Malky lives with his wife in Larbert. He is retired but occasionally does part-time gardening work.
"....when I needed them most, they weren’t there. If I had had a broken leg they would have been there. They couldn’t have hurt me more if they had hit me over the head with a baseball bat..."
About 20 years ago Malky was working as a landscape gardener in Falkirk. He found it hard to say no to jobs and worked flat out, gardening all day and catching up with paperwork in the evening, sometimes into the small hours. One day, out of the blue, he felt awful. He suddenly got very dizzy and out if breath. Malky thought it might be a heart attack or brain haemorrhage and managed to flag down a passing police car. He was taken to hospital but by the time Malky got there he was feeling better. After a few tests, Malky was told ‘it was just a panic attack’ by the nurse. Malky was sent away feeling terrible. “It was as though it wasn’t something serious and I wasn’t offered any advice on how to cope if it happened again. It did happen again, and again, and again.”
Malky began to have panic attacks more regularly before having a complete nervous breakdown.
Malky’s doctor suggested he see a psychiatrist and although he initially refused, after six weeks he agreed to see someone. Following a couple of sessions with the psychiatrist, Malky was admitted to hospital.
After being discharged from hospital Malky stayed in his house. Every time he went out he had a panic attack so gradually he stopped going out and became agoraphobic. For two years he did not go out, not even to the garden. On one occasion a psychologist visited Malky at home and by the end of their first meeting Malky had made it to the front gate. Each time he saw the psychologist he got a little further, one telegraph pole, and then the next until after a year he made it around all six telegraph poles in the cul de sac. Eventually Malky began meeting his psychologist in his office.
Malky’s best friend, someone he had known since he started school, hasn’t spoken to him since the day he was admitted to hospital. “I had known him for over 40 years. I just don’t understand why he still won’t speak to me to this day.” Some of Malky’s family who he was very close to before becoming unwell, were very distant afterwards and it is only recently that they have resumed contact again. “This cut me like knife and still stings to this day as when I needed them most, they weren’t there. If I had had a broken leg they would have been there. They couldn’t have hurt me more if they had hit me over the head with a baseball bat.”
Since Malky has started to recover, people have also said hurtful things like ‘maybe I’ll lose my marbles and then I would get out of work’ or ‘it’s my taxes that are paying for your treatment." I just respond by telling them if I had a choice I would not have ‘lost my marbles’ and I have also paid a lot of taxes.”
Although Malky’s wife has been the best source of support she has also experienced stigma as a result of his mental ill-health, with friends ignoring her in the street. “My wife has been excellent, really brilliant, a pot of gold. She has stuck by me all the way through and not pushed me, always letting me take things at my pace.”