My #BeReal guest today is Raymond Baxter.
The events in my life that broke me
Well. This is my story. A special thanks to the #BeReal series for letting me publish this. I’ll also link to Darla Halyk for giving me the confidence to write this post. For helping me to make the decision to finally admit it to myself, that this is what I’ve been going through for most of my life. There will never be an end to it either. I just have to live with it and look positively rather than negatively.
Too many trigger warnings to count. Seriously, read at your own risk.
It all started one summers day at the end of my shift at work before a long week off. I deserved a holiday. I really did. I had worked hard all year and because other people had booked holidays I couldn’t have mine when I wanted to. So I picked the next best date. It was the week of Guy Fawkes night. If I remember correctly that’s around November 5th, 2001. Anyway. We were a small team, and central to the town and community that we lived in. A hub of sorts. It was an office. And people were often walking in, talking to us and dealing with us. It was a normal run of the mill admin job with lots to do. When someone took a holiday or was off ill, you had to take their workload. I remember by Friday my eyes were darkened and I was definitely ready for a week’s break. Pressures had been mounting on my social life I just had to take time off. It was not long ago before I quit all my other jobs. A month or two beforehand I had three jobs. I worked bar in two other places, and it was getting too much for me. So I quit my catering work.
Fridays were awesome. The week was over, I could have fun with my friends at night. I’d often end up on a bus to Felixstowe. They were in the middle of trying to promote some of their nightclubs so we managed to get travel, free drinks all night and a lot of mischief. It’s a tactic Nightclubs use to make it look as if they’re full. I’m sure we drank the bar dry! Anyway. This was my first Friday night before a long week off and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. I partied with Ben and Steve and then partied in Felixstowe that night. It was a blur. As I sit here writing this article I can only remember streaking lights, drinking strong shots and lots of dancing. That being said I did enjoy myself. I remember waking up in my bed the following day with a mighty hangover. I could die. It was horrible. I lived alone, which was worse.
As I peeled myself from the bed I made the horrendous decision to go back to the pub when it opens. I wasn’t good with hangovers and I needed it gone. I bought three bottles of white lightning cider from the shop and stuffed them in the fridge. For future consumption, and for use until the pub opens again.
Five days later after a horrendous amount of alcohol, constant non-stop binging and a nose-diving reputation (seriously, even the known wasters didn’t want anything to do with me) I finally decided to stop. I woke up that fifth day and decided to stop what I was doing. Probably then would be a good time to give up the alcohol and sober it up for a few days. After all, I did have work in another five days. I remember swapping to water, and relaxing in my bed. I was going to wait and dry this shit out.
What followed from there was a torrent of psychosis, paranoia and a two-week stay in a psychiatric hospital. I do want to tell my readers what I went through but that’s a post for another day. I could have dealt with the trauma that psychosis brought. I really couldn’t cope with what was coming in the next few weeks.
I finally went back to work, and through lovely support from my colleagues, friends and acquaintances I started to enjoy it again. Life was getting back to normal. I had vowed never to drink alcohol again and life was running smoothly. It all went tits up again when I couldn’t resist the urge to have a beer again. My downfall was my social life. I had no hobbies. Our town was small and all there was to do was to go to the pub. I had no car. Pub it was.
As I drank more I began to feel strangely paranoid the following day. And the more times I danced with the devil juice the following morning I would feel chest-constricting paranoia over something that I couldn’t quite touch. I didn’t know why. But I was afraid. Afraid of what? I didn’t know. I remember it came to me when I was working. I was staring out of the window for a moment in a break between working. A momentary lapse of gazing out the window and then it started to ease gently into my mind. It wasn’t a thud like a hammer. More so a gentle easing in the mind as I started to remember things on my five-day endeavour that I had obviously forgotten.
I started to remember that I was in this restaurant. And I was given a cocktail for free. I knew the people in there. Everyone knew everyone in our town. I remember immediately after drinking it the strangeness and uneasiness that I felt, like I had just been drugged. The fear. The panic to try and get the fuck out of where I was. Yet the door was locked. Fucking locked. I tried to cave the glass in with a chair, but I was grabbed from behind. I remember struggling. And fighting. And headbutting. Then.. nothing.
I remember nothing after that. You see psychosis has a way of meddling with a young man’s mind. I went through two weeks in the psychiatric hospital of juggling what was real and what was not. Today, I believe this was a side-effect of my Psychosis. But who knows, I’ll never know. It could have been real. But back at the time when it was gently easing into my memory banks, it was as real to me as this keyboard and monitor is now.
Then another memory gently seeped in along with the last
I remember waking up, laying in the toilets, my boxer shorts around my ankles, laying there, my dignity gone. Nothing else. Darkness. Emptiness.
I remember the two days it took for these memories to unfold in my mind. I don’t truly know if they are memories. Or just intense fiction that my already vivid imagination cooked up through a series of paranoia and unwilling to cope. Yet I could remember looking out the window. I remember looking at the people. I could see them looking in, judging me, laughing at me. Having a good old laugh at the expense of my misfortune. I truly felt utterly and completely lost. I used to be so trusting. I don’t know now. (edit: the laughing and judging was my paranoia)
I had lost my sparkle. That innocent sparkle you can see in the eyes from an excitable youth. It was gone. Extinguished. I’m getting mad as I write this, I want to make these people pay. But how can I? When I believe that it’s a total embellishment of my memory.
I remember slowly spiraling out of control after that. I couldn’t sleep in my bed anymore, I had moved my mattress into my small living room and was sleeping on it there. My life was a mess. It was in tatters. I only had strange memories. Memories that didn’t feel like they were mine, but they existed. Frankly. I didn’t want to be on this earth anymore.
I went into work the following day and handed in my resignation. I took immediate sick leave and traveled back up to Scotland to live with my Mum. Exist as a broken man. I went to the doctors and explain what I thought happened. He examined me and assured me that it seemed nothing untoward had happened to me. I wasn’t convinced so I took a full STD check, which came back clear. Still, I wasn’t convinced.
And it’s those two memories that broke me in half readers. I could have existed with the Psychosis, people judging me on my craziness. But feeling like all that had happened to me? I was a broken man. A no-man. A has been. I wanted to sink in a hole and never come out. I wanted to be put in a room, the doors locked and the windows closed. I wanted to be away from civilisation. I hated myself.
It wasn’t long before I ended up back in a Psych ward to be honest. Later that year I also ended up in an intensive Psych ward. I kicked, and I screamed.
But as time went on and the memories faded to black it became easier. Easier to function as a human being again. Easier to disregard my thinking and quell them to the back of my mind. And it wasn’t easy to write this but it’s a damn sight easier than what it would have been in say 2006.
So there you go. I’ve kept this SO close to me for 15 years now. Only the wife knows. And a special thank you to my wife for allowing me to write it. Now EVERYONE knows. hah.
Raymond Baxter @ The Relationship Blogger
My name is Raymond Baxter and I own “The Relationship Blogger.” I’ve had a hard old life, me. Fraught with absent fathers, abusive childhoods, an alcohol and drug induced youth, several spells in Psychiatric Hospitals and a long period of recovery. If you could call it that.
In the latter half of 2006 I sat in my darkened room crying because I couldn’t afford electricity or the gas to heat a proper bath. I had just been forced to take redundancy from my position because of my drinking. I sat on my bed and realised that something had to change. My life was going nowhere and I was on the path to the gutter sooner rather than later with my addictive ways and my thirst for utter chaos. I sat there and thought to myself that change is looming else it’s the grim reaper.
And I did. Through a long journey of excited discovery and tears I walked upon the path of change and never looked back. I progressed from unskilled work to fully-skilled and technical positions. I learned, I strived. I looked deep into myself. I saw the man that I was and the ideas that made my clogs turned. I did it. I changed.