That was one of my Dad’s favourite lyrics. Now, every time I hear it, it reminds me of him. That’s a good thing.
The topic of ‘Depression and Anxiety’ seems to be a big one at the moment – I’ve read multiple posts and articles on the subject and lots of people have lots of different opinions, definitions and attitudes towards it. Recently I read something that I feel completely disregards and trivialises the topic and it angered me. Also, it’s World Mental Health Day so, I’d like to share with you my story.
"Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindsides you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday."
It’s 1pm on an idle Sunday. I get off the train expecting my brother to be there to give me a lift home. Instead of him, I see my Auntie – the Auntie I only see once a year, every year on Boxing Day. Slightly confused, but odder coincidences have happened. Then, I clock my Uncle (my Aunties brother not husband) – the Uncle I don’t even see once a year, the Uncle I’m pretty sure doesn’t even know my middle name, the Uncle I’ve never really had a relationship with. My mind’s whirling but I haven’t pieced anything together yet. Then…I spot her. My Mum. Wearing a jacket that looks a thousand sizes too big for her along with a sunken face and red eyes. I remember her looking tiny, fragile. Broken.
Without realising, I drop whatever bags I’m carrying onto the platform, walk over to her and put her face in my hands. I’m crying but I don’t know why. Yet. “What is it Mum? Tell me.”
“Your Dad’s dead.”
That was the moment my entire world fell apart and my earth was violently pulled like a magician’s tablecloth from underneath me.
For me, depression didn’t creep into my life like it does for some, it didn’t slowly take over my mind day by day, getting bigger and bigger. Mine hit me like a ten ton of bricks, smashed into my being without any warning. Instantly I wanted to die. 7 days prior, the boy I was in love with broke my heart and naively, I had spent my whole week whinging about how my life couldn’t possibly get any worse. I wasn’t depressed then though, I was just sad. I now know there is a huge difference.
The days that followed are a slight blur to be honest. But I remember struggling with my emotions and flipping mainly between sadness and anger. The depression made everything pointless – I didn’t care about other people’s thoughts, their mind-numbingly boring problems, I didn’t shower, I didn’t do the washing up, I didn’t eat. What was the fucking point?
That carried on for weeks, months maybe. Everything around you carries on as normal, TV programmes still run, shops still open, people still chat about the weather. When everything in your world has stopped. Dead.
In my experience and my story, grief and depression came hand in hand. I cried myself to sleep and felt like I couldn’t escape my own thoughts. The only way I can describe what was going on inside my head is that there was a DVD of that moment on the train platform, with a bonus episode of the moment my Dad actually died, imagined in my mind using the detailed facts my Mum had given me. And whenever I liked, I could press play and relive it. Most of the time, it played by itself, on repeat.
Depression is all consuming, overwhelming and the loneliest experience I’ve ever had. It’s an internal solitary thing. Even though my Mum, my Nan and I had lost the same person, we were all grieving in different ways and for different things; I had lost my Dad, Mum had lost her husband, Nan had lost a son.
The anxiety came a little later. I hadn’t got over the depression, but I had got it under control. I’d gone back to work, I’d moved into a new house and I could put on my happy face whenever I needed to. However, at this point, if I rang my Mum and she didn’t answer, in my head, she was dead. If my brother was 5 minutes late picking me up, in my head he’d had a car crash and was splattered all over the road. That Sunday, my Dad had just gone to the supermarket to do the weekly shop. A normal, mundane thing. He never got to eat that food he bought. He parked his car in that supermarket car park not knowing he would never drive it home. I could be walking along the street and with no warning; it was like someone had punched me in the gut – a horrible feeling that somewhere, somehow, something had gone wrong. I didn’t know what, but my body told me it had. This lead to a constant sick, sinking feeling, the shakes and a really inconvenient bout of insomnia. I had to have pills to go to sleep and pills to get up again.
2 and a half years have gone by since that significant day and I believe wholeheartedly that I chose to change my mind and my life for the better. I heard a quote once that still resonates with me to this day.
We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just the way we play the hand.
I firmly believe we choose our own destiny. We cannot control the things that happen to us but what we are the governor of is how we react to those things. At my darkest, my mind was full of thoughts of suicide, drink, drugs and self-destruction. However, I chose to remember my Dad for the man he was, the lessons he taught me, the memories we shared and how lucky I was to have spent 24 years with my hero. I wasn’t about to let my demons overtake the good.
Suffering depression and anxiety is a lonely experience –it’s internal. It’s not like a broken bone, or a black eye. It’s trapped inside.
I know that everyone experiences it differently, everyone has a different story and there are different levels. No two cases are the same and no case is worse or better than the other. It’s not glamourous, it’s not exciting and it’s not a badge of honour.
I’m not saying I have all the answers but I have the experience. I got the medical help I needed, I had ‘Positive Mental Attitude’ tattooed on my arm and I rid my life of people who weren’t good for me. I chose to get out of bed, get dressed, do the washing up and try to achieve something. I made those decisions.
But most importantly, I accepted that a part of me will never heal. And that’s OK. Humans are fragile. If you need it, just ask someone for help. And be nice, you never know what battles someone else is fighting.