Since childhood. I have grown up around trauma and bad situations. My Dad left my Mum for my Mum’s sister when I was four years old. He ran off with my Auntie Sharon and he’s never really had anything to do with us since. He would string us along and say he would pick us up at weekends, but he never did. I do not hate him, I learnt to forgive and accept that as part of the relationship. It is all that I ever knew.
My Mum struggled with Depression and she did the best looking after four young, growing boys and I know it never got easier. I think this is where I got my mental strength from, looking back at it now.
When I was 4 years old my Mum attempted suicide whilst my brothers and I were sleeping in the
same bed. It was hard, but that is what life does to you from time to time. I always said that
somewhere out there, there is someone worse than you.
"All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
We had a good few months going in and out of care. Through the week we would stay with Dad and our foster parents while Duane and Jordan would stay with Mum. At weekends we were sent down to London by Auntie Sharron. Not our choice, but that was the way it was growing up. Grandad John would pick us up with four empty Super Tenants and he was drunk. On the way back down to London, John would buy another four Super Tenants and dodge road traffic and traffic signs every mile back to Vauxhall. On the way we would pick up my stepbrother Andy who had the same Dad as me, Kyle and Jordan.
Although it might not be everyone’s ideal trip away, it was great when we got to Vauxhall and we could go out on the balcony to see the whole of the tourist sight of London from Big Ben to the MI5 building, to the Oval cricket ground and Nelson’s Column. Nana Jeanne and John were magical, and life would have been a whole lot different without them. Grandad John was an alcoholic, he would take me, Kyle and Andy to Kennington park to play on our skateboards while he drank beer with all the squatters. He would walk through Peckham and Brixton in his boxer shorts. He had a hard life, he ran away from Ireland for a better life in Brixton and that is not half of it.
In the end Mum decided to move down to London for a better life and to get away from the
troubles of my Dad’s family. I loved living in London. Apart from being born in Scunthorpe hospital and living in Winterton, London is where I came from and grew up. Growing up, we would hang out in gangs and get up to no good.
I was a keen rugby player and footballer. I was in the London Broncos youth team for rugby league
and I was an average footballer until girls, booze and ecstasy came along. I became addicted
to Ecstasy at the age of 15, but I remember saving a penalty against Jason Puncheon in a cup final and winning the game from Croydon Athletic Juniors.
I was a little shit. I would save my train fare money every week and bunk the train with the bad boys
to South Norwood train station and jump the wall or just walk past the ticket inspectors. Instead of
buying train tickets, I would buy weed and get up to no good.
We would hang out with the gangs who carried weapons and they were not afraid to use them. If you said the wrong word you would soon get dumped in the river Thames, do not doubt it. This was the dark side to the streets and you just had to go with the flow. I could have been stabbed and shot dead on more than five occasions. If it were not for my uncles, it would have been done and arranged. I was a little shit like I say. I would hang out in squats in south London, Clacton, and Hackney areas. My options for GCSE were to hang out with gangsters and live in and out of squats selling drugs. Believe you me, I was up for that. I would take trips in squats while hanging out with gunslingers who were not afraid to do people harm. In the end, we moved back up North to see if me and my Dad could build a relationship. It was the same old story. My Dad just dangled a carrot and stick in front of me, but that was the way it was and the way it had always been.
"If you aren't in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret"
We moved up to South Yorkshire and I always felt like an outsider. Only a select few people would talk and listen. I went to school in South Yorkshire and I struggled, I was addicted to ecstasy and I wanted to take heroin. It is hard for people who do not struggle with addictions and mental illness to understand. It is not that the people living with addiction like the situation there in necessarily, it’s just like a cigarette addiction or caffeine addiction, and they just cannot help themselves. It’s just like that old saying ‘what goes up must come down’, believe you me, that is true.
I wanted to hang myself at the age of 15 and I was up for it, I was determined. I thought about taking rat poison, but my family gave me courage to get through it. That’s the thing about family, you don’t choose each other - instead you are blessed with them in your time of need.
“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching -- they are your family. ”
After school, I went to a mental health day centre called Swallownest Court, after being diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. I was a troubled and different boy that used to get caught up in bad stuff on the London streets. After a few years I began to volunteer at a music centre called Get Sorted in Rotherham. There were some great people there that I still say hello to when I see them around. I remember turning up with my brother Kyle and he was pleading with the manager, Genia Johnson, to get me help. Believe you me, I was pushing up the daisies, skinny as a rat and in denial. When Genia was asking me if I needed help I was in denial and I kept saying, "What do you want from me?" - I said that more than twenty times that evening. We can laugh about this now, I think the world of Genia and her family.
"A man's friendships are one of the best measures of his worth."
Over the course of the years, through attending a day centre, I got the chance to work as a cleaner at the local leisure centre. This was my lifeline a chance to prove my worth. If it were not for working at the leisure centre, I would be a dead man. I went from cleaner, to lifeguard, to gym instructor to personal trainer and I loved every minute of that journey and still work part time at the Places for People Leisure still to this day.
I wanted to do something more than just make money, so I joined a care company. It was not the perfect job, but it was the best job for me at that time. Here, I got to meet my fiancé Sophie, the mother of my baby boy. After years of not having a relationship and a bad experience when I was young and too busy tripping and out of my head, I met her and everything changed. My last relationship never worked because of my drug taking, that
was a bad experience for me because it would have been too unbearable to happen again.
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive."
My behaviour as a teenager was not ideal and I feel sorry for my Mum after what I put her through, especially when I would go missing every weekend and hang out in squats with some unsavoury people. When I met Sophie, she was the only one that gave me my focus to stop chasing money and settle on my dream of becoming a counsellor and public speaker. While working at the RSPCA as an Emergency Phoneline Operator, I passed my level
2 counselling qualification and now I am halfway through my level 3 qualification and building a career with a care company. I have recently been appointed the mental health officer for the ABC Millennium Boxing gym in Rotherham.
Life is still hard and from time to time and I still have difficulties. But through living and surviving with mental illness I have learnt to be a better person. I have been able to search deep within myself and find a range of strengths and skills that I didn't know I had, I have used these to re-focus upon what is strong, instead of what is wrong. I have been fortunate enough to meet lots of people who seen that strength in me, long before even I did! Now, I am helping other people to discover their purpose and fulfill their potential.
Feel free to follow me on Facebook as Luke Caley. Stay safe, stay real and be yourself.
"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."