Fredrik Skärberg, Vadstena, Sweden

As I was growing up I really thought that I was living a perfectly normal life. But it turned out that I wasn’t. Despite being well cared for by my parents, it was apparent that something in my life just wasn’t quite right. My father wasn’t home a lot and as it turned out this was due to his gambling addiction and the criminal lifestyle. May be that’s why he chose to take his own life!? Unfortunately, it seemed that the end of my father’s ‘insanity’ was the start of mothers. I was five years old when my father died and the loss of his life sent my mother into a state of grief. My mother started drinking and drowning her own sorrows; whereas before she was the strong one, who never drank alcohol and kept my father on the right track. My mother’s drinking was hidden as she held down a job, looked after the home and took the kids to school.

The lessons I learnt from my parents were to block out my pain and suffering through taking substances. By the time I was fifteen I was addicted to four different drugs; I performed poorly at school and left with no qualifications, and I ended up in a children’s home for boys with social problems. Unfortunately, living at the home didn’t support me to get better it just perpetuated my drug habit. As the years passed I managed to get my own place but wasn’t able to keep it as I was unable to stay in paid employment due to my drug dependency. I ended up being homeless and living on the streets. I stayed with friends, slept in cars and lived in derelict buildings or anywhere where I could rest my head. Between the ages of eighteen and twenty three, I was in and out of rehab. Then I got a paid job and an apartment and life started to look more promising but before too long I was back on drugs and living a heavy, depressing criminal lifestyle. I lived with my sister in an attempt to kick the habit. I was prescribed anti-depressants but these didn’t support me to stay clean and after I tried to kill myself I went straight back on drugs. I ended up on a very dark path and spent a short time in prison after mixing with the wrong types of people. For the next five years not much changed but then I made a decision to change and with strong determination I went back to study to get some qualifications. Then, just as everything seemed to be getting better, my mother who never really recovered from the pain of my father’s death also took her own life. I never felt so alone and unwanted because everyone always seemed to leave me. I felt distraught and I couldn’t get anything done. Needless to say, I quit my part time job and college and decided not to return.

Today I live with my supportive fiancé and am starting my own on-line business. I changed my life through imitating the behaviours of good role models; people who I got to know I admire through reading books. I want to use the suffering that I have experienced as fuel to build a great life for us. We want to have children and build our own home in a sustainable community. I want to ensure that I do not follow in the footsteps of my parents, and break the chain of suicide. I want to create solutions, not problems.

Hope for me is about reaching out to people who feel alone and hopeless. My message to them is: Don’t let the pain and grief you have created in your life be in vain. Take responsibility and learn from your mistakes. It starts with your own thoughts and attitudes. Learn to master them and you will master your life much easier!