“I’ve put this off for far too long.”
I can’t stand this time of year. Cold, dark, bleak. Colourless.
Those who say seasonal affective disorder isn’t real or legitimate, aren’t the type of people who would normally suffer from it. They are not genetically and chemically programmed that way.
I think there is a reason why I suffer from it.
What my family and many of my close friends already know but what many perhaps won’t, is that I suffer from depression.
Clinical depression is one of the fastest growing illnesses on the planet. The WHO has predicted that it will be the second most devastating disease in the world by 2020. In the UK, as much as 10 percent of the population suffers from some form of depression, with numbers peaking in January and February.
Depression is shit. It really is the absolute pits.
A toxic and debilitating cocktail of doubt, fear, self-loathing, anger, helplessness, anxiety, apathy…the list goes on.
Millions of people suffer from it and I wouldn’t for one second claim my depression is ‘worse’ than anybody else’s. But it is different from everybody else’s – it’s mine.
Depression affects me in many different ways, never uniform, never predictable. That’s what makes it so hard to combat. There are times when I seem to be ‘on top of things’, and I feel ‘OK’ for a few weeks, maybe even a few months. But then something – anything – triggers it and the descent begins.
A black cloud on my psyche, heavy and unrelenting, not letting any positivity in. Not giving even a semblance of ‘happy’ a fighting chance. It has physical manifestations also. I suffered a panic attack in 2003, a horrible episode of feeling permanently short of breathe, scrambling to try to take in more oxygen, exacerbating the panic, making it worse. I still now have a constant knot in my stomach, a ball of wire wool. Depriving me of feeling at ease. If you have never had it, it is impossible to explain. A sensation of always being short of breathe, trying to breathe in too deep, feeling like you are not getting enough air into your lungs even when you are. It subsides occasionally, but it is always there.
My depression has cost me relationships, friendships and even employment. I was let go from the best paying job I’ve ever had when it started to affect my ability to function in my role.
It has also been a principle reason why I have not been able to hold down a relationship since I was 18. The fear of not being accepted, of scaring people away if you open up to them. I would love the chance to be able to care for someone and have them care about me, it hasn’t happened yet, when it will, I have no idea. Like cancer, depression doesn’t discriminate. It is often genetic and traits run through bloodlines, if you have it, to a degree, tough.
Yes, I take medication, that to has its side effects. I went years without taking pills, thinking I didn’t need them and that caving in would be seen as weak and simply confirm that something was wrong and I needed help.
I have ‘had’ therapy also, I was surprised when I lost my last job that I was able to seek help free-of-charge though the NHS. I saw a cognitive behavioural therapist every week for three months, it helped, she put a framework in place for me to try and help myself. In our first meeting she said “it seems like your get up and go has got up and left”. She was right, and often still is.
Depressed people tend to sleep a lot. If you are asleep, you are not awake. You’re not being you. Not awake to the crippling self-doubt, fear and anger of not fitting in. Not realising your potential. Not making those you care about proud.
Not making it work.
I’m lucky to have loving family and caring, understandings friends, more than a lot of people can hope for. I am always grateful for them, even if I don’t show it or say it.
My staple answer whenever anyone asks if I am OK, is always, “yeah, fine.”
Why wouldn’t it be?
It’s easier that way and I don’t want them to worry or be upset at me constantly telling them everything is not OK. That I’m NOT fine.
That’s the thing about depression, you don’t want to burden other people with it. You don’t want to cause hassle, upset the apple cart, be ‘that guy’.
As such, suffering from depression can lead to a pretty lonely existence. I often seek solitude. Conversely, I can be in a room crammed full of people and feel completely alone, trapped in a bubble, cut-off from everything.
My demeanour can often make it seem like I don’t want to engage with anyone, that I’m being deliberately aloof or even rude. I hate how it makes me appear and what people may think or say behind my back.
Understand that it’s not that I don’t want to be around you, it’s that I don’t want you to be around me. I don’t want to infect people with my morosity.
I drink too much also. Obviously alcohol isn’t the answer. But it’s an easy choice. It is something to do. It helps, albeit temporarily.
Short-term numb for long-term glum.
Exercise is one avenue to try and combat depression and granted it is something I don’t do enough of at the moment. But waking up and not wanting to face the day, let alone put on trainers and go for a run in the freezing cold is a powerful argument, one a depressive mind finds all too easy to accept.
But excuses are exactly that, and eventually it comes down to me being the catalyst for change. You can’t do the same things day in and day out and expect different results.
People suffering from depression can struggle to see the good in anything, not finding the positive or the light. Sometimes they don’t want to as it makes them ask difficult questions of themselves. But I try.
I have great family and great friends, a job that I am good at, a roof over my head, money in the bank. Things could be a lot worse, even if sometimes if doesn’t seem that way.
Again, I would never say or even think that my depression is ‘worse’ than anybody else’s, it isn’t. However, you can’t walk a foot let alone a mile in the shoes of somebody suffering from depression.
Hopefully writing this will provide some kind of catharsis and be a trigger for change. My mind isn’t broken, it just needs some glue.
And if anybody reading this has a better understanding of what depression can look and feel like, then it certainly wasn’t a waste of time.
But I’m not here blazing a trail, thousands of people have written more eloquently and definitively on the topic. This is just something I felt I had to express.
I should have done it years ago.