I look at the people as they wander along the promenade. Some of them are couples holding hands, others are people just on their lunch breaks. My favourite are those with families. I love to watch the interactions, the children running up to the parents clutching their treasures. Parents swinging children up into their arms, pointing out to sea, looking at the boats bobbing off the shore.
The heat is made bearable by the cooling breeze from the sea. The scent of salt in the air, mingling with the aroma of chips cooking in the nearby café. The sun is shining in a cloudless sky. I see the seagulls swoop, white against the pale blue sky. Laughter hanging in the air, heard above the gentle waves breaking on the shore. It is in many ways, an idyllic day.
Casting my mind back to this time last year, I remember walking along this very promenade. I was with my wife and we were discussing my latest promotion. The money was going to really help us out with the mortgage. I was going to be working long hours and we would finally be able to start a family of our own. It had been a great day, full of promises for the future.
The next couple of months had been a blur, stressful and difficult. My company was hit hard by the recession. I was working longer and longer hours. No matter the effort I put in, it was never enough. I remember, every evening looking forward to seeing my wife, having dinner and a glass of wine to unwind. I was finding it harder and harder to cope, arguments became common place. Soon home was not a refuge for me.
I am not sure exactly when it happened, when I started to look forward to coming home, for the glass of wine. The glass of wine had become two or three. My wife left me, my performance at work was becoming affected. I was walking the tight rope and I had no safety net. I remember the constant throbbing in my temples, the constant feeling of anxiety. Finally I fell.
I breathed deeply the sea air, I pushed away thoughts I did not want to re-visit. It is surprising how the past can bring forth pain. I tried to focus on the people around me, anything to be a distraction. I watched the family come closer, a smile playing on my lips. The little girl on her scooter racing ahead of her parents. A call from them stopped her short and she waited for them to catch up. They were lecturing her about running off, as they went past my bench.
It is amazing how many people walked past me each day. I used to think that I was invisible, that I had developed a super power. I used to sit here with a bottle and giggle at the madness of it all. I could not understand how people could look any where but my direction. I did not care, I just wanted to drink and forget the pain, both physical and emotional.
I remember the winter, I shiver in the warm sunlight as I recall that time. I had hit rock bottom. I was freezing, I had no money, nowhere to go, no hope. It is amazing how far you can fall and how quickly it can happen. I had nearly reached the end, I could cope no longer. I wanted to escape it all forever. No one would care, I had no one, I was truly invisible.
If I had not found that one person who saw me, I would be dead now. To be seen, treated as a person of worth, listened to, encouraged. I cannot express what a difference that has made. I am on the road to recovery now. It is not easy but I have support, I have friends and I have help.
I sit on the bench, I breath deeply the sea air, I live, I hope.....
This story was written by me following a visit to the 'Seaview Project in St Leonards on Sea' I was doing some decorating on behalf of my employer for 'Give and Gain day'. Mike one of the people who oversees the project gave us volunteers a talk during our break. He talked passionately about the work they do in St Leonards. One thing that in particular resonated with me, was when he asked how many of us had enough money in the bank to survive 3 months without an income. The fact that all of us in the room were only 3 months from homelessness was a sobering thought.
Please check out the site link below and take a moment to think.....