Talk.

Ok, so here’s a thing. Depression is the number one most diagnosed mental disorder in the UK with about a quarter of the population experiencing it in the course of a year. Think of four people you know. Odds are one of them is experiencing a weird kind of pain that you have no idea about, or maybe you do know and you have no idea how to help. Maybe you’re the one in four. I am. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Mark Twain said “write what you know”. So I will.  Since December 2010 my mind has been playing nasty tricks on me, making me feel things harder, think things through badly.

 

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Its not about being sad. Its not about crying. Its about guilt and self loathing.  Its about the cycle of doom which is going round and round in your mind without you realizing it. Its about cutting yourself off and being alone in something because you don’t want to burden other people with your stupid brain issues. Its about assuming the roles of other people in your mind as you put words into their imaginary mouths. Its about going to parties and feeling invisible. Its about how five minutes feels like an eternity in a room full of people where you’ve somehow never felt more alone.  Its about doing nothing. Not bothering to get out of bed. Not looking after yourself. Punishing yourself for not being better than you are. Not being as good as other people. But who told you that? You did.

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Depression is a master of disguise. I’m often the loudest in the room. The most boisterous. I command. I attention seek. I laugh and I make jokes and I have a good time. But there’s always a part of me, even when I’m with my closest friends, that feels out of place. Like somehow I shouldn’t be there and it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t. That its probably what everyone wants anyway. Someone who suffers or has suffered depression on any level can instantly recognize it in others  because its like looking in a damn mirror. Your own pain reflected back at you. We know man. We get it. But what about the people that don’t? The partners, the parents, the friends? The people that worry on the outside of the glass house but can’t find the door to get inside. The people who have an entire toolbox but not a single thing that they can use to help. Help. Get help? How can I help?  Cheer up. Fuck, look at that I’m cured. They feel useless. You feel useless. We all scream for ice cream.

 

Let’s take a moment to think about the suffering of non-sufferers. Watching someone you know dig themselves a pit to curl up and hide in and standing on the lip looking down is terrifying. Its as though you’re both stumbling about in heavy fog, both trying to find a way to each other and a way out.  Missing the tip of their fingers by a hair as you reach out to help in any way you can. Its watching them sink in quicksand and beginning to sink yourself. Its the empty void swallowing you both. Its arguing and fighting. For us its rage that we feel for ourselves  projected on the ones closest to us because we don’t know what else to do. We push you further and further away bringing you closer to the edge of the pit. You are our punchbag. Our pillow fort. You are the only good thing we have and we don’t deserve you. We’re so sorry. We don’t know how to change our behavior yet. We know you don’t have the answers. We know its hard for you too. Separate us from the illness. We aren’t one in the same. Depression is selfish and nasty. Depression shuts you out and keeps us isolated. We need you more than we can ever articulate. Please don’t give up on us.

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So, what do we do? What is the answer? Medication? It helps. For real, it helps. The feeling of anti-depressants creates is best described as “Everything still sucks but it doesn’t matter as much”. You don’t go numb. You don’t suddenly walk out the door with your own theme tune playing in your head to be greeted by the mental equivalent of a sunny day. There are down sides though. I find I can’t really get drunk on them. Ever. Bad idea. My body tends to eventually just reject all the booze in my system at once. Which is horrendous. There’s the fact that if you accidentally stop taking them, you will crash and have a meltdown. Frighten your mum, worry your friends and set yourself back a few months. There’s the fact that they become kind of a crutch. I know I need them. I know that if I don’t take them I won’t work properly. But I do have the answer.

 

Talk. Own your madness. Know that its ok to not be ok. That your friends want to know if you’re feeling low. That it won’t be easy, but that there’s a major difference between actually having no one and choosing not to see the people closest to you as your shield in the fight. Show your weakness and let that in itself show you your own strength. Know that depression is not emotional weakness. Know that your loved ones want to understand, and the only way they can is if you explain. Own how you feel. Focus on you now and make the decision to care enough about yourself to get better. Reach out in the dark and finally find the hand that’s always reaching back.

 

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An Ode to Friends

For the last week I have been deliberately avoiding making contact with a recent conquest.  D (for doesn’t know what he wants) made it very clear he ‘just’ wanted to be friends (See my post ‘Romance vs ‘Singledom’ ‘ for the full rant). So, I thought; give the guy some space, let him cool off, allow him the time without any sort of pointless “hi are you alive” texts, to really consider what it is that he is willing to give to this so called ‘friendship’.  When I complained about D to a friend this morning, she told me  “you have friends who love you, an awesome home, and a job…sooner or later the rest will fall into place” and she’s right. To my mind, as I’ve said before, a friendship requires a far longer term commitment than any sort of ‘romantic’ endeavor, so why is it offered up as a substitute so easily? Seriously, I have friends who I’ve known since I was 3 years old, I have a friend who I physically helped puke up a dodgy cocktail in a supposedly ‘high end’ London club, I have a friend who once managed to impale herself with a pair of fish tweezers which I then had to remove from between her toes to avoid a lengthy trip to a and e and I have one friend who following an overdose, aged 15, I visited in hospital and did nothing but crack jokes at for the whole half hour visit. If you think that regular bonking and mutual fanciage equates to any of that then you are more out of your mind than I am!

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I have grown up with a lot of male friends; for a long time when I was little there weren’t any girls to play with, so I hung out with my older brother and his friends and I grew up close to my three male cousins. Whilst I did my fair share of playing with Barbies, I also spent a hell of a lot of time building dams in the local brook, making mud pies and eating bugs in the garden. This is the sort of thing which evolved into my being totally comfortable among large groups of males.  I am not a girls’ girl, until my second year of Uni I was very very wary of other women, and their mystical effects on my friends. It wasn’t so much that I saw other females as threats, more that I thought that their romantic interests in my friends would cause them to unwisely spend their time with what I considered to be lesser beings. The kinds of girls who go from relationship to relationship from their early teens and quickly assume that they are only able to function fully when associated with someone else.  Now there is obviously a chance that its bitterness talking, that if I had had any sort of long term romantic male contact that I wouldn’t be so negative towards these girls. There was one girl at Uni who I must mention here.

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R (for Rabid Bitch) began as one of my closest friends; we both had sort of a tough one at school, had pretty low self esteem as a result of the ‘popular’ kids’ constant put-downs. Despite having a hard time adjusting to the people she was living with, R soon made a huge group of friends at uni and pretty much became Queen Bee, she was the Regina George of my year. Then, something miraculous happened; boys started to fancy her (apparently for the first time).  The transformation this girl went through during second year of Uni was astounding. Gone was the initial loyalty and mutual understanding upon which our very important (to me) friendship had been built, suddenly it was like school all over again. It started with little things, like put downs in front of her hoard of adoring male followers, progressed to her climbing the object of my affections like a tree in front of me, making out with two guys she knew I liked and climaxed the time when I literally asked her to stay with me and she left. That night was one of the most humiliating of my life; without going into much detail, I am occasionally socially incapable and essentially don’t get drunk anymore because it simply ends in tears (mine). That night, following a fundraising event attended by pretty much everyone from my course, I had a minor melt down and ended up slumped by a Tesco Express, physically conquered by my emotions (I had probably had two or three glasses of wine as well but that was nothing at the time) . It was the kind of crying where you cannot catch your breath and your legs just give out, the kind of crying that you do curled up, alone,  in the foetal position, not in the street whilst your peers file past staring at you with eyes that can’t see past their own perspective. Luckily, I had, by this time, discovered three people who could understand. These three stood by me as I sobbed uncontrollably for about 45 minutes and it has never since been brought up as a joke, because honestly it wasn’t funny. I have never felt so completely out of control in my entire life, and I know that if R had simply stayed with me, been there, then i would have been fine. But then, I never would have realized that she was utter poison and run into the open arms of my glorious piggies.

 

Being abandoned by a close friend is far far worse than being betrayed by a lover could ever possibly be. Friends are those in whom you can recognize a part of yourself, for me they form the majority of the fabric of who I am. They are the people with whom you can get through literally anything; sure we laugh at each others’ misfortunes (because, by and large, they are hilarious), yes they use the words “I told you so” way too often, yes they have to be the ones to tell you when your paramour is acting like an utter bell-end and/or is clearly not interested in you. But ultimately they form the family that you can chose; I am lucky enough to say with absolute confidence that my friends are my soul mates. Each and every one of them (who will doubtless be reading this and smiling)  has seen me at my worst and still chosen to be associated with me. Each of them has watched me struggling on my belly in the various puddles of shit in life’s never-ending obstacle course, and they have picked me up time and time again, soiling themselves with my putrid misery and never once complained about it. Good job friends, you are better than any admirer could ever even dream of being!