It’s probably fair to say that when people look at me they have no idea of my story. Having asked friends for their opinions of how I seem, the results were: presentable, that I speak well, have a good range of vocabulary, come across as confident, articulate, and funny.
But if you cut me in half, written through me in bright letters like a stick of rock you’d see the words ‘childhood sexual abuse victim’. My abuser, like many are, was a close family member and a friend of his. They both passed away before they could be held accountable for their actions.
I guess the outer image I presented for years is the one I always wanted the world to see, and that worked well for a long time. I chose jobs which always kept me on the move, became a larger-than-life figure because that was the best smoke-and-mirrors-style distraction for both myself and everyone else, but ultimately I was kidding nobody.
Eventually, fate caught up with me in the form of a new relationship and an impending pregnancy. Now I was going to be a dad and there was no more lying, running away, or blinding people with glitzy stories of what I’d done and where I’d been. I had a pregnant girlfriend and an unborn child to be there for, and that was the scariest thought imaginable to me.
On the one hand, all the escape routes were still open, but my determination to be a positive force in my children’s life was the reason I stayed, tried to be the person my new partner needed, and work through my issues.
My daughter arrived and the cracks were already appearing, trying to be a totally new, honest, accountable person wasn’t what I was used to. I had to unlearn decades of learned behaviours and thought patterns and it eventually took its toll when we split up 18 months later.
After a two-year downward spiral, which took me to some incredibly dark places, my girlfriend and I managed to work out our differences and try again. I moved back in and got some proper mental health diagnosis for the first time in my life.
The results were that I was diagnosed with complex PTSD, borderline personality disorder, emotional dissociation disorder, depression, and anxiety.
Six months later, and things were going well, and we found out that we were to be parents again. By now I was receiving constant mental health support, attending counselling (both peer groups and 1-2-1 support), but I’d been signed off work to allow me to concentrate on my mental health.
Our second daughter was born and although my issues were much improved, the weight of the journey we had both been through was starting to show. A year later and as much as we clearly both loved our children, things weren’t right with us as a couple. After an explosive argument, I found myself leaving the house again – but this time due to me not having worked for some 18 months and having no savings, I was homeless.
I fell into the system and found out very quickly that as much as there are a lot of people who want to help, resources are thin on the ground, and even though I thought I was a priority with my now very precarious mental health, the council could not help me immediately, and I ended up at the Harrogate Homeless Project. If they hadn’t stepped in and helped me, I’d have been sleeping rough.
As much as this could have ended with me being another statistic of someone with mental health issues taking their own life, I was lucky enough to find the help I needed, but it wasn't easy. I am hoping through this World Record Attempt to be able to highlight the work these amazing charities do so that nobody else feels like there is nobody to help them if they are in the same situation.
These charities rely upon donations and would not be here without your kind support - and without these charities and their love and care, I probably wouldn't be here either.
Please help me to give them the much needed funds they require to help others!
Once I was admitted to the Harrogate Homeless Project, I stayed at the hostel for a month while they sorted out a room in a house share which allowed me the time to find a new support network, and one place very quickly became my new home from home - The Acorn Centre in Harrogate, run by Mind.
I joined the mindfulness colouring group, the creative writing class, and the centre’s band which re-invigorated my love of drumming. I’ve played since I was about 5 years of age and it’s probably my greatest and oldest form of therapy.
Drumming is easy to do and hard to master. Anyone can pick up a pair of sticks and get the satisfaction of making a noise, find a mindful moment in trying to stay in time with the beat, concentrate on both the accent and rhythm they are trying to achieve, and in this form, drumming is creative, calming, expressive, and a great way to release tension and stress.
A few years before, I was browsing online and found a video from a guy in Portugal who had just set the world record for the longest drum marathon by an individual at 133 hours! I thought I’d love to have a go at beating that, but my mental health wasn’t where it needed to be and the logistics were made harder with having a family, so it never got off the ground.
Talking to the guys at the Acorn Centre, it started to become more apparent that this was actually the perfect time for me to attempt this, and I could help out the charities who had helped me when I needed it too.
So, here I am, planning a Guinness World Record attempt for October 2017. I’ll be playing a constant 12-hour shift then taking a one-hour break until I get past the existing record of 133 hours, but hopefully I’ll make it to my target of 170 hours.
And after this? Some say that I’ll probably never want to see a drum again, but I’m actually setting up a drum group for mindfulness and therapy called “Beat It!”, and I hope that, far from being the end of the story, it’s just the beginning of a new chapter.