Thursday, April 28, 2016

Closing the Book on Depression

A little over twelve months ago, I wrote a blog about depression - it was 'well received' and yet only scratched at the surface and that was down to my belief that some things should remain as personal as possible. I come from a generation that still views depression as a weakness, despite many people having suffered from it, at times. The thing about happiness is it's like recovering from an operation; as time passes you forget just how bad it was.

This goes with my theory that there is no such thing as rock bottom. When you think your life can't get any worse, you are deluding yourself. What actually happens is bottom becomes the new normal, opening up chasms of new depths to plumb.

The irony, for me, is that on April 19, 2015, when I was hitting a new low, I had no idea that the chasms about to open up to my then rock-bottom-self were too horrible to contemplate. If I thought April was a new nadir, then I wasn't expecting May and June. Really, I didn't think things could get so much worse. But they did and some people around me noticed that I was becoming... a worry.

Murray's death seemed to be timed perfectly to temper my heartbreak at a new Tory government; I was too concerned about him than anything else and the GE results just compounded the feeling that life had to get so much worse before I could see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. Being offered a job that didn't pan out didn't help and then being given hope from others that also didn't pan out made me think that people will say anything rather than say 'you're not right for this job.'

By September, I was not earning anything. I was not eligible for any benefits, my wife earns just too much money and I began scratching around, calling in debts, selling stuff and walking next door's dog to buy food and this existence lasted for four months until our neighbours' called an end to the dog walking. I could understand their frustrations - what if I got a job and left them in the lurch? I mean, there's only 25 registered dog walkers in Northampton, what were the chances of them getting another one at short notice? However badly my neighbours handled it, I can't blame them, because I bang on a lot about how people really don't care about others when they have no understanding of how bad things can get.

Anyhow, I'm waiting for a start date for my first proper job in three years. I've been paranoid about it, because as I discovered this week, depression isn't just a leaky tap you can switch off and even after a couple of weeks of positivity inside the Hall house, I woke up yesterday morning feeling like everything was about to cave in under me. Nothing has gone badly wrong (the car's brakes are knackered) and when misery has been a constant companion for so long and takes a break, you get lulled into a false sense of security.

I was in a solitary and withdrawn mood the day before yesterday and I avoided people on my dog walk because of that. I needed space and time to dwell and play out bad case scenarios to satisfy the demon that lurks and thrives on negativity. Then I woke up yesterday morning and instead of feeling like the previous day was a blip, I woke up thinking about Murray and how his death has affected us so much worse than previous deaths and how last May was still a yawning black hole of horror. I think Marley knew I was feeling melancholy because she crept next to me and cuddled up on one side, with Doug sprawled, unaware, to my right.

Then one of those Facebook memories came up and I remembered it was the day before we noticed something wrong with Murray. Our last long dog walk before the nightmare descended. That was the day the wife thought he had conjunctivitis but it was actually lymphoma.

I beat myself up about it at least once a week despite the fact that what Murray had was a death sentence however you look at it. He wouldn't have been cured and we would have had an undetermined amount of time to be looking at him, wondering when the nightmare would return. The fact he went quickly is really the best outcome, especially as he wasn't happy, but, you know, we're supermen when it comes to our loved ones and the past is always the worst time to reflect on.

What usually happens when I feel this way is I take a leaf out of the handbook for depression and go for a long walk and as some of you will remember from blogs passim that this usually ends up in one or two of the dogs covered in unsavoury animal poo and me wondering why on earth I thought it was a good idea. Cleaning shit from a dog that isn't its own is a great leveller especially when you feel down.

It hasn't helped that I've been bored. With nothing mapped out, I'd go through my daily ritual of an hour or two on the jobs pages; a bit of blowing things up on a Facebook game, reading the papers and doing housework. Currently I'm confident enough to not look at the jobs pages and with recent footballing events and the government getting up my nose at every move, the desire to look through the papers - real and on-line - hasn't been there for a few days, nor, I expect, will it for a few more. It's been too cold to do anything in the garden and honestly, I'm terrified of putting my back out or buggering up one of my shoulders before I start this job. I feel as if I should buy a containment suit for between now and my start date so I can't catch a cold or any germs. Oh, and then I ricked my neck...

A year ago I ended the blog by talking about my book project. It's crazy to think that it still hasn't been seen by anyone apart from me and that instead of 40,000 words it's now 77,000 and I haven't touched it since February because it is 'finished' to the point where I need feedback. That was a big positive in a year of negatives and yet it's been dormant, much like much of my life has felt since 2011.

So... This is all very down and dirty. The problem is I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm excited about it, so there's this fear that something will extinguish it. There is no such thing as an irrational thought when you suffer from depression and I wonder whether depression is a tangible cause of disaster. I mean, could your mental state of expecting the worst lead you to scenarios where the worst can happen? Maybe even subconsciously influencing it? I'm sure someone could tell me, I'm just not sure I want to know.

Yet, the future is brighter. It is, even in my down state of mind I can see that. New job. Easing of money worries. Purchase of much needed things. Holidays. The resurrection of pipe dreams and the thing I think is more important than anything - regaining self-esteem, because it doesn't matter how much someone tells you that you're not worthless, at the time you know you are and, ironically, you know how to flush it out of your system.

If I've learnt one thing in the last year it's that I did, do and have a place in the world. I have made a difference and I have said things that people identify with or have helped or made them understand.

Sometimes the person you see isn't the person inside.

I might feel as though ... well, people who have been where I have been will know all too well how I feel and that's really all that matters. Today, the demon is feeling admonished and is withdrawing; I can feel it because it doesn't like the fact that I can see the future again or that I can see how I can make it better. My mood has changed due to these 700 words, proving that sometimes catharsis through writing is worth a hundred psychiatrists. Everything is fucking horrible, but I've been playing that record for too long and I know it off by heart. It's time for a new beat.

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