Friday, 21 December 2012
Mad, sad or bad?
I've thought hard about whether I should publish this blog post. The answer? Probably not, but fuck it.
I should start by saying that I know I don't have the worst life. Not by a long shot. Terrible things happen to good people: children die, people get ill, legs get blown off, people lose all their money and sink into a rotten mess.
None of this has happened to me. I'm incredibly fortunate - many would consider me lucky. I own my own flat. I have a secure (I think!) job in a terrible job market. I have the most wonderful family. My friends are astonishing - I regularly wonder how the hell I've managed to meet them and keep them and have them care for me in the way that they do which, in the main, seems fairly unconditional...which is more than I expect from anyone and I fear is more than I can give. So yes, in many ways I'm lucky.
Yet on the flip side I suffer, and I mean SUFFER, from this horrible thing called depression. What the hell is depression? I think that most people think that depression is merely a bit of sadness – they'd possibly think that I'm just a bit down and blue…but that's not right. Unfortunately I think that most people don't understand depression at all. Lucky them, frankly.
Depression...mad, sad or bad? I'm inclined to think it's somewhere between the first two. My madness makes me sad. I become overwhelmed by this feeling of complete emptiness and loss of hope - it's physical, like the bottom of my stomach has fallen out and my heart literally aches. The world feels like a vile place, filled with happy people being happy who just make me so angry at everything. And the anger just makes me hate myself. It's so very destructive. I'm not bad though. I try hard not to be bad and, despite feeling like crap, I drag myself up and out to work every day. It's a matter of pride to me that I won’t let depression defeat me and ruin my professional life and leave me in a heap on the floor. I have a strangely strong and stubborn sense of self-preservation. In this sense, I am genuinely lucky – so far I’ve managed to beat that side of it. Others aren’t so lucky and can’t get up from the sofa and get themselves out and let themselves live. I hope that that doesn’t happen to me.
However, despite every concerted effort I make, the misery does filter through occasionally and, as a result, after being diagnosed nearly 5 years ago, last week I finally told my managing partner that I have depression. It's safe to say that he was pretty stunned. He had no idea and I'm kind of proud of that fact - that I have functioned for five years, never taking a single day off sick with my depression...I feel like I've done something pretty exceptional. He said that knowing it meant that he could make concessions where necessary - NO. That’s not what I want and that isn't why I told him. I told him only because I know that sometimes I retreat into myself, become hard to engage with and I know it affects others. Quiet is my way of getting through the day. I'm not especially unpleasant, I'm not shouty or demanding...I'm just quiet and unreceptive. And I felt that finally it needed to be explained.
When things are bad, which they are at the moment, I don't have any coping mechanisms. Everything becomes my personal Everest and I'm easily defeated. Tonight I received a letter which kind of floored me and has just reinforced how much my life disappoints me in every way. The flat, the job, the friends and family...they cease to mean anything because I'm just fundamentally unhappy. I don't really know what you do with that.
I wish I could make my depression go away but, try as I might - and I have - I can't. So instead I carry on and occasionally I'll be lucky enough to stumble across a book like Matthew Johnstone's “I Had a Black Dog" (buy it) which reminds me that I'm absolutely not alone in this and I'll suddenly feel quite normal again.