I’d been debating for a while whether or not to write this particular blog, because there are some issues on which people can have very strong opinions one way or the other. Depression is one of those things. But I’m not here to offer statistics or scientific research and dazzle you with medical journal entries or pop-psychology pontificating. I just felt like writing a small piece about my own experience; purely personal, purely my own opinion, and you can make of it what you will.
I’ve battled with some form of depression or another for about 16 years now, but I didn’t actively seek help until I was around 23 after a particularly bad episode which resulted in me indulging in a fit of cutting my arms in a frenzy just to relieve the build-up of rage and frustration I felt at the situation. It had been a simple argument with someone, and other people looking at it would have maybe taken a walk, or simply just said “F**k off and stop bothering me” and made themselves a nice cuppa. My choosing a serrated-edge kitchen knife out of the drawer was a good indication that maybe my coping skills weren’t top-notch at that time in my life.
I wasn’t suicidal by any means, and anyone who is reading this and has been in the same situation knows that there (generally) is a huge difference between self-harm and genuinely wanting to end it all. Sometimes those who are suicidal will have been self-harming, but the reverse is not the case. Not all who self-harm want to kill themselves. Sometimes lines get blurred and tragedies happen, and I understand that. In my case I’m a stubborn gowlbag who has way too much to do and I know too many people who would willingly raise me back up for the sole purpose of kicking my supernatural ass if I ever did the unthinkable.
For me, the cutting was simply a physical and visual manifestation of the shit I was going through emotionally. I could look at my slashed-up arm and think “Finally I look like how I feel.” But I never wore the scars as badges of honour. There are people out there that do, and they bug the shit out of me. They’re in the same category as those halfwit kids who wear excerpts from Kurt Cobain’s suicide note printed on t-shirts. Yup, you’re right dude, nothing says more about your intellectual status like wearing the line “I hate myself and I want to die”. Idiots. But I digress.
Anyway, that type of incident for me was the last of its kind after someone very close to me verbally and emotionally shook the shit out of me. In what I like to call a ‘Limerick Intervention’, she force-fed me a large dose of Cop-On and threatened to cut me out of her life completely if I ever did it again. In an ironic twist thereafter, I feared for my personal safety if I ever even thought of doing such a thing again. It worked though, and I haven’t done it in 8 years. They should adopt this type of treatment in Hollywood. The results would be well worth a look.
Apart from that, depression itself is a very misunderstood and misused form of mental illness. It’s often used and bandied about as a cop-out in a lot of cases, or to excuse errant behaviour or justify laziness. It’s used by some people who are simply indulgent of a low mood swing, or by those who think it adds to their own inner or outer sense of mystique. I suppose they think sure if it’s good enough for Sylvia Plath then why not? Well, because she ended her own life face-down in an oven to end her misery, and you’re just listening to Morrissey and stirring up your own negative emotions to feel something other than bored.
For me, the whole idea of what depression is seems to be a mixed bag. Its root causes seem different for everyone. Brain chemistry is a factor, as are traumatic events, hereditary factors as well from what I understand. But like I said, I’m not a professional; I only know my own experience. I think mine was a combination of my brain chemistry, life events and the fact that my coping skills were not as well-developed as they needed to be. Funny thing is, I could always cope with the big things. Bereavement? Huge crisis? Break up? House burning down? Not a bother, let’s get down to the wire and sort these bad boys out. But fill out a stupid form or have a day where I have to do 2 or more different things in different places?? Somebody find me a burning house to deal with please..
Over the years, I’ve been on anti-depressants and also off them, done therapy and also gone it alone, hidden out in my house for months on end and also taken off every night and been anywhere BUT home. For me, the key is keeping my mind active. This blog certainly helps, even if right now you’re cursing the day I ever found the ability to type. Keeping in contact with friends is paramount. You can’t expect to sit around in your big depressed state sending out magic mind bullets in the hope that your entire Facebook friends list will come a-callin’ armed with HobNobs and Barry’s Tea. Send a text to someone close to you, tell them you feel rather shite and THEN demand they show up at your door with the HobNobs and Barry’s Tea.
I didn’t write this as a ‘Godhelpus’ kind of article, or to put myself forward as a spokesperson / martyr / pontificating do-gooder in the field of mental illness; I guess I just wanted to show that some of us live with a Shadow, but it’s not always the stereotypical image of a depressed person (hence the Eeyore pic). There’s a lot of us out there who laugh, dance, sing, go out, make lots of friends and have the time of our lives, but sometimes the world gets a little too much to deal with…