November 6, 2013

Graeme"You’re the last person I’d expect to be depressed..."

"What have you got to be depressed about?"

"Depression isn't real...it’s an excuse people use for being moody".

I have heard all of these things said by people I am very close to. One of my closest friends genuinely used to think that depression was a myth

I am the life and soul of every party, the last man standing, always there with a witty one liner. If you need cheering up, I’m your man. I am supremely confident, gregarious and cheerful, a guy who loves to entertain.

I never for a moment thought I'd call myself "mentally ill"

I have always realised depression was a very real thing but never for a moment thought I'd call myself "mentally ill".

I am married to a wonderful, supportive, beautiful wife. I have two amazing, young, healthy kids. I have a nice house, a decent job, plenty of friends and family.

Three years ago, I walked out on my family. I told my wife I no longer loved her or wanted to be with her, and moved out. I told my three year old daughter I had to leave because if I stayed my head was going to explode. Imagine hearing that when you are three years old! My wife told me not to go. She begged me not to leave my home, her, my three year old daughter and ten month old son. She told me that she thought I was depressed and that she had seen some signs but that they only made sense now. Not one for being told how I feel, or what to do, I abandoned my life, with the only exception being my job.

In the three weeks I was away, I behaved terribly. I drank to excess, hardly ate, ran up a silly amount of debt in a very short space of time, and said awful things to my wife during the conversations (and ultimately blazing arguments) we had.

I was diagnosed with suffering from depression and anxiety

For some reason I still struggle to understand, my wife agreed to take me back. Naturally, and thankfully, there were conditions. The first was that I seek medical help for what she recognised as depression. The second was that we go for relationship counselling. The third was that if I ever left again there could be no coming back.

I was diagnosed with suffering from depression and anxiety. I was prescribed antidepressants and referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The referral took some time to come through. All the while I was trying to repair the damage I had caused with my wife and kids, and my friends and family.

Peoples’ perception of me has changed. On some levels, I think people have some newfound respect for me, but on others people are wary of saying the wrong thing. Or they interpret my moods as always being either symptomatic or asymptomatic, rather than just being.

I have found that telling people helps, but only when I feel the need

I have found that telling people helps, but only when I feel the need. There is a stigma attached. I’m a big strapping guy, and to the outside world I am a happy-go-lucky guy who has no reason to be down. When I see articles about attitudes to depression and mental illness I feel like more needs to be done. But I don’t get “offended” by ignorance.

The recent furore over fancy dress costumes in supermarkets seemed, to me, over the top – no offense was intended, it was just people being naive and behind the times. I will still find myself calling friends “nutters”, “crazy” or “lunatic” and I think that’s fine, in the right context. I think that sometimes people get too hung up on being “offended”. I wonder if all of these people are truly upset, or just saying what they think is the right thing. And I think that when the focus shifts to semantics over what terminology we can use as part of our day-today lexicon the point is being missed.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. It is a source of concern for my wife that I seem to have found it easier to spill my thoughts into what I am writing now than to articulate them to her. The reasons for this are hard to explain, but basically I think it’s because I’m emotionally crippled, and my laptop doesn’t ask awkward questions.

The point is, it’s ok to be depressed. Well, actually, it’s not ok, it sucks. But there is no shame in it, people should be able to talk about it openly. I recently changed jobs, and truly had to think twice about declaring my condition. This shouldn’t be the case. So, if you are depressed, spread the word. Don’t be a bore, but don’t hide your darkness under a bushel. A problem shared, as they say....

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