On May 16, 1986, Steven Foyster jumped off the top of St Andrew’s Car Park in Norwich, aiming to kill himself. Incredibly, he survived. With his book Cry to be Heard! My Road to Recovery, about to be published, he explains why he’s finally ready to share his story
I was brought up in a nurturing family but lack of communication, especially during emotive times led me to be a somewhat introverted and lonely adolescent. Dropping out of a geography degree due to anxiety led to a lack of confidence in my late teens, but this was restored gradually after gaining meaningful employment and making many friends.
In 1986, I lost my job and was separated from my first wife, ultimately culminating in divorce and loss of the joint home. I had fallen into severe depression from February, with various suicidal tendencies before a complete loss of hope eventually led me to jump from the top of a multi-storey car park.
I had immense support from physiotherapists during my eight months in hospital which enabled me to walk again. It was much more difficult to receive the psychological input I desperately needed. I really started my recovery journey in the Spring of 1987 when I found an excellent GP and two psychiatric nurses who listened to me. It’s been a very hard road at times but with loving support from my present wife and two sons; friends and other health professionals, I have never given up hope. I’ve worked constantly since 1989, proving an initial diagnosis in 1986 wrong. Having a faith has helped, especially in desperate times.
I was on furlough for six months following the first lockdown in March 2020. In October I was issued redundancy, which I found very difficult, spiralling into levels of high anxiety, at times not wanting to leave the house, even when we could! I was also taking liquid morphine to counter a high level of physical pain, which has its own debilitating side effects. However, I had received four weeks of resilience counselling during early 2020 which, alongside support from family, enabled me to gradually move out of my limited comfort zone and get back to cycling again, which is vital for my physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
In 1987 a psychiatric nurse thought I should keep a journal. I never had and didn’t particularly want to. Instead, over 60 hours, I handwrote 100 pages covering the lead up to the attempted suicide and time in hospital. I found this amazingly cathartic. I gave copies to close friends and my GP at the time. Some thought it should reach a larger audience, but I wasn’t mentally ready to share within a publication. Since then, I have redrafted several times – adding in reflections and I’ve now added a third part, from1988 to present. From 2016, when I started to share my experiences in seminars or groups, I’ve felt it might be helpful to others in book form.
I think mental health issues have been covered much more within the media in recent years, often with input from celebrities and even royalty. However, it isn’t really a subject that is chatted about after you’ve covered the weather! There is still a stigma attached, especially with suicide. Some people have said it’s very brave for me to write the book which is reinforcing – but might also reflect – how little is written from a personal rather than clinical slant. I think the more that is shared sometimes, the easier issues are to bear, especially for those who care for people with mental health problems.
Both myself and Paul Dickson, the publisher of my book, agreed that £1 from the sale of every copy will be donated to Norfolk and Waveney Mind many months ago. The organisation offers invaluable support in various ways for people struggling with their mental health.
I am glad that the book is finally completed after 34 years! It was amazing to hold a copy in my hand after all that time. I now have a part time paid role within mental health – and this has raised my confidence greatly. I am finding my experiences help in talking to other people who are struggling with various issues. I still struggle somewhat with anxiety during the night and first thing upon waking but have learnt to use mindfulness and grounding techniques to reduce the effects. I include four poems in the back of the book and have about 50 others so might consider publication of these next year. I’m trying not to take on too much and take time to enjoy a coffee or a beer in our oasis of a back garden!
Cry to be Heard! My Road to Recovery by Steven Foyster is published on September 10 by Paul Dickson Books. Price £12. ISBN 9781916055070. £1 from the sale of every copy of Cry to be Heard! will be donated to Norfolk and Waveney Mind. The book is on sale at Revelation Bookshop, Jarrold and Waterstones – all in Norwich, plus www.allthingsnorfolk.com. It is also available as an e-book
BOOK LAUNCH EVENTS:
Friday September 24, 2.30pm to 4pm, Church of St Mary and St Andrew, Horsham St Faith
Friday October 8, 7pm to 8pm, St Peter Mancroft Church – includes talk by Steven Foyster ‘It’s not the Despair, it’s the Hope; my road to recovery.’
Featured image picture credit: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.