Confession number 1
Forgive me WordPress for I have sinned. It has been 22 days since my last (indeed my first) post. It wasn’t meant to be like this, honest.
Confession number 2
The following post is not really what I wanted my first real post – and by real I mean not the ‘this is my first post’ post – to be about. It is, however, wholly important to why I’ve decided to blog.
When I started to think about blogging, and what sort of content would feature in my blog I had a number of topics in mind that I wanted to cover: politics, satire, theatre, film, cookery, family to name but a few. All of them passions. However behind all of this is also a desire to share my experience of depression. There, said it. Hope you haven’t been misled or put off.
I didn’t, and don’t, want that particular topic to underscore everything I write, but I do want to be able to write about it when it feels right to do so. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, now feels like a time when I do want to hit that topic – it might have been better (and when I say better, perhaps I mean more forgiving to you the reader) to draw you in to the blog and its evolution with some lighter, more frivolous posts early on, and I must admit that would haven been nicer for me too, but there you are. I am in the midst of one of my depressive episodes and while writing is not the easiest thing to do, I want to be able to document my thoughts, feelings and emotions in the vaguest hope that someone, somewhere might read them and find something to associate with and lift them a little.
I discovered a quote just now and I can’t believe I haven’t stumbled across it before:
“Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.”
It was, of course, said by that most wonderful man, Stephen Fry. He knows what he’s talking about from his own experience.
Anyway the point I want to make, in this very roundabout manner, is that in the same way that you may get a wonderfully sunny day in the middle of December, or perhaps more relevant to this point, a painfully cold and blustery day in the middle of June, weather is what it is: it simply exists (okay scientists I know that’s not strictly true) and we have little control over its various incarnations. That’s not to say that meteorologists can’t do their best to predict it, just as I can, with experience, start to see indications of when I may be about to enter a depressive episode, it’s more about acknowledging that depression cannot be attributed to cause and effect, it’s…well…weather-like. I hope you know what I’m driving at, because I’m in danger of confusing metaphors and making this more complicated than it need be.
Indulge me a little while I provide a bit of context to where I am at now with my mental health. I was diagnosed with depression in the summer of 2010. It knocked me, and my family, for six. It took a while – I think about 8 or 9 months – to crawl out of it, or at least get to a reasonable state of mind that I could entertain the idea of getting some normality back to my life. Since then I’ve had a few blips (I define blips as being short periods of perhaps a day or two where I experience some of the feelings of depression) and one relapse (where I was re-admitted to the care of my community mental health centre) lasting a couple of months. That last relapse faded (and it’s pretty difficult to define in terms of time) in the early part of this year. In the last few months I’ve suffered a few more blips but my trajectory has generally been upwards.
On Tuesday I was driving back from Brighton (only about six miles away) to home – on the dual carriageway in fact – when I experienced a tsunami of sadness that crashed over me (I’m really not dramatising the emotion) and I started to sob. I had the foresight to ring my wife (on hands-free Bluetooth) and cried down the phone at her. She wisely told me to pull over onto the lay-by which I did, and then spent the next 20 or 30 minutes sobbing uncontrollably while she reassured me that everything would be alright. I was all of the following: scared, desperate, angry (with myself), frustrated, anxious, confused. Above all I wanted the ground beneath the car to open up, swallow me and make me disappear. I wanted my life to end right there and then.
To anyone who’s not experienced depression – either first-hand themselves or through someone close to them – that last sentence may have shocked a little. Oh jeeze and it’s really not meant to. It is how I felt. You should thus be aware that in my mind there is a subtle difference between wanting my life to end and actually thinking about actively ending my life. I’ve experienced both those thoughts. Obviously neither is pleasant. But at that moment in the car I was in such a desperate state of mind, a state where I saw only absolute sadness and emptiness I wanted out. I wanted something to release me. Thankfully my wife helped me immeasurably by being at the other end of the phone. I can’t remember the specifics of what she said, but it helped enough to pull me out of that state.
Since Tuesday I’ve been shaky, to say the least. I’ve cried a lot. I’ve not slept well. My eating is erratic. I feel like this is more than a blip. I wanted to capture this here. As best I can.
Before I sign off on this post, I want to reiterate something. This isn’t a poor me post. It really isn’t. It’s two things. Firstly, and I certainly won’t deny the fact, it’s my hope that this is cathartic to my own current state of mind. Secondly, I am sharing these very personal thoughts to hopefully help those who have depression realise that their thoughts, emotions, actions are most undoubtedly not unique. They are not alone in feeling like they do. There ARE sunny days.
Thanks for your post. Talking about depression, particularly for those that have experienced it, is probably one of the most difficult things to do – and yet it’s vital that people do it. So many of us are going to experience depression at some point or other in our lives. Officially it’s 1 in 4 or something like that but I suspect in reality it’s much higher – it’s just that some people don’t acknowledge it or seek help for it or look to alcohol or other illegal drugs or destructive behaviours in some way. It’s coming up for ten years since I was first diagnosed and prescribed anti-depressants, and I’ve also got better and relapsed a few times since then. Yes I think there are going to be some times when you feel like you’re going back to a really bad place, but at the same time your experience can teach you that there is a way to cope and to get through it, and as you say, you do get to experience (and enjoy) the sunny days.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts ronnirose – glad to hear that you can be positive about your personal experience. You’ve reminded me of another really important point which is that you can learn some useful things about yourself throughout all of this – even though the dark times. Dare I say you can become a wiser, stronger person? Or is that too American?
Oh and you are my first reader to comment – so double points to you.
I think the strangest thing, like the weather, is the sudden shift in mood and that the big black clouds can arrive and depart so suddenly or you feel surrounded in fog for days. Today is the first day that I feel the sun for weeks. I’ve hidden it well by keeping extremely busy and a big smiley mask – so who really knows, my husband, my sister and one friend! Thats not right but I still wonder who would stick around if they knew.
I think you are very brave and offer you an umbrella for those times when you can’t find shelter from the storm. Bigs Hugs
Totally agree with the whole mask analogy. So many times I think people must say of me “how can he be depressed when he appears so cheery?”. And my answer? Well it would be, “Because if I didn’t assume that character you’d ask a load more uncomfortable questions of me”. It’s easier (while also knackering) to live two lives.
What an incredibly brave and beautifully written post. I do not have much personal experience with depression but have had an on/off relationship with its lesser known sibling, anxiety. I am sorry you are going through this but what you are doing by writing this blog is truly inspirational.
Hi Grenglish 😉
Very kind of you to say. Anxiety is a beast in itself and can be massively debilitating. Hope you don’t get too many bad times.
Btw your blog inspired me 🙂
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