Living with Depression – a personal account on living with the “common cold” of mental illnesses

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The first thing I’ll say is Yes, this is looking for attention. Get over it.

Depression is considered to be the “common cold” of mental illness in terms of how common it is. Yet, because of the huge stigma around it, it’s still a hidden illness. When someone asks you how you are, you’re not going to say “bad enough to be fair, have depression, what about yourself?” It can’t be that blasé to be fair as it’s very serious but it shouldn’t be the other extreme either where a person can’t open up about their most intimate feelings to people they love like close friends or family. People can’t just “get over it” either, it’s like telling someone with a broken leg “get over it and go for a walk”, it’s not that easy and all that approach achieves is people feeling like they’re failing at not recovering, hurtng their confidence. Nobody who has ever just “gotten over it” has ever really had depression as it’s just not possible.

Like, for people who doubt the power of the stigma around mental illness, I can guarantee anybody who reads this will at some point think I’m just looking for attention or exaggerating things. Well, I can’t give a response to that other than to say if I’m considered to be exaggerating then I’d hate to see anybody you consider to have an “acceptable” level of mental ill-health that they can be open about it and not be judged. Besides the fact the constant judgement is part of the problem. If someone is helped by putting up their dreary life-story on Facebook, so they can get sympathy, then so what? Maybe things are that bad that’s the level of desperation they’re at. Maybe they wouldn’t have to cry out for attention publicly if they didn’t live in a culture where that’s the only way they can be listened to. Even if it’s only a “Did you see that eejit’s thing there last night on being depressed?” in the yard at school or in the workplace, that’s far better to the person concerned that at least people know, it’s out there.

On to my own thing anyway. I’m not giving my life story as it’s not important but all I can say is I don’t really know where it came from. If I did I could sort it but I still don’t know. I first started feeling the early signs of it when I was about 12 I suppose. Having very little confidence in myself, being afraid of every and any social situation, not being able to do basic things people my age were doing, like be involved in sport for a fair period and not dropping out after only awhile. I felt “sad”, that was it, I didn’t understand it, it wasn’t always there but something wasn’t right. Then into my early teens things became more mixed, I was better overall but there would be short-term periods when things would skydive. I just put it down to being a teenager and everyone was going through it, I was nothing special there. But as things went on, as I went into my mid-late teens, things were getting worse. I’d always be saying something wrong or making the wrong decision, nothing was going my way and I was aware there was something not right again. I’d slip in things, like I was always feeling I did wrong in something, in school or with friends it was like I felt incapable of getting the positive side of things and it always felt like it was my own doing. Things didn’t go so well at that time either outside my control, maybe it was my fault I don’t know, but things around me were pushing me down and down.

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I started calling myself “depressed” around this time, age 15/16. I didn’t really know what it meant to be honest, there was a feeling that I wanted to just give this thing I’d felt since 12 a label, even if it wasn’t accurate. I know now it wasn’t depression as such, more the beginning of it. I came open about it to my mam and dad and got seen for it, and was told it was anxiety. I had a lot of typical teenager feelings, for typical things, but for me, because of that anxiety, it meant it meant more for me than other people, like it was more permanent rather than just a temporary thing, with more of a lasting impact. I didn’t get proper sessions with the “professionals” to be fair, my age was awkward and services for people at that age weren’t so good from my experience. Around my late-teens then, things went worse. I knew this wasn’t just anxiety but that “black dog” in the background was forcing its way in. My confidence collapsed, my mood was vicious, I hated everyone and was always right, everyone is against me and I’d get them eventually. Everything was negative. I took no pleasure in things I used to; reading was boring, playing x-box was boring, going out, which was becoming rarer and rarer, was boring. There was nothing upward about my future. I put it down to the Leaving Cert coming up, it was an obvious load of pressure and I just needed to make it through the next year or so and I’d be grand. I’d finish it and get a job, get every new game and film, get involved in helping people more, maybe meet a girl, get things sorted and I’d be starting college and everything would be a breeze, just if I got through this bad patch. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that.

I felt that, going into 6th Year things got worse for definite. I’d gotten involved in new things and was diversifying what I did, but I was still feeling worse and worse. I’d be taking days off school because I hadn’t the energy to go in, I’d take the approach of “it’ll be grand, just leave it off”, to everything; my diabetes, my schoolwork/Leaving Cert, responsibilities. Nothing got done and I didn’t care. I eventually went for more counselling but it didn’t do much good. I got put on meds eventually by my GP after we all felt all other avenues had been pursued, I needed a boost. I thought things were going to be fine then. I was on meds and so was officially depressed, it had a name, and therefore a solution, an identity to it. It didn’t last more than a few weeks until things slipped and even taking the meds became a duty I couldn’t manage, or care about. There’s few worse feelings than being on medication and going off it. I’d sleep until 5 or 6 in the day and do nothing, had a constant tiredness, short-temper and a hopeless attitude, I felt physically unwell. Taking the meds erratically did nothing but alleviate these, it didn’t remove the core problem. It was all just a circle of problems – depressed cause I wasn’t taking my meds, not taking my meds cause I hadn’t the energy.

Eventually, after a year of straight hell, I made it through Leaving Cert, got old enough to drink and was about to start college. Well, It’s almost a year later after this point now and things haven’t improved. On the surface I’ve more to draw on but inside little has changed. I’ve accomplished so much in that time but that means little if you’ve no bearing on it. I’ve helped people, like I’ve always tried to do, but it still means nothing. I think “fuck them all”, lash out the odd time, take the wrong approach, but still that does nothing either. It’s like I’m miserable anyway so what difference does it make what I do, good or bad? I’ve passion for things that I never had before, but even then it reaches a limit. I feel I’ve so much potential and things I can achieve, but I just can’t get there due to not having the confidence. I’ve pulled out of so many things and disappointed so many people by avoiding responsibilities but it’s like I’m down but not out. Like have you ever seen in films a boxer getting mangled but still getting up, knowing he’s going to get hit again and again and probably lose anyway but he still does it. That’s how I feel.

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It’s tough doing even menial things, things I should look forward to are more of an obstacle or a challenge. I couldn’t even keep up going to my therapy sessions, it was too much energy. Now if I can’t do that and that’s meant to be helping me, imagine my record in facing social situations, college, and all that where I’ve to make a huge effort to just get through it. I try and do it anyway, I try to enjoy things when it should be happening naturally but I’m not that lucky. I have to achieve enjoying something, have to put a load of effort into it. It’s hard and fails most of the time. Like leaving a place early for fear I wont enjoy it. Sometimes it succeeds and it’s a small victory, very small. I dunno, I think I’ve no option but to try anyway and eventually I’ll get more strength and things wont become a chore. I’ll be happy more and because I put effort into it, it’ll have a meaning. I wont be there for, to be realistic, a few years I think but I don’t have a choice. The s-word isn’t and wont ever be an option. It’s there every day, the thought of it, but it can’t be entertained. I’m fighting because I’ve far too many counting on me, my parents, my brothers and my sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins and people I know are my friends; the people I’ve tried to help and will help, not just myself.

I’ve rambled here a bit I think, but trying to put this into words isn’t easy, you can’t leave some things out or people wont get what you’re saying properly. I know now some people might think, like I would, that I’m just looking for attention. Well yes, I am, unashamedly. If I get more people to properly understand where I’m coming from maybe things might get easier. I don’t know how this will be recieved, people might ignore it or it might be read by a lot of people I know. I’d prefer the latter obviously, if getting likes on Facebook is my only way to raise my confidence then I’ll do it. As I said, it’s the small victories for the moment. If it means people will read it and feel better about themselves then even better. I’ve seen people with depression and noticed it instantly, I know the tell-tale signs. The worst is when I see it and know for a fact these people don’t even know they have it. Maybe if they know the signs they can see it early.

It’s a bollix alright trying to appear more confident every time you’re in an exposed situation, sometimes it backfires and you just look arrogant or obnoxious, when in reality you don’t know what to do. Appearing funny, tough or whatever is the easiest way of getting those small victories, but to get the big ones I’ve found all that you can do is get people to understand you, know what you mean and how you feel, rather than take you at face value as a fool or someone nobody wants to be around. I can only thank my family and those who’ve helped and apologise to people I’ve been negative to.

Anyway, I’ll end on a lighter note: Renua got no seats in the election!! 🙂

Graham

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4 Responses to Living with Depression – a personal account on living with the “common cold” of mental illnesses

  1. Jay says:

    You are not alone

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eugene says:

      Graham.
      Keep faith with yourself. You have a lot to offer yourself, your family, your community and your country. We stand together, we support each other, we walk the road together. you are not alone, we walk in each others shadow.
      Eugene

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Damian says:

    Fair play Graham. Ive been there, wore the t-shirt. Still get down now but had a great phsychologist in Ballinasloe who really helped. Things will get better, it is a serious condition that I dont think is curable but you learn to live with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Meelick Change says:

    Hi Graham. Well done mate. Very brave thing to put that down in a blog. Hopefully helpful!!! Keep the faith

    Like

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