There are varying degrees of depression – some may experience mild depression that doesn’t impact their lives for a long or significant period; but others may experience depression that overshadows everything. And both circumstances are important and valid. Whether you’ve suffered for depression for a brief moment of your life; or the entirety of it: your life has been altered in some way because of this condition. A condition which is being highlighted as one of the biggest mental illnesses that people suffer with in today’s society, alongside anxiety. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 and depression has been found to be the predominant reason behind the loss of so many lives.
I have a man who has found the courage to contact me in relation to this blog post; he wishes to remain anonymous which as stated before, is always his right; but the fact that he still wishes to speak to me about his experiences is the most important thing.
1) Everyone experiences depression differently; how would you describe your mental health affects your daily life?
To be quite honest it varies from day to day. Some mornings (or afternoons depending on work) I can wake up and be absolutely fine. Straight out of bed and in for a shower, dressed and ready in no time at all. Other days i can wake up with no motivation. Simply getting out of bed I just think ‘I can’t be arsed I’ve got nothing to do anyway’. Then when I do winch myself out I’ll stand in the shower for what feels like hours just thinking about things. Anything from where did life go wrong to why the hell am I still standing here in the shower. I’ll have no motivation to get dressed or present myself. Nine times out of ten if I’m just in a hoody and no gel in my hair, it’ll be a tell tale sign of me having a down day. I just can’t be bothered to make myself presentable as I don’t feel I’m really worth doing so. But then there are days when news will drag me from being absolutely fine and dandy to being an absolute miserable git. It might even just be seeing my ex drive past me that triggers thoughts of where it went wrong there; why did it end up this way etc. My job kind of helps in some ways, and kills in others. I’m a taxi driver, mostly working evenings and nights at weekends. I’ll meet all walks of life and on a busy day I’ll be chatting all day to complete strangers, sometimes when its a longer run things get more in depth, but just talking to people takes your mind off of your own personal thoughts. But then on the flip side, a quiet Monday night sitting in a cab, alone, with only your phone to keep you company, the depressive thoughts slowly but surely creep back. Theres nobody else to talk to or no other stories in your mind, just your own personal self depreciating thoughts. I’ve actually done a lot better lately in controlling that as I downloaded amazon prime on my phone so I can watch TV in between jobs. But that also being said, sometimes I just don’t even want the TV on. I’ve removed myself from Facebook and Instagram more times than I can count now, I just really don’t have any interest in seeing that everyone else is happy when I’m, quite frankly, not. Seeing them with their kids at the park or their romantic little date nights. It feels as if they are just rubbing it in my face that these are things that could have been, and then just simply weren’t. Or how they can afford to go out and about all the time and I simply can’t. Even my social life has taken a toll and some things remind you of this on Facebook too.
2) Are you aware of the help and support available for those suffering with depression, if so, have you accessed any of it before?
I am fully aware of various support groups, websites and/or the support from some people that I just know personally. However, I don’t feel its something that anyone else can help. People either make you genuinely feel better, or make you feel crap. Going to a support group or going for therapy etc, I just feel is forced. It doesn’t feel natural, these people are paid to do or say these things and in personal experience I didn’t find it a help. What I found a help was having friends that didn’t know anything about it and spending time with them. Genuine encouragement for things that are triggered by the depression, in which they don’t even know about. I’ve found when you remove yourself from your own shoes and look at it retrospectively, help isn’t necessarily support workers and therapists, its actually just the natural people you know. I’m happy to admit that I don’t seek help from them, even though a lot of people are firm believers that I should. My help stems from those who’ve no idea at all.
3) What do you do to manage during the most difficult days?
It has been worse in the past. Rewinding some time now but there have been times where I’ve actually been on the brink of suicide. Last year I was with a girl who was absolute poison, she dragged me down quite heavily. She lived fairly near the coast and quite literally most nights I’d leave there to go to Kilve. I’d sit up on the top on a bench. I’d move to sit on the cliff edge. Go back to the bench. Go forward etc etc. Suicidal thoughts were heavy and I was feeling as if this was the only way out of my own head. My own feelings were leading me to this and I just couldn’t hack them anymore. I would self harm, feeling pain that wasn’t mental pain was a lot better than what was going through my head. My arm and leg are badly scarred which now makes me feel unhappy about appearances. Its my own fault but its a consequence of the worst period I’ve been through. It also reminds me daily not to let it get that bad again. Managing it now is a lot easier without her in my mind. Generally speaking I just let myself do what I need to do. Work takes my mind off things, however, even just going out and cleaning the car perks me up too. The simple things make the difference. I’ve hit drink to try and help and it does for a small period of time and then it just makes me even worse. Makes me emotional, in fact it made me a wreck. Its always the most simple of things that can twist the mood or feeling from one way to another. A simple song even. Anything from ABBA will always make me feel better in fairness. It all starts with dragging myself out of bed and putting some gel in my hair.
4) What advice would you give to someone else suffering with depression?
To be honest everyone faces different hurdles, there’s a different outlook, different things that trigger it and so on. To be absolutely fair its down to that person how they deal with it. Everyone is different. My personal advice is to keep the cards close to your chest. Only let certain people in, and use those who don’t know to help without knowing. The biggest comfort for me is that some don’t know, and spending time with them just helps without it being forced. This of course wouldn’t work for everyone and for some the help is comforting. Really its a process of elimination.
5) What are your thoughts and feelings during periods of depression?
The thoughts and feelings are a little hit and miss really. Varying I guess. At the time of said poisonous ex I never felt good enough, as if I was trying my hardest to be right and just never was. I was myself at the beginning and all was well, and slowly she was making it known that wasn’t cutting it. I felt, as I was smitten with her, I had to make it work. When she decided without my knowledge to have an abortion, I felt I wasn’t good enough to be a father, that I wasn’t good enough to be any part of a family. Mostly that’s what led to suicidal thoughts. The turn of events from that are a long story, which I won’t bore you with. However, mostly my thoughts are now that, especially when I wake up to an empty house, I’ll slowly get ready after my shower, and I’ll sit in the garden having a cigarette and I just think to myself… all the things I need to do, or could do, or should do… but I can’t be arsed. I look at my surroundings and just think why am I here? Why am I still doing this? Why am I continuing to do the things I don’t enjoy, and why can’t I just be happy for once? Those mornings I really struggle to switch off from it. I can’t look at my phone, I can’t watch TV, I don’t even feel like going out. I look around at people smiling and happy and I get jealous. They are happy in themselves, why can’t I be? Why do I have to be miserable and glum? What do they have that I don’t? I mean, I know I look like a young Barry Chuckle but even he made it big, had a wife, a family, a happy life. What’s the deal, how do I even achieve that? A lot of the time I don’t feel like I have a purpose in life, I don’t feel as if I mean anything to anyone at all really. I guess its just demoralizing myself half the time and I’m being stupid. But trust me if I could change it I bloody well would. I’ll never forget reading a post on Facebook when Robin Williams committed suicide, it said that those who spend their life making other people happy, other people smile… they are the ones who are not happy in themselves. I’m always joking, laughing, making others smile and happy, making them laugh with stupid (and really crap) jokes… but its just never enough for the way I feel.
6) Do you speak openly about your mental health? If not, how do you feel people would react if you did?
Not particularly. There’s a select few people who know about it, but that’s only because I’ve felt the want to tell them about it. Or just really needed advice. Talking about it like this with you is fairly easy, I’ve never met you before so you don’t know me and I don’t know you so to speak. So it doesn’t really matter in my eyes. However, for those that do know me, I feel it would change their outlook of me. I feel they will almost tip toe around me, avoid the subject and act as if they are walking on egg shells. I don’t want that, I don’t want my friends to suddenly become fake. So that’s why I rather keep it to myself the majority of the time. That way my friends stay real and I can escape even for just minutes at a time.
7) What has depression taught you about life?
It’s too short. It is too short to sit and mope about. It’s too short to just go and end it before it’s started. Happiness will be around the corner, it’s just a matter of time. Ask me that question on a down day and I’m sure the answer would be totally different. But I’m having a good day, I’ve not actually been productive but I know I’ve things to look forward to etc. But it has taught me that life isn’t easy, but it’s certainly not worth giving up on, even on the darkest of days.
8) What are the common misconceptions about people who suffer with depression?
Most people seem to think the word depression can be thrown around lightly. From my reckoning of it, it’s not something that is found in everyone so to speak. It’s also not just about feeling down once in a while. It’s a lifelong illness. When I was first diagnosed as depressed, and put on anti depressants, I told several people. And all of them said that I’ll be fine in a couple of months. Infact my cousin was stubbornly insistent that I don’t need to be on the anti depressants and that I was fine. She didn’t know what was going through my head, how I felt and even what has gone on since. And she never will after the lack of support she gave. Commonly I’ve found first hand and from an outside view of others with depression, it seems that people think it’s ok to joke about it and take the mick out of those who have it. Depression isn’t just in thoughts either, it’s a heartfelt emotion too. It’s not THINKING, it’s FEELING.
9) How does it make you feel when people use the word ‘depressed’ to describe feelings of sadness? Do you feel it is a word used too commonly without people knowing the true reality of the condition?
I guess some of the above answers this one too. But it’s actually quite frustrating. Depression isn’t because your mum wouldn’t get you a puppy or that it’s raining and you wanted to go out and do something, it’s something you can’t shake off. Sure you can do things to take your mind off it but you can’t just shake it off. All the time I’m seeing young girls saying that they are depressed. Hell, have a day in my shoes and see how you feel at the end of it! Sometimes I don’t think they could handle it if they had to, which is a worrying thought. It’s so frustrating, almost as if they are taking the piss out of those of us who do genuinely have this illness. Sure, it’s not like you can see it, as if we are missing a limb, but it’s much like when you buy a new car. You see loads of others on the road. Because you have it, you notice it in others. You can pick out someone who is using the term for the sake of maybe even getting attention from a mile away. Those who have it don’t often talk openly about it. (Infact, if I hadn’t had a drink or 3 when I saw your story on Instagram I probably wouldn’t have put my hand up either..).
10) Have you taken medication to manage your mental illness, if so, what was it and how was your experience of this?
I was given Naproxin (I think) at first to see how things went, before they wanted to up the dosage, however, what antidepressants do is, thankfully, bring your lows higher. But at the same time they bring your highs lower. They bring you to a medium in which it stops the worse effects from being so bad. But it also meant the things that would make you happy and cheerful, would barely bring you a smile. I decided to stop taking medication and try hard to control it myself, which isn’t easy I admit. However it’s doable if done right. I hated the fact that my highs were still only a medium and that I still didn’t feel fantastic even if things were going great. Another thing I’d noticed is it took my emotions away. I felt no love or attachment to anything. I’m an enthusiast (read anorak) on one particular car, and I’ve run the owners club for years for that car. But I found myself attempting to sell them all and hand the club over to another good friend and member and withdraw completely. Thankfully he talked me out of that (and it took him quite some time and paying for me to visit him in Yorkshire for a weekend to drum it into me). A close family friend who was like a grand father to me passed away, and I didn’t even cry at the funeral. I’m awful for crying at funerals even if I’m only there to support someone else. I narrowed it down to being the medication. Stopping it has brought back my ability to feel emotion, and ok I have pretty down days but I also have brilliant, awesome, even epic days and genuinely belly laugh at stuff again. I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone, but that’s how it works for me.