A story by twitterer @mrdoman (Mike Doman) about his experiences living with depression.
It’s been tough to decide whether I put this up or not, and I have decided to because I think it’s worth sharing, particularly as a male who suffers from depression. Depression has not affected me negatively in my professional life, in fact, it’s probably helped me more than hindered me because it’s made me doubly as driven to do something special, lift my game so to speak as I’m my harshest critic. My personal life is a different story, though. Anyway, on with the post:
I’m sad. Quite sad. Have been for the last few days, but I’m coming out of it now. Suffering depression, as I do, has led me to become resigned to the fact that this will almost certainly happen to me on a semi-regular basis for the rest of my life. As REM’s “Bad Day”, Nick Drake and an assortment of Eels songs waft out of my iPod dock, coating my room in some kind of melancholic stench, I question (as I inevitably do, during every one of my “episodes”) why I don’t just hop on the meds and remove myself of the bother of going through all this.
The only answer I can really come to is that I have some kind of perverse attraction to my condition. Perhaps because it makes me feel like I’m different, an individual, perhaps because I like my emotions too much to take a pill to suppress them, or perhaps it’s simply because I don’t like feeling like I don’t have some semblance of control (which is a little laughable, all things considered). There’s a particularly wonderful Eels song, where the opening lines are “Do you know what it’s like/to fall to the floor/ and cry your guts out ‘til you got no more/ Hey man, now you’re really living” – maybe that’s it.
That’s certainly not to say that I enjoy when I feel like this – the gnawing self-doubt, the panic attacks and the three or so hours I sleep a night because my brain won’t shut up telling me I’m a shit guy (not to mention that I’m a royal arse to everyone I know) – more that I enjoy feeling. I enjoy the fact that my semi-regular black spots are generally counteracted by an equally potent bounce-back, and that I appreciate them more for having felt like shit, along with everything else.
The thing is that I don’t actually have too much to be depressed about. I have a wonderful home life, amazing friends and a job that offers me more opportunity than most. I struggle with this every time as I look at my life compared to so many millions of others, and chastise myself for having the audacity to actually get depressed. This doesn’t help the situation in the slightest.
It is really such a horrible place to be in and, without seeking your sympathy, it is simply exhausting. I struggle wondering who to trust, who to talk to, who I should socialise with and lose every confidence in the gifts I’ve been lucky enough to cultivate over my short time on the planet.
To put it bluntly, it’s shithouse. I’ve tried to explain my condition verbally to friends and never quite succeeded. Stephen Fry describes the feeling as thinking that everything’s gone wrong “because you’re a c*nt”, I’ve even heard it described simply as intense feelings of sadness by a rather average psychologist – but that hardly covers it either.
For me the feeling is reminiscent of when your parents were disappointed in you – that gut wrenching feeling that you’ve let everyone down, except the fact is compounded because you’re both the disappointed and the disappointee. It this feeling that you not only could do better, but you should be better. It’s this thing where you realise that you’ve got lucky with all your talents and you’ve gone and squandered them like a miserly old man in the 1900s who carked it, had nobody at his funeral because it was raining and let’s be honest, he was a bit of a prick anyway.
The lucky thing is that I have a way out – writing. When I write (or read writing like this), I’m reminded that there is something in this world which is inherently beautiful and only corrupted by the worst kind of human. That words, when used properly, can be mellifluous from the page – even more so in the mind than their spoken counterparts.
To be honest (as I promised at the start I would be), when I’m in the depths of a hole, I feel that I write better, at least when writing about what’s in my head (as opposed to some kind of document for work) because I’m completely encompassed by what’s in it. I can’t be any other way. You can’t be half-arsed about depression. Similarly, when the up-time arrives, I’m encompassed by the beauty I know will exist on the other side of this.
I’ve gone on for far too long about this (NOTE: This has been edited down from five written pages), but I’ll end with this: Depression is a horrible, beautiful thing to me, and I say that as someone who suffers it moderately (I have unending sympathy for those who suffer it severely). It drives me and it destroys me. It softens me and makes me completely unfeeling. However, it has made me who I am, for what that’s worth. It characterises my relationships with my friends and family and without their support I have no idea where I’d be. So this post, more than anything, is both a call to action and a thank you to the people around me. If you know someone with depression, try to understand them – they do love you, I’m sure. And to my friends, I hope you’re around for many more years of my bullshit.