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Dave

Founder of HANG 6, Former High Risk Conflict Mediator, Mental Health First Aider, Former Commercial UAV Pilot, KALAH Instructor, Safety Health and Environment bloke. And other stuff.

My eyes searched desperately around the car's interior for any signs to indicate where I was supposed to be! I knew where I was. I was on a side street outside Tesco Express in Hockley at lunchtime. The path was full of people going about their day, off to grab a bit of lunch. There were way too many people, all looking like they knew their destination and had a purpose in getting there, whereas I felt lost with zero sense of purpose at this stage. I felt totally exposed. The last thing I wanted was for strangers to feel awkward about seeing a grown ass man crying in his car, but here I sat, unable to move, slowly being taken to pieces again, every time more difficult to rebuild than the last. 


Where had I even just come from? Those basic details just couldn't be plucked from the dark fog that enveloped me and disconnected me from the world around me. 


I was crashing internally, and big time, with no handhold to pull myself up, I was hitting bottom, but there was no solid structure to it, nothing to push off from and head back up to the light.. It all just felt so hopeless.


It was due to a simple thought. One thought is what triggered all the emotion and pain. A feeling of crippling profound loss. It started to fill every part of my being as it often would, unstoppable and relentless as always.


I had to pull into the nearest spot; I was struggling to see through the tears. It wasn't safe! I couldn't risk hurting someone! I found a space. Anywhere would do, I just had to stop.

As awkward as the space was, I couldn't move from it now. No way I could drive, it was just another one of those times that I just had to man the f**k up and get through another few days.


I'd reached for my trusty Oakleys, good big lenses, this was the first hiding place I had to hand. They always did a great job of hiding red eyes or a small cry whilst I was in the car. I had my ways of keeping the world and everyone in it clueless of what was going on inside the car, inside me. 


With the footpath outside busy with people going about their day, looking like they knew exactly where they needed to be, here I sat. I might as well have been on another planet, lost, with an all-consuming numbing loneliness, 'I'm stronger than this! Get a f**cking grip!" I told myself, but my emotions thought otherwise; they had control now, and I succumbed to them. I felt totally powerless as I slowly died a little more inside.


While the shades could hide the red eyes and some tears, I was beginning to shake physically now, and with the deep bottomless sob came snot, that's not so easy to hide with shades!


"F**k this!" I needed to get to the next available level of shielding myself from the world, hiding my pain. Luckily the rear windows in the car had a darker tint, I'd be less conspicuous there. So, waiting for a gap in the crowd, with my head down, I quickly escaped the display cabinet front of the car, and jumped into the back. Now less visible, but it offered no relief, just a darker space to break down, quietly, trying hard not to be an inconvenience to anyone, whilst surrounded by people on every side, some passing less than a meter away as they squeezed past each other on the busy pavement. They were clueless as to what was happening inside the car they'd just walked past, and that I thought was the best thing I could do. No need to drag anyone else down with me.


I could delay breaking down like this in the mornings until I got into the shower, that is. That was my 'safe space' to crumble, 'Just water in my eyes as far as my son would have known, so he wouldn't worry. I'd just sit quietly in the shower tray, under the running water that offered no relief other than an audio shield, and I'd cry. I really needed that release before I could pull on the disguise for the day, the mask that was needed to 'get on with life'. I doubt anyone would have known anything was wrong, 'Dave's a bit quiet,' perhaps, but the truth was I'd spend all day, every day, feeling utterly destroyed inside, trying to keep the front up, trying not to break down in front of anyone. it was beyond exhausting, and at this point, I'd reached a low where I was incapable of feeling any happiness, any joy about anything, like nothing at all. You know that first cup of coffee, a fresh breeze on a crazy hot day, just seeing or experiencing something, anything that gives you a 'ahh yehhh' moment. I had lost all of that at this point. here was zero 'ahh yehhh' in my existence.


Being a master of disguise is a side effect of not wanting to be a burden to anyone; fake smiles and upbeat small talk could be mustered when I had to, but I'd find myself distancing myself more and more from anything social, long term plans were a thing of the past, I couldn't think beyond the moment I was currently in. I had to just get on with it on my own. Keeping this front up, to save anyone having to see the truth of how I actually felt, was exhausting and draining. It left me feeling like all I wanted to do was sleep all the time. I actually slept through every film I saw at the cinema back then. The darkness, warmth, and noise of the cinema were a winning formula for almost instant shutdown. I slept through some truly epic films back then!


In meetings a wave of panic would run through me, was I goig to start cryinbg in the middle of a meeting with clients?? I'd make excuses whilst walking around new jobs to assess them that I just had to 'go over there to check something, back in a minute', I'd take myself away from everyone when I felf on the brink of a break down, 'over there' was my place to pull my shit together, and re-adjust my mask before heading back to to world I had to just exist in.


But hey! Man the f**k up! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! You know, all the manly shit that will supposedly solve ALL problems.. Right? We, all of us, are capable of incredible things! But you must learn to recognise when self-motivation isn't enough, when it just isn't working because if you don't shit gets real serious and goes south very quickly. 


I'd been through tough some very times, 'no worries', I thought I could just sail through any adversity in life. My mindset was robust and resilient, but that strength was no longer at my disposal. 


I'd suffered chronic sciatica down both legs for over 7 years following a back injury when I was 17. That really screwed my life plans. I wanted to work in close protection and move to Sweden to get qualified; that was what the dream was back then. Hmmm nope, that was screwed now. Some days i could barely walk, let alone throw someone over my shoulder and run with them.


Every orthopaedic surgeon I met back then had the same prognosis: it was too risky operating on me, 'too much chance of further damage, loss of function etc.' I was told whilst I was in a lot of pain, I knew when i wanted to go to the toilet, etc. and still had limited use of my legs, and that there would be a high risk of me losing that level of function if they went anywhere near my back. This over and over again. 


But here's the weird thing, I cant ever remember feeling down about it, tired from the pain for sure! But every day, I'd set myself a goal, they were small, simple objectives, but I got to feel like I'd accomplished something, no matter how small, maybe walking the lengh of my room and only stopping maybe 2 or 3 times due to the pain that shot like lightening down my legs and into my toes. 


At the age of 23, I met wih the last orthopedic surgeon I'd see. He told me, whilst pointing to a wheelchair in the corner of the room to my right, that i'd have to come to terms with that within 6-12 months, I'd be in one.  a wheelchair! ! Before I was 24?. My answer was, 'Thank you, but my arse is never going to touch one of those, not even jokingly'. So, I shuffled my ass out of his office, turned to the girl I was with at the time and told her i was taking up snowboarding. She just rolled her eyes and reminded me that I could barely walk. I couldn't actually put one foot fully in front of the other back then, I had to kind of shuffle, bent over with a back shaped like an 'S' looking at me from the back. I just replied with "well he's told me I'b basically f**d. Snowboarding looks ace so I'm going to do it! What have I got to lose! I smiled". 


I don't know if you've ever heard of TENS units? They disrupt pain signals to your brain, significant bits of kit! You're only supposed to use one unit at a time, and only for short periods, well I lit myself up like a Christmas tree with them and took every pain killer that wouldn't make me sleepy and off I went.  Horrifically painful still, but I thought, if I'm screwed anyway, what's the harm! And snowboarding gear was all 'baggy fit' so disguised somewhat my body posture. 


I'd lost count of the number of MRI's and X-rays I'd had.

My GP, Dr Desmond Murphy, found a Neurosurgeon at the QE, Mrs Mitchell, who was willing to give it a go! And she did a fantastic job! I wasn't given great odds for the Op but had little to lose, so I went for it, and it was life-changing!


I went from struggling to walk with a back that was twisted through pain to a few years later, after building the muscle back up in my legs and straightening myself out as far as my twisted back goes, becoming a Krav Maga Instructor and then onwards to becoming one of the first KALAH instructors in Europe (we were in Europe at the time) .To this day, the KALAH instructor course was the most brutal experience I've been through mentally, both physically and emotionally. It made the Krav instructor course seem like a yoga class and was a fundamental benchmark of how far I'd come following my inability to walk correctly some years previous, something I'm still very proud of. Another milestone happened a few years later. Will called me and asked if I would do something for charity with him, 'Just yes is the answer.  

You can tell me what it is afterwards' I was expecting the 3 peaks or something. Still, no, Will wanted to go to Everest Base Camp! Now, the morning of Wills call I'd hobbled around first thing after getting up, I'd broken a few bones in feet over the years. They played up on cold mornings, walking was a bit spicy first thing, and I was told it could be down to -20 INSIDE the tea houses we'd be staying in aliong the route. I can remember thinking, this is going to make things interesting, giggling to myself, I called Swamy and asked if he was in. To say he was excited is an understatement :) So it was on! Time get busy with the training and just go for it. I'd said yes, so a 130km hike awaited us! I remembered all the days when I couldn't even walk a few meters in one go on legs like chopsticks with muscle wastage. It was a bit of a moment... We can overcome so much. I felt awesome! It was also a moment I felt very close to my mom, she'd passed earlier that year, the oxygen levels at over 5000m were the same she lived with every day whilst suffering from COPD, so as awesome as it was, I went 'over there' to shed a few tears and stacked a few stines in her memory.


Now full disclosure, I had to use a wheelchair for a very specific purpose many years later while in Good Hope Hospital, being prepped to go to the QE for a second visit to the neurosurgeon as I'd prolapsed the disk above that previously knackered one during an instructor trainig session at my place, but that's another story. I didn't have that op, I discharged myself from the hospital and sorted myself out. That's a few years ago now. 


I went through other seriously shit personal stuff after the back op too, but I always held onto that hope for a better day tomorrow. I was relentlessly positive. I set goals, regardless of how small, whatever I could manage, but I held it together and found a way through. 


Some years following the back op, I was talking with a specialist in the QE who led on neurological disorders. I explained all the crap I was going through at that time in life. His response always stuck with me, "Hearing you talk about all that so calmly, I mean, I see few people who'd remain so grounded with what you're going through, but please just be careful. You can't maintain this forever. It's not sustainable. You might not feel it now, but it has to affect you, and if you 'break,' it would be significant. So just take care of yourself.' 


So maybe this was why I couldn't beat this moment in the car outside Tesco Express. I felt hopeless and worthless. The space where my abundant resource of resilience once filled was empty, depleted totally. I felt like an utter waste of space. I'd hit that 'break' point. No point going on anymore.


My mantra going to bed changed from 'I just have to get through tomorrow' to 'I just can't do this anymore', to 'I need to go now'.


I'd had an accident a few years prevously. It was a miracle I wasn't killed or at least seriously injured! That became my plan. I was going to have a similar accident, but this time it was going to be 100% fatal. The f**ked up thing is that when I had my plan down when I knew I had full control of not having to go through another day, it felt amazing, the first feeling of Joy I'd felt in a long time. At this point, I felt totally disconnected from my world. I had an amazing family and super awesome friends, none of whom I wanted to hurt, but I felt useless and hopeless. I was just an empty husk, the shape of a man wandering around the world wrongly taking air that others deserve more than me.


But now I had an emotion I didn't need to hide!! You know when you see a photo of someone on the news, on the inernet etc, showing someone the day before they took their lives looking genuinely happy.. That's the place I visited. It will be a hard time to 'catch someone' who needs help because they may well outwardly look the happiest they've ever been.


No suicide note for me, just an unfortunate fatal accident. I thought it was a clean exit strategy. No one asking themselves what could they have done differently? Etc. I'd just no longer be around.


I never wanted to die ,or hurt anyone. I love my family and friends more than they'll ever know! But 'tomorrows' had just come to feel un-survivable to me, unsustainable. I was giving my all silently and geting nowhere. With every day becoming harder than the last, It was time to go.


So what changed? Because I'm still very much here! How have I transitioned from there, at the edge of lettng go, to where I am now, with passion for development, adventure and life!


Well, that day in the car, I reached out to my boss, Mike. I didn't know if there was somewhere I was supposed to be, so I had to let someone know I wasn't going to be anywhere soon. I didn't want to disappoint anyone or have people waiting for me. I'm lucky enough to call my boss a friend, we'd shared stuff in the past, and Mike was one of the people who had an idea of what was happening. That day he could hear down the phone that I was screwed, truly struggling to keep it together. Mike asked me how I was, and I opened up for the first time to someone and let him know I'd had enough. Mike asked me to call a number, a guy called Gary, Gary Anderson, 'I'd like him', Mike said. Gary has had a colourful and tragic past, and he is now working as a counsellor.


This was a pivotal point. I looked at the number, thinking, 'I don't need this, I have my plan, and I'm happy with it'. I was days away from flicking the 'tomorrow' switch off.


But opening up to Mike instantly changed something inside me. I dialled the number, and Gary answered the phone. After just a few sessions with Gaz, which sometimes included me doing situps in his dojo while he threw a medicine ball at me for me to throw back at him (not your typical counsellor :) ), or just walking and talking in Sutton Park, I was turning the corner, and a massive positive changed happened quickly. I believe Mike and Gaz saved my life, or gave me the mindset that I could save myself.


It's not easy sharing all this. It's personal, and it was a really shitty time of life. I won't pretend that the things I thought about that day in the car that brought me crashing to my knees don't still hurt, they do, but now I have the tools to be able to get on with being the best version of me I can. The days of crashing internally, of crying my heart out in the shower, are long gone.


I recently went on an NLP Practitioner course, followed the NLP Master Practitioner corse, which has had a profoundly positive effect on my life. I can't recommend NLP highly enough!


A continual journey of discovery and learning in life is so important. I don't mean holidays to new countries etc (which is excellent also), but an ongoing expedition through who you truly are! What makes you tick, what you need in life, and, as importantly, what drags you down and you serioulsy don't need. 


So, you'll see that 'the Resilience range' isn't just jumping on the 'Resilience' bandwagon. It truly means something to me. 


It's a means of survival and, following on from that, thriving!


The shit can hit the fan in life big style, but that's beyond our control. The trick is not letting it stick. This is resilience to me. Facing adversity and recovering quickly, and often stronger and more resilient for the lessons learned. 


The situation is the situation, it's our response to it that shapes our own personal reality.


So if you're struggling, please reach out and find someone to talk to. Is the thought of opening up, showing vulnerability to someone daunting? yep. Is it worth it? You can bet your ass it is!!!


That happy version of you that you may not be able to connect with right now, well, that version is 100% inside you and then some!!. 


PLEASE NEVER FORGET THAT


The right key just needs to be turned, and you have the power to ultimately do that. It may just need some positive, expert guidance, and seeking that out isn't a weakness!


If someone hadn't taught you how to read, you wouldn't be reading this! So go find someone who can help you find the skills to make you happier!


So please talk if you need to. 


And if you don't feel like you can open up to family or friends, please use the facilities and people who are out there whose job it is to help out, and those people help because it's a vocational calling of theirs. It matters to them! You matter to them! You are not a burden, and getting help can help. Go get after it!


Now, allowing help can be hard in itself sometimes. I personally put it off to the last myself... Please believe me when I say it's worth every second. And if I could turn the clocks back, I'd have sought it sooner, much sooner. Could have saved myself a whole world of pain.


Eradicate 'fail' from your vocabulary. Those moments are lessons, rich in information, absorb, learn, grow. When you see things that way, it changes everything!


Never give up. Not ever. 


F**k the darkness! You are stronger than it, you can and will beat it, even if you don't realise it yet. 


Suicide can go f**k itself! It takes too many, lets change that!


In an all-out war on suicide, the strongest weapon in your arsenal is simply to talk! 


Distance yourself from abusive and controlling people and relationships. This is very important. Maybe not an easy thing to do sometimes, but always the right thing to do.

Surround yourself with positive people! it makes a world of difference!


Hang out with people who inspire you. NEVER hang out with anyone who drags you down!


HANG = Hang in there no matter what.


6 = Gain the skills to have your own back, your own 'six'. 


Seek whatever is required to build a happier, more resilient you.


Invest in you!


Stay Awesome (Because that's what you f**king are!)


The world needs you!


Talk.



Dave
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