I posted a video on social media a while back, a little under 2 years ago, a video which would eventually lead to me starting Find the Light and becoming the person I am now.
In 2009 at 24/25 years of age I ended a very dramatic very volatile long distance relationship whilst I was at university studying for my degree in applied maths. It had to be done, but that didn’t stop me going into a steep spiral into self destruction in the wake of the breakup. A verge into alcoholism, loneliness and self harm all regular at that time. The only way I knew how to break this pattern was to escape into my studies. It seemingly worked, I came out with a 1st class degree and after a successful internship I was invited back to work for IBM in London.
My family say I was brave for moving even further away from home to make something of myself but realistically I was escaping. The thought of returning home was terrifying to me. I had a very fractured relationship with my family and my ex was there.
I started with IBM in 2014 and threw myself into that too. I threw myself into my work and GRAFTED. Also it sounds odd to say in the context of work but I was fearless in what I was willing to do. I found this to be a very powerful combination.
For example IBM has outreach teams at all of the major universities in the UK, it’s how they recruit and keep their business going. The team which liaised with Cambridge University was headed by an IBM exec, Dr something or other. The day before it was to take place, he broke his leg skiing. There was a mass email sent out for someone to replace him, I’d been with IBM for 6 months or so. I have always had a particular love for the “Fuck It” button, and I replied putting my name forward. Turns out no-one else did, so I was given the task of going and doing a guest lecture at Cambridge University, with the aim of recruiting PhD students to work at IBM. I felt so phony, but I did it with confidence and did what I had to do. Whilst at IBM also patented an invention, automated my own role to make it obsolete and I was at the top of my graduate class.
Fast forward to 2018 I had moved to another prestigious company, SAP, and had met a girl. To almost everyone that sounds great, well done Rory. The problem was that I had hidden so much in studies and my career to the extent that I had buried my issues for almost 10 full years, but they were still there. For 10 years I was single, for 9 years I was celibate and for 4 of those 10 years I lived in a studio apartment 350 miles from home. Isolation does things to your mind that you do not expect.
This relationship lasted for 2 months, then it exploded and so did I. A couple of weeks after the breakup I visited home, then returned back to London. I was on my own, just the 4 walls in my tiny apartment.
I fought so hard but eventually the thoughts won. I wrote a note, tied one of my expensive silk ties around the door handle in my Skyline Plaza apartment and leaving a short length from the handle tied a loop. I had resigned myself to the fact I wasn’t made to survive this world. I wasn’t strong enough. However in those last moments I thought about my family and friends messaging and getting no reply or phoning and getting no answer. Doing this for a couple weeks then having to make the 6 hour drive to me, not knowing. I couldn’t put anyone through that anxiety.
I sat in my chair and settled. And there in lies the paradox. Strength and weakness are 2 sides of the same coin. It may be perceived as weak for one to succumb to those thoughts, but we don’t know how strong the thoughts are. There is no glory in this, I didn’t vanquish the demon or slay the dragon. It was a miserable couple of weeks.
And please remember, no-one knew. I am 350 miles from home, on my own. People knew I struggled, but not to what extent, and no-one knew what I had tried. So during one of darker times where I nearly did the same thing, I didn’t. I took my phone and recorded a video and sent it to my family and friends. Obviously they were worried, but I had to just do what I could do from where I was. All that way away.
It became clear that me being so far from home wasn’t working at all. My mother’s health was suffering, my family was fractured, and I was on the verge of not surviving my struggles. I had done good work at my company, I laid out a business case and they would eventually agree to let me move back to Teesside with my family and friends.
Everything was getting better. I was staying with friends until I found a place of my own here, I was very happy. But once I moved back I saw that some of my friends were struggling mentally, too. I didn’t know how to get through to them, so rather than try and force anything out of them I once again hit the “Fuck It” button and posted the video on my Instagram feed for everyone to see.
Terrifying for me and everyone who saw it.
I was also open about it at work. If mental health is to be held in the same regard as physical health, as it should be, I shouldn’t hide it.
One would not hide a scar or a cast, so I am more than happy for it to be known to everyone, I struggle a lot with my mental health.
I have since met a girl, got a house (although my poor credit rating means I’m still renting, ugh) and life was settled. I was even able to start a small support group, Find the Light to help people who had suffered like me. Everything was the best it’s been in years.
Until a couple of months ago. Somewhere around the end of September my mental illness reared it’s head again with a fury. It was so sudden. I genuinely didn’t want to be here any more. First task was to go to the doctors and get myself at least stable and functioning. The next was to document things as best I could. I am in a unique position whereby I have a small audience to which I preach openness and candidness about mental illness.
I had a photographer friend of me take some honest photographs of me during this time. Some are happy, some are exhausted and some are just reminders of my past battles.
At the time of writing this I am one week from my first social event, where in I will share this openly to people in hopes that they will feel OK one day doing the same. Once the secret is out, everything is much easier. Trust me.