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Ride the wave, ride the storm, calm seas await! – by Leo Zullo

I was an awkward kid. Painfully shy, super quiet, red cheeks; that type. People look at me now and think I am super confident, an Alpha male, that everything is all good in the hood! What is under the hood is a very different reality.

Growing up in a slightly dysfunctional house didn’t help set boundaries or teach me the way of the world either. Anti-Dad – pro-Mum. This was the tone of growing up. Silent, Introverted. Not a clue really. And sadly, growing up in an immigrant environment, where doing the ‘normal’ English family things wasn’t the norm.

I didn’t adjust well. Didn’t make friends. Moved school and had to get to know a whole load of people. I think we were also pretty poor; no pocket money, no sweets – lunch was minimal. I started developing bad habits.

I was torn really. I was showing signs of brightness, clouded by this dark moodiness and shyness. Torn, and with no-one to shine a light. So, I guess it is isn’t a surprise that as I grew up, slightly sociopathic, slightly awkward, I started following my own rules – which weren’t always the right ones.

Then I went even darker. Discovered razor blades. I used to do little minor cuts on my left arm. Little cuts but over a long period. I wonder if this period in my life holds any connection to the logo of my company being a razor blade. Then the darkness set in even more.

As you might expect from a broody, very awkward kid, the road to the dark side was never too far away. Inevitably it led to the check out day. No notes. Just firmly in mind to get the job done.

Finished school. Bedroom. 100 paracetamols, half bottle of brandy. A job done! Well, I passed out, woke up – and hell opened up. The irony of getting shouted by my mum who thought I was pissed. The anger of my dad who proceeded to force me to paint a fucking wall!

Now, if anyone has been down this road, they will know that the aftermath of a check out attempt with pills, is that…well, you puke. A lot. You puke, and you puke, and you puke, until green shit comes up. Then you puke more. So, I’m running to the toilet – puking – coming back to the forced labour – then get abuse from the pops that I’m a waste of space piss head. A 14-year-old piss head. If only he knew.

But I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Wrong.

I think I have had every social issue possible whilst growing up and even throughout adulthood.

Anxiety. Depression. Addiction issues. Yes – the typical obsessive personality. The false extrovert. The larger than life bullshit character. The must do the most anyone can do attitude. Still learning, still no clue. Yet the stakes are getting higher.

I never really spoke about things. I went through life the hard way: bottled things up till they exploded. Lots of life phases later, and I’m in my late 40s. I have grey hair and lots of wisdom of dark issues, mental issues, addiction issues, psychological issues, medical issues and general life issues. I am good in a panic situation. Helpful!

I learned to escape in many ways. Music. Games. Drugs. Work. And a rolling combination of the afore mentioned. My obsessive side would always throw me into things. Never a balance. Still to this day.

One thing that has helped is knowing that life does get better. I got to the edge of a cliff a few times, looked over the cliff, and somehow pulled back. This has happened on many pivotal occasions. It would’ve gotten better a lot quicker if I’d had help, but I didn’t ask, so I never got it.

To those who are anxious or have other issues, talk to someone. A friend, family, or someone you trust. Maybe even a complete stranger. Help is out there, and you will be surprised that more often than not, the other person has been through something similar and can help.

Life is a like a sea. When it is calm and the sun is shining, it is beautiful. The warmth, the reflections and the calm. But note, there will be rough seas and waves and storms. It is important you know this, and when the storms are rough, they can last for what seems forever. The darkness and roughness is unforgiving, but the seas will change; it will calm down, it will become sunny again.

I found that I needed little targets to get my life back on track. This technique was developed and honed over the many years and the many ups and downs. You can’t think of the big picture. It is too far away. It is too big – too daunting. But you can set yourself little achievable goals. One step at a time, one day at a time, and the goals get bigger. After a while you will realise you have stopped thinking about it because you are through the worst. Develop your own tailored techniques, they do work. Thinking about it now, I was developing my own Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. These days, there are many proven CBT options out there; try them.

To those who are thinking of checking out… life does change. Life is full of ups and downs and life does give back great moments. Ride the storm. The pain of losing someone in this way is immense. The darkness you may feel is real, but keep trying, one day at a time. Ride the storm!

Remember this…
The joy you bring to others is unmeasurable, but the joy you must bring to yourself is more important. When you smile and are back in the moment it is evident for all to see. You will stop with the second voice in your head, and you will feel free.

Ride the wave, ride the storm, calm seas await!