Learning To Win Again | Guest Post By Ethan Ross

Welcome to Blogtober Day 6! Today I am introducing my first guest post of the month, passing the spotlight to one of my favourite bloggers on the platform; Ethan, or you may know him better as GreyMatterLeaks.

You can check out Ethan’s blog here! 

I love this guy to pieces and I’m so honoured that he’s happy to share a personal story of his own with you all. It was emotional, honest and beautiful all at the same time and I hope you all enjoy.

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“Learning To Win Again”

A man sits in his lounge, listening to music and drinking tea. It’s 10am, Friday 1st December 2017. He takes a drag from his cigarette, hums along to the music that gently ebbs and flows around him and thinks absent-mindedly about what he might spend his weekend doing.

15 minutes later, this man is curled up in the foetal position, crying in a way that he’s only done a handful of times before. Everything over the prior 7 months had led to this moment, and he wasn’t even expecting to receive the message for another week.

“M170705. All tests were negative. No infection.”

The man lays there, attempting to come to terms with the choice that was just made for him – he was going to live. You see, the man had hinged his entire existence on this one piece of information. If the test came back “negative” he would stop smoking the 20 menthol cigarettes he had been habitually chaining since he was attacked. He’d try to move on, and he’d try to live a good life. 

If the test came back “positive”, he would kill himself. He even knew how he would (and wouldn’t) kill himself – nothing involving blood loss. If he had been infected with HIV due to the attack, he refused to force somebody else to experience what he’d been through. 

He slowly lifts himself back on to the couch. He has the last two cigarettes in the packet, and quits smoking at 1pm that day. 

1 year, 9 months, 4 weeks, 1 day, 7 hours and 25 minutes later, he is sat writing this out and taking stock of how his life has gone since then. Generally, the trajectory has been erratic, but, shit, he hasn’t smoked.

I’ve “lost” 2 and a half years to the events of that night. I was drugged and sexually assaulted by a woman, and then left in the middle of Dusseldorf to die. I’ve lost friends and I’ve gained friends. I’ve lost money and I’ve gained money. Everything I have ever had has been stripped away and replaced with something new in the time between then and now. I no longer drink. I no longer see people I once considered the closest of friends. I no longer see the world the way I used to. I now see people I met 6 months ago as some of the most important people in my life and were not for them and the friendship of one man, I’d still be lost. 

People often ask me how I managed to “get through it”. Being cheated on and left by your best friend, raped, losing of all your money, battling depression, tackling PTSD, anxiety and so on. The truth is you just do. There isn’t a magic life-hack, or an inspirational quote behind survival. It’s the very meaning of “do or die”. 

Since I got ill, and I got vocal about it, people have placed me in this “mental health advocate” position that I’m not always comfortable with. Firstly, aren’t we all mental health advocates? Isn’t that the default position? Nobody is out there hoping depression is on the rise, surely? 

Secondly, a lot of people get you confused for a mental health “professional”, and that’s about as dangerous a mistake as you can make. Most people in the world struggle to understand their own mental health, let alone that of others. We’re all just confused people in the dark, scrambling to be the next person to flip the light-switch and walk out of the room filled with other desperate people.

This article hasn’t been nearly as well-written, optimistic or uplifting as I had hoped, but it is honest. It doesn’t matter what your diagnosis is, or even if you have one. Some days are going to feel like they’re too much to live through. Others, you’ll struggle to even sleep. But whenever you feel like that, ask yourself one thing. 

“Is today the worst day of my life so far?”

Statistically, the answer is “no”, so you know you can survive that day. If you’re unlucky enough to answer that question with a “yes”, then I’m sorry. But try to remember that you’ve lived through every other day of your life, and every one of the thousands and thousands of those days built you up to this one, so your chances of survival might be as good as they’ll ever be. 

I’m not always a believer of the old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. You’ve just got to hope to hell it doesn’t make you weaker, and fight with whatever you have left. We’re all fighting battles in one way or another. Some of us are losing, some of us are ahead on points, but all of us are fighting. So long as you’ve got your legs beneath you, and your hands raised, you’re not done yet. 

So keep fighting, because the only other option is losing. Where’s the fun in that?

One thought on “Learning To Win Again | Guest Post By Ethan Ross

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