James’ fight back from the brink of suicide

BRAVE James Gardner from Ottery St Mary battled back from the brink of suicide after a tragic car crash killed his little sister and left him badly disabled.

BRAVE James Gardner from Ottery St Mary battled back from the brink of suicide after a tragic car crash killed his little sister and left him badly disabled.

James, from Eastfield, West Hill, was just five when the horror smash left him fighting for his life in a coma with severe brain damage.

Doctors feared he would never recover and considered turning off his life support machine.

Now 30, James has struggled to overcome severe disability and bouts of crushing depression on his way to making a remarkable recovery.

He has penned On the Edge: Stepping Back form the Brink of Suicide about his two-decade journey in the hope it will raise cash for Vranch House, the specialist school that first helped him after the accident.

Here he tells the Herald: Publishing my book has changed my life for the better.

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“THE atmosphere in the classroom was riotous, a sense of longing to be anywhere else except here, in a drawn-out double English lesson.

My short attention span had already seized up, I started to doodle with my blue Biro on the desk. The teacher began to set our homework. The task was to write an essay as if you had been involved in a car crash. My mind raced back to when I was in hospital after the car crash that killed my two-year-old sister, left me for dead and my mum with a broken neck.

The teacher’s northern accent made the words all the more harrowing as she described the homework. Tears began to form in my eyes, until the heartache inside of me became too much. I burst into tears and fled the classroom. I ran down two flights of stairs and out into the cold afternoon air to escape my nightmare.

Five years later I was in bed clutching a bottle of vodka, looking at a packet of prescription drugs on my bedside table. The light from the streetlamp outside streamed through the slits in the blind, enough to allow me to see that this was not a good idea. The emotional scarring from memories of school torment still haunted me all these years on. The effects from being in a tragic car accident at the age of five have left me partially disabled, walking with a limp and unable to be the person I want to be.

I took myself off to a health retreat to get help. It was there that I learnt about journaling. The councillor assigned to my case came to my room for sessions, mostly spent with me crying. She told me to write down my chaotic head-chatter. The idea being to get everything out, not stopping to read what was written. Just empty my mental filing cabinet which had become disorderly, causing disquiet.

Journal writing was considerably helpful. Anyone suffering from anxiety or depression should try it. It brought about great inner release. Then one day I was like, ‘why don’t I just keep going and write it all?’ so I did.

I went on a Skyros Holidays writing course, which was one of the best things I have done. From there I wrote my first chapter. Two years and twenty-four chapters later I have my book.

Undertaking the ambitious task of writing a book was a challenge. I did not realise it would be so much like hard work, but it has kept me busy and sane for the past few years. It was a complete rollercoaster journey in itself. I could write another book, just on writing this one.

It was emotional and unsettling reliving my difficult childhood again and putting it into words. I was very worried about the emotional wellbeing of my mum. She was driving at the time of the crash and has carried a great deal of guilt every day since. I cannot imagine how she feels and I was worried about the effects my book would have.

The writing process has been a very cathartic one for me and I have found some inner peace having done it. My mum has been very strong in dealing with it.

The person who wrote this book simply does not exist anymore, I write in the closing epilogue of my book. Seeing the change in me has made all the heartache worth it, mum says.

Yes, I am a totally transformed person since publishing my book.

When considering the possibilities of publishing, I was not afraid about rejection letters from publishers or knockbacks. I wanted to have my book published by the time I was 30 though. To make sure I achieved this I decided to self publish. I do not regret doing it that way, but I will not be doing it again.

I am donating all the money from sales of my book to Vranch House School in Exeter for disabled children, which is where I began to piece my life back together and learnt to walk again. If I had published with a major publishing house I would not be able to donate as much money as I can by being self published.

My book has only been out for a few months, and already I have sent a cheque to Vranch House School and Centre in Exeter for �300.

The more books I sell the more money I can send to Vranch. That makes me feel very pleased and happy to know that I am going to be helping affect and improve the lives of disabled children. All the pain was worth it.”

l On The Edge: Stepping Back From The Brink Of Suicide is available from www.authorhouse.co.uk, www.amazon.co.uk and and in store from Waterstones.