|Picture: Ted Ed/Helen M. Farrell/Metro|
I haven't sullied the pages of the internet with my execrable blogdumps since 2012, having decided that no one is remotely interested in anything I might possibly have to say. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. And in 2012, I was diagnosed with depression. Which, in hindsight, might be connected with my firm belief I have nothing of worth or interest to say on any topic...
I have decided to break my blog slience just this once, to write down what it feels like. I am, as I type, in the midst of the deep, dark embrace of my illness - I have good days, average days, crap days, alright days and completely fucking awful days. Today is one of the latter. I'll try to describe it.
I didn't sleep last night. Anxiety made sure of that. Anxiety (for me) is a hollow feeling in the stomach, a shakiness in the limbs, a blurring of the thoughts, an inability to focus on any one thing but instead a compulsion to think about, worry about, fret about, obsess about everything. EVERYTHING. It's the little voice that tells me I'm an idiot, a fuckup, worthless, pointless, that everything I ever have ever done was wrong, and that everything I ever try to do in future will fail.
Anxiety, in short, is a bastard.
Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand, I'm told - which both makes perfect sense, and is one of the meaner tricks played by whichever vengeful bearded tit / psychotic sky fairy / unfeeling, unknowing universal physical law you currently believe is the ultimate creator of all things. This double whammy combination joins forces to lay its victims low and keep them down.
Depression (again, for me - everyone has different experiences) is an absolutely insurmountable sense of hopelessness. It is a barrier between me and my life. It locks me in a room, away from anything that is enjoyable, fun, worthwhile. It is like being held down under a soft but immensely heavy and enormous duvet - both utterly terrifying and yet, at the same time, sometimes strangely comforting. It restricts movement, limits vision, makes it hard to breathe.
My depression was a significant contributor to the breakdown of my marriage last year, and it is THE significant contributor in my inability to move on. It contributed by making me ridiculously defensive and thin-skinned, unable to bear being criticised (being able to take criticism being an essential skill in any marriage), sometimes making me loathe any human interaction to the point of hiding away in a room rather than converse with my wife or kids. It crippled me emotionally, so that even when I knew I had upset my wife, even when I knew all I had to do was say sorry, to climb down, to show some warmth, to BE A HUSBAND, I was incapable. Even though I wanted to make things better, it stopped me. It made me pathetic.
And pathetic is how I remain. Nothing seems to be able to shift it. I've tried a bewildering combination of drugs with unpronounceable names, none of which have done anything much beyond giving me some expertly-produced nightmares and a mouth drier than Charlie Brooker's sandpit. I've tried counselling, but I hate the sound of my own voice. On more than one occasion, I've had the nerve to trouble the Samaritans with my inconsequential bullshit, thereby undoubtedly depriving someone in much greater need of their invaluable services. Yet here I remain.
Anyway, enough. Writing this down has made me feel a bit better. It's a bit like talking about it to some of the real friends I used to have. Thanks for listening. And if you're in a similar boat, try writing it down too.
UPDATE: November 2016.
Since I wrote this, I have had what I suppose would best be described as a mental breakdown. After learning of the death of a friend, albeit a distant, virtual one, and having come to the conclusion that life really is a pile of fucking old shit, I resolved to turn it in. So one Monday morning, I woke up, decided that I would not go to work that day, and instead I would wander into town, have a look in the shop windows, maybe grab a coffee and throw myself under a tram.
I called my manager, said "hello cough I'm afraid cough I won't be in work today I'm cough cough not very well" and got dressed. Before leaving the flat, I paused. Did I want to do this? Could I do this? No. I could not. I didn't care about me any more, but I couldn't do it to the people I love. And who, to one extent or another, love me. My kids. My mum. My friends. Others.
So I didn't. Instead, I called my mum. She had no idea. No idea. She knew of my marriage breakdown but everything was fine, mum, hey, shit happens, you know, fuck it, life goes on. She obviously knew I was talking bollocks - I'd broken down in front of her at Christmas, albeit that I'd brushed it off as a side effect of the appalling red wine she insists on buying.
She got me emergency counselling. Paid up front, talk about anything, or nothing, or something. Just talk. Which I did. And I went back to the GP, said I had to get help, got sleeping pills, got anxiety meds, got anti depressants, got beta blockers, got the lot. And they worked. It all worked.
What I'm saying is: don't give up on yourself. Reach out. Ask for help. It's there. If not from family, then friends. If not from friends, then professionals. Someone will listen.
I'm in a better place than I was 6 months ago. I know I'm not out of the woods but the woods seem like a less scary place now. Might even get a tent and a CampingGaz stove and settle down here. The squirrels seem friendly.
Help is there, if you need it. Ask me on Twitter if you want.