My name is Mark. I am 46 years old and although I believe I am a very strong character, I know I have built myself to become this person. I wear my heart on my sleeve and would help another at the click of their fingers. Life has thrown some very difficult challenging experiences throughout, and I want to be able to share these experiences and how I did and did not deal with them, but mainly I want to show others how I have dealt with traumatic experiences and how I have moved forward. I just hope this helps someone out there that “you can fix what you thought was impossible and there is a way to reach out.”
I am one of three brothers and growing up in the 70s-80s was tough as a young kid. My eldest brother and I shared a room so brothers fighting was quite normal, but when my youngest brother came along, we ended up getting our own rooms as my dad decided to extend our home although this would be a struggle financially.
It was when I was 10 years old, I started to notice the changes in home life and the stresses that come upon families. I would hear constant arguments between my dad and mum, some of the things my mum was called were horrific and degrading, my mum just took it like a sponge. I could see how he made her feel. Being a middle brother two years younger than my elder brother and four years older than my younger brother, I suppose I wanted my own originality. At eleven years old I was into music, I played my ghetto blaster and listened to electro and got into hip hop.
My father worked from home in his office next to the kitchen and would constantly bang on the ceiling and shout at me telling me to “turn that crap off“ although my elder brother was allowed to play his music (which was crap).
As I was not allowed to play music or have friends around – as I was too noisy, I went out. I would come home just before dark. My father had normally gone out to the club in the evening to play pool and drink or go out doing other social things – it was my mum’s peacetime. When I would get back from the youth club or from hanging out with our developing crew, I would always sit on the stairs until around 11:15 pm watching tv through the stairs, knowing that when my drunk father came home, he would be kicking off and start on my mum, so I would have dashed upstairs but very quietly and never shut my door, so I could listen to make sure my mum was ok. Like clockwork, he would start on my mum.
As I grew older, I noticed he was sometimes hitting my mum during arguments. That is when I would go downstairs (to my dad’s disgust). I would tell him to stop (not so much in those words) and to get off my mum. I turn it around, so it was me getting some fist instead of my mum. It always worked; I had learned how to make him start on me instead.
I became detached at school and got into trouble a lot. My reports said I was disruptive and easily distracted, but all I wanted was to be heard as I was always silenced at home by my father and told to shut up. At school, I always seemed to have home troubles on my mind and worried about the things that were going on to myself and my mum, not my brothers. My eldest brother put his headphones on and turned the disruption off and my youngest brother was too young to know what was happening (I think).
I started getting into trouble at school and out of school, fighting, being disruptive and basically a rebelling youth. At night I would be out drinking and smoking and just general rioting and causing chaos. I got into graffiti as art was one of my strongest subjects as I could be expressive, I started getting into trouble with the police which my mum tried to always hide from my father to save me more beatings in between the constant fights with him anyway; trying to stop the mental n physical abuse my mum took so much. The fighting at home just got worse. At times I’d be bruised from a few knocks from my dad but nothing I thought I couldn’t handle. In reality, I wasn’t coping I was, in fact, struggling with it all. I started smoking cannabis as well as drinking and bunking off school.
I was soon 14 years old and got into Acid house music. That was it, I found my release. Music! (headphones on). I started buying records when I got a job at a restaurant. I was too young to be employed but the boss liked me and had me in the kitchen out the way doing dishes and prepping veg. He was a top bloke (RIP John) and he looked after me, he thought I had balls and liked that. I asked for that job at nearly 15 years old. All my mates had started clubbing as we were all into the fast-evolving scene, it was amazing, it made me buzz. Unfortunately, with my youthful looks, I struggled to get in a lot of places and had to have a fake ID. Sometimes I just had to wait about for my mates to get out of places, so I’d find myself at underground Blues clubs and mental parties. I got heavily into rave culture and massive into the drug scene with it and took LSD. I seemed to be always tripping off my face, along with the music it was my way out and made me laugh with this enormous smile, the smile that became my mask. the smiling mask that hid my problems.
Whilst working and raving, I went to art college. I enjoyed it although I was totally out of it (off my head on LSD) as my home life became increasingly difficult. I struggled to keep it together but still, nobody knew what was happening behind this smiling mask. I would use it to cover the issues. I would cry a lot but still, I wouldn’t talk about what was happening, although it was becoming increasingly harder to hide.
I continued to party hard although I needed some help and guidance. My father would constantly call me useless, nobody, scrubber, backstreet waller, cloth head, thicky, idiot, loser. That stuff sticks inside your head coming from your father. He started blaming me for his actions always, but I felt glad as it meant he wasn’t taking his aggression out on my mum. As I was becoming a man the fights became much more serious, I even got smashed through a downstairs window and once ended up with broken ribs. A few years ago, my Mum told me my dad was cheating on her regular so I made my mum tell my brothers – which must have been difficult but explained where his frustration of home life with us was coming from.
I had to leave home at nearly 16 years old, so I packed my things and went, I lived on mates’ settees, garages, I kipped under the flyover bypass when there was nowhere to go. I’d even sneak back into my family home if I was desperate and be gone early (I think my mum knew).
I split with a girlfriend and thought my life was over, but I was just in a bad place. I had my stomach pumped and came round in hospital. The next day I sat in a room with a psychologist and blagged them I was fine, and I had made a mistake. I went home briefly but I had to leave as within a week – it was the same horrendous shouting and fighting constantly. I had a huge brawl with my father and left.
My mates helped me out and I got a bedsit then moved from horrible bedsit to bedsit always living out of a bag whilst still working and going to college. I passed college by the skin of my teeth, but it came to nothing as I had to work dead-end jobs earning small amounts of money to pay rent and just manage to live. I managed to get into most rave clubs at mid 15 – 16 years old this was 89-90. I carried on working so I could keep up this amazing loved up feeling I was so massively into; I still never spoke openly about my problems although it was becoming more apparent, I was hiding what was hurting me most.
I had a few long relationships, but they did not work out because I don’t think I was open enough, or the fact that some of the girls I dated could not cope with the way I was emotional. I partied and raved harder – it was my escape. I bought my first turntables which were belt dives then I go some Technics 1210‘s which I still have. I carried on buying records and DJing locally it was still my release, my shut off button. I still did not speak with anyone about my problems but signs of me being affected were starting to show.
In 95 my mum left my father and in 96 she decided to move to Portugal to find herself again. It was difficult the only person, and my best friend in life was going away. I was gutted but proud of my mum that she had done it and stood up. I carried on the party lifestyle and working dead-end jobs, but it got me out and I paid my way in life. I split with another long relationship, but it was a good thing as the partying stopped after I took an overdose, and I had my stomach pumped again. I refused counselling and convinced the hospital it was a mistake – again.
Life moved on and I was renting again back in my hometown, but I soon got back to my old ways of hiding my real problems. I had started partying again and met a crazy girl who made matters worse. That didn’t last very long – only a few years, but I was drinking and taking recreational drugs at weekends. It was 2002 and my employer noticed I wasn’t acting right or normal as they called it and contacted the company doctor about me (who was, in fact, my own GP and still is today). I broke down talking to him and was given 4 weeks off work paid leave and more time if required. That breakdown was my first call for help. I think before I was too proud to ask for help and understand that someone else may see my problems from another angle to me.
I went back to work but on the condition, I had to see an alcohol and drug abuse counsellor (basically if I refused, I would have been dismissed). We had a lot of sessions, but I did not bond with the counsellor so pretended everything was fine and I was coping with life and stopped the sessions. I did stop drinking totally though and even at the weekend when I played turntables in a band scratching and sampling live, I loved those times. I got back with that crazy girl and things started to change again so we split again. I rarely drank after this but was highly stressed, still holding the problems from my past. It was 2004 I was now 30 years old. I sold the house I stupidly bought with the crazy girl, so now I could try and move on forwards…
Out of nowhere one night whilst out with great workmates who also watched my back I met Amanda. Luckily, I had learnt how to have a drink but also know my limits… so we spoke and spoke and spoke more. This girl understood me as she had gone through a horrendous marriage. We made a pact to always talk about everything no matter how difficult. Amanda started to understand me more and more, I would tell her everything, although I was still very emotional and bitter towards my father who blamed me for my mother leaving him. I carried this anger as my father used these excuses and lies to put my own brothers’ opinion of me on a different perspective hiding the truth.
In 2006 my mum returned from Portugal as my grandma, my mum’s mum, passed away. It was tough, tough times, but I was able to be there for my mum. she needed us and decided to not go back to Portugal.
Amanda and I planned to get married and set dates and worked hard to buy our first home together. Unfortunately, because of my problems from my past, I would still become frustrated even though I spoke always with Amanda. On Sunday 19th November 2006 I was that angry and emotional whilst doing work at home replacing electrical sockets, I got angry, slipped with a screwdriver, and lanced it through my eye cutting it in half just missing my brain but blinding me in one eye.
Losing my sight hit me for six not only because of how it looks now but the reason why I let myself be that person that made me so angry and emotional that I lost control of myself. The emotions had taken the better of me (I regret this every time I brush my teeth and stare at myself) Why did I not ask for professional help for what was playing on my mind? Why? Well, I can answer that now. I was too proud to accept I needed help to understand my emotions.
I have leant I have a slight imbalance in my brain where I don’t produce enough serotonin. I don’t produce enough of this to help my coping mechanism and nerves. This is just the way I am, the way I was built, but there are ways you can deal with this lack of natural brain balancing chemical we produce. You can talk to professional people. You can get prescription medication. You can find ways of releasing stress and nervous anxiety-like going to the gym or playing music, things that release endorphins that stimulate your brain.
My GP tried me on drugs boosting serotonin, for me they didn’t work but that’s only my opinion, I know of others these drugs do work for, everyone is different.
Losing my sight in my left eye was tough but I proved my surgeons wrong and flew to Mexico to marry Amanda. We had a very small wedding as not everyone could come. I did ask my father, but he declined. I sort of expected that though, his loss. Losing my eye woke me up as a person. I decided to go to counselling for 3 years plus and I covered everything (lots of traumatic things I have had to leave out of this post)
My counsellor used rewind therapy to help with my brain trauma and traumatic experiences I have witnessed in life that my brain hasn’t accepted. The brain is clever and doesn’t like to accept trauma, so my counsellor helped me process these problems. I hold by the rewind method which helps my brain pigeonhole trauma like into a filing cabinet. It has made me accept and understand the reasons why so I can try to move forward in a more positive way. I still have bad days even now and I honestly think I should still be talking to someone about these problems, although I find going to the gym to release endorphins and listening to music helps me a lot. I still buy records and I still play them very loud (I think I do this because I can as my father didn’t let me).
I worked in jobs that were never getting me where I wanted to be personally for so long, but I put it off as I would have been out of my comfort zone if I took the plunge. But, I stood up and decided nope, I want to be a plasterer. I have (pardon the pun) an eye for detail. Even though I feel I have something else I need to do career-wise and have so much more to give I am still plastering walls and have been self-employed for going on 6 years now. I enjoy what I do as I am my own boss this way – I can keep my positive vision for now.
Some days it’s tough mentally working on my own but I push through by playing music I love and that makes me smile and not be behind a mask anymore. On the really testing days mentally I can please myself and pack up and go home. I work to do the things I love like most people, but I also know I am searching for another goal to set and conquer. But right now, that goal is to keep this smile that isn’t used as a mask to hide problems anymore. I am totally open with my emotions now and try to always reach out to talk, I used to hide my feelings behind a big smile as most people don’t see through a big warming smile as some of us can hide the pain.
I will be asking the Safe Space Movement team for advice in the future and maybe someone neutral to speak with from time to time, even if it isn’t on a regular basis. Just to know someone is there is pretty cool in my opinion as well as close friends or family if you have them also to rely on. Sometimes someone out of the equation is a good option for help or advice or just someone to say hi to. Talking is key to expressing your emotions and believing there is a way forward. I am lucky to have the support from my amazing wife Amanda and my mum and brothers and my new adopted family – Amanda’s great family who are now mine also.
I cannot stress enough that talking is so important although I should talk more. My life is getting more manageable, but I feel if I had asked for help earlier, I don’t think I’d be seeing with one eye but still two. I was so close to not being around on a few occasions when I thought I had had enough. At those times you should reach out.
The time I accidentally nearly killed myself lancing a screwdriver through my eye could have been different if I just stopped to talk about the problems I was going through at that time. It took that horrific accident to make me realise what I was doing. To help me process the trauma my counsellor and GP sent me to the hospital with approval from my eye surgeons to have a CT scan. It would make me realise how lucky I am and how close I came to dying on 19th November 2006. It was less than a hairs width through to my soft cells behind my eye. It’s a miracle that the screwdriver turned direction.
Remember, talking is key putting your hand up and reaching for a little help or guidance is the start of the future. We all need that sometimes; I know others have far worse or bigger problems than me, but my problems are big ones to me also. We all get lost sometimes you just need that extra help and love. you just have to ask, I did!
Mark Pasty xx