That Water Guy in the Middle East
Treasured Friend of B2B
A picture tells a thousand words so the saying goes.
This is my bedside table. For a long time I would roll out of bed and look at the wedding photo of 5 great mates and get angry. It was one of my best mates Derek’s wedding photo of all the groomsmen. I was his best man.
My other best mate Sean (I was also one of his groomsmen at his wedding) along with great mates, the Featherby twins and Dek's brother Colin are all in the photo. I’d get angry because I couldn’t understand why he did it. Why would a man, a great mate I looked up to for what he had achieved, take his own life. To leave behind the most amazing family. A beautiful wife, my very talented god daughter and two sons who I am proud to call great mates. I just could not comprehend! Why, why would you do that?
Unfortunately I understand now. I’ve faced my own demons. Ironically enough the first time I had a bit of a meltdown was just before we came down to Oz for the 2014 Australian Open tennis finals. My wife Tiina-Maija is a big tennis fan so any excuse to get down-under and catch up with friends and family was always jumped on. For some reason leading up to that visit out of nowhere I started having panic attacks about meetings with high level clients. I’ve sold millions of dollars of golf course irrigation to some of the wealthiest developers in the Middle East and have had hundreds of meetings over the years to do so, but all of a sudden I was freaking out over a meeting to try and secure a large contract for the irrigation of Dubai Parks, a theme park with Legoland, MotionGate, Bollywood and Riverland Dubai.
I had a major meltdown the weekend before that meeting. TM and I were out for lunch and I could not eat because I felt physically and mentally ill. We left the café we were at and walked to a little park close by where she first lived in Dubai. We talked, then went home where she put some of her amazing skills to work. Time line therapy, hypnosis and a little bit of NLP got my head back into a normal state of mind
for that meeting the next morning. I nailed it and got the contract and did a wonderful little dance in the elevator (by myself) going down from HKO’s office. However I still had the anxiety feeling and didn’t know why.
Then we were in Oz. Tennis great. Catching up with friends and family also great. We spent a couple of days in Beechworth with Lisa, Sean and the kids. I remember very clearly the conversation I had with Sean late one night after a BBQ over a beer when everyone else had gone to bed. He was really troubled about a particular job contract he had recently signed. I’m not sure what the underlying problem was, but had no idea back then that this could have been the catalyst to what happened just a few months later. I was troubled still. It was easy to tell that he was also. I wanted to let him know about my recent problems, to share that he was not alone with problems, whatever they were, but I guess we macho men don’t talk about that sort of stuff. We didn’t talk. Would it have made a difference? Hell, I don’t know. Do I blame myself for not talking with him on that night? Yeah, I have. I don’t any longer.
I was still angry, though, every time I looked at that photo. I’d get out of bed asking why, why, why? I don’t know what my trigger was, but I went into a state of serious depression late last year. I was in the middle of planning what I hoped to be one of the best days of my life; my 50th in Bali with 30 wonderful friends. I’d been helping out in planning the walking route for B2B from Beechworth to Sydney, however I was really suffering. I hit the bottle. Whenever I went to do beer and wine shopping for us I would bring home an extra box of the hard stuff and hide it around the house so TM would not find out my dark secret. I’d have a few drinks during the day whilst TM was in the office and at least one once she had gone to bed. Yeah, the booze helped me to finally get to sleep every night, but it didn’t help the big problem.
The voices in my head were like there was a tennis match going on between the ears. A big ugly dark bad voice on one side of the net saying, "You don’t have to put up with this, just end it!" The voice of reason on the other side of the net fighting to stay in the game. It was horrible because that dark bastard was starting to win. I hated leaving the house because every time I did there were crazy thoughts of how I could end this and make it look like an accident. Suicide or attempted suicide is classed as murder in Sharia law, so it had to look like an accident. I had all sorts of problems attending any meeting with clients. I’d lost all self-confidence. I even had problems talking in meetings because of that crazy game of tennis going on inside my head. I made up excuses to not attend some meetings. Then I started getting physically ill. Blamed food poisoning on the occasions where I was having to disappear to vomit in the bathroom.
Nov. 12th was the tipping point for me. I had a site meeting at one of our golf projects and then a high level meeting to discuss the irrigation system in the VIP sky garden 930m high in the Dubai Creek Harbor Tower with Emaar. That Emaar meeting seemed to drag on for hours. I was so nervous for no other reason than what was going on in my head. I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. I can’t remember the drive home but as soon as I got home I was on my knees driving the porcelain bus. That’s when the “I can’t go on like this. I’ve got to end it”, thoughts really took over. I got really scared as that bastard had just won a set 6-0. I got on the internet though and looked for a doctor who I thought might be able to help me. First place I called 3 times with the number ringing out each time. Was this an omen? The bastard was saying "Yes. Just do it…".
The guy on the other side of the net got me to call a second place where I did get through. The main psychiatrist I wanted to speak to was with a patient. A male Filipino nurse well trained in talking to mental health patients engaged me for a good 5-6 minutes eventually asking me to hold so he could go and speak with his boss. I wanted to hang up but I stayed on the line. He had learnt enough from me in those 5-6 minutes to communicate to his boss I was in a bad way. Such a bad way that the psychiatrist recommended me to see two specialists for this type of case at the same time at a nearby clinic. I got a Whatsapp message with an appointment to see them in just 2 hours time. That bastard won again as I sent a phony excuse back saying I’d spoken to my wife and that she had a friend that practiced psychiatry and she felt it would be best to see her. More lies! Then back to the bottle. That weekend was a bit of a blur. Blew off a good mate that we were supposed to catch up with at the golf club for lunch, again feigning illness, however this time I was ill. I threw up every time I ate or drank anything that weekend.
Sunday is a work day in the Middle East so I had a couple of meetings that day. I managed to get through both of them, but again got home after the second one and threw up; nothing but liquid. I hadn’t been able to eat anything for days and I’d dropped below 70kg in weight. That day I didn’t touch the bottle,I was done, absolutely spent. I was upstairs in my man cave when TM got home from work. She came upstairs and turned the corner to ask “How’s your day been?”, I could see her face drop immediately before I broke down. "Are you OK?" she asked. "No, I’m not honey. I’m sick. Really, really sick!" I told her about Thursday and not going to see the doctor and then just lost it. Uncontrollable crying. Shaking, body tingling probably through erratic breathing, hyperventilation.
I’m lucky to have the wife that I have. She knew what to do to calm me down. She is trained in Hypnosis, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Time Line Therapy and Reiki to name a few. How to live with a grumpy old Ozzie she is a master at! 😊 Anyway, she calmed me down with some hypnotic mediation and then some calming music whilst I just laid in bed. Once I had regained a level of sanity, I let it all out, and finally confessed to all that had been screwing up my mind. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. For the first time in many days I was even able to keep some food (boiled chicken we had done for the dogs and some rice) inside of me instead of down the toilet.
The next day TM trawled the web and found a place she thought would be good for me to go to. She found got an appointment for 4pm that day. For some reason, and I trust her judgement implicitly, before we were to go she told me she had found somewhere better but not until 12.30 the next day. I didn’t question her judgement and went to bed optimistic that maybe tomorrow will bring the help I need to get rid of that bastard, to finally really talk to someone, perhaps some medication to suppress the crazy thoughts. I just hoped I had not left it too late.
So Monday the 20th of November I got to meet Dr. Asad Sadiq, a British born psychiatrist with Pakistani parents. I was nervous as hell that morning. Had some cereal for brekkie and quickly threw it up. I made sure that TM was going to be able to meet me there in her lunch break, as if not I was worried I would bail out. I got a taxi to take me there as I was in no fit state to drive on Dubai’s crazy roads. Arrived early to fill in the registration forms. TM arrived just prior to meeting Asad. Straight off the bat I had a good feeling about this guy. There was something immediately about him that I liked. My fears of opening up and talking about me, an almost 50 year old indestructible Ozzie male, went away. I knew things were about to get better. We went into his office and the first 5 minutes was Asad asking TM to recall her phone call to him to explain what was going on with me. Quite a surreal out of body experience for me listening to that. Is that really me she is talking about? Shit, how did this happen? Asad then recommended she leave and we have a one on one for the rest of the hour session.
It was good session. Blunt questions were asked with equally blunt answers given. I wasn’t holding anything back and what comforted me was that nothing phased him. He had heard it all before. I wasn’t a lone crazy person, there are millions out there that have gone through the same things, and I could tell straight away he had helped many on the road to recovery in his 16 years of practice. We went through the 10 areas of depression and I managed to tick off 8 of the boxes which put me in the severely depressed category. That really shocked me! TM was called back in and Asad recapped our session with her. He prescribed me a course of anti-depressant pills and also pills to help out with anxiety if I felt a panic attack was imminent when going to a work meeting. He also wanted blood tests done to make sure I hadn’t screwed up my liver with all the hard liquor drinking. We thanked him and headed down to the pharmacy to get my pills. It really hit me walking out of there with those pills. Anti-depressants! How the hell did this happen? I’m glad I took a taxi as I was numb in the back seat on the way home. I would not have been able to drive myself.
First thing I did when I got home was go to all my booze hidey holes and collect up all the bottles and tip what was in them down the loo. My blood tests showed elevated levels regarding liver function, so I went on a detox cleansing period. I was on the road to recovery. The anti-depressant pills helped to relax me. I had another 3 sessions with Asad before he went on an extended Christmas vacation. We went down to Oz for my best mates 50th in December where I wanted to talk to friends about where I had been, but didn’t, as I just didn’t want them to be concerned about my well-being.
I got back from Oz and was busy with work and pulling together the final details of my 50th birthday celebration in Bali. Having so many people I know that love me together in the one spot for what were magical days makes me realize that life, as difficult as it can be at times, is actually worth living. To my other best mate Sean, I’m not angry anymore, you and your family will forever be an important part of our lives. I now understand 110% what can go on between the ears. I really didn’t think I would be able to share my story, but I have as I think the most important thing for anyone suffering from depression or mental illness, is to talk. Silence that effin' ugly dark bastard on the wrong side of the net!
Thank you Lisa, and all the wonderful people who have organized the B2B walk. I can’t wait to meet those I haven’t met yet next month. #setthatbarstardfree
Oh and back to that bedside picture:
• My dear mum with me on the Marriott’s Nile river dinner cruise back in 1997.
• Derek’s wedding photo with me, Dek, Sean, Dana and Paul Featherby, and Dek's brother, Col.
• A Rain Bird award for the Global Golf Salesman of the Year. (Put it there to remind me “I can do it” when the lack of self-confidence hit me).
• My beautiful, super supportive wife, Tiina-Maija. Might just not be writing this if not for you! xxx
• And a clock. 😊
A footnote to my story:
When I was in Bali I learnt that my best mate Dereks 21 year old niece was suffering badly from depression and anxiety. I’d seen a worrying Facebook post she had put on her page, so I asked her Aunty Sue what was going on. Long story short, when I got home from Bali, I reached out to Karlia and shared my issues with her. We have been checking in on one another ever since and will continue to do so. She has put fingertips to keyboard and written her story. She wants me to share that on the B2B website also. Depression and anxiety is mistaken for attention seeking among the young. I can tell you first hand for those suffering, the last thing you want is attention.
Thanks for sharing your story, Karlia. 😊