Edit: I’m leaving the spelling, grammar and general style mistakes as I believe they reflect the state I was in when I wrote this post. This was not an easy post to write and I feel sanitising it by cleaning it up would be untrue to the sentiment behind it.
It is funny what you remember.
I remember waking up at 09:00 and asking my mother why I was late for school. I remember her with tears in her eyes asking my brother and me to go into her room. I already knew then, of course. She told me then. That cancer had finally got my father. After battling that terrible disease that had metastasised through his body.
I was there the day of his diagnosis. We’d all gone to the hospital. When he came back to the car, I could tell something was wrong. My 193cm tall father who filled any room would beat whatever terrible news received.
I was sitting at the airport, about to catch a flight to Malaysia when he called me and told me he was not going to make it. I recall that this was when my depression started.
I remember going to counselling. I remember refusing to take part. As a know-it-all 12-year-old, how through what could a person who did not know me what I was going? How could anyone could anyone?
I remember shutting myself away, refusing to interact with the outside world. What would be the point? I started acting out in class. I started reading philosophy and agreeing with the works of Camus and Sartre. I started believing there is no point in life beyond that which you give it. Moreover, I remember taking this to heart, making this the central part of my being.
From then on things were different. The sun had lost its glow. The little things. Like feeling the sea breeze on your skin, or when the sun comes out from behind a cloud stopped mattering. I withdrew from my friends. Sure, I made an effort and was able to maintain a group of acquaintances, but how could they know me? They, like their perfect worlds, had no idea what it was. In a room full of people, I was alone.
I stopped caring for the world at twelve-years-old. It had nothing to offer me anymore.
The rest of my life was a constant stream of getting through the current entry in the list of bullshit. It seemed like I only existed to get to the next; GCSEs, A levels, university exams, nothing mattered. How could it matter? I now knew that at any time everything could be taken from me.
I stopped caring.
Depression is a strange old thing. After living with it for ten years, it became a constant, looming shadow in the corner of my eye. I ignored it; I was strong enough to ignore it; I would ignore it.
The acting went on for ten years. I never made close friends; I would not let myself. My mind broke so, so why should people be spending their time on a lost cause? Why should anyone care about me? More , why should I care about me?
I became an actor. Jokes and playing the clown replaced teary eyes. I must have said, “I am fine thanks” over a thousand times in the last ten years. I was not, of course, fine, but what should I have said? Society does not have room for anything other than “I am fine”.
My grandmother died, and I could not even force myself to cry. When you are in a constant state of holding back emotions, you become scared of showing your true self in case you reveal your human side.
I persevered, relying on my memory to get me through exams. I did not do any revision: what was the point? I did not go to my school formal: what was the point? I did not go to friends’ house or to the cinema with them: what would have been the point?
This act worked for almost ten years. until at the age of twenty-one-years-old the façade dropped and I could not pretend anymore. I went home for Christmas and didn’t leave my room for two weeks. I self-medicated on various substances. I began to seek ways of disconnecting my mind from my reality. Of silencing the constant chatter of worthlessness that had become my constant companion and my worst enemy. If I can borrow a term from Churchill, my black dog. Always lurking, always trying to seize me round the throat and get me to do what in my heart I always knew what I wanted to do.
At this point, I knew I needed help. I woke up every day in a panic attack for months. Working up the courage to leave my room sometimes took twenty minutes. I would bail on social occasions, because if I did not want to be with myself why would others?
I began planning. As a software engineer, I know the darker parts of the internet. As a keen amateur neurobiologist, I knew what I needed to go into that night. I knew I could have them within days if I needed.
I called up my mother and some close friends, in an absolute mess. I do not think I wanted to end it; I wanted a serious cry for help.
In today’s world of the strong man and the independent woman, there’s no room for people for persons like us. The quiet ones, or the overcompensating people who are too loud for comfort. The people who drink themselves to sleep every night, to offer a brief reprieve until they get up and do it all again.
I booked an appointment with the GP; something had to happen. What difference was a GP appointment going to make? At this point I was in a bad way. I was scaring people close to me, it was affecting my school work, it prevented me from taking another job.
I decided I was going to go to the GP, and if I did not improve, I was going to end things . If you have never had depression, this is the choice every depressed person makes. To keep fighting, or to give into the pain and accept you are not strong enough.
The GP prescribed me a course of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. They work by reducing the amount of serotonin (the “happy hormone”) that your body re-uptakes. This results of more of it in your body. I had before being reticent to try SSRIs, after reading side-effects, but I was desperate.
When I look back at all the opportunities I missed, I have such anger at society. That people should be able to deal with their own problems. Today’s world is so fast-paced, we are being stimulated like never before. Passed onto the workers is the infinite growth of Capitalism. It is easy to feel like everything’s pointless.
Since starting SSRIs, I have felt so much better. I have not had a panic attack in weeks. I can let things at work which would have before played on my mind for weeks if not months ago. I feel more level.
If you are in the same position as me, go to the GP. Ignore the stigma; no one needs to know. I am writing this post, because after ten years and drugs, I finally feel confident enough and because I want to help other people.
It is all in your head, say the small-minded people. They have never felt depression. They may have felt sad getting rejected from a job. Or not making their promotion. You cannot explain the difference between sadness and depression. You will know when you realise you have not left your room in weeks. That you are dodging fast-food cartons to get around. Your first thought you have when you get up is how you are going to get through the day. Your last thought before get to sleep is how you are going to make it through the next.
Feel free to talk to me in confidence about your experiences. I am not a doctor but I can offer some advice.
I can encourage you to make that final step and book an appointment with the GP. It is a fifteen-minute meeting. It will concentrate on the issues causing your depression, rather than concentrating on how depressed you are.
If you do not do something, things will get better, but they will never get good.
I post in this in the hope of fostering a discussion; as the fetishism of commodities grows this will only get worse. We are not happy with being happy anymore; we are satisfied with other people believing we are happy.