.

When I was on the original ward, members of my family would visit almost every day. I was always glad to see them, and the visit I now remember most was when my Dad visited me by himself. I don’t know how he had got there, whether he had walked or got the bus, but when he walked in I was sat at a dining table by myself feeling quite good, and when I saw him I was pleased that my Dad had made the effort to come and see how I was doing. He just looked at me, kind of pointed to me, and smiled. I smiled back at him and warmth came to my heart. He came and sat next to me, and we chatted a little. My Dad and I never had great conversations with each other, he was always quiet and unassuming at home, but as we sat there and watched a bit of television, I looked at him in a quiet moment and I saw the happiness in his eyes and felt that he was just glad to be with me, as I was glad he was there. For those few beautiful moments, love and respect were all that mattered to me.

My girlfriend visited every now and again, and we went for walks in the hospital grounds. Most nights she would ring me, but the relationship was forever failing as we were friends, but I wasn’t in love with her and I doubt she was ever in love with me. We were unofficially engaged, as I had asked her to marry me when we had been to one of her cousins’ wedding receptions, but I only thought I loved her and no doubt this was the cause of most of my illness.

I arrived on the new ward, and surprisingly, I was given a room of my own with an en-suite shower and toilet room. A lady patient who had been on my original ward was moved from the room to make way for me. When she moved out and I moved in, I discovered a pair of her knickers still in the room. Her husband happened to be visiting her at the time and I went onto the ward looking for her to tell her, but when I saw her husband I just said, “Before you get suspicious, there’s a pair of your wife’s knickers in my room.” He laughed at this, and for a few fleeting moments I had regained my sense of humour and I felt a considerable improvement.

The head nurse on the ward had told me to introduce myself on the ward, and when I did, I got no response from the other patients, which had brought me down again. I was soon told that you were placed on this ward ready for your release, so the move wasn’t all that bad. On the original ward I had had no problem with getting a good night’s sleep, but that first night I got hardly any sleep at all, as it was the Friday morning ward round the next day and I still felt anxious about them. After breakfast and medication, I was dreading the ward round and I waited in the corridor next to the consulting room hoping to get it over with quickly. There was no sign of my Consultant Psychiatrist and I was called into the consulting room to find just two Doctors there. The first question they asked me was whether I had had a good sleep and felt refreshed. I just told them I had, but really I had been paranoid all night as I know that when I don’t sleep I get very ill, and what made it worse was that the nurses were checking on me every hour or so to see if I was asleep, and I had just led there pretending to be asleep.

This went on for about 2 weeks, not much sleep and relapsing into feelings of paranoia and becoming psychotic and nervous. I thought I would never get better again. The ward rounds were absolute hell. All I did all day was stare at the television and sat there hoping that none of the nurses would detect my degree of paranoia and pull me up on it. But eventually, I was given leave to go home at weekends. This was a great boost, but yet I spent the time with my girlfriend, when it would have been better to seek out old friends. The worst part was when Sunday night came around and I would be dreading going back to hospital.

During all the time that I was first in hospital, I could not recall when I had last laughed or even just chuckled. The patients on this ward talked to each other more frequently and there was sometimes laughter, but I was so ill that I found it annoying rather than infectious.

During all my time in hospital, I never gave up my basic faith, and I continued to pray nightly and also in the morning, but I know now that I was praying wrongly, either for the wrong people or with an insincere heart. Nowadays, I only pray at night and I attend Church.

It was very difficult to be sociable on the ward, there is not a lot to talk about when you are stuck in hospital, but I did manage to talk to one lady patient who I saw was embroidering a picture of Jesus on some cloth. I assumed that she was a Catholic but I wasn’t sure and I didn’t ask her if she was, but she told me that she was a nurse in a hospital for patients with a greater degree of mental illness than us. This just made me realise how mental illness could affect anyone, not just the impoverished and drug or alcohol abusers.

I knew I was getting better when I didn’t mind so much about filling in the food order for the next day. There were some very stressful ward rounds, especially when my Mum and Dad were asked to attend with me, but I know now that this was because I was being considered for release. The consulting room was getting more packed with Doctors and nurses and it makes me laugh now that I gained confidence in speaking to an audience. On my last ward round there were about 4 nurses and 3 Doctors present and I left the room a bit disconcerted that I would be in for at least another week when my confidence and health were good. Dinner was being served as I left the consulting room and I sat down to eat my meal. I was halfway through it when a male nurse came to my table. He just told me that my Doctor said I was free to go, and without finishing my meal, I almost up and left because I was so relieved and happy. The nurse told me to finish my meal, and I had to wait for my medication, so I really enjoyed the rest of my meal. As soon as I could, I rung home and told my Mum the good news, but she already knew as the hospital had rung her. I was really cheerful on the phone and my Mum commented that I sounded a lot better.

It took ages for my medication to come and I spent my last hours in hospital gambling away all the little money that I had on me, over games of draughts with another patient who had been on the original ward with me. This patient had once asked me the question “How do you get out of here?” and I know he did get out as he was featured on the front page of the local paper with other members of a community centre, smiling, and I was happy for him.

2

I was glad to be released from hospital, but I would still be involved with the mental health services as an outpatient, and of course I was to continue to take medication, which depressed me. Also, I still had over £10,000 worth of debt to pay off and I had to sign on the sick with my GP, who gave me sick notes for 12 weeks at a time. This used to dishearten me, as I wanted to continue with my Internet business, as I had been really happy designing websites before I had become depressed, but starting a business is not easy when you have no capital or cash flow.

I was all right for a few weeks, anything was better than being stuck in hospital, but I was still with the same girlfriend, as I was reluctant to let go, being at an age when I thought it would be difficult to find someone else. I had completely lost touch with my true friends, and was reluctant to seek them out.

I decided it was about time I got a job, and I applied for a job in telesales in a town about 30 miles away. On the day of the interview I purposely missed taking one sort of tablet as I had read the leaflet that came with them and I had decided they were doing more bad than good, the side effects were quite horrific. Firstly I had an interview with the boss and his personal assistant. I was quite confident and the interview went well. I was given the task of selling a batch of pens to the boss who was pretending to be a newsagent, and I surprised myself with the ease that I took him in and closed the sale, but after he agreed to buy, I just clammed up and didn’t say anything, which I put down to not taking my proper medication, and the two of them just looked at me.

For the next part of the interview, the boss showed me to a room full of about 10 telesales workers and sat me on a settee, saying to observe and feel free to ask any questions of the workers, and he left me sat there. I listened to their pitches for a while and thought what a good job it seemed, so I gained the confidence to have a wander around the room and I spoke to a few of them as they worked, quite enjoying myself.

The boss came back and showed me around the rest of the building and I left the offices feeling quite confident, but I knew I hadn’t come across at all well in the initial interview, and so I didn’t think I would get the job.

The train station was just next to the offices and I looked forward to getting home and thinking that perhaps I would soon have some income to help pay off my debts. I got on the platform and I suddenly had a mood swing and was honestly thinking of throwing myself in front of the train when it arrived. Fortunately, I stepped onto the train when it arrived, but I was anxious throughout the journey, and as you normally enjoy the scenery on a train journey, I just went into a spiral of depression, feeling all alone in the world.

A couple of days later, I got a phone call from the boss and he invited me back for a second interview. I attended the second interview and he explained to me that they had noticed my clamming up in the interview, but the workers had said that I was good and would fit in with them, and so I got the job. Now I had something to look forward to and the salary was good enough for me to pay off my debts with an Individual Voluntary Arrangement instead of me going bankrupt which I didn’t believe in and I had been worried about.

The job was quite enjoyable, being a new line to me, and I got a cheer, like everyone else, when I got my first sale. It was for the least size ad of £150, and I was outdone a day later by a bloke who started with me who got a £1500 first sale, and his cheer was louder with a sound round of applause. I had spent my lunchtimes with this bloke; he was older than me, grey haired, and married. He asked me about my girlfriend, and asked if I saw her every day. I told him that I did see her every day, and this was true, and it made me think that I should cement the engagement. I was putting everything down to debt and I thought that I had been unfair to my girlfriend and I was forever looking in shop windows to buy her a present.

I knew I couldn’t be extravagant in choosing a suitable gift as I was using the money I earned to pay off my debts. I walked past a small jewellers shop in my hometown and studied the diamond rings there. I started to get caught up in a romance, but it was a false romance, and I didn’t heed my conscience. I decided on a ring.

The next day I just walked into the shop and asked for the ring in the window at a certain price. The lady in the shop showed me the ring, it was the smallest stone in the display, but I knew that wouldn’t matter. The lady wished me good luck, but I already knew the answer from before, and my girlfriend, 11 years my junior, was still enjoying the relationship. I saw my girlfriend that night, and suggested that we went for a meal at a nice town centre restaurant. It was one I knew from my sisters dining there and them talking about it, knowing it to have a friendly atmosphere. I rang the restaurant and booked a table for two for the next night.

My girlfriend had bought me a nice ring the previous Christmas; I had bought her a gold chain. They weren’t surprises as we had each chosen them from jewellery shops. I thought the engagement ring would be a nice surprise for her.

We didn’t really go out much; we had been to the cinema a couple of times whilst I had been home from hospital at weekends. I can remember going to see Titanic and not following the plot at all, as I was still quite ill and confused, with a short concentration span, that I put down to the nasty tablets. I have since watched Titanic on television and I followed it beautifully and really enjoyed it whilst by myself in my current bachelor pad, where I write this. The second time we went to the cinema I remember commenting that I was getting better as I followed and enjoyed the film more, although I can’t remember which film it was now.

So, this falsely romantic night at the popular restaurant, we were shown to our table, and I was glad that we were seated in quite an inconspicuous position. I ordered a coke, as I was not allowed alcohol, and my girlfriend in her kind way, ordered the same. Already, I was feeling the distance between us, as my girlfriend talked, I was not following her conversation and I was quiet. I was not nervous, I was slightly depressed and my conscience was pleading with me to let go and not go through with it. We each ordered a meal, and as I enjoyed the food, my mood lifted and I brushed aside the thought of an unhappy relationship and I even thought about us being able to celebrate together in a bar afterwards.

We finished our main course and I thought to order a sweet, and to propose whilst we waited. The waiter came over and took our sweet order and left us alone together. I was not nervous of being rejected, I was more wondering what I was getting myself into and whether it could get better when my mind was not right about it, and I felt nothing in my heart.

I put my hand into the pocket of my jacket that was hung on the back of my chair, and I felt the gift-wrap gold box. I presented it on the table; I was not prepared to go down on one knee so I slid the gold package across the table. I urged my girlfriend to open the present, and she took out the ring box from the gold wrap. She opened the box slowly and saw the ring. We were not looking into each other’s eyes, but I just asked her the question and she said “yes”, and I was regretting it immediately, but I thought maybe, just maybe, we could rekindle the relationship like we had it when we started out together, a full 2 years back.

I relaxed a little, and we received and ate our sweets. My fiancée was still talking and I wasn’t listening. At the start, I had always been the talker, now I was struck dumb, as if there was no life in me. I was relieved when we got the bill and I paid and the waiter gave me some respect by calling me Sir, as if he had seen my true romance, which only I knew was false.

We went to a bar in town and I got a coke again, whilst my fiancée ordered a half pint of lager and went to the toilet. I sat down at a place where we had sat many moons ago, when I had remembered us playing the quiz machine together and having a laugh. When my fiancée got back from the ladies room, she looked at me and immediately said, “What’s wrong?” I just answered her with “Just being in a pub and not drinking”. She understood this lie to be true and sat next to me. It was then I knew that we were doomed and I knew my lie would hurt me mentally more than it would hurt her personally.

Next day at work, I was now in a room of more experienced salespeople, I went doggedly about my work and the tone of my voice was not bright and believable and so I was not getting any success in sales or courtesy from potential customers. The salesman sat next to me, an older man with pictures of his Grandchildren on his desk, asked that poignant question “Are you alright?”
I answered, “I got engaged at the weekend”

Obviously, he detected that I was unhappy, and I know he felt for me as a workmate does. Morale is of great importance in a salesroom, and he went to speak with another salesman and they walked away from me to talk. I just tried to get the spark back in my voice, but my mind was wandering and wondering and realising.

When the two salesmen sat back down, the indirect pep talk started. The good worker square to me just got into his pitch, but the two Man United fans behind me started their banter. I hadn’t really talked much to my workmates, as in telesales you spend all day talking on the telephone, and during your break, you give your mouth a rest and drink coffee, sit back and relax.

3

Next day, as I had been moody all the previous day, I took a football programme into work that had been signed by Man United stars of the 70s. It was a Leeds United versus Man United programme and had the famous name autographs of such stars as Steve Coppell, Martin Buchan, the Greenough brothers and Alex Stepney. I thought I would be able to start chatting about football, one of my favourite topics. When I had been at Polytechnic, one of my friends was a Man City fan, and we used to talk for hours on end about football. This had been when I was well and confident, but on showing my two workmates the programme, I don’t even remember whether I told them I was a Blackburn Rovers fan. They weren’t greatly impressed by the programme but suggested I showed it to the boss as he was a Man United fan, but I would have found this daunting in the state of health I was in. So I found my way of breaking the ice and fitting in better with my workmates did not work, but I see that now, I was worrying too much of what people thought of me.

Things did get better at work as I brought some new enterprise to the company. We were selling business magazine advertising, and I suggested we did a special feature on the Internet and I set about signing up Internet companies at £75 per ad. I was going great guns and as you made a sale, you had to mark it up on a board, and I was slightly embarrassed and nervous when I had to write on the board. I would love the opportunity to do the same now, and also I would enjoy collecting the drink prize every time you got a sale. During this good run of sales, the boss looked at the board and boosted my confidence by pronouncing “Look at Damian, ‘Once I’ve sold 1, I’ve sold 1000’ – I’ll remember that famous statement!” as I had said this with confidence in my interview and it is a quite true statement.

A couple of weeks later, after I had finished the Internet promotion, I was called into the boss’s office as the day was ending. He was sat there with his Personal Assistant and he didn’t beat about the bush. He told me my sales weren’t good enough compared to what they had been and just said he would have to let me go. I wasn’t really upset as it was a dogged job at times, and I just walked out of the building there and then. I have checked if the company still exists on the Internet, and I found no trace of it, which is a shame as it had a really good company name.

This brought my finances to a head; I would have to find some work to keep up the payments for my Individual Voluntary Arrangement. I started to lapse on my payments and I was called in by the accounting company who had set it up and my weekly payments were increased to make up for times when I hadn’t paid. It was about this time that my relationship with my fiancée came to a head and we stopped seeing each other, apart from when either of us tried to rekindle the relationship in our desolation. It was sad, when she came to me, I rejected her and when I went to her, she rejected me. We weren’t playing some silly game, it was very serious. I can’t remember so much, but one time she came round to my home, having been thrown out of her own home, as she often had been, and I got so frustrated with her that I punched the hallway wall. Another time, I punched myself in the face and it swelled up like I had been in a fight. But then again I had often tried to get in touch with her at work. We just weren’t meant to be together, and I suppose it is a great relief to both of us that we no longer are.
Even though I was constantly ill, I was still on the same nasty tablets, I felt a responsibility to pay off my debts and I registered with a job agency. Soon after registering, I got a job in a meat packing factory. Again, I found it difficult to make friends through lack of confidence. The work was monotonous but varied as you were moved from machine to machine, but it had nothing like the freedom I have got used to being self employed.

No doubt, my state of health was not good for the rest of my family. I was still living with my Mum and Dad. I appreciate how kind and loving they were with the understanding they gave me, but I was a grown man and my Dad was medically retired and he was also getting ill, not in a depressive way, but he had hardening of the arteries and couldn’t walk far, and he had a mild form of epilepsy and was on many different tablets. His health was deteriorating and a Consultant was called in and he was given a change in medication.

The meat packing job I had was a part time night shift and my Dad would always wait up for me coming home. I walked in one night, and I admit to have been feeling better in myself, but when I saw my Dad, he was just going to bed, I was quite shocked. He was walking into the kitchen to take his tablets and his whole body was shaking. We usually just said “Night” to each other, but this night my Dad said “I’m just going in the bathroom, I’ll be 5 minutes”, and he seemed not to be shaking after he had taken his tablets, so I went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.

I was stood in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil and all of a sudden I heard a loud bang and I immediately presumed my Dad had fallen in the bathroom. I ran upstairs and tried to open the bathroom door, but my Dad was led against the door making horrible grunting sounds with each breath. My heart started to race as I called out “Dad”, trying to waken him, but I got no response. I called my Mum and explained what was happening, and I was calling out “Dad” desperately. I asked my Mum to try and rouse him, but he was out and still making deep grunting noises. I was getting scared but I managed to think to call the ambulance. I was really panicking on the phone; I remember the lady was asking me questions that seemed irrelevant at the time.

About 5 minutes later, a couple of paramedics arrived at our home; I have hardly been so relieved to see someone. They went to work immediately, and managed to barge the bathroom door open. I was walking around helpless, and one of my sisters arrived as my Mum had rung her. I went in my bedroom and sat on my bed and listened to what was going on in the bathroom. I heard that my Dad was coming out of the bathroom and as this kind of thing had happened on a few occasions I thought they would just be taking him to hospital to check him out. I walked onto the landing and I saw my Dad kind of scrunched up in a light wheelchair with an oxygen mask on his face. I knew it was serious now, and I suppose seeing the greatest man I have ever met and known in such a feeble state sent me into shock.

My Mum and sister went to the hospital with my Dad in the ambulance whilst I stayed at home. When it had happened before and I had been at hospital with him, my Dad would always come round at hospital and say “Sorry!” so I just thought he would be his usual humble self in the morning, when I was due at work.

I started work at 6am the next day, after not much sleep and it was at about 8am that I got a message from the foreman to ring home. I knew why straight away, I had been on edge all morning. My Mum answered the phone and just told me “Your Dad has died. Come home”. I told the foreman the bad news and asked to be able to go home. I got changed out of my overalls and went and waited outside work for my sister to pick me up. I was stunned and I wasn’t emotional as depression takes away your human emotion, as most people know it is sometimes good to cry.

Two of my sisters arrived in a car and I just asked what time my Dad died and they said at about 5am. I was proud of these two sisters being so resilient as they were chatting to each other and confessing to being alcoholic to each other, whilst I was quiet sat in the back just wondering. Don’t think that these 2 sisters are alcoholic, they drink 1, maybe 2 cans some nights of the week and in my grief I was thinking how much more I had abused alcohol in my life compared to all of my 6 sisters.

A sad poignant song came on the radio and I kind of became happy as tears welled in my eyes, I was emotional, only slightly, but I felt human again. My sisters were just chatting away and I was looking forward to coming home knowing most of my close family would be there. We got home and I went straight to the living room without taking my jacket off to see how my Mum was. She just looked at me and said, “Make yourself a cup of tea”, and for once in my life I did as I was told.

My Dad died on January 12, 1999, 4 days before my 31st birthday and over the next few days I was to learn the true beauty and romance of being a Roman Catholic. You may not believe that what I describe in the future is true, but please forgive any ignorance. After I had drunk my cup of tea, I started to think about the funeral and then, I don’t know why; I decided to ring my ex to tell her the news. I rang her at work and when I said, “My Dad has died.” she just said “You’re Joking!”
“No”, I said, and then I asked her to attend the funeral with me, and she said “No” and that she couldn’t get time off work. I just accepted this and it kind of finalised the ending of the relationship.

The next day I remember was my Birthday. The living room had already been taken over by sympathy cards and so when I opened my birthday cards, instead of placing them on the usual place of the unit, I put them on the round coffee table. I was quite sad with my son card just signed from Mum, but I was cheered up as most of my sisters had been round in the past few days and I knew they would be round again. In the afternoon, there was a knock on the door and I answered. I was glad to see Father Paul for my Mum’s sake. He came and sat down in the living room on an armchair next to me, on my left. My Mum named all my sisters who were present to him and then pointed to my birthday cards and said “It’s his birthday today”, with a kind of sadness in her voice. Father Paul wished me “Many Happy Returns”, and this had never been said to me before. People always said “Happy Birthday” which just reflects the day, but this new phrase made me look forward to a long life in a nice way in an instant of it passing his lips. I thanked him graciously.

Father Paul visited a couple of times and he was someone for my Mum to talk to and it helped me when he said “I remember burying my Dad”, which made me realise that I wasn’t the only person missing a loved one.

Another day, there was another knock at the door, and it was my ex with a sympathy card. I didn’t invite her in and just gave the card to my Mum to open. My ex had had this tendency to write long messages in her cards, when I preferred something short and sweet. Just for example, she gave me a Christmas card once that started “You are honest and good looking…” which I know went to my head, as I imagined showing it to people in hospital before I had been in hospital and I ended up in hospital for a while. That may give you an indication of how a mind can work negatively.

The following is very true, I want you to accept something that takes faith and understanding. The undertaker came round to our home, another settling influence. My Mum and I were present, and a couple of my sisters. He was very charming towards my Mum, as he had to be because of the bleak reality of what he has to do. I was just sat quietly on the settee where my Dad used to sit. This had become a habit but it was my way of coping. The undertaker got round to the question of whether my Mum wanted a burial or cremation, and my Mum didn’t know which route to take and couldn’t decide, and to be honest I hadn’t even thought about it. My Mum wasn’t giving an answer and the undertaker just addressed me with “Damian?”

Immediately that he said this, the most surprising but beautiful thing happened. I heard, not audibly, but quietly as if a thought “I want a burial, Lad!” I was so amazed but I just said “Burial!” and the undertaker took this as true and the decision was made. “Lad”, was how my Dad always addressed me, as I was his only son. Catholics believe in life everlasting and my Dad contacting me proved this, and he still communicates with me when I am alone, as you will read about.

4

One of my sisters and I were driving through the town centre, and my sister asked if I wanted to go and see my Dad in the Chapel of Rest. My Dad hadn’t been communicating with me apart from that one time, and I was a little afraid of going to see him lifeless. My sister got an answer out of me by saying “We can’t keep making your decisions!” so I decided to go to see him. We drove to the Chapel of Rest and my sister stayed in the car and let me go in and see my Dad on my own. I went in, not knowing what to expect and asked where my Dad was. He was behind the first curtain on the left. I walked in and my Dad looked peaceful in his coffin, I just noticed that he was wearing a tie. I touched his right hand, partly out of affection and partly to check that he was cold and really dead. Then I concentrated on his face and I gained some confidence and to my own surprise and without thinking, I kissed him on the forehead and said “Thanks Dad for making me Great!” I then calmly walked out like a brave child who had completed a dare.

There was to be a Requiem Mass at Christ the King and St Antony and my only black tie was one I had borrowed from my Dad for one of my friends’ funeral a few months earlier. The day came and we all gathered in the hallway of our home waiting for the hearse. Everyone was quite calm; some of my sisters were with partners. Without warning, my youngest sister gave out a yelp and I thought she was going to break down and I was ready to calm her but I was waiting for her boyfriend to do so, but he stood there helpless. Fortunately she controlled herself.

The hearse arrived and we all trooped out. I sat in the front seat of the car behind the hearse, and I was surprised that the DAD flower arrangement kind of made me happy rather than sad, probably because it was blue and white. We had discussed what we were going to put on the card and I suggested ‘With you always in Heaven’ and one of my sisters said “But we’re not are we”, but I believe we are.

It was a short drive to Church and I didn’t know what to expect, as I hadn’t thought much about it. I was used to going to Church, but I wasn’t used to it being so full. It was packed to the rafters. We walked to the front and I didn’t take much notice of who was there. I got to my seat on the second row and immediately I went down on my knees and just prayed, “Please Lord, let my Dad’s soul go to Heaven” and I got straight back up to see one of my Uncles looking at me with wide eyes. I felt like I was the only one who had prayed.

The mass was quite moving with a good choice of hymns. It came time for Father Paul to say something and he said, “I don’t feel I need to say anything, there are so many here”, and that was it. He always had plenty to say on Sundays, I just wondered what he really thought of my Dad, and I will ask him one day.

The Mass ended and it came to the final hymn, which was ‘How Great Thou Art’ and I remember leaving the pew and looking over the coffin towards my Dad’s friends who were in the Knights of St Columba with him and they were strumming to the tune. This brought tears to my eyes and as I walked out I noticed one lady who was a regular at Church with the same moistening in her eyes, which stopped me from sobbing. We got back in the black car and left the Churchyard to friends waving us on, and on our way to the Cemetery to sink him.

It was quite nice weather and I noticed that the Cemetery was quite serene, although the trees were bear. It was mostly family who had come to the cemetery and Father Paul handled the short blessings very well, then he sprayed holy water over the coffin and handed it to one of my sisters and then to me to sprinkle. I thought it much more spiritual and uplifting than throwing soil into the grave.

My Dad’s half-brother’s wife introduced herself to me as we waited to leave the cemetery and this calmed me a little, as I hadn’t spoken to my Uncle since being a small child. My Auntie told me that my cousin, who was the same age as me, was married with 3 children. My cousin and I had attended the same sixth form college but we had never spoken to each other, but I remember visiting them as a child when we played football in their garden and my cousin was wearing a number 7 Liverpool top, which I assumed at my young age, made him a better footballer than me.

We went to the home of 2 of my sisters, where we would often celebrate Christmas and I felt good about this. I had yet to see any of my sisters cry over my Dad, and I hadn’t cried properly. I remember that I used to cry myself to sleep at night when my Brother-in-Law died when I was 14. My grief was deeper with my Dad, as I was to find out.

At my sisters’ home I was drinking coke, I was still on strong medication, and I found myself standing next to my Uncle and another relative who I didn’t know I had. They were talking to each other, and it was a while before I joined the conversation and I broached the subject of employment and found that my Uncle ran his own business. Then we talked about the Rovers and my Uncle told me he was a season ticket holder. My Uncle told me that he shared a bedroom with my Dad and he said there were loads of fights, and this was the first I had ever learned about my Dad’s childhood, as my Dad had never really talked about his past with me, but then again, I had never asked him.

The buffet started, which I always enjoyed, as my sisters were great hostesses and caterers, and a nice lady told me that I was related to her and I managed to be courteous to her although I was feeling quite flat. It was not a sad occasion; everyone seemed to be polite and buoyant.

The guests left quite early and there was just my Mum, my 6 sisters, 2 partners, and myself present, and we sat round quietly not talking about my Dad, and my sisters were kind of quiet but chattering about normal things. I just sat there, glad of the company of my closest family who, to tell the truth, could get me through anything by just being their normal selves. The only lapse was when one of my sisters started to sob, and was calmed down by my oldest sister who was widowed at about the age of 26, by being told to take another drink of what she was drinking, and it worked. My sister who had sobbed just said, “I know I was bad with my Mum and Dad when I was younger.” Her guilt complex wasn’t half as bad as mine, I tell you.

That was the last I remember of that day, I must have gone home and slept, but in the days after, having a lot of time to myself, as I had not bothered going back to work, my Dad started communicating with me again. At first it was in Church when I lit a candle for him on the Sunday. I was sat there next to my Mum and he was kind of describing the mass to me, like he understood it better now that he had passed to the other side, as they say. I particularly remember one reading that stated, “Choose your burial ground”, and I knew my Dad had chosen right when he had first communicated with me. I would like to state here that I want to be buried in the same grave as my Dad, that is, if I ever die.

I remember the first visit to the cemetery was with my Mum, one of my sisters and my niece. When we got there, the shiny new headstone stood out amongst the old graves. The first thing I noticed was that my Dad was buried with his Mum, who I worked out, died when my Dad was but 7 months old. Reading the headstone made me very proud of my Dad as it read ‘Dearly Loved Husband, Dad, Grandad and Great Grandad’. There happened to be 7 vases of flowers on the grave once we had added ours, and my sister asked how we were going to arrange them. I suggested we put them in the shape of a cross, and it looked beautiful and holy when we had designed it.

Then I heard my sister and niece talking about their own funerals, and noted that my niece said she wanted to be cremated. I thought that I would like to change her mind. My Brother-in-Law was cremated and I remember when the coffin started to be conveyed into the furnace, the finality of it really hit me, and some time after, my English teacher at secondary school was saying that at some time in your life you have a real defining moment that says, “This is what it is all about”. My mind immediately flashed back to that cremation ceremony, which rather put a black cloud on the outlook of my life. I had wondered if any of my class had already felt a defining moment, as we were quite young at the time, whereas the English teacher was in middle age. I can say with confidence now, that when my Dad first communicated with me has been the most defining part of my life, but please remember, I am single and childless as I write this.
 
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