Everybody probably thought that I was now well and that all’s well that ends well. I would get used to getting up early every morning despite my history of sleep problems; I would get used to the pressures of work life; I would get used to the hours; I would get used to the boredom; I would get used to mixing with work colleagues; I would get used to having a boss; I would get used to living in Devon away from my family, Cambridgeshire, and the Norfolk coast. Probably. That’s how it felt to me.
The problem was that my brave face was a mask for the truth. I couldn’t get used to getting up early every morning. I found that I was struggling to drag myself out of bed after a sleepless night; I found that my medication was making me drowsy; I found that I felt physically sick after getting up; I found that I was making mistakes in the mornings because I was struggling to wake up.
I couldn’t get used to the pressures of work life; every job was a ton of pressure because I still had that feeling that I was making it all up as I went along and that my skills were severely limited.
I struggled to get around a city I had never lived in before and getting around Plymouth was a massive part of the job as we were always so pushed for time. I would be doing one job whilst my boss was shouting in my ear that I needed be over the other side of town for the next one – right now; all the photographers needed to be able to fly across town, they needed to know all the names of the roads and areas of Plymouth, all the roads to avoid at certain times of the day, all the short-cuts and all the places to park.
Driving was a part of the job I had underestimated and I relied heavily on my vindictive sat-nav. It took me up roads that should have been classified as tracks (I remember trying to drive on a road that had pot plants in the middle of it) and confused me into making some horrendous errors. I distinctly remember needing to get into Cornwall early on in my career (so called) and following the sat-nav into a cue of cars. It wasn’t until I could see the estuary that I realised I was about to board a ferry. I had no idea there was a ferry and no idea how long it was going to take. I had no idea that I had to pay for the privilege and thought I was about to get into a whole world of trouble. As it happened, the ferry became quite a regular route and I soon got used to it.
The pressures of work-life were immense; every job was a new challenge and it put all my skills to the test, it was stress from the start to the end of my day. Some jobs were interesting, most not were not, but all were stressful. I have some amazing memories. It felt good to be behind the scenes with television presenters; pitch-side and up close with sports-men and sports-women; meeting actors and pop-stars; being in the captain’s seat in a war-ship and under the water in a submarine, and doing all sorts of crazy things. Yes, those things were good, but they also came at a price to my nervous system.
I couldn’t get used to the hours. We had a rotating work schedule that included evenings and weekends. I had to work every Saturday; I hated missing out on the only day my wife was free to go out (Sundays we spent at church); it felt like my new life was all work and soon that it was no life at all.
I couldn’t get used to the boredom. We had to remain in the office even when news was scarce and we had no jobs for hours. There was nothing to do. I began to bring books to read surreptitiously but I read them knowing that my boss could walk in at any time. The others seemed to have stuff to do but it was not something they could share with me. It wasn’t long before I was begging my boss to let me go out and photograph landmarks for our archives.
I couldn’t get used to mixing with my work colleagues. It was one of the hardest parts of the job. I made one friend but there always seemed to be an agenda with the rest. They all seemed to be jostling for position and the politics produced fake people and I hated that. I found that most of my colleagues were unfriendly and difficult to strike up a relationship with. I feared that they were judging me and speaking about me behind my back. I knew that everyone could see how green I was. The daily anxiety this caused exhausted and drained me.
I couldn’t get used to my boss. He was an ex-marine, very tall and imposing. He was stuck in the 1970’s in a time when it was ok to pick on people; embarrass and insult them in front of the whole news-desk; shout at them, harass them, and get away with it. It was common knowledge in the office that he would pick on people, summon them to the picture desk and shame them, time after time, before moving on to his next victim. He would appear suddenly and then not be around for days. I dreaded seeing his car in the car-park of a morning. His bullying really took its toll on me.
I couldn’t get used to my new city. It was bigger than anywhere else I had lived and whilst it had some great qualities I never really warmed to it, especially as I missed both Cambridgeshire and Norfolk all those miles away across the other side of the country. I missed my old church and my family, I missed my pets and I missed nature. I still do.
And so all of the problems that may have seemed easy to overcome to everybody else I was secretly being beaten by. I was hiding it but it was breaking me. Before the year was out I was so mentally exhausted that my brain began to tell me that enough was enough: stop this now or break completely.