Usually when I write it’s somewhat sarcastic and flippant in tone as this is something that represents the way I am and that I generally don’t take rings too seriously. This piece will hopefully be more serious in tone as it’s a difficult topic not to take seriously and something I’ve been trying to write about for a few days now but have struggled to put into words, with that in mind please forgive me if I come across as slightly unfocussed. i would also add a further disclaimer that what I’m writing about is strictly based on my own experiences so I will try to avoid generalisations.
Last week had some sad news with the death of Robin Williams in what appears to be a suicide relating to depression, obviously I don’t know the facts so I can only base that comment on what has been reported. This hit me harder than expected and I put this down down to two reasons, the first being that I was a fan of his work, be it Aladdin, Hook, Mrs Doubtfire or the myriad of other work he had done including films, television shows and stand up comedy, the second is that as someone that has suffered from depression, and continues to do so, the idea that everything becomes so overwhelming that ending your own life seems like the only option available is something that worries me immensely.
My depression is something that seems to come and go these days, I will have periods where I feel incredibly lonely, isolated and lacking in any kind of self confidence which previously has involved me pulling away from people who genuinely care about me without offering anything by way of explanation and doing my best to sabotage my relationships with friends and avoiding doing things that I genuinely enjoy doing. There is no triggering cause at all for this really, I have a job where I am earning decent money, I have amazing friends and family and I have the freedom to be able to do things that I enjoy and yet still I go through the dark periods, almost as if my brain tells me that I don’t deserve to be happy.
Early on I didn’t know how to deal with it and I was constantly moody and was quite spiteful to people at times, I didn’t sleep well (worse than I do anyway) and was genuinely unpleasant to be around when I wasn’t sulking somewhere. I like to think I got pretty good at fooling people that I was fine, but I suspect the truth of it was more likely that people just got tired of asking whether I was alright and being met with the stock answer of “I’m fine” despite this being clear to anyone who knew me that this wasn’t the case and at one point there was a period where I cut myself. When asked much later on why I had felt the need to do this, the person just wanted to try and understand rather than anything else, my response was that I felt so much pain mentally and emotionally which I didn’t know how to process that I thought that by doing something physically might help, maybe when the physical pain had healed it would take away some of the other pain.
This ignoring of the obvious in the hope that it would just go away continued for a considerable length of time, there were good days and bad but it basically came to a head when I lashed out at a group of people I cared about for no real reason and started to lose touch because pride wouldn’t let me apologise. It was all essentially just eating away at me and I was just withdrawing from the world. It got to a point where I realised I didn’t want to be the person I was turning into anymore, I sat down with my parents and just told them how I was feeling and they helped me by suggesting options. I had already tried anti-depressants and they hadn’t worked for me so counselling was the option I went for.
I went into counselling with a surprisingly open mind all things considered, I guess my logic was that I wouldn’t talk to friends or family as I knew that they had their own issues and so didn’t want to burden than them with my problems so if I was paying someone then they were going to listen to everything I had to say. As it turns out I was very lucky as my counsellor was brilliant, she put me at my ease right from the start and was very good at steering the conversations we had in a way that really helped. It helped open my eyes to the fact that I was surrounded by amazing people, all of whom care about me and who I could talk to if needed, and also made me aware of the fact that I had an excellent option if things ever got especially bad again. As a result I’m far more honest with people about what’s going on with me and as a result I think it’s really helped me as I can just be myself around people without the need to put a front up which is incredibly liberating.
Obviously people get depression in different ways with very different effects, I’m lucky in the sense that mine isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things. It’s something I’ve taken more of an interest in though, reading things relating to it to try and get a better understanding of what other people experience, the book A Life Too Short: The Tragedy if Robert Enke is both fascinating and moving written about the German goalkeeper that struggled with depression and committed suicide does provide a lot of insight into just how much sufferers and the people around them can be affected. I’m not so naive as to know what everyone is experiencing but it has helped me to be able to be more understanding to other people I have encountered and I like to think as a result I have been able to help in some small way even if it’s just something as simple as listening to them.
I guess really the upshot of all of this is just to say to people who are suffering that there are options available to you, even if it sometimes things seem bleak. There will hopefully be friends and family who can help or failing that there are the Samaritans who do some truly fantastic things for people, counselling too and anti-depressants can also be useful. And I guess to those people who don’t suffer with it I would just say try to be understanding and not judge, and failing that just be a shoulder for someone if needed, sometimes just the knowledge that someone is there can provide untold reassurance.
I will just finish up by saying as previously stated this is just my experience and my view of things, I’m sure it’s far too simplistic in terms of the world but I like to think it works for me. Anyway apologies for the mountain of text and if you’ve managed to stick it out to the end thank you for reading.