Hello there, yes you, fellow human, I want to talk to you, I say talk, I actually want you to read something, which to be fair you have already started doing, so we are off to a good start.
I want you to read my story (self-indulgent I know), and it’s a story of depression...WAIT..COME BACK...are you back? Ok I'll go on. Yes it's a story of depression, but that doesnt necessarily mean it’s a depressing story. It's not even a story to be honest, it’s just some words I have written down to share my experience of this wonderful illness with world. So let's begin.
My name is Steven, that's my real name, it's not anonymous, I'm not hiding, and besides there are a fair few Steven's in the world...come find me if you wish, but bring pizza. So yes, Steven, that’s me, and I have depression.
First things first, I honestly don't know where this is going, I dont know how much I am going to write, or what I intend to do with it when I'm done. I might share it online, I might share it with a select few people, it may even become the first of an online blog (if I stick around long enough...woohoo mental health jokes!). Then again I might just file it away somewhere never to be seen again, I just feel I needed to get something down "on paper".
Some points of disclosure before we start:
1) I am NOT a writer, so apologies for any grammatical errors etc.
2) Due to point 1 this is not likely to flow at all. Also I am erratic at the best of times, so I may jump around a lot, please bear with me
3) This is not a "how to treat people with depression” guide. I think every man and his dog has been told not to tell people with depression and other mental health ailments to just "get over it", "cheer up", "but you have a good life" etc. etc.. There are people that talk about this topic far more eloquently than me, and to be honest if you don't believe that this is a "real illness" there really is nothing I can do to change that.
5) I also suffer from anxiety, BDD and a bit of OCD
6) I am currently in a pretty low place, so sitting here just getting this down and not giving up is hard (yay me!).
I feel that last point is important, you see, I am not sitting here saying I have "beaten" or I am "over" depression, some people have, and you can read their stories for yourself. Some of which are awesome (I highly recommend Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haighton). I didnt want to write this when I was in a “good” place, I think, when you are, you often look back and don't appreciate the absolute despair/apathy/disdain/worthlessness/hatred (delete as appropriate) you were feeling at the time.
Similarly I have been depressed for a long time, most of the time I manage it, but each time I have an "episode" I convince myself the reason I managed to get past it last time, is because it wasnt nearly as bad as it currently is. The truth is, it most likely was, but I think we train ourselves to forget that, if we didnt, I dont think we would ever move on.
So yes, right now, sat in this room, at this desk, at 5:50pm on a random Monday in September I feel horrendous. I have an amazing wife and children downstairs, currently laughing and watching TV together, and I want nothing to do with them. I just want to shut this door, curl up in a ball and hide, maybe for an hour, maybe for a day, maybe for a week...currently I have no idea.
I'd like to say this is a rare occurrence, I guess it is. This is only the 3rd time in as many years that things have gotten this bad, but that’s not rare enough. Surely it is my right to appreciate my family and the joy of my children all of the time (except when they are being little devils)....apparently not. You see depression by its very definition is a "mental" illness, however its physical effects are often overlooked. As an example, right now, I cannot get up and go downstairs. It's not that I dont WANT to, I physically CAN'T. Trying to explain this sensation to someone who hasn't experienced it, is practically impossible, it makes no sense.
I mean it doesnt even make sense to me! The best I can say is it’s like your brain is so consumed with how pointless everything is it literally refuses to send the signals telling your body to move.
So as I'm here, and not going anywhere, I might as well carry on.
I think I would say this all started for me in my late teens. Well in actual fact this all started for me when I was seven but I dont want to dwell on that too much. Long story short, my childhood was "bumpy". During my emotionally formative years I was pretty badly psychological abused by a significant adult who I trusted unconditionally. This person never hit me, or abused me in any other way, but in the few years they treated me the way they did, they managed to cause enough invisible damage to last a lifetime. On top of that the experience has effected every facet of my life in some way from that day to this.
Whoever said "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is either a liar or extremely naive. Believe me, they hurt, even if you can’t see the damage, it is there, and it can be years before it becomes apparent.
I will never forgive that person for the mental damage they caused, because of them there are life experiences and emotions I will NEVER feel. They stole them from me, and I can never get them back. Also I will never forgive them for the way I sometimes make my own family feel. I guess in some respects I am a product of my environment, and will admit that at times I find it hard to treat people in any way other than the way I was treated.
Anyway, I am where I am. I do not want to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past, this isn't a therapy session, a self-help guide or a way to look back and right wrongs (if that’s even possible). This is just one 35 year olds experience of living a life with depression.
I think I first went to the doctors knowing something was wrong when I was around 20...I was convinced I was dying. I couldn’t concentrate, feel anything emotionally, I was forgetting things all the time, I would read pages of books and forget them straight away and people would talk to me and the words wouldn’t go in...They just sort of bounced off me.
So I came to the only rational conclusion I could...I had a brain tumor and was going to die (side note, from that day to this no one has ever scanned me to check, so I may be right...fingers crossed I'm not). However the doctor thought otherwise and told me I was suffering from clinical depression...me depressed???...surely that was impossible. I knew what people who had depression were like, and I quite obviously wasn't one of them. I had a job, a girlfriend (who is now my wife), I had my own flat...this made no sense. I had no REASON to be depressed.
I'll happily admit I was as ignorant to depression as I now realise a lot of the world is, but again I'm not here to educate you on what can and can't cause depression and the different types of depression. There are much better resources than my random ramblings for that.
I will tell you this much though, in my experience depression is a weird and wonderful disease. It chooses people seemingly at random, regardless of wealth, social standing or stature, and then continues to play with them for its own ill gotten gains, also there is no “one size fits all” answer when it comes to attempting to treat it.
Some people need medication (I am one of them), some need counselling, some need cognitive readjustment, or some a variation of all three. Even when it comes to medication what works for someone may have the opposite effect for someone else. For example, I currently take Venlafaxine, and I honestly think it has saved my life on more than one occasion, and yet a friend of mine thinks it is useless. That being said, the same friend had great success with Sertraline, which sent me to lowest place I have ever been...it's a minefield.
Anyway, I was officially diagnosed in my early 20's and was told this was something I may have to live with for the rest of my life, it’s been 15 years so far, and it doesnt seem to be planning to go anywhere anytime soon. I have stories of good times and bad over the past 15 years, of highs and lows, wins and losses. Silly things that would make you laugh if I told you I got down about them, and maybe even things that would make you wonder how I ever got over them at all. Yet get over them I did, you see “things” happen in life, crappy things, and I am not sure I believe if they can "cause" depression, I definitely think they can lead you into a depressive episode, but I think there is an underlying reason for the depression being there in the first place.
Here's another thing which non depressives sometimes have trouble getting to grips with, not everything that causes depression is “bad”. Let me explain what I mean. I'm fairly confident I know what led to me feeling suicidal and got me to the place I have been for the past week or so, it wasn't just one thing, there were a few...they are as follows:
1) My wife and I have bought a new house, a house we chose together, we love and will be our forever home
2) My children have just started primary school (proud dad!)
3) My wife has finally switched back to working days, so we have every evening together
4) Now we are all at home around the same time we get to go out more in the evenings and do things as a family
5) We are now able to sit down every night and enjoy family meal time
I mean..come on..just look at that list above, who wouldn't be depressed!! Seriously though, everything on that list is “GOOD” and I am so grateful for it on the surface, but because of my past and the way I am wired I cannot deal with change...any change.
To try to give you a bit of an insight, to my brain that list looks like this:
1) OH GOD! I am selling the house I grew up in, my grandparents raised me in this house, I have so many memories, it's the last bit of them l have left, this is horrendous. What if I regret it forever!!!!
2) Why are they going to school??? They haven’t HAD to be anywhere for the past 4 years, what does this mean, what if they meet other children, what if those children have PARENTS! OH GOD! I am going to have to talk to them, everything is changing!!
3) Hang on a minute...what do you mean I can't just sit and stare into space at night anymore? What do you mean I MAY have to talk to my wife and spend time with her once the children are in bed...OH MY GOD!!
4) I DONT WANT TO GO OUT EVERYNIGHT!! She is going to want to do something EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! OH GOD!
5) How on earth am I supposed to count every single calorie that goes into my body if we are now having meals together (this is a story for another time). OH GOD, IM GONNA GET FAT! MY WIFE WILL LEAVE! MY FRIENDS WILL ALL HATE ME!!!
When faced with all this my brain only seems to be able to react in one way, and that's "ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!" followed by a complete shutdown. You see, again because of my past I have a big thing with control and being "safe". As soon as that control is taken away from me, I fall to pieces.
Ok, I think I am going to wrap this up for now, as I need to attempt to go and help put my children to bed...also, for now, that brings us up to date. Currently I am off work, for at least the next two weeks, and as I said above, there is a reason we got back to this point. Things haven’t been great for a while, I know they haven’t, and my wife noticed they haven’t, but I made the mistake of ignoring it...I should know better than that.
A couple of weeks ago I was seeing my regular therapist and told her I was not doing too well. When she asked if I’d been feeling suicidal I very easily and honestly answered "I'd be lying if I said no". Luckily for me she's great, and put a plan into action for me to get regular counselling sessions again and to up my medication in an attempt to get me past this latest slump.
Initially I was reluctant to up my medication anymore as I have been "good" on my current dose for around 2 years, but last weekend something went very wrong, nothing changed lifestyle wise, but for some reason I didnt think I wanted to live anymore, I spent pretty much the whole day in bed trying to decide the best course of action to ensure I was no longer there when my family got back.
Again this is hard to explain for someone who hasn't experienced it, I mean our basic human instinct is to survive, so to get to a place where you want the opposite just seems bizarre. The best way I can try to explain is this, imagine being “stuck” in bed, you can't move and you KNOW that everything you ever do is meaningless and has no impact, and you are 100% certain that all you are is a burden to everyone around you and no one wants you to be here anymore. In that situation, is so hard to imagine that you might start to think you would be better off dead?
People say that suicide is selfish, perhaps they are right. I lost a brother to suicide, which I suspect was depression related, although we will never actually know. Do I think he was selfish? No...I fully suspect he was feeling the same as me, that being here is a chore for everyone else including me, that everyone would thrive a lot more if they didnt have me to worry about and infecting their lives with this disease. My children would surely flourish more without my negative influence on their life, my wife would be far happier with someone else who wasnt constantly stuck on this carousel of perpetual nothingness. Horrible right?
Luckily I managed to see sense, and got out of bed and told people how was I feeling, since then I have upped my meds and am trying to get things back on track day by day, and I think slowly but surely I’m getting there.
Which is why as I said at the start, I didnt want to write this from a "good" place, I want you to know that I am still there with you.
If you are reading this and are experiencing any of this, whether you have or have not been diagnosed with depression or another such condition, you are not alone. I can't tell you it gets better (if I did you wouldnt believe me anyway), sometimes it gets worse, and who I am to sugar coat your personal situation, but I think I am qualified enough to tell you I find it bearable 90% of time, so I hope that you do. As for the other 10% of the time, I have a strong network of friends and family who no matter how bad I get, and how far I try to push them away, they won’t let me.
Maybe they aren’t so bad after all....now if only I could move from this room and tell them (woohoo more mental health jokes)
If any of this resonates with you and you would like to discuss further or just tell me I'm an idiot and totally wrong, please feel free to contact me.