I thought it might be nice to write a little about me. Not a Bio, you really couldn’t give a fuck where I went to school. Apologies for the stream of consciousness and the subseqent unreadability, but I wanted to write this:
This is somewhat akin to an AA meeting, without the deference to a weird superpower that made me so flawed in his image.
My name’s Duncan Smith and I’m a depressive.
That’s not to say I am mopey, have a bleak pessimistic outlook on life or am a bit of a goth. This is something deep and life altering, without a specific medical diagnosis or cause. Whilst I do occasionally have ‘Heaven Knowns I’m Miserable Now’ in my head, it’s just because I love the Smiths.
Some of you will know this in part, some may have no idea, probably only one person has insight to the full extent of my troubles.
So I thought I might write this partly for catharsis, partly to explain and apologise for my actions and failings over many years and also to thank some people, though not by name for helping me, whether knowingly or not, and keeping me alive.
What do I mean by depressive? I mean that every day, every normal thing that most people do is a challenge, and one that I usually fail. Getting out of bed. Cleaning my house. Throwing out the rubbish. Sleeping. Leaving the house, even for a pint of milk. Answering the phone. Opening post. Entering my office. Each of these has eluded me, and there are a lot more things I simply cannot do at times.
I suffer from panic attacks, almost perpetual anxiety. I live on the edge, the slightest thing will have adrenaline pumping through me, I hyperventilate, panic and shut down, unable to move or deal with whatever insignificant thing I am required to do. All those times I am horrendously late, I will be sat at home, usually reading some utterly uninteresting article on the web, or suddenly arranging my books, anything to avoid doing what I need to, and also to distract me from my failure to do it. Imagine a small furry mammal, startled. I effectively roll up into a ball and hope nothing bad happens.
I lose touch with people. As my comfort zone contracts and I rarely venture half a mile from my house, even on a good day I see people less and less. Common ground becomes smaller with time, less of our lives are shared. I become seemingly unsociable and unreliable. In the vagaries of my mind I start to believe that as no-one comes to help that nobody cares, in reality I spend so much time covering my tracks and hiding my problems that most people probably have no idea, I am just not around much or communicative. The longer I spiral down the more this self perpetuates.
I drink too much in social circumstances. As with most people I feel uncomfortable in certain circumstances. Very frequently I cannot cope with people, social situations. To overcome this I tend to drink, fast. There comes a time of equilibrium where I can converse with people, feel like I am myself. I start to enjoy it. I carry on drinking. I get to be belligerent, or worse. I make a dick of myself. I become self conscious about social situations.
Contrary to what you might read in the press, this is not shirking. This is not me being lazy. I came within a whisker of losing my job last year, and it’s far from secure now as a result. If I lost that I would have probably lost my house, had to massively downsize, sell a large quantity of things I have and try to rebuild my life from the very bottom at aged 35 with a terrible sickness record and borderline agoraphobia at the time. All the time this happened, I watched like passenger, perfectly capable of understanding what was happening but utterly incapable of acting to intervene. I genuinely wouldn’t wish this to its full extent on anyone, though there are a few in power that I would like to let have a month of it. The mind is a terrible thing to taste.
One of the most intriguing aspects to such an ill-defined illness is self belief. I know there’s a stigma, I know there are people that genuinely don’t believe in mental illness, though they probably think being cold and wet causes influenza. I know that you’re not meant to care what people think, but if people think you’re a sham, a liar and a lazy bastard it’s hard not to care a little. It’s also hard not to question who’s right. When I lie in bed for another day, barely moving, not doing anything I think about what is wrong with me, And ostensibly there is nothing. I haven’t been abused as a child, I haven’t suffered from PTSD, my life’s been okay. Not full of privilege, but I really can’t complain. I have two caring parents and a good brother. So why won’t I get out of bed? I start thinking maybe I am somehow deceiving myself into this state, just because I am inherently lazy. I don’t think it’s true. But it’s there, in my head.
That I am writing this isn’t to say that I am cured, there isn’t a cure per se, there is astoundingly little provision for depression and anxiety available through the NHS despite it being a significant killer. I will no longer take anti-depressants, the side effects are close to unbearable and the quality of life is not worth it. Their effectiveness seems to vary widely and as there is hardly ever an actual diagnosis on people with anxiety or ‘low mood’, just an arbitrary prescription of SSRI medication and a vague hope that they won’t top themselves.
Before I depart on an angry tangent about the lack of care provision, and its shuffling to local councils rather than being a core part of the health service, I shall draw a line under that. Suffice to say, it makes me quite passionate.
So… I am not cured, this is part catharsis as I said. Also I have a vague and vain hope that maybe someone in a similar position to me might read this and realise that it’s okay to speak about it, and that they’re not the only one that has felt as they do, and that while they’re in isolation, there are probably thousands of other people out there.
I recently moved house, and I hope that that act of making a clean break can help with some of the problems I was having, though I know it’s no easy fix, I still have a lot of hard work to do and I have to live with the fact that I am afflicted, that I am slightly dysfunctional, accept it and learn to live with it. This is what drives me. Where before I used to wait for a cure, wait for help, wait for a knight in shining armour. None was ever going to arrive and I have to do this myself.
This is not a cry for help, nor a plea for sympathy, I really don’t want your sympathy. This just is, this is the truth about my life, and probably many other people as well.