It’s a lonely old thing this depression malarkey.
Having suffered various degrees of depression over the years I find myself at the age of 51 doggedly fighting what is the most profound and desperate black time I have encountered. I continue to function - at work, at home, and socially – but I am dogged by suicidal thoughts on a daily basis and have had some difficult nights where these thoughts have laid siege.
It’s become clear to me that, at least in my case, there is a gulf of difference between thoughts of suicide and actually taking my own life. I have thought about suicide in great depth and about how I could say goodbye to my daughters in a way that minimises the legacy of a father who has taken his own life (as if!). I've written reams and reams to try to give those I would leave behind an insight into my innermost thoughts. The bottom line really is that I will never do it anyway. But there's the rub. Just because you know that you won't do it doesn't make the pain any less. And feeling this way continually over a long period is incredibly debilitating.
So what do I do?
I manage these horrific feelings in several ways. I keep them in perspective which is difficult but I find doable - I know that the feelings ebb and flow and if I am patient things will change. That's how it works for me anyway. I do self-analyse an awful lot. To help me cope I also tend to drink, which sometimes is quite effective in anaesthetising an immediate feeling but has a very negative cumulative effect on my outlook, so I constantly attempt to control it. I try to exercise, and getting off my backside when all I want to do is crawl into a hole is very effective in changing mood – if and when I can actually achieve it. I have also sought help via the doctor and been prescribed anti-depressants. It’s difficult to know actually how effective they are.
Perhaps the best thing I have done, and this is definitely in response to the Time to Change campaign, is to communicate my feelings to (some of) my support network, which I am very lucky to have. The fear of judgement is quite difficult to manage, and choosing an audience is essential I think, but it really does help to share. I have experience in the past of people and organisations reacting negatively to mental health issues (depression and anxiety) but there seems to be a change in mood these days, which is useful. The reactions of people are incredibly varied. Some people just don't get it. Some people run away. Some people get very upset. Some people (very close and trusted friends) don't talk to me anymore. Other people are fabulous, non-judgemental, supportive and just lovely.
I will battle through this horror. I will be confident, charming, funny and gregarious again - very soon. It’s my life, I'm dealing with it. I won't lose it to the thoughts I sometimes have because I am in charge of my thoughts, they are not in charge of me. I give them space, I learn to live alongside them, but I won't encourage them and over time they will wither and die. I won’t.
What do you think of Mike's story?