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Jonathan's Story
24 Nov 2021

Jonathan attended our Climbing Out programme in the Lake District in October. This programme was specifically for members of the emergency services, NHS and military.

Jonathan’s life as a police officer, husband and father changed overnight. Here’s his story of what happened, how he overcame the challenges, and where he is now…


Who am I?

I’m a pretty average guy. I joined the South Yorkshire Police at 18 - their youngest ever recruit. I then transferred back home to Northumbria Police in 2006.  I had always been an active fella, enjoying general fitness, skydiving and later on, a touch of boxing.  

I’m still growing up and I am lucky enough to have four daughters, a wonderful wife and a successful and interesting career behind me. (I even managed to star on car wars on ITV for an episode after having a film crew with me for a few months!)


How did my life change?

The last time I can recall silence was September 2017 on a family holiday in the States.  This is a lasting memory. This is when my life was ‘normal’ or at the very least ‘less complicated’.  After this, things become fuzzy...

In early March 2018 I went to work for a normal day in the office - a traffic officer driving the fast cars and attending serious and fatal road collisions, investigating them and helping victims of families with necessary and very unpleasant processes.

My tour of duty took me to hospital babysitting a prisoner who had just killed an innocent member of public with his car. 

I was on duty until the early hours of the morning. When I got to bed and opened my eyes... my world changed.

I opened my eyes to cold shivers, lying on the floor unable to barely stand. I will never truly know the beginnings of what happened, some doctors say the flu, others say an infection caught in the hospital. This was then compounded by Labyrinthitis, which continued for around 3 months. I was unable to stand up straight or walk in a straight line. 

My immune system then failed me further resulting in double pneumonia, and then added gifts of waking to fits and seizures in the middle of the night, with countless trips to hospital.  

I was informed of a possible brain tumour, thankfully ruled out after scans, but never the less terrifying at the time. 

Then things took a turn for the worse, the infection managed to get into my ears. After a heavy doped up night on meds I went to bed. I then awoke to my curse, which has also become my blessing, oddly enough. 

When I opened my eyes I was immersed in an orchestra of alien sounds. These sounds were not in my ears but in my head. 

To this day they have never left.  

I live in a world of high pitched deafening screams, jumbo jet engines, clicks, hums, whistles and some hearing impairment. 

These surround me every second of every waking moment. I never escape. I could go on but needless to say this has taken me to the bottom of the well and beyond.  

In attempts to escape these sounds I have slept outside for months on end, on camp beds, under extractor fans on the kitchen bench for weeks, whilst at the same time suffering clinical depression, anxiety and very dark thoughts.


The turn around

It’s simple, in fact, I did not even see it coming. My wife and children had lost me, (despite on-going counselling every week).

Jonathan, the dad and husband had departed... In his place was a ghost roaming the garden and streets in the early hours of the morning, trying to find a moment of quiet solace.

I was a broken man mentally and physically, unshaven and unkempt for almost a year...

NOW ENTER LEO! Or as I call him - my personal saviour.

He’s a cocker spaniel, the dog I had always asked for and never got. He was a 10-week-old puppy.

My wife simply says “he brought you back to us all Jonathan.”  He kept me busy and took every moment of my waking day to look after him, whilst I was off work and unable to work for almost a year.

In a nutshell I was forced to focus, and this led to learning to perform simple tasks again for the ball of fur I had fallen in love with. Simple tasks led then to routine, and routine led to a new normal. He never left my side.


Where are you now?

I do not live the way I used to - every day has its challenges. I have a new simpler way of living. I have learnt to coexist with a body that is not entirely my own.  

I tire quickly, I become mentally drained faster, short tempered (this is improving), I am distracted easily, I am distracted easily, I am distracted easily, my concentration levels can be very low and my memory is shot (see what I did there!) …other than that, I’m in mint order!

I am now a restricted officer, having been very well looked after by my friends and colleagues at work. 

The sounds in my head are like unruly children - they have no manners, interrupt all the time and make me jump when I least expect it. It has taken around three years to learn how to coexist. I have survived ‘the dark night of the soul’ and now I am awake.


The good part!

The grass looks greener, the air smells fresher and I take nothing for granted anymore. Life is sweet and I now treasure every moment and every person around me who is important. 

My new normal may even be a better normal than my old normal. Jonathan the dad and husband are back in the room and he never intends to leave again!