What do you do when your world comes crashing down? The Ministry of Information produced three posters during WWII. The most famous being “Keep Calm And Carry On”, but one of the lesser known of the trio read; “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution, Will Bring Us Victory”. The stiff-upper-lip stoicism of the Victorian era has transcended generations. It’s part of the British psyche, and it’s a large part of the problem with undiagnosed depression in young men.
After a few months in my first job, I was put forward and accepted on to a prestigious management scheme that accelerated my progression in my industry. Brilliant! Forget everything else, I can focus on my work. Everything seemed to brighten up, I didn’t need need a social life, or so I thought. I was moved around to various subsidiaries to help run major projects, plenty of travel, plenty of new faces and a hell of a lot of work. On the surface it was great, my work wasn’t all roses, I worked with a few complete bell ends, but don’t we all? I had a run in with a manager who thought it appropriate to bully vulnerable members of staff, but I could challenge that behaviour. I had a certain level of protection from people far their senior.
My social life now largely only existed on the weekends. Saturday has always been the day I go and visit Grandma and Grandad. Same routine every week. I’d arrive, ask them where they’d like to go… there would be a few moments of reflection and deep thought, before one of them would gleefully suggest, “Wetherspoons?”. As shit as it sounds, and I know it sounds shit, it’s actually not that bad. It was a nicer Wetherspoons, with only a 0.4 mile walk to the toilet rather than the standard 1 mile round trip.
I’d always been close with my Grandparents. As a young child, through until I was 15, I used to spend 2 weeks in the summer at wherever they had moved to that year in the Lake District. I used to love seeing them so much, I requested a permanent move there. This led to the mother of all arguments between my mother and her mother. Mother-ception. Simply put, I love my Grandparents to bits. They moved to Yorkshire to be nearer to us, it was the best news ever! So the Saturday tradition started…
That left me with Sunday’s. Who wants to do anything on a Sunday? Most of my network were either hungover, or awaiting a family trip to a carvery to enjoy one slice of dry meat and as much drowned veg as you can stomach. As such, I would normally do very little. Watch every bit of sport on TV, over-eat, and do everything in my power to avoid hearing the depressing sound of the Antiques Roadshow theme tune. My formula below for those struggling with my logic;
Antiques Roadshow + Dad ironing = it’s almost bed time, school in the morning.
No matter how old I am, that music still strikes fear in to my heart. An hour of intense boredom before bed, watching people get a price on their family heirlooms to see if they could flog it for 2 weeks all inclusive in Benidorm.
Monday mornings came around all too quickly. Although saying that, I made a few good friends at work, people who were genuinely good for me. They are probably the closest I came to the friends I so needed post leaving school. Until one lunch break, having a cigarette before returning to the sweltering office, my phone rang. Dad isn’t a technophobe, but you know if he rings you in work hours it’s either his fat fingers pressing the wrong button, or it’s something serious. Unfortunately on that day, in October, it was the latter. My Grandma had collapsed at home of a suspected heart attack. No warming signs. No previous health issues. I was told to get to the hospital as quickly as possible.
I quickly grabbed my bag and ran to the train station. I had the unenviable task of having to try and get hold of my Mum and tell her that her Mum was seriously ill, followed by my siblings. Due to distances, I would be first to arrive. I ran as fast as I could, put my headphones in and tried to stay calm. Cinematic Orchestra & Patrick Watson – To Build a Home was the first song that came on shuffle. How important that song would become to me. I arrived at the hospital to see my Grandad break down. It was at that moment I knew I was too late. Dad started to cry as he told me, “I’m so sorry, she didn’t make it”. My brother arrived next, followed by my Mum. I found her sobbing on the pavement. I was shell shocked. I had no time to process this.
My world had crumbled around me. My family were distraught, and I was left to try and hold us all together, when deep inside I was broken. I was offered the chance to say my goodbyes to my grandma in the hospital, and I made the wrong choice. I went to see her. She was cold, and she wasn’t there, her spirit was long gone. I kissed her forehead and promised I would hold the rest of us together. I surpressed my need to grieve, I had to be strong. I drove to my Grandparents flat and left my Grandad in the car. I walked in and saw the frantic panic that had filled the room. The furniture flung to all corners as the paramedics had fought to save my Grandma’s life. I quickly tidied everything up. Moved all the packages and ECG pads the paramedics had left behind. I will never forget that day.
I employed the advice of the Ministry of Information, I kept calm and carried on. I was courageous, cheerful at times, and resolute. But where did that get me? 4 years later, and I still haven’t allowed myself to grieve, and for that I continue to pay the price.