In the UK, men are three times as likely to take their own lives than women. Whilst the number is starting to decrease through the erosion of the stigma attached to talking about our mental health; men are still accounting for 75% of suicides. PoetsIN are on a mission to change that through open dialogue, providing a supportive community and our creative writing workshops for mental wellbeing.
This week we’re bringing you the first part of three from a man that has experienced some ups and downs in life. It comes with trigger warnings and a small announcement of colourful language (we’re fine with that).
Pete has lost good friends to suicide and has attempted suicide himself. Now he is doing his best to raise awareness around suicide, depression and mental health through honest talk and recently a campaign tattooing a semi-colon on people in aid of a fundraising page for his sadly departed friend, Jarlath, who took his own life this year.
TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDAL THOUGHTS / ALCOHOL AND DRUGS / ADDICTIONS / DEPRESSION
Where and when did it all begin?
I was born in 1975 in an urban village not far from Liverpool, not a village you would reckon to a chocolate box image; rather a mass of housing with some green patches here and there with the odd play park thrown in.
There are, in fact, two of these urban villages attached to an industrial town, but you wouldn’t know where one started and the other ends. I doubt you would know them unless you’re from the area, but it is known for the steam rally trails where Stevenson raced ‘The Rocket’. I doubt very many people would know what the Rocket is either.
I lived here with both parents and a brother, a couple of years after my birth, along came my sister. I remember a few things from this place, like visiting family and friends, making mud pies, going to school, and a school trip to Chester Zoo.
I lived there until 1980 as my father joined the RAF in 1979, and, after passing his basic training, we moved to Wiltshire to our first military base.
Only being 5 I don’t recall saying goodbye to many, if any, friends. I know I had a friend, but being that young I doubt I cared too much. I remember liking the new place a lot, and I quickly made lots of new friends. It seemed a lot safer than where we had just moved from.
The first couple of years there are a little blurry – a bit nondescript. I would liken them to just being normal time, two loving parents, friends and a brother and sister to play with, with not much else happening, really.
After two years, I recall that a new lad moved into the house at the top of the hill, I didn’t know him by his name as he was just called by two initials. Now this lad was a very angry young boy, he had to cause an argument with almost everyone, and was probably the first in a very long list of fights. We would fight hammer and tongs. In fact, a year or so later, our parents had to break us up after we built a make shift boxing ring to settle our disagreements and were hammering holy fuck out of each other.
There was also a lad who lived just a few doors down from me on the same street, another one who would flip his lid at a drop of a hat. He was the first time a weapon was involved after he picked up a piece of glass and cut my hand. He then dropped the piece of glass, which I picked up and cut his face with. I think the ensuing verbal fight between both mothers was the worst.
This is where I remember my moods changing, the switch had been flipped.
At the same time, my father changing from being a loving father with hugs and kisses, holding hands and always telling each other how much we “love you”; to not holding hands, no hugs and definitely no kissing as it was for poofs. Yeah that’s right, we had to man the fuck up. I was seven.
My dad never swore in front of us as he had morals and standards; morals and standards that we all had to live by.
Now the switch has been flipped I didn’t care for any kind of authority, my parents, teachers or other parents. I was an angry little shit who would fight the world and look for excitement anyway I could.
1985 we moved from Wiltshire to Buckinghamshire, our second camp. I fucking hated this place, we were only meant to be there for seven months, turned out to be nine. Nine months too many. This is where I came across two much older and nastier lads, I was nine and they were fifteen. They were proper bullies who would scare me every day and were the first to break my nose after I said hello to one of them; shooting stones at me from their Diablo catapult. Around November 5th they would fire rockets at me from milk bottles. This was the first time and place a ran away from home.
I found it hard to concentrate at school and I wasn’t learning anything, even the teachers would laugh at me from some of the answers I would give to questions asked.
Around 85-86 we moved, and lived in Leicestershire for a further nine years through all the best years of my childhood.
To say that I was well known there is an understatement, as I was a big fish in a small pond. I was known for being funny, but more for being a hard fighter. I loved to fight. Around 10-11 years of age I was given 50p pocket money a week, and on pocket money day I would walk a couple of miles over farmers fields to another village, where local kids would swarm to the village green and put their pocket money in for a fight.
I would always come back a few quid up.
I had my first encounter here with police for smashing a window, and yes I was a cheeky little fucker to them. I remember calling the female officer “Juliet bravo” a fictional police drama that was on TV at the time.
I had started smoking at the age of ten which I would hide from my parents until my sixteenth birthday when I walked in the house with a lit fag in my mouth saying “ fucking try and stop me” .
At fifteen I started drinking some very brutal alcohol other friends had taken from their parents’ drinks cabinets. My parents didn’t drink spirits so I couldn’t add to the drinking. Fuck me I loved the drink. I came home one night at the age of fifteen pissed out my head, playing rugby with a ball of wool with one of the dogs.
By the time I was seventeen I was an alcoholic, I needed to drink every day, as it would numb my feelings. At sixteen I found cannabis, getting stoned was cool but didn’t like it as much as drinking. Drinking led to my first time in court, up for two assaults on adults. I was lucky on this one, as I was first sentenced to six months in a remand centre in Leicester, one you definitely would not want to go to; it being the worst in Europe for murders, sex assaults and suicides. But me being me, I didn’t give a fuck. Thankfully the judge noticed my age on his papers, as I was seventeen and couldn’t be given a custodial sentence, so instead got a six month suspended sentence – a lucky escape.
Now this verified my position in and around the area. I was known, the one you wouldn’t want to fuck with or the one to go to for help.
At fourteen I found sex, this would gradually lead to a sex addiction only years later and remains now at forty three.
The nine years spent there would add to and fuel my anger and my sadness. It was there where I approached my mother, I was crying and was trying to explain that I didn’t feel right; and she thought I was coming out as gay. I wasn’t, I was trying to explain the shit feelings I had in my head, the lack of happiness, and anxieties. I just didn’t know what was going on.
This is where my father started to put his hands on me, my first real beating. My dad would lose his shit now and then with me and I would have the shit kicked out of me, if you ask him about it, even today he will tell you it never happened, RED MIST.
It was never a daily thing, never when he had a drink, he didn’t drink much anyway, it was when he would have been in a mood and the slightest thing would piss him off. He never beat my sister or brother in the same way; yes, they would get a slap now and then but they never had their heads split open by his boot and a cupboard.
My brother’s eighteenth was the first time I turned on my father. I’d just had a fight with one of my brother’s friends, my dad tried to intervene, I landed a very nice punch which put him on his ass. Now I had gone over the edge, hurting someone I’m supposed to love, I didn’t love him at the time, I fucking hated him; and continued to hate him until my grandad’s funeral twelve years ago. We are now father and son again. Admittedly, we don’t see each other, hardly at all really. It took 9 years for me to go to their home in Scotland.
By 1993 we lived in South Wales, where I was seventeen and had had to say goodbye to nine year old friendships. Alone and not being known I felt vulnerable. It didn’t take too long to make friends, though. It was my eighteenth and I didn’t know a soul, I had birthday money so I got myself a bottle of JD and drank the lot throughout the day. This is when I made my first bunch of mates, hanging out at the local park swinging on the monkey bars, pissed.
A few months into the new place we had a phone all from my grandad that my Nan was dying, so we filled the car and went home. We arrived at my grandad’s house around 9pm that evening and my Nan died at 9am the next day. I didn’t get to say goodbye as I didn’t want to see her with tubes and shit in her face. She knew I was there and my mum came out in the corridor and said that my Nan had said to tell me she loves me.
I regret not saying good bye.
By now I had a new girlfriend and sex started to change; as by now I was becoming a dirty little fucker, with the porn taking over and I was experimenting. I’d had a long term girlfriend back at the last place but we never had sex, the sex back there was in sheds we broke into, it would be with any girl who fancied me.
My dad then made himself redundant from the RAF and we moved to civil life to a new town, another upheaval only 8 months or so into the new camp.
Oh well, onwards and upwards. I decided I wanted to be an engineer so I started college, motor mechanics for two years. I didn’t do two years, I barely finished one year there. I made a good friend in college who was well into his drugs, I moved into his Nan’s house for the next ten months.
Ten months of doing any fucking drug we could get our hands on, I was addicted to speed and LSD. It was ten months later, a night I will never forget, I had done way too many drugs, a massive cocktail that should of ended me, and I thought my time was up that night. I collapsed half way up the stairs, and woke in the morning in bed, as someone had managed to get me in bed. I realised I needed to leave, I packed my bags and left. It wasn’t the end to my partaking in drugs. I never really stopped, I just slowed down.
I became a runner for a massive drug dealer, going to some fucked up places in South Wales to collect £20-£30k worth of pills and cannabis. I was green, I only did this for £10 fuel money and a small corner off a 9oz bar.
He said he would look after me if I ever got caught, only for him to fuck me over on an old Astra engine. Lesson learned.
I spent the next twenty years in South Wales learning lessons, a shit load of lessons. Now this is where the fighting had cranked up full fucking tilt, having moved to a country where I was fucking hated for being English, I lost count of how many fights I had, how many times they tried to kill me, but it’s easily in the hundreds.
I met my first wife when she was fifteen and I was nineteen. By the time I was twenty one we were married and had a daughter. Two years later we had another daughter. It’s mad to think I now have a daughter going on twenty two.
We got divorced after four years of marriage. Going through this divorce was where I lost my shit. I wasn’t allowed to see my kids, having to watch my wife with a good friend (well, I thought was a good friend of mine). She was fucking him on the sly, would see him driving my car with my kids, even when I did get to see my kids, it was always on his terms and he always had to be there when I picked them up and dropped them off.
I’d have to witness these two idiots in court kissing and hugging each other, when we’re meant to be there to sort out visitation orders for me to see my kids, not go there necking. Could you have your face rubbed in the hurt any more than that? This lasted four years, four years of court order after court order being broken. The judge would give me rights to my kids every time she came up with a new excuse why I couldn’t see them, but he never did anything about her breaking a court order. This all added up to tipping me over the edge. Every weekend I would head into town, get drunk have a dance or two and then fight like I didn’t have a care in the world.
My good friend got my head out my ass and I started a jujitsu class. I had done judo and jujitsu for many years back at the Leicester camp so I knew a bit, I trained hard and in six months I had gained my orange belt. I fought in my first cage fight which I won in the first round. This was for £1000 – only two more fights to go before I could get my hands on that grand! It was Christmas and I was out of work with no money and a mortgage so that £1000 was mine. The second fight of the night I lost my temper and ended up losing that fight, one big punch to my chin while trying to take in air.
Two weeks later I found myself a job so Christmas was back on track for my kids.
My ex wife had stopped me from seeing the kids for a few months, I finally got them for the night. I had been drinking with my mate when I picked them up, having had eight cans of fosters.
Got my kids in bed and my mate came back round, by then I had already done another three bottles of wine. By the time he left I had done another three bottles and a bottle of vodka. After he left I drank another bottle of vodka. My tolerance for alcohol was high, as I was an alcoholic. I would drink six bottles of wine a night regularly. Anyway, I digress….
So I’m sat there going through my wedding photos. I have forgotten I have my kids at this point.
That’s all that went through my head, I couldn’t take anymore shit, all the shit feelings I’ve had since I was eight, all the shit I’d been through with fighting, my father beating me, not seeing my kids and the divorce, I was done. I grabbed a new bottle of painkillers I had not long got from the doctors and chewed my way through all ninety of them twenty at a time.
Read the rest of Pete’s raw and honest story in the second part, coming soon. We’re pleased to say that Pete is still with us and continues to battle the black dog. Next time he tells us how he survived through all this and why suicide awareness is such an important issue to him.