Robert Ashton had a challenging childhood, failed his 11+ and grew up with low self-esteem. Years later he decided to start looking forward and move on from his past. Psychotherapy helped him through years of turbulent change. Today he’s a successful social entrepreneur, published non-fiction author and a popular conference speaker. He’s also a member of Mensa, a charity Patron and a Quaker.
It’s been three and a half years since Robert Ashton had a cycling accident that left him with a life changing traumatic brain injury.
‘It’s important when you’ve recovered to remember what it was like’
I was supposed to be going to London today. Instead I’m sitting on a train that has been held in Cambridge station. The driver said there’d been an incident further down the line. Google was more brutal; local press reports explained that someone has stepped in front of a train and died.
I’ve been really busy of late and to be honest, pushing myself a bit too hard. Whilst it took me a good long while to recover from my concussion, I’ve only recently realised that my recovery has been complete. Today I had time to reflect and remember how close I was to stepping in front of a train myself.
The Headway helpline was a huge help when I was struggling to understand my almost overwhelming suicidal urges. I’d long lived with clinical depression, but a combination of drugs and psychotherapy meant I had it under control. That is until my head injury.
There’s lots of evidence to connect concussion and suicide. Many sportsmen having endured multiple knocks to the head seem to have killed themselves. Understanding that I was not the first to feel this way helped. But it did not stop my putting a noose round my neck and gradually letting it take my weight.
I quickly decided that hanging was going to hurt too much before I achieved oblivion. So I studied railway timetables and carefully calculated the times at which each speeding train would reach my chosen spot. I mentioned this to my therapist who sought my permission to ring my GP. That led to a psychiatrist appointment and some very effective small white pills.
Today I still take those pills. But apart from the occasional urge when travelling by Tube, I no longer have suicidal urges. Nor, as I have recently realised, do I sleep quite so much, become grumpy quite so quickly and best of all, I have regained my ability to work hard, fast and effectively.
I feel for the person who chose to die in front of a train today. I can imagine exactly how they felt and the sense of courage that prompted them to see it through. But I wish someone had helped them to understand that life really does get better. It just takes time; in my case more than three years. There is always a better future; however bleak things look right now.
“The Helpline number is 0808 800 22 44. Brilliant they were – had sensible advice when my GP was stuck for ideas”.