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Standing. On the edge.

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GabrielaStanding. On the edge. Looking down to the bottom of that big dark hole at the end of your feet. Just one step over the brink and it’s all gone. All that pain, all that sorrow, all those failures… will disappear. Gone for good. Free…Just one step…One little step…

I’m a very positive person. Always have been. Always will be… I love life, I’ve always been a fighter and a go-getter. I don’t understand pessimistic people, negative people. They simply don’t make sense to me and my way of seeing the world.

I used to think that only pessimistic and negative people could get depressed. And that they only get depressed because they can’t see any positives in their lives. As if, somehow, without that capacity to see the good things in their lives, they get depressed. And that’s what creates the eternal, vicious circle. It’s THEIR fault. It’s got to be!

Until THAT DAY in 2014 when it hit ME.

If you ask me when it all started exactly, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I can’t remember the day, the moment, that exact point in time. I’m actually not even sure that it was a “one day”. It was a sequence of events, a string of “failures” that simply mounted up so much in my head that I was not able to cope with my everyday life.

I felt like every time I opened my mouth to say something, it was all negative. It may have all been only in my head, I really don’t know. But that’s how I saw myself at the time. I used to read the news all the time, especially the BBC News website. I suppose that’s what gets us all in general: all the bad news, disasters, and shocking events. In hindsight, I think the only nice piece of news I read at that time was about the Duchess of Cambridge having a baby.

January 2014 brought Stephen Sutton into my life. I didn’t realise then how much this chance encounter would change my life through the year.

Stephen Sutton did a short speech at the St. James’s Place Conference in London, in January 2014. He was 19, dying of cancer. Incurable. His speech was moving beyond description.

He was only 15 when he got diagnosed with cancer. When he found out that the cancer had spread and that it was incurable, he had decided to stop counting life in days. He wanted to count life in what he had achieved, in terms of making a difference. So, he set out to achieve goals, make a difference. LIVE.

Stephen achieved some amazing and mind-blowing goals, like drumming at Wembley in front of 95,000 people at the UEFA Champions League Final. He raised millions for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Stephen compared seconds in a day with money. If you had £86,400 every day and you could spend it on anything, anything at all, what would you do? If there was any money left at the end of that day, you lost it. It didn’t roll over. There are 86,400 seconds in a day. WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THEM? It was a very moving speech, one of those things that go on resonating with you. But then, it gets lost in YOUR everyday life, in YOUR problems…

Towards the end of April 2014 my life was spiralling out of control totally and completely…on a personal level, a financial level, a professional level…

Financially, I had fought so hard for nearly 20 months, just to keep my head above water, working 6-7 days a week, getting a second job, having to share my house with someone else just to ensure that I didn’t go bankrupt. (I work in financial services and bankruptcy could make it impossible for me to carry on in the job – and I absolutely love my work!).

I found myself in this situation because of a marital split; my ex-husband simply walked away from our joint financial responsibilities (mortgage and loan), leaving me to deal with it all. If you wonder why I didn’t just sell the house, well that wasn’t an option. It was thousands of pounds away from being signed off by the building inspectors after we’d had an extension built. I simply didn’t have that kind of money.

I felt such a feeling of injustice – what have I done to deserve this? Why me? I had worked hard all my life and I wasn’t even in a position to enjoy it…I paid just over £30,000 in 20 months (mortgage, loans). All I was left with every month after paying debts and bills was £12. I was so tired…exhausted…

I was going through an extremely stressful period at work, with a lot of changes in the industry. There was a lot of pressure on me and my team, with no support from upper management.

On a personal level, my life wasn’t in a great place. After splitting up from my abusive husband in July 2012 I met someone very quickly and I fell in love. Or I thought I did. It didn’t work out, and by February 2014 we split up.

I remember one day driving to work. April 2014. I got in the office and I simply burst out crying. I couldn’t cope with it all anymore. I wanted to run away, to disappear…I took the day off, I wanted to clear my head. I went back home and I took my dog, Sasha, out for a walk at Dove Stones. I remember the day so well…it was a sunny, beautiful day. I absolutely loved being out with Sash (ah, this dog was in my life for a reason…she helped me heal so many times through the years; she taught me so much…) After spending a few hours out with Sash, I felt better, so I went back home. I checked my Facebook account. Stephen Sutton had been taken to hospital, he was given days to live. It shocked me to the core. I thought, hey, my life is not that bad compared to this guy! Get on with it! It kind of kicked me, gave me courage.

So I decided to carry on…

I met up with my ex-husband the day after and we agreed on an amount to buy him out of the house. I thought to myself, ok, I’m getting there, that’s one thing I’ve sorted. Things will get back on track from now on. I started the wheels in motion with the mortgage. I’m not going to go into all the details here and now. But things didn’t turn out as hoped. I couldn’t borrow the amount I needed to pay him off. He refused to believe me. He started to threaten me. Almost daily. Phone calls, shouting, abuse, emails, texts. I was absolutely terrified. He still had access to the house; I wasn’t entitled legally to change the locks as his name was still on the mortgage (although he hadn’t paid a penny towards the mortgage in 20 months). He threatened me with going bankrupt (so his creditors would take charge of his share of the house, MY house, the only possession I had left). He already had an IVA (Insolvency Voluntary Agreement, the last resort before declaring bankruptcy). I was so worried. I felt like I had managed to keep my head above water for so long, but then, when it all seemed to be coming together, I was so close to losing it all.

He kept changing his mind, changing the terms of our agreement; threatening to take me to Court… three weeks of this. Every single day. He refused to accept the money in instalments. He wanted it upfront. I didn’t have that much money. I couldn’t ask anyone. I felt ashamed to ask for money from friends…My parents couldn’t help me…All I could see was years and years of struggling ahead of me; of not being able to shake free of this nightmare – like swimming against the current…so close to surrendering…

Stress at work was getting worse, I can’t describe it. I wanted out of there. I had been looking for a job since February. Nothing.

I got rejected for a mortgage in my sole name three times due to the level of my salary. They only agreed to give me £1,000 towards buying my ex-husband out. That was no way near what I needed.

On a personal level I felt completely empty. I didn’t want to be with anyone…

I felt a complete failure. On every level. I made the wrong choices.

I wasted 9 years of my life with my ex-husband and I was still paying for it: FAILURE.

I let go of one guy who absolutely adored me and he was now getting married: FAILURE.

I was going to lose the house, the only thing I had left: FAILURE.

I was 38 years old, no kids, no legacy: FAILURE.

On my own, in a foreign country, no comfort, no family. What’s left? What is life all about? What’s the point? Most days I would come home and go to bed, curl up and cry myself to sleep. I just wanted it over. I didn’t care how it ended. I wanted it done. I didn’t care anymore. I couldn’t cope with it all…

13 May 2014. A Tuesday. I went to work. I felt low. Very low. My ex-husband rang me during the day. The most abusive call I’ve ever listened to. Shouting. Threats. He wanted his money. I remember crying and begging him on the phone, I would have done anything. Anything. Just to make him stop. Make ALL of this stop. I didn’t care anymore. When he put the phone down on me I decided… I’m going to end it. That same day. Make it all go away. He could deal with it then. And I would have peace.

I remember going back to my desk, I checked that the life cover I had in work was in my sister’s name. I texted my lodger to say that I was going to be late. When I said my goodbyes to my colleagues at the end of that day I said “see you later”. I never say that in work. I always say “see you tomorrow”. Or I’ll make a point of saying if I’m off for a few days. I got in my car and I started crying. I can’t remember driving, I can’t remember the weather. I can’t remember anything. Up to THAT point on the motorway…

There’s a bridge on the M62, between J22 and J21 from Huddersfield to Manchester. It was my daily commute. I knew the spot so well. It’s over a reservoir. I knew that I could just jump, and it would be over. Quick. Done.

I stopped the car on the hard shoulder. I put my hazards on. By this point I was at peace. Complete peace. I wasn’t crying anymore. I was ready. I got my driving licence out of my purse and put it on the passenger seat. I did the same with my phone. I left the keys in the ignition and the engine running. I got out through the passenger door. I had no regrets, my mind was so completely clear and focused. I wanted peace. As I was getting out of the car I saw the motorway patrol car coming at speed towards me on the hard shoulder. Just THAT second. I’ll never ever forget that moment for the rest of my life…I started to shake…Uncontrollably. I burst out in tears. There were two guys in the car, a younger, Asian guy and an older one, English. They both got out of the car. The Asian guy got me back in my car. He started taking to me. He was the calmest man I had met in a long time. By this time I was crying, shaking. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t do anything but cry. That guy was simply amazing. He stayed with me in the car. I can’t remember how long for. He talked to me about the weather. About my family. About the importance of life. That total stranger gave me power, he gave me courage…He drove my car to J21 where I told him that I was okay to drive myself back home. I simply cannot describe what that man did for me that day…I’ve asked him for their names, so he wrote them on an incident card. I got home. I collapsed on my settee. I felt ashamed. Sorry. Embarrassed. Scared of the enormity of what I could have done…I promised myself that night that, “I’m going to fight and win”. It was the first time in many, many, many months that I knew I could do this.

The day after, I got into work. Stephen Sutton had died. That morning, 14 May 2014. I’ll never forget it. EVER! This guy had fought with everything he had to stay alive, to live every single day to the full. He would have done anything, anything in the world for one more day. And I wanted to end it. As I was reading the news of his death, that split second, I got a whole new perspective. I realised that I had such a precious gift and I had to make the most out of it. I had LIFE. It was the day I decided to live for the rest of my life, accept my mistakes, learn from them and move on. No more regrets. No more what-ifs. Accept my past. Grab my second chance and make a difference. LIVE!

I still keep the incident card in my bedroom. It will always stay with me, to remind me of that day.

Three weeks later, on 6 June, I finally bought my ex-husband out of the house. FREE! I finally closed the door on one of the darkest periods of my life. I wasn’t ready to forgive him though, not yet. That process took a little longer. But I was ready for my next chapter. I was back in control of my life. And that felt amazing!

I’ve lived every day since with an intensity that I can’t describe. I got a new job too. And I passed a string of exams that allowed me to get a qualification I had planned and wanted for over six years.

I met some fantastic people, made new friends and created more memories with the ones I love. I travelled to places I had wanted to go since I was a child.

I have a big list of places that I still want to explore. Things that I want to do. Goals that I want to achieve. I know I may not be able to do it all and that I may not achieve every single goal on the exact day that I planned. But this is what keeps me going, this makes sense to me.

I learnt a lot about myself. About people. I learnt to talk. To share. To plan. To exercise. To forgive (Although I’m still struggling with this one most of the time…). I learnt that sometimes it is ME and not YOU. But sometimes it is YOU. And that’s ok too. Relationships are a constant work in progress!

I learnt to laugh and love life again.

Oh yes, I still get low days too. I get sad. Frustrated. Impatient. Annoyed. I sometimes cry. It’s LIFE.

I haven’t got the recipe to eternal happiness or the perfect life. Far from it. But I’m so excited about life!! And if I can help anyone get back in control of their lives sooner than I did, please get in touch with me via The Shaw Mind Foundation. I would love to hear from you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Gabriela Silion.

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