Mental Illness & Me
This story is a little bit long but there is a reason for that. I want people to see what mental illness has cost me so maybe those people who believe anyone who suffers from depression should just cheer up and get on with it. In many ways, with the childhood I had, I was destined to end up the way I am. Depressed, lonely and almost hopeless
I SUFFER FROM MENTAL ILLNESS. I have depression and what my doctor described as “fairly advanced anxiety disorder”. I am a hypochondriac, have social anxiety & I get panic attacks often and usually like a sledgehammer to my head without any warning. I have moments where I can be irritable and irrational and to be honest my life has been turned upside down and fucked as a result. I am 36 and have very little meaning in my life. At this stage I exist. I didn’t ask for this and I can’t just smile and cheer the fuck up. It is a disease just like cancer, diabetes or heart disease. But because it’s a mental health disease, I have to hide it if I don’t want the ridicule (small town, small minds). I am not lazy or some do nothing prick. I have been to doctors, therapists & psychologists. I am on medication even though it is something I absolutely despise. I have been to CBT and practice mindfulness. I have done what I am supposed to do but I am still sick.
Everyone knows someone who suffers from some form of mental illness. My own personal belief is that pretty much everyone suffers from some form of it at some point in their life. Some have it worse than others but still, when its something that is so widespread, why is there such a taboo about it? Whenever someone commits suicide, the people left behind are left asking the same questions. Why did they suffer in silence? Why didn’t they communicate with me? “What ifs” are the last thought before sleep at night. Everyday they think what they could have, would have, and should have done to help or notice what was going on. And then quickly all those questions pass, life gets back to normal (for most) and the person who committed suicide is nothing more than a sudden or tragic death in the obituaries column, an unvisited headstone in a field somewhere and just another statistic.
Lately, I think about killing myself every day. EVERY FUCKING DAY! At my worst moments I wonder why I am ignored when I try to talk to someone. I tell myself I am not suffering in silence because I am putting it out there but no one wants the burden or they just ain’t listening. I generally don’t shout from the rooftops “I’M IN A BAD PLACE AND NEED SOME HELP” but I always put it out there in the hope someone answers my cry for help. Last night in a group message with 6 of my mates I put it out there and was met with a wall of silence. I text another mate and he came through, like he always does. All I needed was someone to talk to, I needed to cry and I needed to be reminded that things will get better. Of those 6 guys, I’m sure some didn’t hear what I was saying but some did hear it and chose to keep quiet hoping someone else would take up the baton. I don’t think badly of anyone for that. I realise people have their own shit going on. Wives and girlfriends, children, up early for work and the normal humdrum of every day life. My point is that I think very often people don’t actually suffer in silence but they also don’t shout it out because they don’t want to impose or they don’t want to be considered an attention seeker, and that is something I have heard often about someone who is suicidal. People think they are only looking for attention. Believe me when I say, attention is not what I am looking for. When I need to talk, I am at a point where it feels like my head is going to explode if I don’t get something out. If I’m not at that stage I won’t bother anyone because goodwill among friends only runs so far.
So for a little context about how I’ve ended up where I currently am. I was born in 1980 and was the middle child of 5. I grew up in a house where money was very tight but we always had food and clothes. We didn’t have heat so beds were covered with blankets and hot water was scarce so bath time consisted of sharing a bath with my brother and sister, a not too uncommon thing in 1980’s Ireland I believe. My father was an unlucky man. With 5 kids he was made redundant from a good job when a recession hit and the company he worked for shut its doors. He always did something to provide for us and did jobs most of us wouldn’t think of nowadays. I remember he used to come home at all hours with sweets for us and would magically pull them from behind our ears like a magician. I remember getting a little older, maybe 5 or 6 and I would stand at the front door looking at him go to work and cry. I remember staying awake at night until he would come home from work, often at 10 or 11 o clock. From my earliest memories, he was the main person in my life. My mother was a bully and I have not got a single good memory of her from my childhood. I often wonder why she had children because she did not have a maternal bone in her body. I remember if I did anything wrong I would be hit and told that she would tell my father when he came home and that if he had a heart attack it would be my fault. As far back as I can remember, I remember hearing this. I grew up absolutely terrified that he was going to die and leave us alone with her. This is surely the reason I cried when he went to work and wouldn’t sleep until he came home. She threw hurls at me on more than one occasion and one time when I tried to get away from her by locking myself in a room, she got a poker from the fire and started putting it through the door (a la Jack Torrance in the Overlook Hotel). As I got older I could stand up for myself more. As a teenager I would just leave the house to get away from her. I remember getting on my bike late at night and cycling to a friends house where I always had a place to rest my head for the night. My older siblings were out of the house at this stage but when my brother would come home, he would do her biding for her and dish out a few punches. He was a man and I was a boy but that didn’t stop him. I know brothers fight from time to time but when its such a mismatch, it’s not right. He wasn’t a prick in general though and over the years he tried to get me away from her by bringing me up to his place in Dublin for the weekend and later by helping me buy a plane ticket to get the fuck out of here! None of us came out of our childhood unscathed but it was myself and my younger sister who took the brunt of the mothers physical and psychological abuse. She spent her days pitting us against each other and as a result of that none of us really had each others backs. Divide and conquer was her modus operandi. School suffered and most of my time at home was spent alone. It suited me better that way.
When I was around 16 the real nightmare began to unfold. Dad got sick. I worked full time straight after school and remember spending any days off up in Dublin in the hospital with dad during the day and hanging out with my friends at night. In those few years, on a number of occasions, we had to hurry to hospitals after getting calls that he was gravely ill and may not make it. After a couple of years trying to eek out some sort of life for myself here but going nowhere I got an opportunity to get on a plane and move as far away from here as I could. The move was by no means a rip roaring success but at the time it was something I had to do and as hard as it was, its something I look back on with very fond memories. I lasted 6 months and came back. The guilt of not seeing him was too much because he was my main man all my life and he always wanted to see his children, no matter what. He was always fully supportive of whatever I did and even if the thought of me upping sticks and moving that far away hurt him, he always told me to live my own life and not be worrying about him. Years of major illness and the loss of his mobility & independence reduced him to a man that would be taken out of bed in the morning, dumped in a chair and left to watch tv until he was put back in bed that evening. Defenseless, he then had to endure years of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the mother, his wife of 40 years. Finally she decided to put him in a nursing home and unfortunately, a few months later he was dead. He was a great father and I am thankful every day that I had him in my life for 30 years.
When I came home from that 6 months hiatus, I buried myself in work and got my first dog. Dad was out of hospital at that time and I lived at home for a little while at first until I got on my feet. I spent the next few years working long days but eventually I had to get on a plane and disappear again. I didn’t go as far this time, a 6 hour plane ride was far enough. I was away a few years and came home a father to a little boy I wouldn’t see for another 2 years. Over the next 3 years I would see him during summers and one Christmas. He is now almost 12 and I have not seen him since he was 5. I dropped him to the airport that day, kissed him goodbye, all the time completely unaware that I would never see him again. Unmarried fathers have got absolutely no rights to see their children and that is further complicated in my case by the fact that he lives in another country. Missing him is a pain that is hard to describe. He is alive but it almost feels like I am in a perpetual state of mourning. I see friends and family have kids and seen them grow up. I spent last Saturday with one of my mates and his young lad who is 6 months younger than my boy. They were buddies whenever he was here. I know what he likes to do but know absolutely nothing about my boy. That has taken its toll on me.
So 2010 was a bad year. Dad died, my boy went away and never came back and my dog died. There was one silver lining though. I met someone that was really special. We had only been seeing each other a few months but she was the first person I talked to the night dad died and she is the only face I remember seeing at his funeral. We first met, briefly, on New Years Eve 2009/2010 and I remember straight off the bat liking her. She was funny and a little bit goofy and I was drawn to her straight away. Our paths didn’t cross again for a couple of months but when they did I got her number, went on a date and ended up falling absolutely madly in love with her. She is the kindest, most generous and selfless person I have ever met. Things were great until 2012, when under severe stress at work, I had a breakdown. I was out of work sick for 6 months before coming to a mutual agreement with my employer that I would finish up there. I was happy about it because for the first time in my life, I had someone that I really loved to think about and a future to look forward to with her so I decided I would go to college, study something I was interested in and end up with a decent job, happy and able to provide for us. It ended up being a pipe dream.
With college came the severe anxiety. I had a 6 hour commute every day to get there and home. The course work was never a problem for me but the anxiety was through the roof. There were days I had to get on and off buses 6 or 7 times in a 45 minute journey from the college to Dublin city centre. Out of nowhere I would descend into panic. Sweat would pour from my head like I was standing under a tap. Heart thumping, a numb body and feeling like I was going to collapse, I would get off one bus, wait a few minutes for another one and get on that, fingers crossed I would make it all the way. Some days I would be on and off only a couple of times but other days it was far worse. Somehow with all that going on I got through 1st year. 2nd year was a different story though. I was days away from being homeless the month before I started again. The house I lived in was repossessed when the guy that owned it stopped paying the mortgage and never told anyone. That hung over me for well over a year and was extremely detrimental to my health. I tried 2nd year twice but each time the pressure came on after Christmas, I crumbled and stopped functioning. I did everything I could possibly do to keep it going. Nights I would stay in Dublin, I would be on the first bus or train to college to avoid the crowds and get there as calm as possible. I would stay in college until 9 at night, again to avoid crowds on public transport but eventually, each time, it fuckin got me. I was going to give it one more shot last September but a week or two before I was to start I was informed that the place I stayed a few nights last year was not going to be an option this year so that was that, the decision to finish college was made for me. Financially I couldn’t afford to go up and down every day. Myself and my girlfriend decided I should give an online course a try so I organised that and started in November.
At the time I didn’t realise that not going back in September was the final straw for my girlfriend. She had given up on me. At the end of November, after 7 years with who I thought was the person I would spend the rest of my days with I was told that was it. She didn’t want to be with me anymore and didn’t love me. BOOM, just like that, my best friend and my girlfriend was gone. Obviously being with someone who suffers from mental health issues is not easy and she stood by me and supported me for the last 4 years of our relationship when things were often not good with my head but she had had enough. I do not have one single bad word to say about her. The only thing I wish is that she had told me what was going on with her and maybe I could of done something. She couldn’t tell her family about what was going on with me because she felt they wouldn’t get it. Her mother thought I was starting 4th year last September so when she found out I was not going back, she just thought I was some sort of waster. Comments and judgements followed and that didn’t help matters. I thought life was hard but without her its almost unbearable. She was my hope. No matter what, I saw and talked to her every day. I was never happier than when I was with her. For someone like me, she wasn’t just another girlfriend. She was everything that mattered to me. I think when you grow up not trusting one of your parents and that’s how it always was for me, trusting and letting yourself go to someone isn’t easy. Right from the outset, this one was something special though. She always put me completely at ease and I’ve never felt as comfortable with another person as I did with her. Other than my friends, and its different type of relationship with them, the only people I have ever felt close to or loved by are my father, my son and her, and they are all gone in one way or another now.
I’m 2 months on from that breakup. Other than a couple of weeks ago when she needed me for something, I haven’t seen or heard from her. I still struggle to comprehend how someone I love so much could literally turn her back and walk away from me the way she has. It has completely blindsided me. 2 days before she dumped me I was “the best boyfriend ever”. Now, I’m nothing. And the worst thing about it all is that, by and large, I’ve done this to myself.
I spent Christmas day alone and luckily had a friend bring me some dinner that day. New Years, alone again. I bought the ingredients of my ex’s favourite dinner hoping I could bribe her to call and spend a couple of hours with me because the thoughts of being on my own that night killed me, but it didn’t work. I now live on coffee and porridge. My fridge is empty. One of my mates feeds me when I am at his house and another friend has brought me to his house for roast dinners a couple of times. Last week I went 5 days without seeing a single person. I live 20km away from my friends and am lonely and isolated out here. I have no car so can’t go anywhere myself. I have no heat in my house other than a stove which heats one room but I’m just about out of fuel for it so it could be an even colder winter very soon. I literally don’t have a pot to piss in. Every day I think about killing myself. I went to the bog to do it with one of the dogs leads but couldn’t do it. I often wonder if I am just a person who thinks about it but can’t go through with it or if everyone who does commit suicide is like I am until they finally get the balls to turn the switch off. After rent, medication, electricity, dog food and internet, I have pennies left to live on. I need to get to the doctor in the next fortnight and I have no idea where I am going to find €55 for it. Its like a nightmare that I can’t wake up from.
I didn’t write this for pity or to be ridiculed. I wrote it because this is what depression looks like and I want those “smile and cheer up” people to see it. I didn’t ask for any of this shit. What was done to me as a kid by my mother coupled with a couple of bad decisions I’ve made myself has led me to this point. This is my life and I’m playing the hand I was dealt, badly. Do you think if I could just fucking smile and plough on, I wouldn’t just do that. This is no fun and this is not the life that little lad playing with his cars should of had.
At least I still have my dogs. I look after them and in turn they look after me. Obviously they have no idea what they actually do for me but at this moment in my life, they are all I have. No matter what, they are happy to see me and that means everything to me because most days they are the only ones that are.