Arrows not Tommy Guns - Guest Post by Neil Scroxton

ABS ambassador Neil Scroxton has shared with us a touching article about the importance of friendship, especially when times are tough. Neil found that one act of bold kindness from a friend helped him to reach out to other loved ones and start feeling like himself again after going through a difficult experience. It is clear to see from reading the article below how having a supportive group of friends can be helpful for boosting mental wellbeing. 

"Good God I was happy.  Well, I mean compared to what had just happened to me, I could have stepped in dog-mess and taken one on the shoulder from a passing Pidgeon while simultaneously realising I’d stupidly left the house without getting dressed that day and still considered that ‘things were looking up’.  So, it wasn’t too hard to feel King-of-the-World when a beautiful girl I had not long met was telling me how great I was and how in love she was falling.  Hell yes!  I was back.

A couple of months earlier I was actually happier.  I had just landed in New York to witness the second largest snow dump since records began.  I walked the empty streets with my girlfriend all the way to Central Park to find a picture perfect movie scene.  We couldn’t have asked for a better trip.  We’d been on the last plane accepted into JFK, and we knew how lucky we were to be experiencing such a rare occurrence.  More importantly, I knew I’d got my planning all right and this was it!

One morning I went to the reception of our hotel and asked the guy on the desk to help me in a little favour I needed.  Sure enough, after I had convinced my girlfriend that ‘we don’t need plans for today… let’s just wing it’, we exited the lift and the Concierge gave the performance of his life.

‘Sir, Madam, how are you today?  Enjoying this fine weather?  As we know the city is a little shut-down at the moment.  So, we have organised a kind of treasure hunt for guests to pass the time and see what our great city still has to offer.  Can I tempt you?  There is a prize if you complete the clues.’

What a star, hook, line and sinker, she jumped at the chance and off we went to see all these rare, snow-covered delights.

Cutting a long story short, we trekked around NY, getting to the last point on the hunt and she reads out the final question to win the prize.  ‘An incredibly special and much-loved person?’ she questioned, not realising the anagram of letters in front of her spelled out her own name.  As the penny dropped, so did I (to my knee) and presented the ring.

We flew home a few days later, and I was excited to tell everyone who hadn’t seen the social media posts, the good news.  I found it a bit odd that she didn’t want to wear the ring to work, but it was a bit big (I’d used a thumb-ring by accident to size it), and I understood that she wouldn’t want to lose it.

Her work was hectic and so coming home on the last train two nights in a row was frustrating for me, but fine as we could see our excited friends and family at the weekend instead.  However, on day 3 when she didn’t come home at all, I was more than concerned and I was right to be.  She never came home again.  No explanation, there was no one else, I hadn’t done anything wrong, she was just gone and didn’t want to speak to me, and I was left broken and angry with a trail of social media reminders of the life we had that now felt so cruelly taken away.  It took me nearly two weeks to finally tell someone.  Two weeks of congratulation cards, being stopped in the street to talk about the amazing pictures on Instagram and how wonderful it all was.  Two weeks of going back to an empty home and trying to process what was happening.  Two awful weeks.

So, whistle through a couple more months of torment, soul searching, and tinder swiping to try and convince myself that everything was ok, and we are back at the start of this essay.  God I was happy.  This new, amazing, gorgeous, clever woman is telling me that I’m the best thing since sliced bread and she has fallen in love and the world is great because there is nothing wrong with me and I am back.  Screw you old 5-day fiancé, I am back, woo-hoo!  King of getting my s**t together.  King of the Tinder romance.  King of the World.  Hell yes...  Until I wasn’t.

‘Hey, sorry I didn’t call you back yesterday, I… err… well I guess I should just come out with it.  I got back with my ex, he came around last night, we chatted and then one thing leads to another and well… you know… but I feel I should give him another try any way, he seemed so sad to…’ blah, blah, crushing words, blah.

I imploded.  Everything came crashing home and it felt like all the emotional pain I had hidden for the past few months was pulling what was left of my heart to pieces.  I was now completely lost, and just checked out.  Work… not interested.  Women… not interested.  Family… not interested.  I didn’t care about myself, or anyone else for that matter.  All I wanted to do was cry when people spoke to me and I felt so overwhelmingly alone.

When my mind could no longer process even the simplest sentences without an extreme emotional outburst, a colleague and friend of mine gave me the card of a therapist his wife knew and kindly pointed out it looked like I was in the midst of a nervous breakdown.  That one action of bold-kindness was the beginning of the real me coming back and saved everything I had worked hard for in my life.

Over the coming days, weeks and months I let the friends I had been avoiding back into my life.  They corralled around me and built me back up again, but this time it was with real love.  The kind of love that comes from years of being there for each other through thick and thin.  One of them gave me a book about how to make native arrows and the metaphor was not lost.  These people were my arrows that I could rely on.  Over the years I had found the ‘straightest’ most dependable people to spend time with and through social interaction we had bound metaphorical strong tips and guiding feathers to our relationships.  I realised that in my hour of need I had picked up what I hoped would be a quick fix, the inaccurate Tommy-Gun of solutions, when I should had turned to my trustworthy arrows, my friends and social network.

Thanks to my arrows, I am really back, strong and confident and with a realisation that there is nothing wrong with me.  As an extreme reminder I have each of my arrows tattooed on my right arm.  Not only do they guide my actions and give me the comfort that I am loved, they also remind me that I am someone else’s arrow and it is as much my responsibility to show my friends the same love and support whenever they need it, especially when they forget to ask."

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