Its only Episode 8 of Blondy’s People! I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has been reading and watching but also everyone that has taken part. We are about halfway to the end….so thank you for being part of this journey.
Blondy was always surrounded by things that caused her harm both directly and indirectly, however, if we were looking at this as a case study you would see 3 main themes emerge…..Mental health and alcohol/substance misuse. And although much of the “Blondy” journey focus on mum’s mental health…. there were men in her life who suffered also. The difference was, they never spoke about it and it was often masked with drugs or alcohol. The impact this had on a child like Blondy was massive. It would leave her to believe that mental health was very much a female issue and not something men had to deal with….
My dad smoked weed most of his life. He spent a long time in prison so I cannot speak about that time, I can only tell you about when he came home. I can never remember living with my dad. He went to prison when I was very young and then when he came out of prison, I didn’t live with him. My dad would wake up in the morning and light the joint he had rolled the night before whilst still in bed. He would smoke half of that and then get up to start the day and would smoke throughout. My dad would smoke whilst sitting and eating dinner. He also drunk. But this was limited. So, he may go the pub with pals a few nights a week. He didn’t drink indoors. But weed…. that was a constant.
I would argue with him at length about it and he would become extremely defensive. We had blazing rows about it often. I felt sorry for my mum having to put up with this man, constantly stoned. Funny …. that thing they say about women ending up with people like their fathers is ringing in my ears.
I was not close to my farther. Well…. not until the very end. The last 2 years I would say. My dad had developed problems breathing. He kept saying his nose felt too tight, something was wrong. He would jump from his sleep gasping for breath. My dad was a big man. It took 8 men to carry his coffin. 8 big men. It was discovered he had polyps up his nose and that was why he was struggling to breath at times. Easy. Simple. An op was booked.
A few days before the op I was woken by my phone ringing. It was 3 in the morning and I struggled to see who it was… “John” was flashing on m phone. I was awake immediately, almost dropping the phone trying to answer it. I smashed the phone to my ear and almost screamed “Where is she…what’s happened”. There was silence and then he said…” No…. she is asleep at home…its just me”. I went very still. My farther was calling me at 3 in the morning. It must be my mum…. what else could he want….what did he mean she was at home….where the fuck was he!
“John…what’s going on” I said as calm as I could “tell me the truth…what’s wrong with my mum” I was already getting dressed, grabbing jogging bottoms and trainers…..he said “No….she is at home and doesn’t know….” And then there was a sob. I sat on the edge of my bed, one leg in my jogging bottoms….and I listened. Was he crying? This big idiot of a man who I could barley look at because I disliked him so much…was he crying? “John…are you OK” I asked. He laughed and sobbed at the same time. Big deep laugh. A big deep sad laugh…. “No Bella……I am not Ok. I am dying”. Now…unless this man had gone and got himself involved in some madness and someone right now had a gun to his head or he had been stabbed (Both highly likely to be fair)……he was not dying as far as I knew. Wait…what if he had some illness and this is his way of telling me!!!!
“John…stop fucking about…. don’t make me come find you…what’s going on…. Is it Cancer??? Has someone got you??? Are they with you now….where the fuck are you …I am coming” I was now screaming down the phone….Hoping whoever it was that had him and had hurt him knew I would be coming right fucking now fam…..…… And he started to cry.
Have you ever heard a big old man cry down the phone? A man who people feared. It was ……terrifying.
“Dad…. what’s going on” I said in a very soft voice. A voice of a girl… not the women he often battled with…who told him to fuck off every day…a girl…dare I say …his girl…
“I can’t breathe. It’s been happening for a long time, but this time is different. This time I am going to die. I am sitting in my car and I cannot drive it. My heart is going boom boom…… I’m going mad…I can’t do this anymore”. I had tears running from my eyes, as I do now type this. One …. because I was sad for him…but two…because I was relieved…
“Dad…your having a panic attack……”
It’s a long story but it ended with him driving to me and we sat up as quite as we could as the boys were sleeping, and he told me that he had been getting this for years. That prison had made it worse. That the only thing that heled was weed. He knew that when he went for the op in 3 days’ time that he had to be in the hospital for 3 days. He wouldn’t be able to smoke. And he was petrified that …as he put it….” I will be left with my thoughts if I can’t smoke….and I don’t want to think”.
We made a deal that night me and him. He would go home, and I would tell mum that I would be going up the hospital to see John for the three days and she would watch the boys. He didn’t want my mum to see him like that.
She was confused…. but…. she just kind of let it happen. The day after his op I went up to see him as promised. I walked onto the ward and I could hear a nurse raising her voice asking someone to try and calm down. I just followed that noise…. Because I knew that was where I would find him. I walked onto the ward and there was big bad john. Bent over……his head against the big hospital windowsill. Sobbing. Begging for help in Italian. The nurse looked scared. Like she had just found a wounded silver back and was trying to remove a thorn from its foot without being eaten. “Is everything OK “I said loudly. The nurse looked at me and his head snapped up. He was pale. He looked bad. He had these two things up his nose that looked like tampax and he was almost gasping for breath. “I need to change the dressings and he needs to do a wash” sad the nurse, looking very emotional. I nodded. “Can you give us 5 and then come back please nurse” I said. It was her turn to nod this time and left and I pulled the curtain round. I just stood looking at this giant. This person so many feared, including my mum once upon a time, scared and mid panic attack. I never feared him. Not a day in my life. I was just always angry with him. Still am. I walked over and grabbed his hand. I sat on the bed and pulled his hand gently, so he knew to sit with me. He sat next to me. It was like a scene from the BFG except he was the one in pyjamas and I said, “It’s all in your head, you can breathe”. We continued like this. Me speaking in English, him responding in Italian. It was like he was so scared he had forgot how to speak his second language…and that I can’t speak Italian! When the nurse came, he had to do this thing where he snorted up the water from a little bowl. She said, “It’s not nice, you will feel like your drowning”. And that was the worst panic attack I have ever seen a man have, the first time he tried to do that.
After he came home, we spoke. I showed him places to read about mental health. About anxiety. We spoke, with no one around, about how long it had been going on and that covering it with weed was not the way.
Man, I wish he had spoken out about it before. Years of thinking he was the only one and hiding what he thought was a weakness was turned into anger. A very angry man. A very scared man hiding in an angry man’s body. Not that I am defending the things my dad has one. Never that. But…. I can see why …at times…. he thought he was going mad.
For episode 8 of Blondy’s people is my good friend Tom. Nothing like my dad. Well……none of the big bad stuff. But he is a male that suffers from anxiety and covered this up for years in different ways, including by abusing alcohol. This escalated for Tom over many years and cost him a lot of things. It almost cost him me, but I don’t know if we have ever fully had that conversation.
Tom speaks openly about his mental health now. He is able to talk about the impact anxiety has on him as a man. I have seen Tom in some bad states. There was a time when it was constant, his state of anxiety. Tom will often take his pulse to make sure his heart is ok. Or will ask if he is hot. Or will say she can’t go places because he can’t deal with the journey. A car journey with Tom can be emotional. He will start to be overcome with the feeling that he can’t breathe and needs to get out. He will start to tick and grab out for the person nearest to him and will sort of hold on for dear life to that person. He will start breathing deeply and it makes me feel sad. After he is very apologetic and feels extremely embarrassed afterwards. But…. he never has to say sorry because me…and the rest of our friends….we get it. I get it. I have been there many times. And Tom, If I can sit through a panic attack with my giant of a farther …trust…I can deal with you.
As well as Tom, I still have males around me affected by mental health and Anxiety . I encourage my people, Blondy’s people….to speak out about it and get help. I encourage you reading this to reach out to people that could be suffering and just check in on them. And if your reading this and you ever need to make that 3 o’clock phone call to me the way John did…. then do it…. because I get it.
Tom is one of Blondy’s people because I wish that he had been around when I was younger, not just what he represents as someone whi can now speak out about male anxiety but also his role within schools. If he had been my head of year, Blondy’s head of year, I wonder if I would have been able to go to him and say “Sir….the lighting in that class makes me feel like I can’t breath?” or “I can’t be around all these people today sir, I feel overwhelmed” like I tired to tell my teachers many times and they would either shrug at me or accuse me of trying to bunk. He would have helped me I believe; Mr Humphrey would have made sure I was safe. He would have seen that Blondy needed help, not punishment.
Tom is one of Blondy’s people now because he has been a true friend. He knows things about me that others may not. He has never broken my trust and he does not speak parseltongue….
Proud to present Tom Humphrey as one of Blondy’s People….
If you are looking for support, please reach out to someone and you can also find support from some of the links below:
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm)
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge