In Blackest Night – Deep-Seated Depression and Me
I haven’t written an ‘In Blackest Night‘ post for a little while; lately, the Black Dog has been out wandering out of my sight and my mind has been clearer. The anxiety and stress are still there but I think they’ve become a part of everyday life and are unlikely to leave my side. The depression, however, has buggered off and I’ve found myself feeling much better.
There are still days where I feel like everyone is out to get me or where I feel overwhelmed by certain situations but I have found myself feeling more relaxed than usual. I’m writing a lot more frequently than before and the ideas keep coming to me. As a family, despite me being back in work and having precious few days off, we’re still spending quality time together – thanks to my newfound interest in tabletop games and my little project. I need a bigger table now for larger, more spread out games and for comfort – cup holders, arm rests etc.
I was reading this blog post and it inspired me to write this. It made me think about my life and the influence depression has had and it made me realise how far back it truly goes. It made me realise I have had this thing almost all my life.
I believe my Mum was depressed. I don’t think she was ever diagnosed and I don’t believe she ever took any medication for it. I know, towards the end of her life, she suffered increasingly from anxiety. At times she would get into a right state at just the thought of setting foot outside the house to go to town and get some shopping or go and visit my Gran. She would cry herself to sleep most nights and would be terrorised with nightmares into the morning.
My bedroom was right next to hers and I would hear it all. Her sobs, her cries for help as her nightmare would panic her. Some nights I would just lie there, trying to sleep because I knew that, in a few minutes, it would pass and she would settle. Other nights, I would sheepishly shuffle out of my bed, open my door and knock on hers as I asked if she was okay or I would shout in the hopes it would snap her awake and save her from her nightmare.
As a kid, I never thought much of it. I knew that adults suffered from night terrors as much as kids did, if not worse on occasion. I was never much of a dreamer – nothing ever really stuck in my head except those ones where you’re falling to your death and just as you’re about to hit the ground you jump awake. I never really had nightmares and I don’t believe I walked in my sleep much – I remember once where I vaguely recall me carrying my duvet to the stairs and chucking it down and going back to bed, but that’s about it.
I guess, for me, sleep became my safe haven and that may explain why I have a tendency to want to sleep when my depression gets the better of me. I never feel well-rested and generally wake up feeling just as tired if not moreso than I was when I went to sleep but it’s like my self defence mechanism. My equivalent of a tortoise withdrawing into its shell. Sleep, most recently, has brought with it a new experience which I haven’t been afflicted with prior to this year but I’ll elaborate more on that in a future post.
I’ve never self harmed. Not physically anyway. I think too much about what people would say if I had bandages on my arms or saw the age-old scars. My self harm is generally mentally assaulting myself. Bullying myself inside my head and making me feel worthless. Useless. A waste of a life, a waste of oxygen and just a waste as a whole. I lack the confidence and assertion a guy my age should have.
Suicide has been more of an idea I have flirted with. The poetic romanticising of an act and the wonder of it’s effects once I’m gone. A montage set to a soundtrack of my life and the tears, sense of loss and the agony it caused. But the stone-cold logical me pipes up and tells it like it is. He says, forget all the shit you see in the movies. This isn’t poignant. This isn’t a stand. People will care for a day or two, the ones closest will care for longer. But all in all, the moment will pass and no one will care why you did it.
Fast forward to now and the voice says, this isn’t 13 Reasons Why.
My first ‘attempt’ can’t even really be called that. I can’t remember exactly why, but I was about nine or ten when I walked into the living room at my Gran & Grandpa’s after grabbing the sharpest knife from the kitchen drawer. I walked in with it held to my chest, pressing it precisely between my ribs. I was in a flood of tears and I remember pressing it harder as my Gran came closer trying to ‘talk sense into me’.
I remember seeing the mark it left after having it pressed in firmly against my skin through my T-shirt but I don’t really remember any aftermath. I think it was just something we never spoke about again and that was that.
Years later, when I was about 23/24, I swallowed about 30 paracetamol. One after the other, I swallowed them dry and waited. Lauren, who was my fiancee at the time, forced me to go to the hospital. It was about 10/11pm when we got there and I was cursing her. I didn’t want to be there. I just wanted to go home and sleep and hopefully never wake up. She checked me in and we waited. And we waited. After about two hours I got fed up and demanded we go home. I was meant to start work at 7am. We left without me ever having seen a nurse or a doctor. A potential death by suicide and no one even bothered.
I got home and slept. When I awoke I felt groggy as hell and my stomach felt weird. It was like it was sloshing around like I was a human washing machine. I got to work and felt worse as the day went on. It would be years before I would ever talk to anyone about that event. I wasn’t ashamed. It was more a case of how the fuck do I even open up a conversation where this comes up? It’s not exactly a bit of weekend banter I can share with the lads or a nugget I can just blurt out and we start chatting away.
Aside from me feeling a bit queasy sometimes when I think of paracetamol, I don’t believe there have been any lasting effects. Physiologically, I guess there may be some effects that become apparent as time goes by but, so far, nothing has come about.
That night would be the first and last ‘proper’ attempt on my life. I have, occasionally, lain in the bath with a knife or a razor next to me and played out the scenario in my head. I never have, and likely never will, draw blood. It’s been a while since I’ve contemplated it. The idea of the pain puts me off.
I’ve spent many hours pondering the perfect method. So far, no idea has truly ‘taken’ me. I consider the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’, the probability of survival/long-term damage/reduction in quality of life/impact on my children/impact on my wife/financial ramifications for my family. In this, I am a cold and calculating machine. If I walk out in front of a bus there is no guarantee of death and a high risk of physical disability. If I jump off a bridge I may not die immediately or at all. I can’t cut myself because of the pain that would ensue. I wouldn’t hang myself because it’s also painful and there’s the possibility I regret it part way through and there’s no way to stop it.
For now, I’m free of these burdening thoughts. If my Mum were here, she would tell me to stop this nonsense. But I know she felt the same. I know she was so controlled by her depression and anxiety that I see me succumbing to the same fate. People like me wish others would heed our advice because it’s one of the few things we are good at. It’s a sign of acceptance. A sign of validity and a means to quantify one’s existence as to having a purpose. But people like me are also terrible at taking advice and let our inner voices take the controls as we watch everything slip by.
Depression is very much like a sleeper cell. Some covert agent, planted inconspicuously that activates in the desired environment behind enemy lines. An ambush that leaves you wondering how long it had been there. Plotting and scheming in the shadows like an internalised Illuminati. Until today, I failed to even register how far back depression truly goes with me. Only by being able to talk about it can I analyse it and discover things about me I never could have realised before. It feels oddly liberating.
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