Ben with his little blue cup

To support Men’s Health Week 2018, My Family, Our Needs has been focusing on the mental health of Dads and male carers.

We had a live Twitter chat with Marc Carter, otherwise known as Grumpy Carer, on Monday night using the hash tag #DontForgetDads and he has kindly come back to talk in more detail about his mental health and family life.

Where do I start

There I was, sat in a pub with a group of work colleagues, and I realised I hadn’t heard anything anyone had said for quite some time. The room was blurry, not in a drunk kind of a way, I just couldn’t recognise anyone or anything. I was nearly 100 miles from home and I drove. To this day I don’t know how as I didn’t remember anything of that journey. The next thing I know I’m parked outside my house, engine running, and Mandy, my wife, is knocking on the window asking if I’m ok.

‘I can’t let go of the wheel,’ I said. Luckily the doors weren’t locked, Mandy opened the door and helped me to let go of the wheel. I felt like I was glued to it. She turned off the ignition and helped me out. I was talking gibberish about something or other, Mandy helped me into the house and onto the sofa where I curled up in a ball and cried.

I don’t remember that night, or the next few days really. Apparently, I slept a lot and when I wasn’t sleeping I was curled up in a ball trying to get to sleep. The next week I was sat in the doctor’s surgery waiting to see my GP. When we got in there I was unable to talk. I just cried. Mandy did the talking. Depression I had, and time off work I must take, as well as some medication.

Queasy, that’s all I could say when people asked how I was feeling taking the medication. My family were all great, giving me time and space, but for the next few days I just felt incredibly sick. And then I started to feel different. Less stressed, less ‘busy’ in my head; I could see things differently, everything seemed brighter and I wasn’t snapping at people and being my usual grumpy self. I still wasn’t doing great, but compared to how I’d been feeling, I was in a totally different place.

Fast forward to Ben being born. I remember it, but I don’t remember much of the first year of his life. I have key moments I remember but the rest is a total blur.

My boss called to say he wanted to come and see how I was doing. He turned up with his boss. The conversation started off fine, but slowly, subtly, I could hear them suggesting I could resign. Without using those words of course. Mandy noticed it before I did and told them they could get out of the house if they had that agenda. I had been off work for 3 months and I understood their frustration, but they hadn’t offered me any support to get back into work, offered no concessions or asked how they could help me.

I found a new job, which started straight after the Christmas holidays. I hated it from day one. Mandy had to get me there and back and support me to have the strength to go in each day. I didn’t want to do the tasks I was given, I had more skills than most of them there, I had done this stuff before with my eyes closed. Really, I wanted to do other stuff. I helped with their complete office relocation and got stuck in to helping with the IT cabling and setting up their tech systems. It kept me busy and gave me something to focus on.

However, all the time I was there I was plotting my escape. I was planning on starting my own IT company, but the management decided to read all of my emails on the server and found me asking for prices for products they knew were not for any of their customers. I was sacked after a period of garden leave. At least it saved me the hassle of resigning, I hate resigning.

Some more stuff happened, some of it I can remember, some of it I can’t.

Still struggling

As I struggled with my mental health, I was aggressive, nasty, and I would hurt myself. I didn’t know I was self-harming, I thought that was just cutting your wrists; it took me many years to work out that bruising myself, cutting other parts of my body, deliberately hurting myself severely enough to cause lasting excruciating pain, that was self-harming.

Realising I wasn’t doing well I returned to the doctors. I had been visiting regularly for checkups. The pills were doing me no good, I was sure of that, but instead of looking at the medication I was referred for a psychiatric assessment.

My assessor and I were not going to get on before I’d even stepped into the room. I felt patronised and attacked, so I left. I decided to stop taking the pills. I couldn’t get a smaller dose from my doctor, so I just went cold turkey. (My Family, Our Needs does not endorse withdrawing medication without first consulting a medical professional). I felt awful for a couple of weeks but then I felt good again, really good.

Then, Ben was diagnosed with autism. My stepson, Sammi is autistic, so we felt we knew Ben was, even before the doctors made it official. He was diagnosed at 17 months old. Even though we knew, it rocked our world. Mine especially it seemed.

I started my own business which went well until I lost interest in it. I left it to others and walked away.

Then Ayesha was born. I remember every minute of her first years. Well, it feels like I remember because I have so few memories of Ben’s first year.

We moved to the West Midlands.

Life kept moving along; I was up and down, down and up. But I remained medication free.

I decided to push Mandy to follow her dream of becoming a nurse. She would have to go to college to do a foundation course, then University for 3 years, whilst juggling the kids. So, I decided I would become the full-time carer. I was taking my little girl to nursery every day, queuing up with the mums. I was a full-time daddy and I loved it.

But life as a full-time carer took its toll on my mental health. Tune in tomorrow to read the rest of my story…