If I hadn’t called Samaritans, I don’t know where I’d be.
When Taylor’s mum faced a life-threatening illness in hospital, it turned his world upside down. Feeling isolated, Taylor reached out to Samaritans for support, a call that would change the direction of his life.
Around four years ago, I nearly lost my mum to an operation that went wrong. Mum had a slipped disc; I didn’t realise how common this was. There was a complication and we managed to get her into hospital, but I had to leave her immediately to care for my sister who was starting her GCSE’s the next day. As I left my sister at her first exam, I got an urgent phone call from the hospital who said that the situation has taken a turn for the worst - I needed to make a decision about my mum’s brain.
It was literally like walking on to the set of casualty – suddenly I was in a world where I was hearing about brain damage. I spent the next 2-3 months in and out of hospital and intensive care with mum on a life support machine. My mum was strong enough to come through. I was spending 12 hours a day by her side at one point.
My mum has fought it and is now in a rehabilitation home, learning to use her hands to talk. She may never walk again but considering how far we’ve come- never say never.
My mum’s illness certainly was an event that triggered my own mental health unravelling. Suddenly, I had responsibility of the family home, parental care of my sister, my career, friendships and relationships and for myself, trying to keep everything going. It all kept snowballing and I was ignoring how I was feeling, just keeping on to get through. Not looking after myself at all. When it came to the weekends, I was drinking to distract myself from actually being able to process anything.
In January 2020, my mum was back in hospital, and she wasn’t showing signs of response. It was different this time. I hit a wall. I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. From the conversation that I had with Scarlett Moffatt on my podcast, she expressed a similar feeling, it wasn’t that I wanted to end my life, but I didn’t want to continue life the way it was. I thought I’d constantly be in and out of the same situations and there wasn’t any other way out… My humour is my biggest coping mechanism and if I can’t see the funny side of something, I know there’s something wrong. My little sister and best mate noticed that first. They said they thought I should get some help.
I was scared. I didn’t want to tell anyone I was struggling. I didn’t want to fail. Looking back, I know that’s stupid. But that’s where Samaritans came in. I’d never experienced mental health challenges before. I now know I was having severe panic attacks and have PTS. It was early in the morning and I googled the symptoms I was experiencing -which is probably the worst thing I could possibly do! But it also led me to Samaritans. I saw on the website a few things that really related to me too. I called the helpline. It wasn’t any inspirational advice. The volunteer just normalised what I was feeling and affirmed I was doing a great job.
You know when you call as an adult to the doctors or dentist, it might feel like you’re being inconvenient – but this wasn’t like that. It was that calming little voice at the end of the phone. It was awkward to start with but then it broke down a wall – Samaritans don’t know who you are, there’s no judgement. Knowing I’ll never even meet them made it easier to open up in a way. A weight was lifted. The reassurance of knowing I’m not ‘mad’, what I was feeling was normal.
Everyone in my circle, city even sort of knew what my mum was going through. To have someone that didn’t know the situation or know me was really special - it felt a non-judgemental space to share. I found the reassurance I needed on the call. To know someone was listening to how I was feeling was powerful.
It changed the direction for me.
I felt so isolated – I thought I can’t be the only one in this situation. It gave me permission to take time to look after myself and not be running at 100 miles an hour. The pandemic also made me slow down – it allowed me to examine my triggers. I managed to start therapy and have three or four sessions before the pandemic halted it. That’s how the waffle shop podcast was born – I love music and always have my headphones in and wanted a place people could have a waffle about mental health and what was going on for them. Either I keep talking about this, or I go backwards. I‘m so grateful that I carried on. It stuck with me, being told my emotions were normal is a driving force for my podcast – normalising ups and downs of mental health.
I didn’t know who I was – I was defined by the situation, and I didn’t realise there were other people that were in the same situation as me. Other young carers. The conversation often turns to ‘how’s your mum doing?’ and not to ‘How are you doing?’ – it’s not something that many people consider. It’s that side of things I didn’t realise existed – the support and messages from people in similar situations – there’s a whole community. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of – to be part of.
It’s because of conversations I had with Samaritans, my best friend, my sister. I look at life now and I feel like a completely different person. Just by having that simple conversation to say, ‘I’m not OK’. I’ll shout about the importance of reaching out until I’m blue in the face.
If you can start these sorts of conversations early on – before it does snowball for you, it can allow people to deal with things before it’s a crisis point. It’s changed my friendship group too, I have the confidence to be honest and open about how I’m feeling and let them know if I’m not ok. We go for walks and talk a bit deeper around wellness and share tips on meditation or journaling even. These are conversations that I wouldn’t have expected to have with my guy mates – or girls mates even! If you’re not feeling coming out to the pub for example, or feeling yourself, there’s no pressure or need to make an excuse – you can just say that you’re not up to it.
I like to build lego as a coping mechanism – an hour where I’m just focusing on that has been brilliant for me. Music too.
My advice to someone who is struggling, or feeling the way I felt in 2020, I’d say to recognise what you’re feeling is a human thing – a natural thing. If you’re anxious, or you’re feeling fear – just as you would feel happiness. Regardless of how big or small you think it is, reach out and I guarantee you’ll feel better. You won’t be judged and you wont be defined by any issue. By opening up, you wont only change your life, but you’ll inspire others to reach out too.
I started the Waffle Shop podcast at the end of February 2021– I was curious to educate myself about the brain and why we think and feel things we do. The podcast gathered success from there - I interviewed Scarlett Moffatt when she was announced as an ambassador for Samaritans. It keeps the fire burning for how important it is to reach people with a mental health message.
If I hadn’t called Samaritans, I don’t know where I’d be. I want to continue on this journey of understanding my mental health and growing the podcast and keep going forward. Talking really can impact your life. Those normal conversations have changed the course of my life – my mindset.