Agile Insider reality bytes…


My Final Post – Alcoholism, Aspergers and Depression



Without a doubt, this is the most difficult post I've ever had to write, so trust me when I say I am particularly glad to say it is my last I will ever post to this site.

For many years now I have been hiding things from absolutely everyone, including even myself, and I became almost a master at it. I could be happy and chirpy at work while secretly wanting to jump under a train. I could hide my desire to drink and the lack of control I had when I did drink. I could appear in complete control, but be terrified and lost.

In 2012, things fell apart... I had a particularly bad drinking experience and for the first time in my life genuinely wanted help. I was completely beat. I was an alcoholic, but to hide this from everyone I created yet another bloody persona, that of (and @agilealcoholic). I joined AA and since that fateful day have never touched even a drop of alcohol.

Agile Alcoholic

This was me... It's unbearable...

For the first 18 months in AA things were going well. I was reacting sanely and responsibly for the first time in my life. I didn't feel as though I was causing any new devastation around me since I was able to be 100% honest with my line manager and therefore I no longer went home feeling 'dirty'.  I shared with him the fact I was in AA and therefore didn't feel obliged to hide anything from him, but I wouldn't necessarily have shared it with the other people I worked with.

Recognising I'm an alcoholic has been extremely important for me.  It allowed me to stop drinking, my natural solution if I encountered uncomfortable feelings, situations or thoughts.  By the time I entered AA, I was having some of the darkest thoughts I could ever have had.  Those were suicidal thoughts, but not only suicide, also the thought of killing my wife and son to save them any 'pain'.  I had become so isolated I would count my friends as zero at the time.  Until now, this is a fact I have only shared in the rooms of AA and also with my wife as part of Step 9 and in an attempt to be 100% honest with her.

9 months ago, while coasting through life, thinking I had found my solution and I was somehow 'sorted' I was just a little alarmed when depression and suicidal thoughts started re-occurring.  There were no specific triggers, the thought would just enter my head while going to work and stay much longer than I liked.  The serenity prayer, which had been my saviour for months wasn't helping either, I needed help.

Thanks to AA, and the fact I wasn't drinking, or using drink as my bandaid, I sought the help of a psychotherapist and have been seeing her weekly for almost 9 months.  I didn't admit to many of my troubles initially, instead I asked for help with an uncontrollable rage and anger I would experience that I couldn't control.  Over these last 9 months I have built up trust in her and I value my sessions with her.  I have also shared with her my darkest thoughts, my misdemeanours and my crazy thinking.

I was under the illusion I was somehow in control and these thoughts would pass, I had AA and a psychotherapist on my side, so that must be enough?

Well my God (and as an atheist it feels funny to say I enjoy having a God in my life, but not one I worship or idolise), this year threw us a few curve-balls.  My son was diagnosed with Dyslexia, ADHD and suspected ASD (which is still being assessed).  All these traits my son demonstrated associated with these conditions are a mirror of my own, and when I heard that these can be inherited I decided I would at least see if I had them.  Well, yes, I probably suffer from ADHD, but the thing I almost definitely suffer from is Aspergers.  I score 34 on AQ and 13 on EQ.  In the past, I would not have been interested in any such classification, but today I am extremely grateful.  I can 100% identify with the traits of Aspergers and I am also finding out so many things about myself which until now I didn't realise.

For instance, I hate being around people, I have an almost complete lack of confidence or self-esteem and any form of communication with people, whether visual or verbal has always made me uncomfortable.  I have been able to hide this for many years, indeed it has been necessary for my job.  I think this also explains why I prefer the written word as my communication tool.  I hate social media, it is far too nuanced and ambiguous, I like carefully considered, well-presented information.

I don't know whether this was the breakthrough in my psyche or not, but I can say categorically that for the last couple of months I have been doing some extremely searching to find out who I am.  I haven't yet found out who that is, but I have found out who it's not.  It's not the agilealcoholic persona, that is part of me, but by no means all of me.  It's not agileinsider which is an artificial and heavily filtered series of articles to help out co-workers, avoiding controversy wherever possible and filtering out any 'negativity' about the bullshit I've witnessed.   It's not the family Mark Barnes, the husband and father who tries hard to constantly 'please' and 'protect' his family, withholding critical information about his mental well-being to not upset people.

I have no idea who Mark Barnes will turn out to be, but I am starting the journey after months of fear and anxiety.  Yes, I am currently clinically depressed and taking Citalopram.  Yes, I have had suicidal thoughts over the past months.  But, and it is an extremely important but.  I am no longer willing to hide from these thoughts as though they are some dirty secret.  I no longer wish to cover them which is what I do if I don't share them.  I have an understanding of depression which I wouldn't wish on my worse enemy, but thanks to the antidepressants I now have a complete disconnect from my mood and my thoughts.  I can picture myself in the shower, with slit wrists and blood flowing, but my mood is ok.  This disconnect is allowing me to recognise the thoughts as irrational and fight them.  What's more, I can write about them.

I've been using a scale I tailored from a few other sites to rank myself each day, or even hour if I perceive a shift.  0 means I'm dead, so I won't be able to tell you when I hit 0, but it should be obvious.  10 is the most ecstatic I have felt in my life (tough one when you have Aspergers and therefore struggle with feelings or empathy), which is the birth of my son.  I'm largely hovering around 5, which is not great, but a hell of a lot better than being at 2 (suicide ideation), or worse 1 (suicide consideration).

So there you have it...

1.  Mark Barnes is an alcoholic, who has not had a touch of alcohol since February 23rd 2012 (correct at the time this article was written).

2.  Mark Barnes probably has Aspergers.  This means I do think about things differently and I can't interpret body language, hate eye contact and abhor social interaction.

3.  Mark Barnes is clinically depressed, often suicidal and has been for 2 months (again true at the time this article was written).

For me, I don't have a clue what is going to happen now in my life.  I realise I need to challenge almost everything I have ever held true in the past to determine whether it is something I truly believe in, or whether it was a fantasy employed by one of my many personas.

Right now, I'm going through the process of clearing everything up.  I'm putting to rest as much of my past as possible and hope to start with a clean slate soon.  I'm getting through each day, a day at a time (thanks to AA, antidepressants, a caring family and my mood chart that allows me to let people know what I'm experiencing when I can express how I'm feeling).

Our society hides from things it doesn't understand and stigmatises things.  I can see this, not only in my own problems but in other circumstances too.  I won't partake in that stigmatisation any longer, I am proud I am an alcoholic, I'm not afraid of being diagnosed with Aspergers and I don't want to let depression fester within me any longer.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my articles or engage in my fantasies along the way...  It was a blast...  Now move over, reality is the boss and honesty is the driver...


Road To Recovery

Who knows where this will lead?