After losing my Triplet Son at 11 months old in 2005, the world became an extremely horrible and dark place. Times were bad. I didn’t want to be alive. I had a family to also look after and protect so I had to internalise everything and lock it away somewhere inside. I opened a business, a performance garage for specialist cars, and named it after my son. It was ambitious and a lot of hard work and a struggle from the start to finish. Over the years, I represented the business myself many times in civil courts, for a myriad of reasons, due to not having the money to pay for legal advice. In fact I never lost. Due to the recession, my business was on its knees; I now had a family of 5 daughters and had not really earned any money for the last 2 years. My mental health was in tatters. I was on all kinds of medication; I knew I had to do something, something that could change my future.
In 2011 I decided to retrain as a lawyer and enrolled with the Open University in a taster course for the LLB Honours Course. At 41 years old I was a student again whilst still running my business and had a little fire in my tummy again. Then came 2012.
I had a breakdown, a bad one – everything had got on top of me, the failure of the business, failing my son, failing my family. I had fallen out with mum, my brother, my dad. I was made bankrupt by the landlord of my business premises for failing to pay a £1000 bill. I was found wandering around the high street with no shoes and socks on, my car in a car park with the keys in the ignition, doors open and my shoes and socks on the floor. I was picked up by the police and taken to the local mental health unit. Strangely I was sent back on my way after convincing them I was ok. I went back and got my car and drove home. Nobody knew anything about it. Shortly after that, I was picked up by the police again, this time I had been reported by the train driver as I was sitting on top of a railway bridge contemplating my fate. This time I was kept in. My world had suddenly collapsed around me.
I went home I felt so ashamed, so weak, so useless, I couldn’t understand how on earth I could carry on, I couldn’t understand how I could be this person who was letting my children down so badly. I was out of control, I could not control this breakdown, and it was 100 percent in control of me. I was embroiled by grief, anxiety, anger, darkness, daily suicidal thoughts, I didn’t want to get out of bed, and I would sleep 20 hours a day. My children had lost their dad. I was made bankrupt. I had planned how I was going to end my life, where I was going to end my life, I had visited where I was going to end my life and worked it all out, I was very angry with the world, myself, banks, government, the justice system, pretty much everything. Despite this, in 2012, on a rare good day, I enrolled with the Open University once again, this time for my LLB Qualifying law degree which turned out to be my life saver. The only things that got me through this difficult time were my children and my law studies.
The next few years were very hard. I was struggling with my mental health, my marriage was in tatters, my children had watched their dad go through some awful times, and their parents constantly arguing. I decided I had to leave my marriage for the benefit of my children. I moved into my new rented home, thankfully only a few miles from my children, but it knocked me back, leaving my children was the one thing that I had not ever banked on doing. I left with nothing. My first night in my new home I ordered a takeaway to celebrate and when it arrived I realised I didn’t even have a knife and fork, so I used the lid as a spoon, before going to bed on my inflatable mattress and a sleeping bag. Somehow I managed to keep up with my studies, which were my only shining light (apart from my children) in such a dark abyss. I was getting better, a lot better, but I was still only 25% of the man I was before the breakdown.
In 2016 I decided to set up my business Salters Law, I was getting into a position whereby I was helping friends and family with legal issues, parking tickets, fines, bailiffs, and family matters and animal welfare law. I soon found a niche in the Animal Welfare law and fast became the go to person in defending cases against Animal Welfare organisations and charities. I was appearing as a McKenzie friend, and facilitating barristers and solicitors where needed and this resulted in me being very busy. Many of my cases making national papers. This was fantastic but also incredibly hard, I felt I couldn’t allow my mental health to be a problem; I couldn’t let my clients down. They didn’t see me not getting out of bed till 4pm, or not washing for days, not eating, and working on their case in the same clothes I had worn for a week. I got it done. I could only manage very short bursts; I would wait for an "Up Day" as I called them and then blast through work which was then followed by 3 or 4 "Down Days". Somehow I got it done. My now partner was incredible, she cared for me and hand held me through all the dark days, the forest where I couldn’t see the wood for the trees, the days I had lost my way.
In 2017 I finally passed my LLB (Hons) degree and promptly enrolled in doing Masters in Law (LLM) and CILEX Graduate Fast Track Programme. I was a little better and I was now involved in a lot more of a variety of law cases, including working with the BBC Panorama, National Newspapers, worldwide publications and I was now conducting business in the UAE and America. I could still only manage a few hours a week working on cases. I was feeling a bit better, my path to normality was incredibly steep, almost impossible at times, but I was managing to climb the ladder one rung at a time, although many times I fell down a few rungs. It could be a simple change in the day, something unplanned, it was raining, or your pen runs out of ink. Something so trivial could and can still ruin my days. Despite this law was fast becoming a welcome new addition to my medication, my life’s blood, my crutch. I felt important again, even though I was always important to my children and my family, it never felt like that. Law gave me a purpose and I was having an impact.
Since then I have continued to improve – in 2017 I took on my biggest case to date, a whistleblowing case, against the franchise of a global car manufacturer. I was appointed as the acting chairman by the FCA for a charity investigation, and I was slowly but surely getting through my Masters. It has not been plain sailing by a long shot, every single thing is a mission, sometimes doing the smallest of tasks I would put off for weeks as ridiculously it might take 5 minutes to do it, but it felt like it was just a huge problem, something I didn’t want to tackle for whatever reason. I understand my mental health a lot better now, with my partner’s help, who essentially has been my carer for the last few years, I can recognise triggers. When I feel the anxiety building up and I am able to either tell people to get out the way, leave me alone or go and hide until it passes. I write a lot of lists, I live day to day with lists, I have lists of lists, and often they are also daunting, but more often than not I have to brain dump onto paper. I hold way too much in my head and if I start to feel overwhelmed with too much information I start to panic and can go into melt down. But I am happy to say that I have made considerable progress with my mental health. It is so fragile. It’s like carrying a glass full of water and it can easily overflow and will easily break if you hit or drop it.
I am still getting better and I guess will never really get over it, I’ve just get better at managing it. I still have dark days, I still have days when I crash, I still live by lists, and I still can have anxiety attacks in the strangest of places (the frozen food aisle at Asda is probably my best one to date). I would say that I am probably still only 75% better, I still class myself very much as having mental health issues, but that’s OK and I have to tell myself that’s OK.
My advice to anyone going through a bad time is talk to someone. Even if it’s online. In fact often online is far easier than in person. Write it all down, write down all your thoughts, your reasons, your anger, what is making you feel like this and don’t be afraid to be share even if you think what you have written is weird or strange. I learned that no matter how bad things get, and how close you come to the edge, there is ALWAYS a way out. Even in the most extreme circumstances, you can actually just walk away from it. You can walk away from it with nothing, literally nothing and start again. I did.
Warren Salter LL.B (Hons) aCILEX Grad.NALPwarren@salterslaw.co.uk
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