Guest Blog – The Recovery Village

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

I was having an open and frank conversation with a senior police officer on the 2nd May and it was during this talk that he asked me if I was aware of any organisations that would have been able to support me during my ‘period of need’. Being as honest as possible I stated ‘no’. Of which of course came as no surprise to him as he was hoping I would prove the opposite of what he already knew. There re no male support groups I would consider even close to be able to use.  

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

However, I was introduced to The Recovery Village who offer support for both domestic and alcohol abuse. Would it be too much to ask for our representatives, so called protectors and policy makers to do a little bit more that the bare minimum they are doing now? Could our English Government and social workers not take a leaf out our American friends book? 

Anyway, I invited them to write a blog primarily aimed at my American readers or certainly to offer food for thought for my home readers. 

 Thank you Amy and Carlos…. 

The Recovery Village 

Domestic violence and substance misuse are viewed by many as separate problems needing to be addressed in the United States. However, the two have a well-documented connection to one another — and in many situations where one is present, so is the other. 

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village is part of the integrated behavioral healthcare management company, Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), and includes a network of treatment centers for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring disorders. Many people who come through the doors of a drug and alcohol rehab facility such as The Recovery Village have also experienced domestic violence, either as the offender or victim. 

 Connection Between Domestic Violence and Substance Misuse 

 Drug and alcohol misuse and domestic violence are extremely prevalent issues in the United States, and nearly half of Americans suffer from either one of or both of these issues. 

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 20 million Americans ages 12 and older reported in 2016 that they suffered from a substance use disorder. Around 2.1 million misuses opioids but the largest group was alcohol misuse, with 15.1 million people reporting they were addicted to the substance. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. 

There is information that backs up the link between domestic abuse and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some of the facts that associate the two issues are: 

  •  Adolescents or young adults who were involved in dating violence within the past year are more at risk of having mental health or substance use disorders. 
  • Teens who have suffered from dating violence are more likely than their peers to misuse drugs, contemplate committing suicide or regularly eat unhealthy foods. 
  • Research from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) shows that substance misuse plays a role in around half of violent incidents between intimate partners. 
  • People who were victims of domestic abuse are 70 percent more susceptible to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol than people who have not experienced dating violence. 
  • On days when one or both members of an intimate relationship used drugs or alcohol, a physical altercation was 11 times more likely between intimate partners. 

 How The Recovery Village Helps 

 Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village cares about the mental well-being of its clients, which is why the rehabilitation centers provide treatment for co-occurring disorders, also known as dual-diagnosis. These could be mental health issues such as anxiety disorders or depression, or eating disorders. Through treatment for both addiction and any co-occurring disorders, people who have experienced domestic violence can find support and healing from these tragic events. 

 The Recovery Village understands the struggle of individuals who suffer from domestic violence because of the connection between that tragedy and substance use disorders. Because of that, The Recovery Village provides help for for people who recognize the presence of domestic abuse in their own lives. 

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

While many signs of domestic violence might be visible primarily to the victim, there are some symptoms someone on the outside of the abusive relationship can easily notice. The Recovery Village wants to make it as easy as possible to identify these abusive relationships. If a friend, relative or other loved one is suffering from domestic abuse, they might: 

  • Frequently make over-the-top attempts to please their partner 
  • Explain cuts, bruises or other injuries by making up accidental injuries 
  • Receive harassing text messages or telephone calls from their partner 
  • Make excuses for their partner being verbally abusive 
  • Get nervous or have difficulty talking about their relationship 
  • Frequently miss social outings, school or work obligations 
  • Show signs of anxiety or depression, including low self-esteem 
  • Tell stories of times their partner was jealous or possessive 

The Recovery Village’s associates are trained professionals who can help people suffering from not only substance use disorder but also domestic violence. These conversations could enlighten people suffering in these relationships or people who know someone in an abusive relationship, who know someone in an abusive relationship, which could lead to them seeking help for their issues. 

 Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village provides opportunities to open up about domestic violence during the rehabilitation process. One of the most integral parts of The Recovery Village’s addiction treatment process is the inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs. Whether it’s during a full-time stay at one of the facilities, or a weekly visit during an outpatient program, people on the path to recovery often receive support during individual and group therapy sessions. In these intimate settings, there are opportunities to discuss negative experiences prior to recovery or talk about any physical altercations with an intimate partner that continue to cause emotional distress. 

 

If you are in need of assistance or just want to talk, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. 

The Art of Staying Quiet

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

I used to enjoy art at school. I must confess that I could never have claimed to be good at it but then by modern standards I could have been considered the producer of master pieces.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

Even today as a middle-aged man I like to do the odd doodle, visit art galleries, buy nice prints when I can and so on. I even have Lempika’s iconic picture ‘The Woman in The Green Dress’ tattooed on my upper left arm. I’ve probably had it for about 8 years now and I still look at it with a sense of pride.

But what is art?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

Well this is actually difficult to pin down. There are loose explanations around that still don’t make it clear.

I have often visited galleries, art shops or exhibitions and asked myself ‘how on earth did this ever get past the critic?’  Furthermore, how can a piece I consider to be poor demand such a high price when my GCSE masterpiece only made me a ‘B’?

When I do see something I consider to be ‘poor’ I develop a nagging concern that I am not educated or qualified enough to evaluate the work and so be unable to justify its worth.  Of course, we all know that the interpretation of art is subjective, and this is why I cannot identify what is good art.

Denying questions is ignorance

The idea that the artist defines the artwork reduces the viewer’s involvement with the artwork and eroded the authority of the viewer’s perspective. In this belief system, the artist has the ultimate trump card: “you don’t understand.” Therefore, the conversation is over, the viewer hushed and finally shamed into silence.

In my view life is a subjective experience. And yet, we still trust in the ability of people to evaluate and share their perceptions in journalism, history, law, science and so on. It is the responsibility of the artist, the scientist, the lawyer (including the police and CPS) and the historian to convey an individual’s window on the world. Art is not a one-sided conversation, and it doesn’t help to continue acting like it is.

The art of words

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

If a piece of art genuinely moves only one person, it is still good art. The same can be applied to the art of conversation or the ability to write. If it moves many people, it might be great art. If it moves you only because you think that it ought to, then it is time to start thinking about why. This does involve an element of  expectation of self-awareness and belief in the ability to people to be confident in their own perspectives. At the very least, it requires thoughtfulness.

So how does this fit here?

I have loosely touch upon this when I suggested that the art of conversation is still an art.

When I studied A level Law many years ago a key statement my tutor made was that ‘the law and its principles is open to interpretation’. The art is being able to understand, decipher and communicate back.

It is not an art to ridcule

Unlike the ‘expert’ artist, I feel it is immoral, wrong and dangerous to ridicule someone’s interpretation of what has been said or implied.

Like so many victims I have met the process of recovery is not just living day to day but to be listened to. The art for the listener is to pay attention, interpret and attempt to understand. It is not their role to criticise, ridicule or use it for harm.

Wittgenstein and the limitation of words

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

For many people (or survivors) their words are restricted by the Wittgenstein principle.

Wittgenstein’s work (Tractatus) considered the relationship between language and the world. He argued that the logical structure of language provides the limits of meaning. The limits of language, for Wittgenstein, are the limits of thought or the sharing of ideas or principle (aka philosophy).

There just doesn’t seem to be any logic

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

When I reflect on capabilities, why are footballers (or soccer to my American readers) paid massive sums of money to just kick a piece of leather around. Yet my Ambulance colleagues, who save lives on a regular basis, have to threaten strike action just to keep up with the cost of living? How is the value of their skills measured correctly? Is saving a life less of an art than kicking a ball?

I recently endured a series of programmes that awarded celebrities for being, well – celebrities. I witnessed how the artists were categorized and judged. In my view the winners were imposed upon the audience (who are very often culture obsessed) with deciding who is worthy and who is not. We watch people walk down the red carpet and listen to commentators judge their appearances and beauty.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

I once fell into a similar trap many years ago. I was watching some award programme for authors and their books. The programme raved and shouted loudly about how brilliant a certain book was. Well with that kind of praise I rushed out the following day and bought a copy. Well, it was without doubt, one of the worst books I have ever read. To be honest with you I never finished it. As a result I have learnt to ignore these so called experts and develop my own thoughts and considerations about what I perceive to be right or good.

How is being quiet an art?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

The art of being quiet is to allow the talker to create their own problems. These past few months I have come into contact with so many so called ‘professionals’.

During these many conversations I witnessed their art is one of self-indulgence and above all arrogance. Many of these talkers have spouted false statistics believing them to be gospel or as flawless facts. Yet, when challenged they see it as a personal attack and treat it as such. If a true believer has faith in what they have to say then they shouldn’t have to revert to personal attacks.

Just sit back and watch it all happen

The art of being quiet is to sit back and watch them dig themselves deeper. To give this an example, I have recently dealt with the CPS about how they consider every case on a case by case basis. I asked them to supply policies and precedence to show this. To begin with i did not question or criticise their statements. I didn’t need to because by their own words I found so many contradictions that it has now become impossible to ignore.

If you recall I used this same principle with social services which resulted in the sacking of one of their own.

I have discovered that if you remain quiet and let the fakers continue to talk they eventually get caught up in their own contradictions. Their ultimate shame is shown when they cannot criticise you anymore due to the recognition that they have been caught out.

He or she who shouts the loudest has the most to hide

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

Maybe the reason the abusers continue to talk when they know they are being caught out sheds light on a deeper human truth. Perhaps they overstate their arguments and lie to fill a void of unworthiness. Maybe we need to define abusers as the “other,” the lesser, the unworthy because we know following our own experiences that there is a definitive right and wrong, good and bad, and very often the weaker listeners fall on the latter side to believe the one shouting the loudest.

By definition, and my personal belief, the art of being quiet is just the ability to let the wrong doers express their interpretations wrongly. Often it warrants a greatness and appreciation for the beauty of staying quiet and buying your time rather than lowering yourself to their level resulting in a public argument. This allows you to own the power of their own downfall, either for the fake accusers, their departments or the subsequent offenders and abusers.

Remaining quiet does not feed their flames – They do it themselves

The art of staying quiet is the ability to step back and buy yourself some time whilst the accusers and their supporters dig their own graves. The real skill is to buy your time and choosing your moment correctly rather than feed their ego by counter arguing. Of course, it feels right to defend yourself the instant an accusation has been made. But if the abuser continues upon their own path to destruction it rewards you by witnessing the creation of their own endings.

Regrets

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Regrets

Regrets. It’s such a simple word that holds so many meanings but it appears to be a word of self-reflection.

I consider that most regrets stem from the things we didn’t do, rather than the things we did do. Regardless of the life we’ve lived, whether we struggled with addiction, depression or have had a substantial amount of time in recovery, it turns out that most people regret the same things.

I think people who have been through what we have been through or how we have felt will always be hard on ourselves. Often, I have found myself saying “I wish I hadn’t” or “if only” and so on. But like so many of us I’m sure we acted with the right intentions at that specific point in our lives.

I could have done so much better

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Regrets

As a father, I wish I could have done better but I could only do what I could with the resources available or with the opportunities I had. As a partner I could, it feels, only fire fight by trying to keep things under control.

I’m sure many of us know the feeling of trying to spin plates by keeping everything in some form of order whilst dealing with outside issues. It’s difficult but it doesn’t require regrets. It actually requires stamina and we all get tired at some point.

Of course, on reflection I regret having found myself in that relationship but let’s be clear. No one comes with a label. Furthermore, no one sets out to say, ‘let’s give it a go although it may end up being the worst experience of my life’.

If we all did that I wonder what kind of world we would live in. We may never venture out of the house in case we get run over. We might not get dressed in case our clothes clash or match someone in the office.

Values

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Regrets

I briefly touched upon this train of thought in This Is My Advice, when I mentioned Nietzsche. His philosophy has stuck with me since I first read him many years ago. He devised the idea that we need to have bad experiences to appreciate the good. As a result, I have now learnt to embrace these regrets although I don’t want to go out and find myself repeating them.

We only seem to have regrets when we are reminded of what we have been through. There are times I regret not telling certain people what I thought of them. But the reality is that either someone else will tell them at some point. Or, they may be so up their own backside that whatever I may have said would not have penetrated their thick skulls anyway. Some people may call it karma I just call it time. All good things come to those who wait.

Pointless exercises

As a student many years ago, I was often told to reflect on things I had seen, done or experienced. I found this whole concept a complete waste of time as I considered that if I was doing my best at that specific moment how could I consider improving.

But I’m going to give this idea a new, more logical explanation. If I found myself in a similar situation would I handle things differently? What if I had different opportunities at that specific moment, would I still take those chances? Have I changed my views on things?

Where was the opportunity?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Regrets

The reality however, is not as rosy as the romantic idea of everything being in its place. To explain this better I consider that many things are actually out of our control. If there had been better support for men in these situations then I may have had more opportunities available to me. If the police were more proactive with complaints then issues may have been resolved better. If the person was more willing to comprehend what I was telling her then she may have addressed her own failings. We will just never know because those options were not available at that moment (and may never be).

My regret is that I think I had too much faith in a failing system rather than finding myself in that position in the first place.

Reactive over proactive

I have spoken to a few people about regrets but the common denominator is based around reaction rather than being pro-action. Time and time again we may have forgiven or developed an explanation for other people’s actions (I know I have) but it is important not to judge everyone by the nasty experiences we have had by one person.

Of course, I now recognise the signs better and I am now in a position to question my first thoughts. But I have no regrets about my experiences. I only have regrets for other people or other agencies. I regret that there is no greater support but that’s not my fault. I regret not divulging more information (but when I did very few differences were made). Ultimately, I regret having too much faith in a system that did not work. But what is most frustrating is that the system doesn’t want to improve because it does not see (conveniently) its own failings.

Different strokes for different folks

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Regrets

Following my experiences, I have uncovered fake people. But equally I have also met and spoken to some of the most amazing people that I would never have had the opportunity to speak to otherwise. So a regret seems to have its own rewards. I am also equally happy not to forgive other people for their actions – pity is much more appropriate (see my blog on; forgiveness – why should you?)

Yes, I do regret many things. I regret things from my childhood but I was too young to have dealt with it at that moment. I regret telling my children off about certain things, but they have grown into fantastic people. I regret being in an abusive relationship but I have learnt self-worth and what is right from wrong. Surely these must be positive outcomes from poor experiences.

No regrets just lessons learnt

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Regrets

I have read that an abuser is never sorry.  Do they ever have regrets about people that they’ve damaged or hurt?  Even if they won’t admit it to other people do they feel sorry for the way they treated other people? I very much doubt it.

But I refuse to carry the burden of regret for people who do not see the errors of their own ways. Why should we? Life is and can be difficult as it is without trying to explain and justify your actions when dealing with a situation that you had not intended to find yourself in.

 

Making Sense Of It All

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Making Sense Of It All

To have an identity.

As a child it doesn’t really matter, as a teenager it’s everything but as an adult we seek high and low to find it. But identity and acceptance is a major vein of a person’s identity.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Making Sense Of It All
Plato

‘Social Acceptance could be defined as the fact that most people, in order to fit in with others, attempt to look and act like them.’ – Plato 428 BC – 348 BC

A few of years ago I came across an article about men with beards. It raved about them and went into detail about what can be done with them. But here I was carrying mine with a sense of individuality. Nobody else had one. Now when I look around it is unusual to see any male without one. Hence, had I lost my identity as an individual within the crowd? I can never consider myself to be a trendsetter – that would just be hilarious.

Yet the dead opposite is the case for teenagers. They try so hard to be a part of their sector. I remember wanting the same trainers as my mate. I had the same school bag as everyone else. It was what we did then and I am fully aware it’s what teenagers still do now. They all want to look the same – perhaps it’s a primeval behaviour that we try and revert to a tribe mentality.

I hate going into certain high street clothing shops as I try to avoid looking the same as the next person. Individuality for me is essential. Both physically, in the way I look and mentally by the way I think.

Banishment

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Making Sense Of It All

It may be difficult to understand what it is I am trying to say. But I think I am recovering. For the first time in my life I am sitting here comfortable in my own skin. Recently, I have banished what people expect from me and took a long time to look at my inner self.

I don’t want to be like the next person. I’m embracing what and who I am. Between you and I, I have discovered that usually the next person is more screwed up than me. And that can be refreshing to know.

I have now given up being the enabler to fit other people’s profiles and expectations. I’m comfortable with that. It suits me because it is me. The problem with being what I wasn’t was that I had, therefore, lost my identity. When I was falling into the crowd I actually didn’t want to be there. Instead I wanted to sit in a corner and happily watch as opposed to partaking in various misadventures.

A clash?

Of course, I will find myself trying to emulate the confident person, it’s a matter of survival at times. And to be honest a part of me doesn’t want to give up that character I had created. He is funny, sociable, and confident. I mean it was who I wanted to be for most of my life and now what? Now I’m struggling more than ever with identity. It feels like an evolution as instead of a revolution.

Misconceived Social Expectations

Going back to creating an identity I have often spent many hours looking around at other people around me. It made me feel mostly like failure. But this isn’t a sob story or anything but was how I felt when I was trying to build a level of confidence.  I would look around at people of my age and see that they were better at their jobs that I, they would be in great relationships, having nice holidays, beautiful homes and so on.

Ironic

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Making Sense Of It All

But here sits the irony that I have only just realised. I know these people have their own battles to deal with. In all of its formats life is tough and I know everyone has their own difficulties to deal with. This was why I felt so guilty about being ill. It explains why I beat myself up about the situation I found myself in and struggled to get better quickly. That was why I rushed back into work before I was ready to return. But this was why I tried to hide my illness from everyone. To everyone I knew I just want to be seen as normal. Just what my understanding of normal was misrepresented.

Acceptance is one thing. Knowing what to do about it is another.

Consciously I can now sit here and see the problems and how they manifested themselves over time. I try hard to write my points down and share them with others (such as yourselves) to try and get some perspective on it all. But the reality at the time was that I could talk the talk but I struggled to walk the walk. Why? Because I tried too hard to be what I wasn’t.

If we take an extensive look at the how this misconceived social expectation is fuelled. I can point my finger directly at social media, adverts, magazines, television programmes, and so on. But it’s obvious to everyone the pressures we are under because it’s constantly shoved down our throats.

Fraudulent life style

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Making Sense Of It All

There is an artificial expectation to succeed, to look good (although everyone wants to look the same), to eat more salads, to look good the gym (although the majority who go don’t), to have money (but this equates debt), to have a fulfilling career.

But the false failure is always around us. You just have to open your eyes to see it. For example, whilst I type this an advert is running in the background. It’s for a sports shoe. The reality is that if you buy this shoe it will not make you into a super athlete as soon as you put them on. No, it requires pain and commitment not being a lazy arse and over spending on a false hope that the advert appears to offer. The reality is that it won’t change my life by not owning them. In fact I will probably save myself a couple of hundred quid by not doing so. So, in effect its 1-0 to me for not bothering to be fooled. My mind boggles that we who consider ourselves as the superior species on the planet are so easily fooled by other humans. It’s a cruel irony really – when you actually think about it.

 Acceptance

I have tried hard most of my life to fit into a category of which I am comfortable with. I have no idea why I used so much energy on this meaningless task but I had/have. In adolescence, I can understand why we do this. At this point in our lives we are trying to create and shape an identity of our own, and that is part of the process of becoming an adult. We desire to be attractive and popular. Perhaps this is a primeval survival technique. But  as an adult, I struggled to accept the fact I didn’t feel I had an ‘identity’ (or whatever that means). I consider now that I never really had the opportunity to finish what I had started. I never really had the opportunity to create an identity of my own because my home life was such a mess. That, therefore, became my identity and would be for a number of years. Now that I realise this error I am enjoying starting again. It’s actually quiet exciting.

Acceptance is a huge part of coping with mental health problems

Acceptance of mental health is still slow. Suicide is still the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 and therefore a tremendous amount of work still has to be done so that people feel more comfortable with opening up and talking about their problems and who they really are.

Writing this website has helped me identify a whole lot of things. I have said things on these pages that even now I would never verbally say and have never been said before. But I’ve said them. And I’m glad I have. I am also glad to know that people read what I have to say. And that for me is the most important thing.

Trying to make sense of it all – again.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Making Sense Of It All

The fact is this. There is nothing to make sense of. Our concerns are a product of fake hopes. I know I will never have the body of a god, or be filthy rich. Together with this I won’t have fantastic holidays on heavenly beaches. But what is important is self-contentment and happiness. Those are things that you can’t buy. You just acquire them – eventually.

 

 

People With Depression.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression People With Depression.

It recently dawned on me that I’m part of an exclusive club. I don’t wear a badge or carry a membership card. But it requires a certain feature to be a member. Not many of my friends or family know of my membership, and I would rather it stayed that way (I’m not a Mason either, before you jump to conclusions). Although, when I say it’s exclusive – it isn’t really, because it transpires that there actually millions of us.

This exclusive club is depression.

Let me try and make this a little clearer. I learnt to drive when I was 17 and at 45 I’ve never been without a car. I’ve had some fantastic cars, and some real shockers. But I’ve always had a car of some sort.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression People With Depression.

Since having a driving licence I have always adored ‘Bentley’s’. They are such beautiful cars. The curves are such that I want to run my hands over them. The interior is such that I would happily sit inside for hours on end. And as for the engine, the roar is like an untamed beast insisting on liberation. What is there not to like about such a thing? But, if I had all the money in the world I would never buy one. Why? One may ask. Well the answer is simple. I wouldn’t want the attention. It would fill me with horror to think that people are looking at me.

So, I’m happy with my VW Golf. It does what I want (except the boot is too small). It gets me from A to B and no one gives me a second look when I drive into town. It can absorb itself into its surroundings and can be easily forgotten by people who see it. It just doesn’t shout out “look at me”.

So, what has this to do with depression?

This is complicated to answer but I hope that you, the reader, will be able to understand.

I am proud to have survived this illness although I have had it all my life. Yet I would rather the people who knew me didn’t know about it. I don’t want to be judged I want them to know me for the persona I am allowing them to see. I am happy to disappear in a crowd.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression People With Depression.

But this is an exclusive club to be in because some of the nicest people I have ever known have depression. And we are quiet about it. Perhaps because we don’t want to draw attention to something we have been made to feel ashamed about. We don’t want people pointing and judging.

Characters

Since setting up this website I have often taken steps to see how other people with depression get through life. I have found many depressive types. For ease, I have broken them down into three different categories;

  1. People who think they have depression – but don’t. These are tragic types. They shout from the highest peaks telling everyone how much they deserve attention and how life has been ‘so hard’ for them. These types get over depression as soon as they become occupied – or get the attention they think they deserve.
  2. People who know they have depression and are willing to talk about it only if they feel they have too. They cope with life on a secret basis based on techniques they have developed but don’t have the energy anymore to hide it as well as they used to.
  3. People who have depression and take measures to hide it. They struggle with the suffocating pain but don’t wish to make a fuss in-case it creates greater problems. They have created a persona that fits with how they think they should be seen. These depressives are tired but still holding on.

For this blog I want to completely dismiss type 1 depressive. They give depression a bad name and only suffer with their own vanity.

What I have discovered about people with depression.

Some of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting suffer with depression. Recently, I have been able to identify those types who try to hide it. When you are one it takes one to know one. But there are features I want us all to recognise.

Sympathy

People with depression can identify someone’s pain from a distance. What is worth knowing is that they can feel the pain others are experiencing. Even if it isn’t depression. Depressives don’t want to feel pain and as such feel the agony in others, yet know there is little they can do about it.

I can think of people I know with depression and I have spoken to a couple of them. The relief on their face when I share my feelings and thoughts is immeasurable. They are relieved that someone understands. Yet I have only ever told them privately. It’s just easier that way for everyone involved.

What surprises me is that many of these people had no idea I was a sufferer. Well, that’s simple, I perfected the art of hiding it but I found I had sympathy for those of whom had not mastered the art of camouflage.

A depressive will always understand a true sufferer and will have sympathy for how they are.

Do not judge

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression People With Depression.

Many depressives have had a lifetime of judgements and so do not want to judge others. I for one, do not wish to be seen as judgmental. We have all reached this point in our lives based on actions we have experienced. Who are we to judge others when we feel so little about ourselves?

A depressive will always love you for who you really are, not how you want to be seen. I adore all of my friends but especially love my depressive friends because they are genuine and will do anything to protect others within their circle. That takes a special kind of person of which non-depressives can appreciate.

Ability to listen

From my own experiences, I have found that when talking to a depressive you don’t have to say much. Listening is an art. Depressives don’t want sound bites and certainly not sympathy. They just want to say things and not for you to hear but to listen – and of course know they are not going to be judged.

Throughout my time with depression I have found that everyone thinks they are an expert and are keen to offer their advice (which is often wrong). I don’t need advice, I had a life time of that. We just want someone to listen and offer an alternative view – which is not advice. We just want to know you are there. Demands are not being made on anyone and there is no duress to make you stay. They just want to either listen or to be listened too.

Considerate

I have found that meeting other people with depression come from a range of backgrounds. Their journey to realisation has come from many sources and causes. As such people with depression are for more considerate of others than any other section of society. Our experiences are far and wide.

I know that people find different ways of dealing with their suffering. As a result, I would never make direct suggestions to them as that would be inconsiderate. What works for me works for me. Therefore, I appreciate other people systems they have in place. If it works then well done them.

Friendly

A depressive will never intentionally hurt anyone. I know I have hurt people and this has become a heavy burden of which I carry. I have said “sorry” so many times and undoubtedly will continue to do so. Equally, I am always happy to welcome back into my arms those of whom hurt me – although I may remain cautious.

I consider depressives as (generally) to be friendly. I know I try and appreciate the best in everyone. Equally, I try and offer the best I can to anyone. Is this a friendly characteristic? I hope so.

But when I think of people I know with depression they will always stop to say “hello” and ask how I am. Even though I will always tell them that I am “ok”.

We say we are “ok” because we don’t want to be a burden to others when we know they may have problems of their own. Yes this is being friendly, but it also overlaps into consideration.

Survivors

This is something people with depression very rarely recognise. If you have followed my blogs I have openly talked about ending it in the past. Having survived these periods, I can now call myself (today) a survivor. As previously stated, when I made my mind up to go I was ready to end it. It was only circumstances or coincidences that stopped me.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression People With Depression.

It takes a strong personality to stop doing something that you have drive and conviction to do. So, any survivors out there I personally congratulate you. We have all made it this far and this is something people without depression will never be able to appreciate.

Surviving in a hostile world is a daily struggle and getting through each day is far more than a simple achievement. It’s an accomplishment.

When writing this…

I have sat for about a week or so prior to writing this. I have tried to get a grip on who I am aiming it at. Am I aiming it at the depressive, the non-depressive or those of whom know a depressive?

Well, on reflection, it doesn’t matter. From the depressive point of view, I want to congratulate you for being a survivor and being the good person that you are. It is we who are in the exclusive club of which we don’t want people to know about.

But I am proud of my association with other depressives and my illness. I think it has made me into a good, caring man. And my associates are just lovely people – it’s just that you don’t know it yet. Or, perhaps like myself, I refuse to accept it.

For those of whom care for a depressive I want you to recognise these qualities that your loved one has. Let them know it. If needs be get them to read this blog. We know we can’t be easy to live with and we know that. But I feel a depressive has a lot to offer you. Its just that you need to be patient with us.

Common denominator

I will end as I began. Depression is an exclusive club. Only kind, considerate and loveable members can join. It just that we don’t see it in ourselves. Oh yes, it so happens we also have depression.

 

 

 

The Art Of Forgetting

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

I’m not a psychiatrist, and although I work in the medical profession I mainly work in trauma. I have realised that the power of the mind far out ways physical strength in so many ways. There are various views about how much of the brain is actually being used at any one time, and these theories are still under discussion and investigation. See – how much of our brain do we use

Busy mind – overdrive

I have spent many nights lay awake not being able to sleep because my mind is bouncing with thoughts or ideas. I have also had days when I have recalled past events either from decades ago or more recently, which sometimes triggers feelings of self-doubt or utter sadness. Although on the flip side it is just as easy to recall happier moments which bring feelings of warmth and contentment.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

It can be considered that our trains of thought can be built on habits. For example, every one of us can attach a memory to a certain song (either good or bad). Or we may recall when we first had a certain meal. For me, I can recall walking along the River Avon in Evesham every time I consume a chocolate lime (see quite man). This is a positive recall. However, I can now associate a certain song with being punched in the back, or a fragrance being attached to a specific human.

Trying to forget

But is it possible that we can train ourselves to think differently to help improve our mental health or to forget an abusive relationship?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

I once joined a slimming club many years ago. It was utter agony. Throughout my period of membership, I was constantly recalling how lovely chocolate tasted, or how lovely KFC chicken actually smelt on an empty stomach. In fact, I failed at being a vegetarian because my will power over a bacon sandwich was just not strong enough.

But is it fair to argue or consider that people who slim, or people who try to refrain from smoking suffer the same torments as someone who has just left an abusive relationship. Are we drawn to the evils because we are used to it and we are only addicted because our minds crave the routine of which we are now used to?

Balloon

Many years ago, I went on a course, I really cannot recall what it was about, but one thing really stuck in my head, and I’m going to share it with you now.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

The host said to us all “whatever you do, I plead with you not to think of a red balloon”. Well yes you guessed it, everyone, including myself thought of a red balloon. I don’t know the science behind it, perhaps it was a suggestive thought, but the power that individual had over my free thoughts was phenomenal.

So, to put this into perspective; when you try to avoid certain foods because of a diet – all you can think about is that food. If you are trying to forget an ex, they instantly spring to mind. When you try and forget why you flinch every time a certain word is mentioned you are flashed back to a specific event.

No longer will I be held to ransom by the actions of an ex. I have moved on but she still accommodates an area of my mind. I’m fighting depression, but my life has so many associations attached to such events. I have tried to stop but when I do I often find my mind wonders back to those moments. Perhaps my brain is seeking safety in a place it recognises. If this is the case it’s an uncomfortable state to live in.

Alternative

If you have noticed, to the regular readers of this blog, I have not written much over the past couple of days. Not because I had nothing to say (far from it), but because I wanted to spend my research and writing time trying something new  out.

I heard a song on the radio whilst making a coffee. Instantly, I recalled an uncomfortable memory about my ex. My mouth went dry and I could feel my heart race. It was if they had a presence in the room. I felt instantly vulnerable. To be honest with you I felt quite scared by my lack of strength even after all this time.

It fails to make sense

It was an unreasonable action. I knew she wasn’t there. I know she is miles away. But the power of my thoughts was shocking. It had utter control of my physical self.

It was at this moment that I tried something new. The song was playing but I refused to switch the radio off. So, I picked up the dog and hugged her. I would hope to think that the next time I hear that specific song I will now associate it with hugging the dog as opposed to blocking a punch. Even now as I write this I am recalling lifted the dog and holding her like a small child. That is surely a better memory to associate with.

Ctrl, Alt, Delete

It would be impossible to wipe clean your whole life. We are after all, a product of past events. I remember when my son was younger and he did something which required a stern word. Instantly, I recalled being told the same thing by my parents – or did I just sound like my (adopted) mother at that specific moment?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

I remember as a teenager in the 1980’s I could recall any phone number. Being able to dial the numbers like how a secretary types, with speed and not looking at the phone. I think I could recall probably about seven or eight numbers instantly. In fact if you gave me the first few numbers of a specific telephone number I could probably still continue the rest. 0121 475…., 0121 443….. But we don’t need to anymore. Modern phones only require you to remember the name of the person you are about to call.

But modern life and its instruments almost reinforces negative memories. When I flick through my ‘Pictures’ file for this blog, I come across a range of photographs that were taken many years ago. Instantly, my mind is flashed back to that moment of capture. This is also the case with things such as Facebook, for example. I have read many comments that people have written stating that they have looked up an ex on Facebook. Why, the pictures are fake (see humiliation) but your memories are real. They are an ex for a reason. No-one (that I know of) has stayed in a toxic relationship because they liked their abusers ‘smile’ – of which is all you see in a photograph.

If you look at that picture remember them kicking the shit out of you or screaming in your face. Remember your mind is suggesting something. I would like to suggest a red balloon.

Time will tell

Ironically, I am not asking you to stop reading my blogs in case it makes the reader recall negative events or thoughts. I write these because I want to share my experiences and offer an alternative to what you are experiencing. It might even be that you are reading my blogs and saying “yes, I’ve had that too, I’m, therefore, not alone”.

But I want to offer a glimmer of hope. Perhaps the ability to think differently is an indication that I am recovering. Perhaps I am getting better.  I hope so. My depression took away my best years and my ex tried to smash the remaining. I don’t want to lose any more. Is that an unreasonable ask?

Venture (adventure)

I want to continue to write. And I want to continue with my experiment of disassociation. It’s about time I tried to break the cycle, I hope it works. But I would love to hear from anyone else that tries this approach and to see if it works. Perhaps I might be on to something here and if it makes anyone rich, remember you heard it here first!!

 

 

 

 

The Modern Shame – The Big ‘D’

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Modern Shame - The Big 'D'

Depression – The big ‘D’

I was doing one of my favourite past times yesterday. I was sitting in a coffee shop. Nothing special one might think. But it is when you think about it. You can sit in any coffee shop and you can cross the paths of people from every back ground. These people come with a wealth of experiences and knowledge.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Modern Shame - The Big 'D'

One group of people caught my eye. They were a group of young people, in their twenties. Watching them, they were clearly happy in each other’s company. Although they could be heard laughing and sharing a range of stories, they were not imposing on the rest of us in the shop.

What struck me after several minutes was that by the number of those of whom were sitting around the table at least (statistically) two or three of them will suffer some form of mental illness at some point in their lives.

If it was suddenly revealed by any one of them around that table would the tone of the conversation have changed? Would they have alienated those individuals or embraced them?

Change in age, change in view?

Since thinking about this I have had two trains of thought. Firstly, do we now have a new generation of people who are now more accepting than any generation prior? Secondly, what if there is still no change? Perhaps we have not moved on as well as we believes society likes to think it has.

Society, in my view has moved on with regards to so many aspects of life. Men and women are considered equal (although this can be challenged). Homosexuality is no longer a crime. There are laws in place to protect those of whom suffer a physical form of disability. Yet, I struggle to see equality within mental health concerns.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Modern Shame - The Big 'D'

I do accept that society no longer chains ‘the mad’ to the walls anymore, but there are some of whom are still subjected to medicinal chains and become restricted due to their side effects.

Movement in perception

Society is a fickle madam. It accepts concepts based on a fashion and understanding. Let me explain this better.

I recall a lecture once whilst at university. It discussed how the female form within art has changed. At one point the voluptuous female figure was seen as more desirable as extra weight was seen as healthier and wealthier. Yet magazines today (and certain elements of art) reject this in favour of the stick thin model, who perhaps shows restraint from indulgence and control over image.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Modern Shame - The Big 'D'
George Fox

Mental health has also had its ups and downs of acceptance. George Fox for example, the founder of the Quaker movement, clearly suffered schizophrenia. George Fox openly stated that he heard voices which drove him to religious compulsions. After all, how many times have we heard about the return of the new messiah.  Would Jesus be accepted today or would he be locked up? Who knows, he probably has returned but we have rejected him (or her) in the name of self-protection. And he/she is buried on a mental health ward as opposed to turning water into wine.

The big ‘D’

It was during the 80s that certain things were not mentioned. AIDs was considered an illness for those of whom deserved it. Prior to that the condition of shame was cancer and was referred to as ‘The Big C’. Yet, I do feel that depression is the new leprosy.

I have been open and candid during these writings. Perhaps, too open at times. But consider this, I have suggested that it is ok to be open about this condition yet not everyone of whom I know, knows that I have it. It is easy to share comments and views over the internet or by word of mouth yet, I have been very selective about who knows any of this.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Modern Shame - The Big 'D'
Shame

When I told someone this, they asked why. They knew the answer to this before I even opened my mouth. I am still scared of being judged. We know depression is not contagious but I fear being cast aside and perhaps being identified as; ‘Keith – the one with depression’. As opposed to ‘Keith – the one with….. the cute smile, or something.’

It’s crazy to state this but I know this is the case. Other suffers have also told me this is so.

Public views of depression

Depression has been a throw away comment used and often misused on a regular basis. I have often heard people say they are ‘depressed’ when in fact they are feeling ‘slightly down’ about a particular topic.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Modern Shame - The Big 'D'

I can recall a time when the news columns spilling their headlines after a particular boy band split up. The media have the habit of focusing on the inconsolable teenage girl walling like a banshee stating she is ‘soooo depressed’ about the end of the band. That’s not depression, that’s you just her not understanding what depression is and using the title to defend her stupidity. It exaggerates a feeling to suggest sympathy which is not justified.

Instead of understanding depression as an illness, many people view depressed people as simply being sad or refusing to be happy to gain attention. This outlook can harm the esteem of depressed people, because these patients may begin to feel guilty for their feelings if they accept this view.

Burying the head in the sand

It has been said that depression is a western illness. I was once told that because we in the west have more leisure time so we fill it with thoughts which lead to depression. Therefore, I believe that ignorance is more damaging and leads to segregation. It is easier to turn a blind eye than accept that our brothers and sisters are the same as everyone else in every other respect.

Any form of mental illness does not indicate mad, bad or sad. And so society has no right to reject that individual. Yet it does. I have previously stated that when a crime is committed the media instantly find some connection to mental health condition. This is a tragic and dangerous conclusion. Mental health is not a prerequisite to a life of crime, but the true crime is the ignorance of people allowing the preconceptions to continue.

A big revelation

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Modern Shame - The Big 'D'

For those without depression or any other form of mental illness I want to tell you this. It might be a shock but, some of the nicest people I have ever met have depression. I have found them to be far more considerate, polite and understanding than those of whom claim they don’t suffer. People with mental illness have had to be more understanding as they can appreciate what it is like to be judged or to feel unwell. They equally value each day as it comes and take absolutely nothing and no one for granted.

I, therefore, applaud their strength by keeping their conditions hidden to avoid the shame and ridicule that is heaped upon them.

In an ideal world, I want to remove convenient labels that are placed on mentally ill people. Previous scapegoats such as homosexuality, Judaism, colour of skin or gender and so on are accepted without prejudice. Can this not be done for depression too?

Consideration

So, returning to my group around the table. Are we now living in an age where those seated would reject those suffering or not? I would like to think they would accept the suffering into their arms. But alas, I am still sceptical. Society needs a scape goat and those of whom are not protected are the easy prey. Mental illness is not protected therefore, the cycle of self-protection secrecy will continue.

Depression needs to be celebrated not hidden. Many great historical people suffered with depression (Winston Churchill, Buzz Aldrin, Graham Green to name just three) but it is conveniently acceptable to forget that in honour of their greatness.

 

 

The Fear Of Not being Believed

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed

Not being believed is one thing, but having to retell the events over and over again to get people to listen to you involves reliving the events you have tried to bury. And I just don’t know which is the worst.

For me, telling and retelling the catalogue of events felt like a constant kick in the head. I have had to bat off the quizzical expression and the occasional uplifted l eyebrow. I eventually wondered if my story was too much to be believed and started to consider that my comments were hollow and my hopes of being believed unrealistic.

Is it too high a price?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed
High price

The real challenge of not being believed is how big the price will be. It took all of my courage to try and take my self-respect back and fight against the abuse. It was a dreadful step to reveal the shame of being both abused by my partner but also to reveal a lifelong condition of depression.

I had spent all my life hiding the depression from everyone, and revealing it broke my life long conventions. To add to this exposure, I also admitted that I, a fully grown adult male, had been abused by my female partner. Shame on me, this was not supposed to happen. But to admit all that was only half the problem. The other half was not only being disbelieved but to trying to get support from quarters I had expected more from.

I am sure that my ex knew she was doing wrong. Not just once, but every time she let the abuse happen. This was why, during her nice periods, she used so many words to convince me that I had asked for it. And I initially believed her words.

Once I had the awareness that the way I was living was wrong, it took a whirlwind of thoughts to make a plan of action. I was sure I would be believed, I had to be because I was telling the truth. People had to be able to see that? Even the police.

Physical Abuse vs Emotional Abuse

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed
Abuse

It’s strange how people still see physical abuse as “real” abuse and mental/emotional abuse as, a case of ‘get over it’. Both types of abuse are horrible and utterly unacceptable. The scar on my hand from a burn is healing. But words never heal, they never seem to want to leave me. And the deeper hurts have never been forgotten.

I can’t remember the first time I felt the sharp pain of a cane on the back of my legs from my adopted mother. But I can vividly recall the moment she pointed her finger at me, saying that I was “worthless and would amount to nothing”. After a while, when it is physical pain you learn to ‘harden up’ as you know how it feels when you know it’s coming. But words are unpredictable and knock you off your balance when you least expect it.

I had equally forgotten the first time my ex punched me in the ribs saying it was a joke. But I can now recognise that she had had a life time of inflicting misery on everyone she met. The only difference was that I wanted to fight back. And my arsenal included the weapon of honesty. Her’s was one of denial.

The need for acceptance is like an addictive drug. You need more to feed the habit of desire. The need to be desired by others. And to be loved by someone who seems to be making it difficult. I needed all this from both my ex and my adopted mother because I needed convincing that I had a value in somebody’s eyes (if not my own).

All of this led to a disbelief of my own place in this world. As a result, I believed the untruths to accommodate my own beliefs of right from wrong. As a result, if I couldn’t believe myself, who would believe me when I called out for help?

Listening

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed
Listening

Sometimes when I used to speak to my counsellor, I wondered if she questioned the validity of what I had to say. She appeared honest and kind (and still does), but when I left I often asked myself if she believed me because she had to rather than wanted to. I didn’t blame her. It’s a natural reaction to have a question of doubt. It’s a defensive mechanism I suppose. Even more so when it is a male is talking about being abused by his female partner. Society still has a problem with this concept.

Things changed when I took the time to talk about the history of my events. She implied that she did have a pre-conceived ‘story’ in her head about the events. Now I had clarified things a little she seemed to have a better grasp of where I was coming from.

At that moment, I felt believed. It gave a sense of relief.

Quest to be believed

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Fear Of Not being Believed

It felt like a breath of fresh air when I knew I was being believed. However, it was naturally short lived. Like the addictive drug I needed to feed my validation. I wanted more people to believe me now the ‘cat was out of the bag’. I wanted to share the fact that I was now convinced that what had happened was wrong and I needed to convince others around me.

At the heart of my denial was a core belief system. Mothers should love their children. Fathers should support their children. And partners should ‘love and cherish.’ It flies in the face of what I now know to be true. It is wrong that a Mother have no empathy for her children. It’s beyond comprehension that a father believes the worst about his children. It is crushing that a partner would degrade the very person they vowed to “love.” It just appears to be all wrong. It couldn’t possibly have happened. But, it did.

My abusers knew it flew in the face of what was morally right and each of them used words to convince me that I deserved it, or I had asked for it. Their justifications were the flip-side of my expectations of right from wrong.  If I had not believed their actions to be wrong, then I wouldn’t have been in denial.

I still fear not being believed. All the courage I have summoned to leave myself exposed and vulnerable to other peoples’ picking has been life changing. I have held everything I value up high for other people to value or disregard as they see fit. And this is hard. All my ‘dirty little secrets’ have been forced out of me and it is difficult to cleanse, even more so when people are willing to walk all over it in the name of  belief.

I have spoken after years of saying nothing. I just want to be heard. Not judged or disrespected. Just heard.

The Quiet Man – Nature Verses Nurture

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Quiet Man - Nature Verses Nurture

It was the rain tapping against the window that woke me this morning. I didn’t really have much planned to do today so I intended to sleep in for a while longer than normal. But, as stated this wasn’t the case. As I could hear the rain it dawned on me that I don’t like rain. Don’t get me wrong, it would never stop me going out – unless it was torrential. But I find it uncomfortable getting wet and it’s just an all-round hindrance. Furthermore, it leaves me with the dilemma of what to wear. If I wrap up it will, undoubtable get warm later.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Quiet Man - Nature Verses Nurture
Rainy days

But where did this dislike of rain come from? I was never actively instructed to dislike rain. It just developed. After all, where does the dislike of spiders come from? We are lucky here in England as we have very few venomous creatures to avoid. So, the English fear of spiders is clearly irrational. But this brings me straight to the question – where do we acquire such feelings and thoughts?

Natural father

If you recall, I went into some detail about my relationship with my natural father. He had absolutely no input into my upbringing. As a child and a young adult, he was a shadow. It was only later when I reached 40 that my thoughts became flesh and I had finally found him. We had a few similarities as we both liked history and the arts. We were also within the medical profession. But on reflection that was pretty much it.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Quiet Man - Nature Verses Nurture
Outdated views

I drew the line at his outdated views of the roles of women. We were poles apart politically. I was quiet and he was loud. He just loved the attention. Especially female attention. He took advantage and I was happy to supply. But my views and personality must have been shaped somehow by someone.

Nature verses nurture

Whilst realising that the rain made almost rhythmical patterns it dawned on me that I was stuck in the question of nature verses nurture. There are indeed parts of me that are unidentifiable. I just don’t know where these features come from. But there are others I can directly attribute to key figures in my life.

And this is where I want to reach today. I want to talk about my adopted father.

(Adopted) Father’s father

My adopted father was a good man. He had acquired a lot of his father’s traits. Both were well-spoken and gentle. My grandfather (for ease I will address him as so) always wore a cardigan regardless of the weather and this gave him an endearing character. When he laughed his shoulders would rise and fall – and what was nice, was that he did this often.

Days spent with my grandfather always seemed sunny and I utterly adored him. He would hold my hand and I would smile so any opportunity to spend time with him was always welcome.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Quiet Man - Nature Verses Nurture
Holding hands

I never met his wife as she died two years before I was born, but I know he missed her. I know this because he told me. He had a black and white photograph of her in a frame on the mantelpiece. She was also beautiful. Typical of her time with her hair in a fashionable bob. I also knew that he talked to the picture because I heard him one morning. This made him seem vulnerable yet loveable in equal measure.

He smoked because he lived in a time when it was expected. He loved classical music but enjoyed sharing my tapes (remember them?). Musically, I introduced him to the Pet Shop Boys and he introduced me to Puccini. Food wise, I introduced him to prawn cocktail crisps and he introduced me to chocolate limes. I still love those sweets. But he treated me as an equal of which was lacking at home.

He passed away in 1988 after finally admitting he had cancer. He had known for a while but didn’t want to make a fuss. Not making a fuss finally killed him. But this was typical of him. He would allow me to watch my programmes when he wanted to watch the news or we would eat chocolate instead of salad. I never really recovered losing him. He was really loved by me. As a result, I gave my son his middle name as homage when he was born. It was such a shame that the two never met.

His father’s best features

My adopted father had acquired his father’s best features. He was middle class in ideals and nature. Soft and caring. During my formative years I had considered him to be the most intelligent man ever to have lived. He could explain mathematical problems to me of which I struggled with at school. He could make a sideboard out of an old wardrobe. Furthermore, he tried to see the good in everyone. And that was the problem.

What did they see in each other?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Quiet Man - Nature Verses Nurture
Mismatch

My adopted mother (and I don’t want to go into much detail about her here, that’s a blog for another time) was the complete opposite. Where she screamed he just spoke, where she beat he just shook his head. In reality, I just cannot see how they ever got together. He was middle class in character, yet she was spit and saw dust, working class.

I have often considered that I took the beatings for him. Which was wrong. Many years after I had stood up to her and the beatings had stopped, she was admitted into hospital for a stomach problem. It was nothing major but it required her to be admitted for a few days. It was during this time that he spoke to me in-depth.

I recall us walking through the park on the way to the shops and it was during this walk that he revealed that she was a troubled woman. It took me by surprise, because I had never expected to hear this from his mouth. Furthermore, it had cemented my view of her after all.

Cut me, do I not bleed?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Quiet Man - Nature Verses Nurture
Do I not bleed?

From this point, I knew a mother’s love was not what I had come to accept. It was also a time when it dawned on me that he was not as intelligent as I had considered him to be. He could have stopped the physical chastisement by her hand. Why had he not stepped up to the mark and supported me during the difficult times of my identity struggles? But he didn’t. Why? Well that’s simple, he was too nice to have done any of that. He just wanted the quiet life.

I suppose we would call it ‘hen-pecked’ today. But he was out of his depth with what to do. He had in effect, put his head in the sand to deny any of it. And here lie the similarities. His father had done it before him (cancer) and I had done it with my depression and abuse.  It is only now that I realise this. I had acquired his character. I also wanted the quiet life.

This was not a dreadful thing to have. I would rather be like him than her. But my character dictated my future. I could fight if I had to (adopted mother characteristic) which protected me from being bullied at school. But my failure to admit problems came from him.

Challenged

A few years ago, I took the step to directly highlight my adopted mother’s failures. I identified that comfort and care had been restricted and rationed. Her treatment of me over their child had been unequal and harsh.

I really wanted her to admit it and to try and help me build bridges with her. But her response didn’t come as a surprise. She rejected my claims and dismissed any further comments I had to make. She just failed to identify or admit any failure on her part. Yet she made it clear that I should forever be in her debt and it was my duty to identify this.

Unfortunately, my adopted father was present and as expected he said nothing. He neither defended me or her. And that didn’t come as a surprise either.

Good-bye and God bless

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Quiet Man - Nature Verses Nurture
Goodbye, god bless

A week or so later my adopted father came to my house. We sat alone in the living room whilst he drank tea. I knew this was his good-bye. We spoke about things that had bothered me and he calmly listened and considered what I had said. Ultimately though, he had to conclude that she was his wife and that he could not be seen to side with anyone but her.

I accepted this as I knew from the moment he arrived at my door that this would have been the case.

I never saw either of them ever again. To give her up meant I had to lose him too. It was, alas, a price that I had to pay.

This and that

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Quiet Man - Nature Verses Nurture
keep calm – I’m adopted

There are many things I disliked about my adopted father. He was weak and never really spoke his mind. The opportunity to stop the physical punishments were missed by him. Chances to treat the children equally had passed by.

Yet, I hope that I have the best of him. I hope that I am sensitive when its needed. It would be great if my children thought I was intelligent. His loyalty was obvious. He was just a nice man – simple.

If this is the case (I’m sure people will be quick to tell me otherwise), then parts of the nurture debate are true. I made a positive decision to not be like my adopted mother, and to date I don’t think I am. But I want to care and love and I want to hide from the horrors of life. And that was who he was.

 

A Letter To My Older Self

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression A Letter To My Older Self

Time goes so quickly

When somebody mentions the 1990’s it feels like 5 years ago, but it isn’t, its nearly 30 years ago. And I find this a shocking revelation. I can still recall the songs played on the radio and I probably still own a few shirts from back then buried deep in my wardrobe. Time has passed so quickly, too quickly in fact. It almost seems unfair to think about the time I have wasted or the positive things I could have done.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression A Letter To My Older Self

I probably won’t have another 30 years left (who knows). But I want to take the time to talk to my future self. I want to be able to, one day, look back and read this letter and say “oh yeah, I remember that”. Or “that problem seemed so massive at the time”. Better still, I hope to say the following; “I survived it all” and “I’m happy now.”.

So much to say

This letter has taken a while to consider. Undoubtedly, I have probably left some important things out, but that’s ok. I can always write another. A part 2 if you like.

But below is my letter addressed to my older self. I want to be in my mid 60s when I read this letter. I can picture myself now. Balder, thinner (I hope). But I want to remain gentle and loving. I want to be warm with a wealth of knowledge to share and appreciate. But most of all I want to be content with who I became and I want to have buried the evils that have plagued my life at present. Did the abuse turn me into a better man than I could ever have envisaged or did it finally take a hold of me of which could not be shaken?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression A Letter To My Older Self

I want to live and be strong. I have a whole lot of love to give in its many forms. Perhaps I just want to know that I eventually had the opportunity to reach my full potential.

Anyway, here is my letter to myself…

My Letter To Myself

Hello

I’m glad you’ve taken the time to read this letter. It has been a long time in the making, but was very hard to submit into words. After all, how do you talk to yourself in an unknown situation, at an unknown time?  Of course, you are older now and I hope that you are well.

Firstly, if you are reading this I want to congratulate you. I’m pleased that you never took your life. I know the depression was hard and although you didn’t want to give in to it, the option of ‘ending it all’ was always there, over hanging your every thought and action. If you recall you never feared dying and that was always admirable. But it never stopped the pain of your past and present.

Fear

Yet this has been my biggest fear. When I was ready to die, I really was ready to go. But it’s all about what came next. Would I have scored an own goal and missed out on the best years of my life yet to come? Would the pain of those left behind been too heavy a price to pay for my weakness? Perhaps it’s easy to suggest, as an alternative, that I may not even have been missed. Do you recall the months of planning and researching the best way to go? If you remember you did indeed discover the painless way and you were happy to keep it a secret for years. I just hope that you put those thoughts down and picked up new revelations. Things that had a bigger and better meaning. Will I see them too, soon? I am trying to seek them out, just need a bit of direction at the moment.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression A Letter To My Older Self

I just hope the future was brighter and gave you everything you ever desired.

Monetary wealth is not riches

I know you never hunted for financial riches, but you spent all your life searching for other riches in life such as acceptance, warmth and love. Please tell me you found them? Are you happier now? If so do you measure your happiness in a different way to how I do it now? Most importantly though, did you learn anything from those awful years?  I keep telling myself that within these grey clouds a silver lining must be found. I must admit, it is only now that I do see glimmer of hope and it’s a warm feeling to know it is there. It’s a happy feeling and I hope to feel its full embrace very soon.

Pets

Do you remember how much you loved animals and how you would go out of your way to show them affection. Animals for you gave you the unconditional love that you had always wanted. You knew it was easier to love animals than people at times. I just hope that your affection for animals remained and that you have a loving dog curled up around your feet as you are reading this. Next to a warm fire with the lights down low. I know that would make you happy.

Children

Your children grew into lovely people I’m sure. Did you maintain a good relationship with them? I know that your parents (in all guises) let you down. I am also aware that their style of parenting shaped yours. You never intentionally hurt them and always told them you loved them – this was a characteristic I liked about myself. I was always keen to let them know that parental love was important. And I always grabbed the opportunity for a hug.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression A Letter To My Older Self

If you recall, you have recently become a grandfather. We both know that he would be a good father. You will have to let me know how his parenting skills were. He often called or text with messages on what to do in certain situations. This gave you comfort because it showed he cared for his son. Perhaps I had done right by him. After all he has the makings of a good father – that was all you wanted from him.

Country living

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression A Letter To My Older Self

I was always drawn to the countryside. The early years were spent living in the city and the first opportunity I had to leave I grabbed it with both hands. Living in the countryside was a liberating experience. I would spend hours walking through fields and down remote country lanes. The air was always so much better and the smells made me feel complete in the knowledge I felt at home. I really hope that you did finally find your little ‘bolt-hole’ deep in the country side. As far away from other people as you wanted. Do you remember that time telling your careers teacher that you wanted to be a hermit in response to his question “what do you want to be when you’re older”? I always thought this was a funny response.

I suppose by the time you read this there have been advancements in photographic technology, and you have taken full advantage on your country walks. It would be nice to know that the love for photography never wavered.

Those aims and ambitions

Contrary to what you are probably thinking right now, I did not have any massive demands of me, or false expectations or goals that I might have failed to meet. I was just happy to get through each day. I’m also glad that I broke down my own barriers to accept the help when it was required. I did it for my benefit really, because I wanted me to grow old surrounded by the important things in my life. Those were the simple goals. One day at a time. Not a big house or a massive car. But self-contentment and self-value.  We both know it was difficult to find when the timing was tough but I’m glad we saw it through. Did I achieve those things? Did I achieve any of it?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression A Letter To My Older Self

If you are not who I imagine now, I’m ok with it, I’ll support you. Because maybe who I’m imagining is someone else, and you are—well you’re not someone else, you’re me. And what you are now is the product of the decisions I have made today.

For me, at this moment, the biggest lesson I have learnt is the idea of allowing myself to be whoever I am. I am also looking forward to making plans for who I should become. And that for this present moment, is more than enough.

Laying to rest those ghosts

Was there ever a time that you were able to lay the ghosts of abuse to rest? I accept that you may not have ever let your younger years go. They were after all your formative years. But what about the failed romantic relationships? I really hope you have now got to the point whereby you struggle to remember her name. I was always adamant that I would never forgive her but only feel pity. Was this option the best to take or did anger and hate consume me further before I could let it go?

My advice now

Before I go, I want you to heed my words. I want you to love your children even as they are now fully-grown adults. You sacrificed so much for them and they were ultimately your reason for holding on. Really love the woman you may have now. Although you know you could survive on your own, sharing these years with someone special is all that you had desired throughout your life. Let it be. Enjoy her and be what you want to be with her.

I hope you are happy

Love

Keith