There are a few events that, when I look back on my life, I see as sort of milestones, or chapter headings; turning points, after which life just wasn’t the same. Almost two and a half years ago, I had a moment in my life which was more like the start of a whole new book. In fact, it very well could have been a very different story, one in which I wasn’t here to tell it.
On a coaching call a couple of months back, when I first joined Project Q1, I was asked what my line-in-the-sand moment was – the moment that I knew I couldn’t turn back to the life I’d had. Well, this was it.
I know I’ve written about it here and there since it happened, but I feel like now is a good time to get the story out in full. It still feels strange to write about it; ironically, it was this event that got me in to wanting to start a blog, and to start writing again, in the first place.
To put you in the picture, I was just starting my third year of a psychology degree. Life was, as far as I bothered to look at it, pretty good. Thinking back, I’m always reminded of a question I asked myself at the time: just how much can a person change? I don’t know why it burned such a hole in my mind, but I was transfixed. I had this freeing idea that we could just become what we wanted, and I was keen to experiment with the idea. What were the limits of our personal lives, our identity, our sanity? Not that I actively pursued the thought, but it became quite foreshadowing in hindsight.
It was about a month in to the start of the semester, and I was out in town for a few drinks with friends. We were just leaving the student halls at Queen Margaret University (having only had a couple of drinks at this point, it’s worth mentioning) and to get off campus we had to cross a railway bridge – the kind where the train goes underneath, and there’s a road over the top with a path at one side. We were walking across the bridge, and for whatever reason I crossed the road and hopped up on to the wall of the bridge, now walking parallel to my group of friends.
They told me to get down, obviously, but by this point my mind was gone. Apparently not long before that, just leaving the flat, I’d been taking gibberish – my friends just assuming I was being daft. I have absolutely zero recollection of it though. All that I have is some hazy snapshot moment of standing on the wall, one foot over the edge as if to judge the height. It could have been a psychotic break, or maybe one of my drinks was spiked – honestly, I’ll never know.
Next thing they know, I’m out of sight. They assumed I must have been hiding behind the wall, trying to freak them out (it tapers off from being about level on the other side with a grass verge, down towards the track where the difference is about 30ft, and they assumed I must have still been level with the grass I suppose). Expecting me to jump back up, they waited, but heard a thud.
Rushing across the bridge, down the steps to where I was now lying in a pool of blood, they thought I was dead – by all probabilities, I should be. Somehow I’m not even totally unconscious, but I’m a mess, and they call an ambulance.
The only other memory I have of that part of the night, and again it’s barely more than a still image, is a paramedic asking me not to try to stand.
I woke up a few hours later in hospital being told that they’d done what they could, but that they’d like to send me to a more specialist plastic surgeon to put my eyebrow and eyelid back together (I did say I was a mess).
After that things were pretty normal, for a day or so. Mostly I was just in pain. Then when it kicked in – what had happened, and that I was alive – I was euphoric. Life took on this whole new shine, and every waking moment was like pure ecstasy. I was in utter bliss, 24/7. Life had this miraculous tone to it, and everything just made sense.
I was seeing patterns and meaning in things that, looking back, maybe had no meaning. It all made perfect sense to me at the time though. It was like some filter had been taken off of the world, and what I was seeing was this bare form of life. Every morning, before I even had time to draw a conscious breath, I was filled with this excitement for the day ahead. Even a trip to Tesco for milk became so purposeful, and just stepping out the door had meaning. Life was flawless.
I still don’t know how much of what came next was just manic episodes, or PTSD as my doctor assumed, which gradually wore me down in to the most depressive, anxious period of my life. Eventually, bliss gave way to a pressing feeling of dread. Now when I woke up, the first thought to cross my mind wasn’t in fact a thought at all, just a feeling of terror for the day ahead. Fear at the thought of being awake, like an iron weight on my chest.
I think perhaps this new way that I perceived life, this new no-filter outlook, made some things a little hard to look at. Incomprehensible, in fact, and it’s possible that my mind sort of retreated. I became incredibly depressed and anxious for one thing. Manic, paranoid, restless; I don’t know what happened to me.
My relationship fell apart within months, after having just moved away from home to live with this person. I lost my job due to my injuries. I started failing my exams, and coursework became impossible. I was living in a tiny rented-out box room with a stranger who I couldn’t even bring myself to speak to most days (oh yeah, my girlfriend kicked me out) and my family weren’t talking to me… I entirely lost my grip on myself.
Luckily, I’m a resourceful person. I eventually did start finding ways to pull myself together, one of the major ways being writing. It was at this time that I first wanted to start a blog – in fact, it was before things got bad, but when I was still in that very manic phase. I suddenly just knew this was something I had to do, so it made sense that I would just write, and I did. I wrote endlessly, but the idea of putting anything online for people to see terrified me. It was a great coping technique, and it really did do a lot to pull me through.
I got big on my fitness, too. One thing about my new abode was that it was by the water, so jogging would at least give me something to focus on and the scenery was pleasantly distracting. Sitting exhausted by the edge of the harbor, I’d forget where I was sometimes. It was nice.
I pulled through that summer, and having failed half of my classes I decided to take a year out from my studies. I spent the summer volunteering, and eventually got myself a decent job, too. I moved in with my grandparents, which meant I could save a little money, and soon enough I was coming back to my old self. Well, not exactly my old self – see, that part really did die that night.
I eventually got up the courage to start a blog, and several incarnations later here we are. To think I’ve gone from that point to now, where I’m practically working from home and starting an online business, is almost incomprehensible. I’m back at University, and doing better than ever. I’m living in an incredible flat, with the girl of my dreams, and actively creating the life I want to live.
My mindset changed drastically throughout all of this, and to this day I’m pushing myself to develop further and keep growing. One thing I wanted from my blog back then was to connect with people and share what I could with them, so that they might not have to go through the same struggles I did. Whether this means sharing how I coped with loss, with emotional struggles, with staying motivated in the face of uncertainty, or the more practical stuff – the writing, the blogging, the online business side of it – I want to connect and share what I can with all of you.
That is why I’m doing this. That is why I am where I am today. So now I can only ask, where do you want to be?