Nirvana and Me

This inspirational story is from Bob Brotchie, a local psychotherapist from Newmarket, who shares his healing journey from childhood loss and pain towards peace, greater self-esteem, focus and creativity.

It’s the mid 70’s and I’m in my parents’ bedroom, ‘nosing’ through drawers in a dresser. At eleven, the youngest son of three…and our mother had recently ‘left’ the family home – for good! She didn’t say goodbye to any of us; it was a complete surprise when my eldest brother shared the contents of the letter she left on that Saturday evening.

My father, a placid man…and an alcoholic, was suffering the neurological effects of his illness with early onset dementia, aged 46. Our mother had decided she could no longer cope with his lying and deteriorating mental health and had moved 180 miles north with another man.

As I explore the dresser, smelling the remaining almost empty perfume bottles and various bits and pieces associated with our mother I discover some papers. They appear official and to my surprise seem to have some information that might be about me. I can’t quite work it out however as the date of birth and first name appear to match mine – but the surname is different. I look at the heading of the document and fail to understand what ‘fostering’ actually means and how that might relate to me.

My head spins at the possibilities! Unable to comprehend what this means I somehow know it’s significant so I look further through the drawers and discover another document which makes more sense. The Certificate of Adoption was dated three years after my birth and with the name changes clear to see! So who the heck were my brothers and parents?

I don’t think my life was ever the same after this!

My eldest brother took over my parenting and heroically managed to clothe and prepare me for my move to secondary school. And to this day no-one in the family has felt able to discuss the adoption with me.

Much later aged 27 I sought and found knowledge of my birth parents. My father was an ‘un-named’ American serviceman who had left the UK shortly after my birth. I have made some enquiries over the years; however it is highly unlikely I will ever be able to close that particular query and it may be just as well! What I found out about the woman who gave birth to me, and for whom I had planned to ‘forgive’ everything for ‘when’ I met her shocked me to the core. She had committed suicide when I would have been 7! I was heartbroken!

My move to secondary school provided the opportunity to fight everyone within the first few weeks promptly followed by years of truancy, accidents fracturing many bones and one incident leaving me critically injured, and the brushes with the Law…

Between 13 and 15 I worked hard doing jobs such as delivering milk with an abusive Milkman for 18 months for 25 hours a week and doing paper rounds and helping on market stalls. I seemed to mature prematurely, at least in some ways.

At 16 I started my first full time job, as an apprentice and this lasted just four months. The other qualified hairdressers could be uncomfortably ‘bitchy’! Despite the recession, I managed to secure another job. This time in retail. Made redundant after 18 months I struggled to find new, permanent work managing to get temporary or work experience positions instead. The retail sector appeared to be a route that I could focus on and found myself becoming more and more ambitious, though I had no idea why! I bounced around from job-to-job trying to find something that was a ‘fit’ that would satisfy me, yet that something seemed elusive. You could say I was ‘unsettled’!

At 21 my Father died from Cancer, and my fiancée ditched me rather suddenly shortly afterwards. I think she was probably right to do so, but maybe could have been a little kinder in the delivery!

The experience I had gained during one particular spell of unemployment, ‘temping’ put me in a great position to get a job advertised as a call taker for the ambulance service. This job would see the start of a highly successful and award winning career that would last until my premature retirement in 2011 due to a spinal injury. The privileged, yet tough roles I held over almost two decades taught me to be even more compassionate, as well as a problem solver.

I also still had to cope with depressive episodes that had first become apparent in the mid 80’s! Although I was successful and privileged, I still experienced huge emotional turbulence that made life, relationships, play and work a constant challenge. But here’s the thing. With age, experience and a steely determination to learn and observe for opportunities to make positives out of hitherto negative scenarios, my life changed.

I have always believed that everyone has something or someone that is a key to their own fulfilment. The positive mentality I discovered is about observing, in context, what is happening rather than the happy clappy ‘everything is ok’ mantra. I had until recently found no-one – or helpful information (to me) that would provide the key to unlock my emotional instability.

I discovered new-found positive selfishness. I started to actually spend time trying to solve my problems achieving happiness and some peace within; and it was outside of a strict religion too.

Meditation and elements of spirituality touched me and provided respite, the like of which I had never known. I know this has achieved a difference because my life just keeps getting more and more successful; I want for less, I have a quieter mind…and people notice me in a more welcoming way which has improved my self-esteem.

I was able to quickly overcome the disappointment of ‘losing’ my beloved and successful career, rather seeing it as an opportunity to consolidate the knowledge so many years as an attending paramedic brings whilst learning challenging new skills that would allow me to give value to myself and family, whilst still continuing to meet and help others.

Finding that ‘key’, whatever it is for you, is what really matters. I can now accept my fate in a way I never could before. I guess I have found my nirvana. It feels that life is just beginning – I’m as busy and passionate as ever. It is natural to still have duvet days and low moods; I accept and share that knowing that it will pass. I now live ‘mindfully’ in the ‘here and now’ allowing the past to be a place of reflection for learning, or to place things in context. The future is being built by the actions here and now and all of this has provided greater focus, creativity and peace for me.

I am reminded of gratitude to lift me when I feel less than. No matter how tough or turbulent life is, finding gratitude for ‘something’ will help you overcome the most stubborn of unhelpful emotions. Perhaps now you can see why I have become ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’.

Bob Brotchie

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