Honest reflections about marriage and mission work when dealing with the anxiety and depression

  • Charlie Clayton

Don't Ignore The Warning Lights

I was driving my car the other day, enjoying the peaceful drive in our new Cornish surrounds of rolling fields on one side and ocean views on the other. (Sorry not sorry!)

Suddenly, out of nowhere, my warning light came on telling me I had an engine issue and the car immediately went into protection mode where it restricts the engine speed in order to minimise any potential damage from a malfunctioning part.

It seemed strange to me, because the car was driving beautifully, it was serviced and recently MOT'd, and there had been no indication that there was an issue.

I have had cars my entire life, but always second hand ones where various lights would come and go - and in general I would ignore them, convincing myself that without anything obviously wrong impacting the engine function, it would be a small fault that would go away, or the car was maybe mistaken in its diagnostic. A lot of the time I was happy to drive with some warnings on as long as the car would keep running, and I made a conscious decision that, even though I couldn't see under the bonnet, I knew better then the car, which was telling me there was something wrong.

So as I drove my car, I had the usual thoughts going through me head. Its not a big deal, maybe a mistake, I will sort it later, its inconvenient right now ........

The way to temporarily get rid of some fault warnings on cars is to stop the car, turn the engine on and off which can reset the fault indicator. You can then carry on driving until the next time it happens and then do the same again. As long as the car continued to function then I could deal with the regular resets that were needed.

The other option of course is to take the fault seriously and get it checked out at a local garage where it will be inconvenient and may cost time and money, but would make sure the issue was resolved and the car would function properly again without restrictions and the need for regular resets.

As I now have someone far more sensible than me by my side in Abby, she said to call the garage straight away and get it seen too. I reluctantly booked it in, then had to drive 5 miles, drop it off, navigate getting back, wait for phone calls and then get others to help me get back to pick it up again. Money, time and having to rely on (or in my mind inconvenience) others.

Well, after doing a diagnostic, the garage found that a small accident (that happened a couple of months ago which seemed to only cause minor cosmetic damage to the front of my car), actually had caused a number of hidden faults behind the bumper which were only found due to the closer inspection. The minor faults had also potentially caused a more major fault in the engine due to them being left unresolved for a period of time. And if they took the bumper off, they would not be able to get it back on again as there was too much underneath damage to fix correctly. So the car is now off for a week or so to be repaired at a major body shop where every issue will be analysed and resolved so that the car can return to the road in its full unrestricted function, knowing that it can now once again handle the long journeys in front of it.

And as I thought about the car, I realised it was a picture of how I dealt with my mental health warning lights through the years. Ignoring many small warning lights, thinking I was doing ok, not properly functioning but able to carry on, with seemingly minor bumps and scrapes here and there. Eventually, through the encouragement of others, I took the time to allow a full diagnostic of what was really going underneath which revealed a lot more damage than I realised and which required major work in order for me to function properly again. I had to make the active choice to deal with my issues - as once my protection bumper was taken off, there was no getting it back on again without attending to the broken areas.

In fact, the biggest shock I had was realising that for almost 20 years (over half my lifetime) I had been operating in protection mode. I had ignored so many warning lights, thinking it would be ok, but operating in a restrictive protection mode that meant my emotions, relationships and my own internal world were severely numbed in order to ignore the many warning indicators that were going on underneath.

The early warning signs could have been addressed properly and although may they would have cost money, time, convenience and required the help of others, it would have saved the long term damage that has been done, which has ultimately cost much, much more, and could have left me losing everything that was precious to me.

Apart from being able to work through the damage and hurt with those still involved in my life, I couldn't do anything about regrets from my past, but could do something about how I would function in the future. Taking the time to address the damage underneath has genuinely transformed the way that I function in life.

If you know the warning lights are there for you don't ignore them - you may be able to keep on going, but there is damage underneath that your body and soul is asking you to resolve. Speak to someone, invest in your emotional well being, allow time to repair and heal however inconvenient, so that you too can embrace the future with the openness and full running mode you desire.

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