“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (and more empathic).

11 min read (2,733 words)

Note: What you are about to read is a “true story” by Wesley Atkins. It details a life-and-death situation; talks about suicide; mental health struggles, and not so favourably towards western medicine...

that’s your heads-up before you proceed!

I woke up with a pounding heart.

It felt like King Kong was trying to make a way out of my chest. My mind raced with thoughts of terror. I couldn’t control it. Whether through divine intervention or pure ignorance…

I instinctively knew—I wasn’t having a heart attack—it was a “panic attack.”

I glanced over at the time: 3:20am.

So I didn’t wake my wife lying next to me (she had work in the morning).

After three minutes of sheer panic, the pounding heart stopped. Although dizzy, I went downstairs to get my head around what had just happened. But after fifteen minutes of staring at the wall; weak, lifeless, and exhausted, I went to lie back down. 

But I couldn’t sleep. 

My mind raced with thoughts of “worse case scenarios” if I didn’t figure out this mess I’d gotten myself into.

Little did I know…

This attack was about to change
my life entirely; 180 degrees.

When my wife woke up that morning…

I went downstairs to make us coffee. A morning ritual using my favourite Musetti Espresso Beans. I like it strong, with no sugar. My wife: milky, weak, no sugar.

As I was sipping my morning brew, I felt terrible; dizzy, weak, and still dazed after what happened a little earlier. 

Having just a few hours sleep leading up to the attack, I hoped this coffee would make me more awake, more alert, more functional.

Well, it made me alert—but not as I’d hoped. 

Sixty seconds into my morning shower, the caffeine had flooded every vein in my body, and like a sledgehammer … b-a-n-g…

My heart felt like it was trying to rip a hole through my chest (“again”).

Strangely enough, through some divine message, I instinctively knew the caffeine was setting me off again.

“Why the hell is this happening to me?”…

“Why now?”…

“I was fine yesterday,” I said to myself.

Well, I guess I was fine (“mentally,”) but a series of events leading up to that point finally hit me; work pressure; business worries…

And a whole host of other things that were simmering in my mind for months finally caught up with me.

Through the course of the next eight days—I didn’t sleep for a “single minute.”

Elevated and irregular, my heart rate was consistently over a hundred beats a minute. 

The simmering thoughts in my head would not allow me to switch off…

And I couldn’t relax. 

Bedtime became the least favourite part of my life, as I knew I’d lie awake on my back for eight hours with an overactive brain…

And nothing to distract me from these “nagging thoughts.”

Before this event, I would sleep like a baby: 

  • 8 hours. 
  • No waking. 
  • A deep sleep. 

And for someone in his early-40s, I’d often get comments from people who’d say I look ten years younger—which I’ve always put down to a good diet and healthy sleep.

But, the panic attack I just experienced was about to change all that… 

And in ways I could never have imagined. 

By day three of no sleep, I was desperate. I could barely stand on my feet for longer than a few minutes until needing to sit down. 

I had to do something.

The racing mind, anxiety, and stress were bad enough…

But coupled with no sleep … was pure “unadulterated hell.”

I turned to the internet to research like a madman. And after ordering four different herbal tablets, three herbal teas, relaxing bath salts, and scents for the bedroom…

I’d spent over £250 in a desperate
attempt to get some natural sleep.

I thought at the time, “If I can just get some sleep, I’d be able to figure a way out of the mess I’d gotten myself into.”

By day seven, none of it was working. 

The stress, anxiety, racing thoughts, and panic … had overtaken every regulating hormonal function in my body—and I was in big, big trouble.

The depression set it.

It “gripped” a hold of me with pure darkness, and every morning my wife woke up, she’d ask me, “Did you get any sleep last night?.”

By day nine—I just burst out crying.

With no option remaining; feeling worried, forced, and desperate, my wife made a phone call to someone I was desperately trying to avoid:

“The doctor.”

She saw me immediately.

It was then that my worst fear came true. Within minutes she prescribed an “antidepressant” to get me to sleep. 

My experience with doctors in the past has never been positive. And the same goes for any medication I’ve ever been prescribed.

But an antidepressant?

I’m your typical “find a natural route” guy.

But my body was in a state of “terror,” and it was affecting my life in ways that were evident by looking at my face. 

Everything I tried had failed.

I was a shadow of my former self, and my wife, bless her—was terrified. So I had no option but to take these “toxic” drugs.

Waking up the following day, laying in bed, I had a massive sigh of relief. 

Finally, I slept. 

The medication knocked me out, and I got six hours of relief. Not a deep sleep, but at least it gave me some respite from these ruminating thoughts.

Little did I know, laying in bed right then, with newfound hope…

My problems were far from over — in fact; they were just getting started.

After getting out of bed, I could hardly keep myself on my feet. 

The tablets made me feel groggy, like nothing I’d ever experienced. Not like a drunk groggy, either. Like a complete brain shutdown, black cloud, thick dizziness…

That lasted almost the entire day.

With how I felt, I wondered how I would “function” at any given time, let alone look after my 3-year-old son… 

And continue to operate my new business.

There was another side effect, too—one that was borderline relentless: suicidal thoughts.

Every hour of every day, like a pit bull, it sank its teeth into my mind. Not only was my brain floored with all my other anxieties…

But now this, on top?

I never thought it was possible to feel so low.

But I’d had enough.

  • Enough of the thoughts.
  • The sleep deprivation.
  • The grogginess.
  • The depression. 
  • The anxiety.
  • The stress.
  • The panic.

Yet unknown to me at the time…

There was another problem brewing under the surface thanks to these “toxic” drugs.

After three months of somehow making a way through…

I’d lost close to four stone in weight!

I looked like a heroin addict. 

When I visited my local barber, the look on his face said it all. 

I looked like death.

By this point, I wanted out of the world.

I spent the next four weeks researching the internet on how to end my own life while my wife was at work. 

The mistake I made, being a man—I kept every single thought I had to myself.

I didn’t share any of this shit with anyone.

And it was at the end of this 60-day binge that I realised; I need professional help.

Having spoken to my wife, she arranged a visit through the private healthcare she has with work, and I went to see…

“A professional psychologist.”

Before all this, I never knew what stress, anxiety or depression was like.

And seeing a psychologist; I had no clue what to expect.

Well … I was about to get a true lesson in “western medicine.” 

Something I’d never been fond of from the start.

Alongside the anti-depressants, he gave me two tablets for the stress and anxiety and wanted weekly check-ups going forward.

Three weeks later—I felt worse than ever…

Adding schizophrenia to my symptoms. 

And the suicidal thoughts just got worse and worse

It consumed my mind by the minute. I felt like the only way to make it stop was to carry out these thoughts. How else would I ever get out of this and experience peace of mind again?

The desperation from no sleep initially was bad enough…

The other symptoms, crippling.

But now; I’m relentlessly consumed with ending my own life.

Still, I persevered with the psychologist’s experience and spent the next four weeks experimenting with drugs and dosages—to make me feel somewhat sane again. 

They never did…

Things just got worse as time went on.

I had to do something—and quick!

I felt like my life was spiralling uncontrollably down the drain into the pits of mental and physical hell. And I couldn’t stand it any longer.

I didn’t know it was possible to feel this low, and I’d had enough.

I was right about the doctors and their toxic medication from the beginning. I never trusted this crap from the start, and these endless, pointless discussions are going to kill me if I don’t take action.

It was then I said to myself, I have two options:

  1. I can end my life.
  2. I need to figure out a solution myself…

… no one will do it for me!

“Now, make your decision,” I said…

Are you going to end your life, or are you going to pull yourself out of this?

I contemplated that for 60 minutes.

I was at my wit’s end and tired of life. But having a young son gave me the courage and strength I needed to make a change.

While my wife was working during the day, I’d stare endlessly at the picture of my son on the wall. It was clear that (for him) I could never take action on my thoughts.

His childhood would be ruined.

From that moment forward, I put a line in the sand and chose option number two. I was going to figure this out myself.

I’ve had many past challenges … and I’ve always figured out a way through.

This was no different. It’s just another “curve ball” in the game of life.

Twenty minutes later, I knew what I had to do:

Remove this “toxicity” from my body.

It was clear they weren’t working for me.

They didn’t allow me to regain any normal bodily function or “mental clarity” … and that is exactly what I’m going to need if I’m going to pull myself out of this dark pit of existence.

But, I was adamant that I didn’t want to see another “medical professional.”

They’re going to kill me, eventually.

After researching all the tablets, It was evident that getting this crap out of my body would be no easy task. 

According to some online journals and forums, I read that… 

Completely stopping these meds can have “disastrous” consequences.

Could things get any worse, though?

Well, guess what the most common symptom was?


That was the one thing I had in the beginning—before the meds—that put me in a state of desperation.

But I had no other option but to try.

These meds are killing me slowly … and it was only a matter of time before the little “rational thoughts” I had during the day would evaporate entirely.

And I’m not going to have my son growing up without a father.

So I did the only thing that common sense bestowed on me…

And cut off a tiny piece from each tablet.

I knew from research that dropping massive doses at once can lead to even more psychological problems and sleep issues.

But I had to try. There was no other option.

The psychologist will only put more crap into my system, and I’m done.

No more.

I hatched a plan to get off all my medication in 5 months.

It had to be done slowly. Methodically. With care and patience.

Otherwise, I’m going to be back at square one again in a heartbeat.

I worked out through research that dropping my dosage by 5% per week should NOT bring on any nasty “side effects.”

I put up a wall chart…

I plotted the dates…

And with as much precision as I could, I cut the tablets down.

The first week: a 5% reduction in dose. I’d maintain that same dose throughout the entire week and cut off another 5% the following Monday.

I figured; if I maintained that reduction for the rest of the week, my body wouldn’t react negatively. It would hardly notice.

After a few weeks, it was clear that my plan was working…

And I could see a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

I’d had no adverse effects after 30 days.

And having reduced my dose(s) by over 20%—I had renewed hope. 

That was all the confirmation I needed.

My plan was working, and I was excited.

Every new week that went by, I felt like I was climbing up a very tall ladder of darkness—and the light was getting closer and closer.

A few weeks before my end date, after reducing my dosage by 90%…

I was getting nervous. 

I knew I’d be off all these toxic meds in a few weeks, and a little doubt seeped into my mind about removing them entirely.

But I didn’t let anything stop me.

I knew it was the chemicals in my body overshadowing my thoughts with “what if’s,” so I shut them down and stuck to the plan.

When the final day arrived, I cut out my drugs completely…

And cried like a baby.

I made it.

With no professional help, just common sense and a plan of action…

I’d removed all my meds.

After going through unadulterated physical and mental “torture,” I came out the other end alive, and…

  • My sleep was normal.
  • My thoughts were normal.
  • I had no suicidal ideation.
  • And I was putting on weight.

I felt like I’d been re-born.

And with the dark clouds removed, I could finally put focus on building my business to new heights.

Throughout the ordeal, I could only manage to respond to customer support enquiries to keep things from imploding.

Fortunately, I had no downturn in income throughout. I’d set up the business well before any of this happened. 

Most daily operations were automated…

And my income—unlike me—never suffered.

That was my only saving grace: my business. Had things dropped, that would have only added another worrying layer of anxiety…

And boy, I didn’t need that on top of things.

A few months later, my business exploded.

In a good way, of course.

After the hell I went through—I felt rejuvenated; like I’d conquered a desert surrounded by thirsty wild animals out for blood every day.

From that day on, I focused on my business and made myself a deal:

Never get in a position like that again.

And I’m pleased to say, years later, I feel better than ever.

It’ll be a journey I’ll never forget…

But one I would never wish to experience ever, ever again. 

As I write these words, I realise something that I hope encourages, inspires and gives hope to anyone that’s currently going through…

A mental health “curve-ball” moment right now.

And it’s simply this:

No matter what life throws at you, god gave you:

  • The Will
  • The Strength
  • The Courage 
  • The Persistence
  • The Determination

And the ability … to overcome it.

During tough times, optimism is hard.

Whether you’re experiencing a big life change, financial stress, family problems or personal health concerns…

Please understand: time is a great healer.

Nature and mindfulness, too. Life is a school of hard knocks. But no matter what life throws your way, you always have a way through. Be kind to yourself. And others. And look forward to a new you.

For me, looking on the bright side of things, after this ordeal…

I’ve changed my feelings towards others.

I’ve gained heightened levels of empathy and compassion towards other people’s problems, struggles and challenges.

Both of which—are powerful, valuable, and essential traits to have as an author, copywriter, and business owner.

What doesn’t kill you—makes you stronger (and more “empathic.”)