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In Blackest Night – Depression & The Omerta

Omerta

noun, Italian. 1. secrecy sworn to by oath; code of silence

 

My last post seems fairly ‘popular’.  By that I mean relatable and, to some, an inspiration.  One can only hope that this decade holds the end, like the eighties/early nineties did to the Mafia thanks to RICO, to the silence of the afflicted.  This unwritten and unspoken code of silence that society seems to force us to uphold must be broken.  I can only speak for myself when I say this but we are always told to talk about it.  To not let it build up and consume us.  But what’s the use of telling us to talk about it and then shun us when we try?  It’s like a miser saying we all need to give more to charity.  It doesn’t work.  This isn’t a one-way street.

So if I take to my blog or Twitter or Facebook to vent, let me have that moment.  Let me just say it.  Don’t stifle me.  Don’t judge me.  And, if you don’t like it, just leave me the fuck alone while I say what needs to be said before the darkness swallows me up once more.

I was having a ‘better’ week until yesterday.  I felt like I was coming to the end of my most recent and most brutal relapse.  Tuesday, like most days after a run of ‘good’ days, was like a sledgehammer to my cerebral cortex.  The feeling of being fucked over and that the world is against me hit home; clawing me back down to Earth with a ghastly gravitational grip.  It makes me wish I didn’t have ‘good’ days (I have started calling them ‘better’ days because it’s pretty fucking difficult having that shadow of an anvil follow your feet around and still call it a ‘good’ day).

So how do I channel this negativity into something that doesn’t chew me up and spit me out?  The shit doesn’t deserve to get to chalk that up on the scoreboard – I can’t let it beat nor define me.  But I still have to go through it.  I still have to face up to it and experience it.  Tell me the answer, I have no idea.

Until recently, I slept.  A lot.  I’ve mentioned it before and I’ve come up with possible reasons why.  Now, when I sleep it’s not through laziness, although others may perceive it that way.  I’m hoping I’m not the only one here but I feel like I need to sleep.  It’s a hard feeling to describe–I have a pulse that jackhammers in my neck and my head feels light.  My heart-rate is elevated and I feel exhausted.  Words can’t describe what it actually is; the word ‘tired’ doesn’t do it justice.  Even ‘exhausted’ doesn’t come close.  It feels like every fibre of my being needs to shutdown or at least have some semblance of respite.  I find it tough talking about this because it sounds like excuses. It sounds like I’m laying it on thick.  Perhaps not talking about it plays a huge part in it because of the energy it takes to keep it quiet.

I bought Carrie Fisher’s Audible audiobook “Wishful Drinking” a week or two ago and only got around to start listening to it today.  In it, she says something that made absolute sense to me.    I mentioned suicide in my last post and I know I’ve talked about it before across various platforms but something about it didn’t seem right.  It didn’t feel right.   She wrote/spoke about how it wasn’t so much thinking about dying but more thinking about not being alive.  To many, that may come across as the same thing re-worded but there’s more to it than that.

I feel we should talk about suicide more.  We should have open minds when it comes to the difficult subjects. I’ve though, for the past fifteen years (roughly) that thinking about death and not existing any more was ‘normal’.  Maybe that’s why depression didn’t seem like a concern because what I thought was ‘normal’ and what actually ‘is’ are very different things.  Bit to think about not being alive is something different entirely.  To picture a world and resulting impacts of you not existing is vastly different from wishing you were dead.  One is more speculative while the other is a tad too final.  Should we feel or be ashamed that we wonder what things would be like if we stopped existing or what things would be like if we had never been born?  How is it that different from wishing you hadn’t had that large Big Mac or that you hadn’t skipped the gym last night?  Or wondering what would have happened if you had actually answered the phone to an unknown number?

An example of this ties in with something that is coming up to an anniversary for me.  I blogged before about my ‘wish’ on Crowdwish and how I had almost missed the opportunity because I thought the e-mail was spam just like anything that says you’ve won something or you’re going to benefit from – how many actually are legit?  OK, so it wasn’t life changing like a lottery win but it was a great experience nonetheless and certainly a good memory to have.  It’s not every day you get a signed script of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ with Tom Hardy’s scribble on it.

There s nothing wrong with pondering how different things could be (positive or negative).  To me, that’s part of the human condition.  It’s not like ‘The Butterfly Effect’ where you actually get to live those altered timelines.  Nor do you have to concern yourself with the fate of Iris West because of the choice of underwear you made last Tuesday.

I hate the way society has conditioned us to think and feel.  To break free from that constraint is like a glitch in the ‘Matrix’.  Just because I want to talk about mental health and my experiences doesn’t make me Neo looking to break the system.  It’s more like tweaking the code to make the system work more efficiently.

By upholding this phantom code of silence we are doing a massive disservice to ourselves.  We’re selling the reality short and, in doing so, allow others to play us and try to take advantage because their system doesn’t allow for our way of being.  Their way of rationalising everything doesn’t apply here because it is impossible to justify, quantify or even objectify mental illness.  Without going all ‘Anonymous’ and instigate a mutiny, all that I can say is we have to open up about this because if no one knows, no one will help.  No one will care – whether it be genuine or because it is their duty to care.  Nothing will change.  Social ignorance will continue and we find ourselves stuck in an endless loop.  Change never happened by staying quiet.  Nothing ever changed by doing nothing.

Say something.  Anything.  Don’t let the apathy of society silence us – it’s only ourselves who suffer.

In Blackest Night – Much Ado About The Taboo

We’re in an era where everything is shared.  From shameful, narcissistic selfies to food pics.  From the banal to the inspirational, it’s all there.  So you’d think that, given the tools of social media, that subjects that are significant such as depression, bi-polar disorder, autism, ADHD and suicide to name but a few.  I’m sorry, did my need to vent and put in words how my life feels like I have no option but to take my own life take you away from creeping on Facebook?  Did my moment of ‘weakness’ [READ: reality] interrupt your joy of posting yet another fucking picture of your food?

Why is it that these subjects are still deemed taboo?  Why should I or others feel bad [READ: worse than we already do] because we have to consider your feelings when we are getting something off our chests?  That stupid fucking duck face you have in each and every selfie offends my senses but I don’t make you a social pariah because of it.  So why should I be made to feel that I am an inconvenience for simply being open and honest with Facebook when it asks me “What’s on your mind”?

Yes, these subjects can bring up discomfort.  Society may not like what we have to say nor may it offer the suitable responses.  Sometimes a response isn’t needed.  Sometimes it just needs to be out there.  Once said, a huge relief may follow.  So why follow up with “status sniping” or stupid, unhelpful comments?  Sometimes the best response to the hurt is silence.

It’s heavily broadcast (but maybe not enough for people to take it seriously) that suicide–particularly in young males–is on the rise.  Is society’s response to shame these people factoring into the statistics?  More than likely.  For me, and I’m sure many others, it helps to just write it down because talking to someone can feel overwhelming.  By approaching and talking to someone, I always feel I’m putting them in the awkward position of having to listen to my shit and respond.  By writing it down/blogging/posting a status, it injects an element of choice into the equation.  You can choose to read it in its entirety.  You can choose to offer up a response.  But you can also choose to carry on scrolling by or surfing elsewhere.

What’s interesting is that those that choose to respond are generally the troll types.  The ones that will chime in with an unhelpful remark or hurtful comment who have no vested interest in the subject at hand and, in doing so, it alienates others who can relate but are to afraid or ashamed to share their stories or experiences because of the shocking manner in which the human condition plays out.

I’m not ashamed to admit I suffer from depression.  When it comes to this type of thing, no one has it worse than the other.  It’s not a competition.  We all cope and live through things differently and we all have intricate tapestries woven over our lifetimes.  I’ve only recently opened my mind up to the fact that I am mentally ill–not because I was ashamed or feared the stigma, but because of ignorance.  Naiveté.  I refused to see the signs because I felt that, if I am ill, I am weak.  That’s a common perception–if you’re not well, you’re below standard.  You’re not 100%.  So anything less is failure.

When I opened my mind up I also had a ‘moment of clarity’ or an epiphany, if you will.  I realised how judgemental we all are, including me.  I realised how I have judged people over invisible illnesses and belittled certain conditions.  It’s a privilege that only the ‘healthy’ know and one that they need to be rid of.  Yes, it’s easy to relate or understand these things when you experience it first hand and yes, it does offer a perspective that others don’t have because they don’t or haven’t experienced it.  But the divide is so staggering.  The lack of compassion and understanding, even the tiniest bit, is astounding.  I’ve been thinking (and thinking and thinking and then more thinking) about how I can take my experience and channel it into something worthwhile.  Something that can grow and blossom to aid others.

I’m no expert in the mental health field but I’m an advocate and want to develop a voice to pave the way for folks to be able to talk about it without feeling guilty or feeling like an inconvenience.  If we can’t do it in this day and age, when the hell can we?

In Blackest Night – I Wrote A Blog Post; I Lost It, So Here’s Another

I generally keep my WordPress open in Chrome.  I usually refresh the page before starting to blog but yesterday I must’ve forgotten.  I spent over an hour squeezing the words out, checking what I wrote made sense and then squeezing some more out.  It was like a really bad shit you have to work out using maths (in fractions).

I wrote of how I’ve been back in Wales for a few days since a short break in Scotland.  I wrote about how I didn’t feel like I was back home.  I wrote about this weird feeling that I haven’t experienced before and how horrid it was.  I wanted to document another stage in my ‘journey’.  But I couldn’t even get that right.

Today, my head feels less ‘sloshy’ than I wrote about yesterday.  My head felt like it had liquid sloshing around inside and that my mind felt detached from my being..  It was as if I was seeing through my own eyes whilst simultaneously watching myself from afar.  Perhaps that explains the bizarre feeling.

I also wrote about my recent GP appointment and how, only now, are they looking at the root issue and taking steps to diagnose my condition.  While I display symptoms of depression, there may be more to my mental (ill) health.  I’ve refrained from looking into other mental disorders to avoid extra concern which would worsen my symptoms as well as prevent any psychosomatic input.

The suicidal thoughts have been more prevalent this past week or so.  No actions taken but analysing and weighing up success/failure rate.  I’d do it if I had a scenario that had a 95% chance of success.  I’m not going to fall foul of the chance I survive or end up fucking crippled or some shit.  It has to be death or nothing.  But, until I can find a sure-fire way, I suppose I’ll just keep plodding on.

I’ve been trying to think how I move forward–for every good day (although they are very rare) the bad days that follow are exponentially worse.  My wordsmithery has faltered and my written work has hit a brick wall.  I’ve been told I think too much and my reaction to that was “How the fuck do I think less?”  I feel similar to a shark in that, if I stop thinking, I will die.  Metaphorically speaking.

Yes, I tend to over analyse things.  Yes, I have a habit of reading into things.  No, I don’t have an off switch or a lever I can pull to reduce the activity in my brain.  Despite the traffic levels in my skull, I have very little to show for it.  It reminds me of this line from “New Low” by Middle Class Rut (the video is below):

So many directions I don’t
Know which way to go
I’m so busy doing nothing
I got nothing to show

 

I don’t know why, but my days just aren’t productive.  My mind and body feel so overwhelmed that, instead of making the most of my time, I just ‘stand still’ like a rabbit caught in headlights.  I just coast on by.  Which reminds me of another song, “Telescope” by Cage The Elephant (the video is also below).

In a far and distant galaxy
Inside my telescope I see
A pair of eyes look back at me
He walks and talks and looks like me
Sits around inside his house
From room to room he moves about
Fills his life with pointless things
and wonders how it all turns out.

In Blackest Night – My Depression vs My Family

I’ve thought about writing this so many times.  What stops me is the fear of what others will think.  I’ve always based my life around perception; namely what others think of me.  As time goes by and as my most recent relapse shows no signs of clearing, I find it extremely difficult to focus on what’s important.  My priorities change inadvertently and what I think is best is perceived as selfish and cold.  This post is the hardest one I’ve ever written because it digs deep.  It goes where I have feared to tread and may cast an unflattering light on me that I always shied away from.

My Mum was deeply depressed.  Growing up, I never truly got it. But I do now.  We share likenesses but, at the same time, we are totally different.  She was married twice.  My elder sister and brother from her first marriage and me from her second.  I am newly married to my wife, whom I have been with for around twelve years and have had three children together.  I don’t know how she felt or coped with things prior to my arrival – it’s something I never got the chance to ask and, if she was alive today, I would like to know.

We are a month in to the marriage and the last few weeks have had a significant strain on the relationship.  The ‘D’ word has been banded around a little bit.  Not from my mouth nor my mind.  It’s evident how bad my depression must be for divorce to become a subject so soon after.  Especially after twelve years of being together prior.  It’s hard to admit this, and harder still that I am trying to look at this objectively.  Empathy is something I’ve never really been good at.  It’s difficult to admit you are wrong or, moreso, that something is fundamentally wrong with you.

From my point of view, feeling the way I do and how toxic I am, I feel I should keep my distance.  If I minimise my exposure to those closest to me, I can’t be harmful…right?  I can kinda see it the other way – by keeping my distance it shuns my wife, my kids and anyone else.  But in my mind, keeping clear is the lesser of two evils.  If I avoid interaction I avoid saying something out of turn or in a manner that is bitter and resentful when I don’t intend for it to be that way.  This darkness has taken hold of my physical and linguistic abilities, as I mentioned before, where I snap or say something with a tone that I hadn’t meant to do and only realised it in hindsight.  By keeping my distance I am avoiding the back-tracking and apologies over things I have little to no control over.

I know that this behaviour with three kids (8, 4 and 2) can be incredibly counterproductive and damaging to their mental and social growth.  But when I have no choice but to be there, in the moment, I find myself losing my temper and uttering curse words that I can’t stop myself from doing.  I know kids will be kids and need to play etc.  I was just the same.  Toys strewn everywhere and noise that would block out the sound of the TV etc. but my darkness makes that noise and the sight of mess unmanageable.  It’s like a sensory overload that sends me reeling.  I’ve even taken to Google to try and figure out if it’s just depression that I am battling.  I keep being told to go to the doctor but how many times should I have to go back and forth with ‘new developments’?  It feels like I’m already being a nuisance and a burden on a struggling NHS.

From a logical point of view, I can see how detrimental my behaviour and condition is to me and those around me.  From an emotional point of view, I can barely see anything.  And when the emotions, in whatever shape they manifest in, take hold…all logic is out the window.  Me and the way I am is destroying all that is good.  That’s why suicide seemed like the best thing–shit, the only— thing to do.  Cut the cancer right out.  Yes, it would be hard at first…devastating.  But when they’re old enough they’d understand, wouldn’t they?  I did it for them because carrying on only prolongs the suffering and torment.  The fears of what I may do should I lose all control steer me towards ‘Suicide Junction’.  Let’s just turn off here and call it a day.

I’m not afraid of not being good at something.  If I’m not good at it I just don’t bother.  But no amount of advice or studying can prepare you for parenthood.  And it’s not like you can just take them back with the receipt like an over-sized shirt your Aunt tends to buy you every Christmas.  That feeling of ‘they deserve better‘ is always there and it becomes such a focal point that it hurts to think about it.  Maybe all parents have that feeling because, just like anything, there’s always ways to be better even if you are a master at it.  I don’t know.  And I don’t think it really matters.  I know what I know and I know what I feel and no amount of mulling it over will change it.

The big question that always bothers me is: would they be as fucked up (or more) than I am now if I stick around or would me taking the emergency exit and shuffle loose this mortal coil do that?  The not knowing is the problem.  But that’s life, right?  You never know the outcome of your actions but some actions there’s no coming back from.  There’s no taking a mulligan or do-overs.

I thought writing this down would make me feel better.  Remove a virtual thorn in my brain but all it’s done is make me feel worse because, as I read it over, I am anxious as to whether I should click the ‘Publish’ button.  Once it’s out there it’s out there.  Will I regret it?  Or should I treat it like jumping off a bridge and just do it because the more time I think about it the more time I have to back out?

 

The Not-so Great Depression

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for over 2 weeks and as time goes on it becomes more and more challenging.  I used to think it was writer’s block I suffered but it’s clearly the depression halting the thought process and creative juices.  Trying to find the words and construct sentences that can then become paragraphs is very difficult for me.

I watched this video and, although it doesn’t fully convey exactly how I feel about depression (to be fair, I don’t think anything can ever truly capture the stark reality of depression to the most minute detail), it’s certainly a different take on trying to inform those that don’t ave/understand depression.

[su_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/z-IR48Mb3W0″%5D

It’s hard to open up about depression without it looking like a cry for help, attention seeking, pathetic, a burden to people and being needy.  It’s easy to say I’m depressed but it’s incredibly difficult to face up to what it actually means and the work I need to do to get by.  Knowing what you should do and what you feel able to do are worlds apart.  Menial things feel like mammoth tasks.  Stuff as basic as shaving or washing a plate feel huge.

Understanding the impacts of depression is one part of the battle.  I’ve been studying into it and tying it in with the way I perceive myself functioning and thinking.  This piece, in particular, struck me.  On top of understanding it, the need to identify triggers and alternative ways to deal with or avoid those triggers is another big job.

I believe I have been depressed since my pre-teens but just failed to acknowledge it.  I was diagnosed with borderline depression when I was 16/17, took Citalopram for a short while before taking myself off them and assuming I wasn’t depressed and just tried to get on with things.  I was officially diagnosed in 2015 after finally accepting the possibility after the death of my Mum knocked me for six and left me floundering in a world without meaning.

Thoughts of my Mum are a definite trigger and, where I should be excited for my wedding on Boxing Day of this year, I feel extremely anxious and depressed about it as my Mum won’t be there to see her youngest son on his big day.

Trying to function, by feigning emotion, is physically draining – I now how I should feel in various situations but in the majority of cases I don’t.  The guilt of not being able to feel the way I know I should is also extremely draining.  I may be wrong here, but the fact that I can acknowledge where I know I should feel something means that part of me isn’t dead; it’s just blocked behind my mental condition.

The only emotions I genuinely feel are those of a negative nature – anger, hate, sadness and the like.

To try and describe how I think and feel can’t really be done with words.  What I can describe is the last few weeks – I’ve felt suicidal a number of times.  Waking up in the morning has truly devastated me.  Since childhood I have loved falling asleep in the bath despite being told how dangerous that can be – I can tell you the sadness I felt when I awoke having never even slipped beneath the surface for even a second.  Feeling worthless and useless has been a day-to-day affair with me.

Two days after I was signed off work with depression I suffered a slipped disc.  I’ve suffered with sciatica for the last six years or so and was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc about two years ago during my abdominal pain.  What I couldn’t quite figure out was if the depression fuelled the pain or if the pain fuelled the depression.  Lying around because I was struggling to move played right into depression territory as it led me to sleep, lose my appetite and affect my sleep.  After being prescribed Diazepam to take for 6 days, my sleep was much better and my ability to move improved.  Now that I’m off the Diazepam the pain has increased, my sleep has been poorer and as a result, the depression has worsened.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to learn who are true friends.  I’ve also come to learn how destructive my behaviour and moods can be but I feel like a scene in a Scooby Doo cartoon where they’re running from the villain – I know what I should do and be, but I get nowhere as I’m just running on the spot with the same scenery going by.

For me, one that chooses the path of least resistance and an extreme need to stay within my comfort zone, I don’t see the point in carrying on as depression cannot be cured.  I’ve read that those who are prone to relapse with depression, the chances increase exponentially each time.  To me, that is not living.  What good is that to those around me?  I said before, that I’ve pulled the mask off of life and can’t unsee it.  It seems futile trying to trick my mind and continue this existence.  I don’t think the drugs are doing anything.  I know that the only person who can help me is me.  What if I don’t have the strength or willpower to help myself?  What if a significant part of me simply just doesn’t want to?

It seems like a lot of pressure and responsibility to bear.  And, to be completely honest, I really don’t know if I can or even want to do it.

This is how I perceive depression.  A futile fight against oneself as well as, what seems to be, the rest of the world.

The Game (Of Life)

So I’ve not long watched the final Saw movie.  Last  night, I watched Black Swan and tonight, Comic Relief is on.

3 very different ways of portraying pain, suffering, misery and the bleak picture that is life as a whole.

So what IS the best way to have someone appreciate life?  To appreciate what they have and cherish it?  Is it a series of tasks/obstacles that literally risk life or limb to have you DESIRE to live?  Or is it watching the pain and suffering of others on the news, the web, documentaries and various other mediums to trigger that thought provoking splinter in the mind?

I suppose it varies from person to person.  Just like education in general, some people get it with very little information.  Others need to have greater support to learn the exact same thing.

How important is it that we actually value our lives?  Is it the case that if we don’t value our lives it subsequently means we won’t have a great life?  Just like a marathon runner if they don’t exert themselves they will never do well.

I have a mixed idea over this.  I do believe that if you go through life not appreciating what you have you will have a mediocre, uneventful life because you don’t “push the envelope”.  However, I don’t believe that this is a rule that stands true in every case – some people amble, shuffle, fumble or stagger through life and do well and lead fruitful lives.

So, in light of that, I guess you have to be very open minded but also live your life the way you see best, but also being open minded enough to realise that your way of life isn’t necessarily always the best way and that you need to adopt various viewpoints, ideas and visions others have.

The flip side to this optimistic and idealistic view is the one BIG question.  Is the game of life worthwhile picking up and playing?  Or should we stick it in, see how it goes and quit if it doesn’t seem to live up to the hype?  Or just never put the disc in in the first place and choose a fate similar to the alternative ending of Butterfly Effect and allow the cord of life wrap itself around our tiny, bearly formed neck and take the life it provides us away from us?

I must admit, for years I was tormented by thoughts of death, self harm and the idea that death is the grand prize on this game we play.  Isn’t it better to claim a prize early than wait?  Those thoughts eventually left my mind but they repeat from time to time. I’m sure we all wonder about dying and what things would be like in our wake – if we even make an impact at all.  Like a vague sense of de ja vu like at the end of Donnie Darko.

For myself, the one thing that keeps me going is the propensity for things happening.  Life changes and just because it seems shit at times, there’s nothing to say it won’t change at some point after.  For everyone, there will be a diverse range of reasons not go do it as well as a list of reasons to do it.  The pros and cons are dictated by one’s mindset and outside influences (or perceived outside influences).

I guess the bottom line is, no matter how bad things are, they could be worse.  But also, if you make a rash decision, you can’t do anything afterwards.  Things get broke; they can be fixed.  Things disappear; they can be found.  But that’s all well and good but the biggest thing to bear in mind is the extreme possibility of judgment and decision making processes being wrong – we’re human.  We err.

So, in a nut shell: Just live.  Play the game.  All games end – results may vary.

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