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A potted history of my life with dysthymia (parts I & II).

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Paul Fewtrell

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Firstly, let me say I'm going to complete this blog in stages, or parts, as it's probably too long to impart in one foul swoop. I apologise in advance if it's long-winded, boring, irrelevant or whatever, but it's merely my way of 'outing' this whole debacle from my system, in a way I've never before felt I've been permitted to. By doing so, I'm hoping I can unburden myself of some of the unhappiness I live with daily. I'm not sure anything I say here is going to be of any use to anyone, as I've become the eternal pessimist where any help I've been offered, attempted, or found fault with has helped me in any way over the years, but if nothing else, it may entertain (yes, entertain) some of you, raise a smile, or garner a response, either negative or positive from someone. Despite the obvious gloominess of the topic, please trust me when I say I am able to actually laugh at some of the content now - looking back, as I've become a great believer in that adage 'there is humour in adversity.'

So, grab a cuppa and if you're sitting comfortably, I'll begin .....

Part One.

(There is no particular timeline in this blog, so I am effectively starting in the middle of the story as it were. Hopefully, by the time I eventually complete it, you'll see how it all makes sense. Hopefully being the operative word!) 

Like many of us I've experienced all the usual comments from doctors and consultants, which ultimately move you into a further downward spiral. You know, 'pull your socks up.' 'what have you got to be depressed about?' 'haven't you got over this yet?' and so on and so forth.

I was originally diagnosed with clinical depression in the mid 90's, at the age of about 45. I was a police officer, working in an inner-city area of London and although relatively new to the 'real world' as I call it, I wasn't finding it especially to my liking. I'd spent 25 years in the Royal Navy prior to leaving at 40 and moving straight into law enforcement. Looking back, I think my naval career enabled me to effectively 'put a brave face on' for the first few years, man up and crack on with the job I had to do. I was no thief catcher, though my arrest rate wasn't bad. I had my fair share of dealing with just about everything you can throw at an individual and, generally speaking, I was doing quite well. The only problem I encountered was inevitably that I was working alongside many much younger officers, who were hard to compete with, as I had begun my career in my middle years, so I had a fair bit of catching up to do. My peers were not quite sure how to treat me, as I was no longer a youngster, so couldn't really be kicked and slapped to learn the tricks of the trade. The result of this was that, by and large, I had to get on with it and teach myself. I had my supporters, but many detractors also, as they were obviously not sure how a man of 25 years in the Armed Services would get on with them. Bullying was endemic at that time and I suffered at the hands of one or two morons. My stance at the time was that I merely accepted their attempts to put me down, as to retaliate would have alienated me and possibly have seen me dismissed, should I have walloped one or two of them. Some four years into this job, I began to feel slightly overwhelmed and found myself, when not at work, crying uncontrollably and not knowing why. Strangely, I still managed to get my act together when turning up for work and carried out my duties diligently and conscientiously. However, I slowly realised I couldn't continue this way and paid a visit to my doctor.

My doctor put me on a series of the usual anti depressants which never really achieved much, apart from the inevitable strange side effects. I think Prozac and Loperamide were two of the many I tried, finally settling many years later on 40mg of Citalopram, as I've found that seems to keep me at a 'functional' level of normality. I voluntarily placed myself in the care of a mental health institution a few years later, as I was experiencing very strong suicidal tendencies. Ten days in this place made me realise some of the nicest people I'd ever met were patients in a similar predicament to me at that time.

I was referred to a psychologist, who possessed no qualities whatsoever, in the listening department. He merely spent our time together trying to tell me my issues were borne of my relationship with my father and then proceeded to engage me with his theories of 'man borne of ape;' in other words, he was obsessed with Darwinism, as I call it! I, quite literally, in frustration, asked him during our final meeting, whether he had ever suffered with depression. He answered 'no,' so with the anger I was enduring at that time, asked him why on earth he felt he was qualified to offer help to people like me. He couldn't answer me, so I stormed out. I was subsequently referred to an anger management psychologist who, frankly, was even worse, in that he claimed to gauge my level of anger, he needed to make me angry! Needless to say, that meeting didn't progress to a second one. During this period I had a German psychiatrist overseeing my referrals, who I would see approximately every two months or so. Our brief meetings were an absolute waste of space and time (mine and presumably his) as he would not look me in the eye during our consultations, but simply briefly peer over the top of his pince-nez glasses and offer no hope or anything useful for me to follow.

Prior to either of these referrals, I had been allocated a weekly visit to my home by a mental health nurse, who was apparently there to listen to me, offer compassion and report back to her team about my state of mind etc. Initially I thought she was very good, in that she at least allowed me room to unburden myself, but this is where I began to slide down the scale of sanity (in my opinion) and became obsessed with doing away with myself. In desperation one day (just prior to Christmas) I rang my doctor to seek help. She told me I had to contact the Mental Health Team, as that was where I had been referred. This I did, asking to speak to the nurse who had been visiting me. She was able to speak with me, but told me she couldn't do anything, as my case had now been referred to psychology. I attempted to contact the psychologist, but he was on leave from his work. At the point of giving up, I rang my work welfare line and they told me to remain by the 'phone and await a call from the on-call welfare manager. An hour or so passed by and the 'phone rang. I explained that I was feeling desperate and was considering doing away with myself (yes, I know this was a cry for help and it was help I wanted). I was tearful and confused, desperate and ultimately at risk of carrying out my threat of doing away with myself. It was now late into the evening. This so-called welfare manager told me he was presently out with his work, celebrating at a Christmas social event, something I gathered from all the noise in the background; clinking glasses and people chatting loudly etc. Amazingly, he asked if I was able to drive myself to my local hospital, where he would alert the duty doctor that I would be arriving and therefore would be seen immediately, instead of having to sit in A&E with everyone else. I still cringe at the thought of someone asking a man who is threatening to do away with himself if he is capable of jumping in a 'weapon,' namely a car and driving himself somewhere - ludicrous in the extreme.

However, this I did. The hospital and duty doctor were epic, in that I was immediately ushered into a side room and listened to intently by the doctor. She was brilliant and extremely understanding and compassionate and told me that she was going to send me to a local mental hospital for assessment. The initial irony of this was that she said there were no ambulances to take me there, some five or so miles away, so would I mind driving myself! Horrified yet again, I caved in and drove there. I vividly recall sitting at a set of traffic lights during that five mile journey and peering down at my passenger seat. I had placed an envelope there, which I was to deliver to the duty psychiatrist on arrival at the mental hospital. In the windowed section of that envelope was written 'Paul Fewtrell - Suicidal.' The realisation struck me there and then and I once again burst into tears. Despite all this fear, loathing, anger and through the tears, I eventually arrived there and was met outside by a mental health nurse, who was very friendly, kind and welcoming. I was taken to a room and there met the duty psychiatrist and spoke with him and the mental health nurse for what seemed an absolute age. They subsequently told me that I could voluntarily admit myself to the hospital, or failing that, they would 'section' me. Being a serving cop, I knew the consequences of being sectioned, so went down the voluntary route. Fortunately for me, I discovered later that no outside agency, including my employer, would be told of this, without my permission, so I was spared that indignity, although in hindsight maybe it might have helped had they known. I also wonder now if part of me had actually almost planned this in some way, as I was on leave from my work at the time, so felt safe in knowing that I wasn't going to be missed during this period.   

 

During my period of incarceration, I had asked them to inform my then girlfriend as to where I was. She was working away from where we lived at this time and had been unaware of the unfolding dilemma I was dealing with. She showed no compassion whatsoever, but merely rang my ex-wife to tell her. My ex-wife then rang my father, who subsequently visited me. I was allowed to go home for a few hours before returning. My father, possibly due to his age and inability to understand mental illness, refused to listen to my concerns and situation and merely talked of his life and what he'd been up to recently. I therefore returned feeling even more depressed and continued to feel that no one really wanted to hear my side of why I'd ended up where I was. Again, in hindsight, I now appreciate that my father drove the distance he did to see me; I also accept he was not an emotionally 'able' person in these circumstances and really couldn't comprehend why I would have placed myself where I had.

I began this tale of woe a couple of hours ago, have had to go over it a couple of times, to ensure it makes some semblance of sense. It is now 4:30am, so I'm heading for bed shortly, but Part Two will follow when I find the energy to further add to it.

Right, time for another cuppa and settle in guys and gals .....

Part Two.

I appreciate doing this may appear a little self-indulgent to some and maybe you're right. Even to me, it's a bit 'me, me, me' but I suppose having never really been given the opportunity to shed some of my so-called story has made me turn much of it in on myself and I realise that isn't especially a healthy thing to do.

Anyway, digressions aside, I will try to continue where I left off.

Following my leaving that particular mental institution, I managed to pick up my job as a cop and for a short period, all went quite well, but as sure as eggs are eggs, the depression returned and managed to get a firm grip on me. It wasn't long before my team began to realise things weren't quite right with me, but instead of being kind, compassionate, or generous of spirit, they chose to quite literally ridicule me much of the time. I was then working on a plain clothes Task Force, dealing with localised crime; our remit was to target particularly obvious criminals, develop informants, create cases against those criminals that would result in serious convictions and all the time, be expected to be out on the streets arresting villains for all the usual 'naughty' stuff. In building cases against these criminals, we would also be responsible for conducting surveillance, gathering evidence and assisting one another with the jobs that each of us was building.The job was pressured and although I managed to do my bit reasonably successfully, I think I began to suffer with mild stress from it, not to mention the barrage of internal bullying that was going on by my so-called brethren! In the middle of a particularly busy period, I was selected to carry out Jury Protection work, which meant I would be spending many hours away from my normal workplace and, in company with another cop, be assigned to one juror, to ensure their safety and security during an ongoing trial. The Judge in the trial makes this decision and he obviously felt the jury were at risk of being manipulated by outside influences during the trial, so put 'protection' in place. Four cops are assigned to each juror, two pairs working either days or nights, so twelve hour shifts. A third pair is also assigned to enable us to take days off and occasionally attend our police stations to continue our remit there. Hopefully, you can see from this that it's quite a big ask, as not only are you required to be 'on the ball' at all times with the juror, but your superiors at the police station where you normally work are constantly on your back asking when you're going to catch up on such and such - not simply exhausting, wearing and tedious, but leaves you questioning, quite seriously, where your allegiance lies.

I did this for about two months, which gives you an idea of how serious the trial must have been? In all honesty, the jury protection work was great fun. Although we're allowed no contact with the actual juror, we have to be in his/her close proximity at all times, except obviously when he/she is at home. When home, we simply sit it out in a car, until such time as he/she goes out anywhere, when we follow. Many amusing stories came out of this period; our juror was a young female who liked to live life to the full, so we spent a great amount of time dining in decent restaurants, going to the cinema or pubs and clubs; all on expenses, although obviously we are not permitted to drink alcohol, for obvious reasons. Despite the enjoyment I derived from doing this duty, my team at my regular police station were giving me constant grief as my work piled up, causing me great distress and unhappiness. I returned to the station one day and spoke with my Inspector, who immediately told me he knew I was suffering with depression, but admired the fact that I continued to try to be diligent with my work practice! To cut a long story short, he told me he could refer me to a police counsellor, which I thought was very good of him. He also gave me his mobile number, telling me he was there if I needed to speak at any time. Again, a very generous gesture, which I've never forgotten, although for a number of reasons it all went a little pear-shaped quite rapidly.

I began seeing the police counsellor who was very good also. She normally dealt with armed police officers, who required counselling following shooting incidents, so I suppose I felt quite privileged to be able to see her. Sadly, after about three meetings with her, I rang her office one day to arrange another meeting and was told she had died of a heart attack! I was horrified to say the least, but didn't think to ask if I could be seen by someone else, so that avenue rapidly closed for me. Needless to say, in a way, this burdened me even more and made my depression even harder to cope with. I had also, during this period, been allocated another psychiatrist, yet another female, who was excellent and seemed to be making headway with me to some extent when, yet again, I rang to arrange another appointment one day, only to be told she was off work ..... suffering with depression! Allied to all this, the Inspector who had been very generous in his working with my depression, had been promoted and transferred to a M***** investigation team, so became out of reach, as his job necessitated that he no longer have contact with those he'd been working alongside. Don't ask me why, but for some peculiar reason, like many jobs, this was one of the requirements of his new post. What with various things going wrong in my personal life at this time; I'd become separated from my wife a few years previously and we were going through hell with trying to sort out our divorce; my then girlfriend had chosen to work abroad as a holiday representative and eventually left me for someone else etc etc ..... I plummeted into a quite severe pit of despair and turned to my doctor again. She signed me off 'sick' from work, as she quite literally thought I was then a danger to the general public, even though I didn't quite see it that way. Again, being brief, I was being investigated by the internal complaints people, as an allegation of 'racist comments' had been made against me about a year previously. That was eventually dropped, even though it was untrue; it was a time in London when many people were making racial allegations against police officers, as they knew the Metropolitan Police 'paid out,' to spare the indignity of perhaps seeing their institution marred by these events. The Met used to support its officers financially, with legal costs, yet during the time I was being investigated, this 'help' was stopped, so I was facing quite significant legal costs had it gone to court; more fuel to the fire of my depression here.       

So, I ended up sitting at home feeling absolutely dejected and unhappy with my little lot. I received infrequent visits from my 'reporting police sergeant' who had literally no understanding of the issues surrounding depression and even said to me once that he really couldn't see why I couldn't return to work, as each time he visited, I presumably appeared relatively upbeat. The upshot was that after about a year, I was allowed to return to work. By this time, I was being asked to become a Homebeat officer, which is effectively being give a community to work alongside and with, in the hope that you can nurture relationships between the police and the community, plus deal pro-actively with all the concerns the local citizens have. I was initially quite prepared to take this on, but an incident occurred that totally altered my perception of being a cop and ultimately led to my resignation and a change of life.

This same sergeant began to show me the ropes of the local community I would be policing. Fine, no problem, except one day we visited a hostel where immigrants were staying, so I could meet the manger and get an understanding of who lived there and what problems the manager was having to deal with. A coffee, biscuits and a chat ensued - all very sociable and nice. The manager explained that he was often handed weapons, by his night security staff, that some of the immigrants were bringing in. These were produced and my sergeant chose to take a massive knife back to the police station for destruction. A quite normal practice, but normally the knife would be concealed and returned in a vehicle. We were on foot. He was in police uniform and I was in plain clothes at this time. We left the hostel and began walking back to the station; about a mile away. Part way through our walk, we became aware that an awful lot of police sirens were evident in the local vicinity, though no vehicles were seen by us. He had apparently turned his radio off, so we were unaware of what was going on. Just before we entered the police station, which was on a tree-lined street, he told me he couldn't be bothered to take the knife inside for destruction; instead sticking it in the earth by one of these trees! I chose to pull it back out, saying it was a stupid thing to do, not least because it was irresponsible, but also because it was yet another weapon for someone else to pick up and potentially use. He became angry with me and told me to put it back. This I did, as although I was confused by why he would do this, I didn't want the hassle of arguing with him. Another long story short; where I worked, in southeast London, we had the largest mental hospital, called the Maudsley. It transpired that a patient had been discharged that morning, who happened to be one of the immigrants living at the hostel we had visited. As we were leaving, apparently this guy had seen us and due to his psychosis (I'm guessing) he was alarmed that a uniformed officer was carrying a knife and that I was being arrested by him. He alerted the staff on the front desk in the hospital and they, in turn, rang police emergency, stating what he had told them. They either hadn't seen us leaving, or utterly believed that something was amiss. Thus the police sirens we heard. I heard this through a colleague later in the day and instead of owning up to it, or doing anything, I simply went home and typed up my resignation letter.

There was a long period that ensued, with my Superintendent trying to stop me leaving, yet I never revealed that that particular incident was what had precipitated the decision by me to resign.

I eventually left in the autumn of 2000 and within two or three months, decided to move to south west Scotland, where my father and brother now lived. My father had become quite ill and I felt obligated to at least be reasonably close to keep an eye on him; my younger brother has autism and other health issues and my father was struggling to look after him properly. Despite my mother passing away in 1987, with cancer (she was only in her early 50's) I had always tried to maintain the 'family' thing with my father, brother and twin sister. My father and sister weren't really interested and I was constantly fighting a battle in this area, not least because I obviously missed my mother, but couldn't understand why they were being so 'against' wanting to keep the family together as best as possible. I was always the first to 'jump' when my father became ill and was admitted to hospital, despite the fact that we had a classic 'father/son' relationship ..... and not in a positive way. I actually think he resented my achievements and never congratulated me on anything I did, yet I was expected to be all smiles and interested when he did something. My sister couldn't stand my father and kept him very much at a distance. He was a very selfish man I think, in hindsight, but he was still my father and I was, especially during this period, very much a little boy who wanted the love of his father; I would have much preferred my mother, but she wasn't available in this capacity!

I suspect I've rambled too much with this part, not so much about my depression, but hopefully more of an insight has developed and I hope I haven't lost any followers. Part three another day.

If you have, thanks for sticking with me on this ..... hopefully, I can make it a bit more interesting next time. 

    

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Hello Paul, Welcome.  Sorry you have to be here. 

Yes, above makes sense.  I also wonder what others will actually do vs. "I must help myself"  In the end, the good friends I have here have been better than most pDocs (or others).  Just knowing we are not alone helps.

mm

 

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I firmly believe that your story will resonnate with someone so don't worry too much about rambling! 

I am sometimes not the best at finding the right words, so sending you a virtual comforting hug! 

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It isn't rambling at all, in fact you write very well and I am captivated by your story. Please continue when you feel up to it.

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