In Blackest Night – One Year On
A friend recently asked me how I deal with depression and asked for help. A brave step in the right direction and, as always, I start with a disclaimer that I don’t hold all the answers and I’m not in a position of telling. I can tell my story, I can share my thoughts; I can’t tell you how to deal with your struggles as much as I wish I could. It feels good to be asked for help – not in the sense that I am the guru but more that someone has reached out. Something I probably wouldn’t have done.
It’s no secret I put up with depression – I’m not a fan of saying “living with” because I live with my wife – this is a choice I made. With depression, I had no choice. It’s basically squatting in an apartment upstairs and no amount of eviction notices will get rid of it. An unwanted lodger that has an overbearing power over my enjoyment and quality of life. Now, after finding my voice, I’m fairly vocal about depression and anxiety. Not in a vegan of mental health kinda way like, “Hey! You have depression? Me too!” More like, if I feel I need to talk about it to avoid bottling it up or if I know someone who suffers and I just ask what they would do in a situation or some other best practice that I could try so see if it benefits me.
So, after assisting in the best way I could – listening (well, reading) and sharing my thoughts, I realised that it’s been just over a year since I returned to work after five and a half months off. That ghastly period of trying to figure out what was causing my abdominal pains and eventually being diagnosed with depression and anxiety and trying out various meds until Mirtazapine becomes my daily dose. I’m still on the Mirtazapine – 30mg.
So, after finally getting into a good enough place for me to go back to work I am here. I’ve had my wobbles. I’ve had my doubts. I’ve had suicidal thoughts and I’ve had very dark spells. I’m never free of them. I have days where I’m better but I’m never great. Better is what I have resigned myself to aspiring to. I can’t remember what it feels like to be happy. I can’t remember what good feels like. I’m a fairly modest person (apart from my sarcastic bragging and satirical bigging myself up) so better suits me.
Most of my days are spent faking it. Faking joy, faking excitement, faking appreciation – I try to blend in and probably fail miserably but no one has called me out on it. I don’t enjoy anything. I say I love playing my Playstation 4, and that probably was true for the old Craig but for me now, it; it’s what I think I love to do and so I continue. It does allow me to escape and forget my worries for a while. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks because I need distractions. Yes, there are times I laugh or get really interested in the subject matter but again, it’s more of a habit. Something I feel I should do because it’s what I think normal is for me.
It’s hard to describe how I continue with life. Days blur into one another and I don’t really have a good sense of time. My memory is increasingly failing and there are new struggles daily. Not everyone understands or even appreciates the difficulty of putting up with depression and anxiety. And that infuriates me at times. My job requires me to be ‘personal’ with customers and, for someone who can be cripplingly awkward socially, I cannot achieve this 100% of the time. But I feel like I can’t state my case as I’m making an excuse for myself or I’m ‘playing on it’.
If I had to give an accurate answer on how I keep going, I’d have to say I coast. If I’m not hyper-aware of my surroundings, I’m the polar opposite and, as they say, ignorance is bliss. For someone so self-conscious and who hates going out in public places, sticking my earphones in and listening to my playlist gets me through it. Ignorant of what people may or may not be saying about me and care-free, if only for a short while. I’m kinda like ‘Baby Driver‘ only my life doesn’t match the beat.
Depression, whether you have a side order of anxiety or not, can be crippling. It can consume your very essence. I still don’t truly know the real me. I don’t know if I’ll ever figure it out. Maybe every time I have that weird feeling inside my skull where my brain feels like it’s re-wiring itself like an ongoing and never-ending set of roadworks like the mental equivalent of the Heads of the Valley work, I lose another layer of myself. Being pushed down into the depths ne’er to be seen again.
For a logical person, it is a killer. I like definitive answers. I couldn’t care less for what ifs and maybes. It’s something I’ll never get used to but I have to put up with, otherwise it will drive me crazy. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned – compromise. Not necessarily with others but with yourself. Depression has you negotiate with yourself. Even if it’s over something trivial like going out into the garden – regardless of the size of the win, a win is a win.
I often see on Reddit someone starting a sub saying they’ve showered today or that they brushed their teeth. A younger me would have looked at that and thought, “Whoop-de-doo”. And that’s the mentality that we fight on a daily basis. The sort that trivialises and marginalises us and our battles. I look at them and I think, “Good for you”. In a non-sarcastic manner. I’ve never been so crippled by it that I don’t wash or brush my teeth. There have been times where I skipped a couple of days but that’s it. One of my biggest social fears is being that “smelly guy”. I get paranoid when I walk past someone who smells of B.O and the smell gets stuck in my nose and I end up constantly checking myself. Reddit is an education for the uninitiated at the true extent of things affected by depression. Things we take for granted. Things we mock people over without knowing more about the reasons why people get to that point.
If being “normal” is to be intolerant of people, then you can shove it. If it takes a mental illness for us to stop and take inventory of our lives and shed ourselves of the shackles that would have us mock the afflicted and pass judgement over aesthetics then we are truly a broken people.
If you are suffering in silence, then reach out to someone. Even the kindness of a stranger can help. And if you know of someone who is suffering, give them time to open up but let them know you are there for them for when they are ready. Don’t go in guns blazing and demanding they open up or seek help. It’s counter productive and it does more harm than good.
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