OVER the past six months I have written a series of introspective pieces about my own life trials and tribulations. It was been necessarily therapeutic and cathartic but at other times just navel gazing!
Yes, I have become a bit wrapped up in myself.
Then last week I received a surprise email from an old friend and colleague which snapped me out of self-pity and allowed me to focus on someone else.
It was the shock I needed.
I have known Mark for about eight years. We worked alongside each other and I respected him as a bright and intuitive journalist and a razor sharp writer. But more than that, he became a good friend and personal confidante.
He moved away in 2009 to work for another newspaper group in the south of England and our contact sadly became sporadic.
He had almost dropped off my radar until last summer.
Following my break-down and decision to quit newspaper journalism, Mark was one of the first people to offer to write me a personal reference.
His testimonial was amazing. His words made me believe in myself once again, when my life was at its lowest: “Nic Outterside is cut from a different class when it comes to editors. Meeting and working for Nic gave me a strength and inner-belief that few could ever manage. I will never forget his presence in the newsroom, his advice or guidance, all of which are worth more than gold.”
I was humbled, gobsmacked and thanked him profusely.
He told me he was no longer enjoying newspaper journalism and was looking at other options. We promised to keep in better touch with each other.
But once again he quickly seemed lost from my radar.
And I have only just found out why!
I will let Mark’s own words tell what happened; the trauma he has endured and thankfully survived:
“The last eight months have been a bit of a blur. Things had been going downhill for a while with work, in that they were flogging me to death and I just took more and more on. It was 12 hour days, no breaks, abuse, all sorts. People around me were having breakdowns, ill health, just plain walking out, and I did what I had always done and simply absorbed as much as possible.
Given that I could do the job, more got piled on me, and one Saturday September morning at the local magistrates’ court, picking up the first appearance of an alleged rapist, I suddenly blacked out, collapsed down a flight of stairs, shattered my collarbone, lacerated my face and was knocked clean out. Initially the doctors thought I had brain damage due to an episode from the force of the fall.
I spent a week in hospital having all sorts of tests, scans etc. Then I had surgery on my shoulder and four pins and plate inserted. I wanted to go home so they eventually relented and let me out about a week later, went back to my folks, I’ve never been in so much pain in all my life. My shoulder, back, and god knows what else that was battered as a result of going down something like 20 metal steps was excruciating, every single day.
Nightmares about falling were waking me up, then waking up and crying out in pain because I was rooted to the bed. It was horrid. Had to go back to the hospital for months and months of tests, CT scans, sleep deprivation analysis, physio, trauma, polytrauma, speech and language therapy – I was unable to talk properly, and have had severe memory problems.
The day itself was wiped clean from my head, I can remember very little, even from before. Except for the fact I hadn’t slept the night before, which was pretty much the pattern of the prior six months, no sleep, little food. Not being able to remember life events, words, my vocabulary was shocking, and I was shaking as I was walking. It was horrible, and must have been quite scary for the people around me – I recall very little, and the process of recovery has been akin to waking from a bad dream.
Meanwhile I was applying for jobs. But nothing really happened. The doctors obviously didn’t want me anywhere near work given I was going to hospital still two/three times a week.
Then I launched myself into a period of rehab, started doing whatever I could at home, weights, running etc. It was painful at first, but really did help me mentally start to recover. One by one the hospital classes stopped, and now it’s just a case of going back every so often for checkups.
I was at the end of what I could take with newspapers, the old paper is still driving people into the ground, with two or three people leaving every month, shocking stuff.
I wasn’t sure what the future held, but have moved into an area where I can still investigate stories, still dig into things, and it’s interesting. I went for several interviews – including a press officer job at the Home Office – while still in the sling, with my face still a mess of bruises and swelling, that’s how desperate I was to get out.
Then this job came up, I had to go for three interviews, but they seemed to not really care about the obvious injuries, just that I seemed the right man for the job, and they had plans for me.
So now I live and work in London for an amazing online publication. I find it very interesting, the pace is slow, but I am working on some very big stories, with a lot of time to properly research, there’s travel, and I seem to have landed on my feet. Whereas I was being screamed at for six or seven leads a day, and then told they were all shit, I now have time for a break, work on one investigative piece a day, and leave work behind at the end of each day.
I have gone from one of the worst lows of my life, I didn’t think I would be able to walk properly, talk properly, I had no idea what happened to me to be honest, it was terrifying – to now being in a place where things have completely turned around.
Never thought it could happen – and each day is a blessing. I am sure people look at me like I’m daft, scars over my eyes and can’t fully extend my arm, but I couldn’t be happier. So when you are in the bottom of a very bad funk, in time it will pass.
I never had a news editor that could match your brain for a story, or someone who could make a front page sparkle. Considering I ended up working for three decent regionals I never forgot the man whose hand guided me early on and who looked beyond face value to see there was actually a reporter in there -so believe me, your story isn’t done, and I hope that things start to turn around for you soon.”
Mark, I want to embrace you and tell you that you will always be a special friend. Your story is uplifting in its own right. Your courage and friendship has forced me to look beyond.