This is the first installment of a two part blog where I try to explain something about what I suffer with and how I’m affected by it. I originally submitted this as part of a piece for someome else. I’ve amended a few things for this version. It’s meant to compliment a piece I’ve written on anxiety and how it makes me feel which you can find here.
What does depression mean to me? To explain it means to explain myself, to tell my story.
I was first diagnosed with depression in my late teens back in the eighties.
Before I was diagnosed, I was a quiet, shy, withdrawn kid. I was socially underdeveloped, and found it hard to interact around people. I was bullied at school, even some friends I had at the time joined in.
I grew up through Thatcher’s Britain. My dad was a miner who went on strike whilst my mam worked a few jobs to try and keep some money coming in. They divorced around this time and I went to live with my mam and my two younger sisters. It was the perfect excuse for me to disappear further into myself.
My moods would often be bleak, I gravitated to the darker things in life. I found it incredibly hard to articulate what was going on in my head. The confusion, the low self esteem would manifest itself in different ways. I would punch walls until I could feel my knuckles pop. I would control my eating, either eating little or binging.
When I first went to the doctor’s about the way I was I was told it was natural for me to feel this way, it was just my hormones trying to balance out. In other words, I’d grow out of it. Part of me still hopes that it will happen.
Mental health was, back then, something that was still looked down on and not really talked about. There was almost this ominous threat that you would be locked up in the local ‘nut house’ away from everyone. Ours was called Cherry Knowles, a quite chipper sounding name for something that would stretch it’s long shadow over the local community. With mental illnesses back then, you kind of buried it away. You weren’t encouraged to talk about it.
Before my 19th birthday I tried to kill myself. There’s no sugar coating the fact at all. I just wanted to stop existing. I wanted to disappear, to never leave my mark in life. My depression had convinced me that not being alive in this planet was a good thing, that taking myself out of the equation would be better for everyone, including myself.
A couple of things happened to me that helped me try and gain some of the mental balance that I desperately needed.
I was encouraged to start writing by a teacher and my friend’s mam. Since I was around sixteen I’ve written poetry as a way to channel the white noise in my brain out of me. As I grew older it married up with my other love, music. To me music was the greatest medication I could have. It could help express what I was feeling, it could alter my mood, it help articulate what I was trying to express. I could live my moods by absorbing other people’s work.
In my early twenties I started fronting bands. I could write my inner darkness out of me. Performing became a way of exercising the darkness inside of me. My performances would become more and more physical, almost like I was self harming again, but on front of an audience, which is pretty sick when you think about it. But it helped, me still being here is proof of that.
My depression had been with me ever since. Sometimes it is almost non-existent, other times it’s overwhelming.
Depression is a cancer of the soul. It takes anything that you consider good or joyous and it removes anything you might have taken from it. It seeds the world around you with doubt. Whatever you may use to protect you crumbles away. All becomes dust.
At it’s worst it’s my greatest enemy. It makes me doubt myself and what I can achieve. It takes the joy out of life, taking the good things that are around me and making them bleak. It wants to crush me and bury me. I want to curl up and disappear.
Every now and again I’ll get the feeling rise in me. Not that I want to kill myself, but more that I don’t want to exist anymore. It’s like tearing a page from a book. Once it’s gone it can’t be put back. That’s what it wants to take from me. It’s doesn’t let you think what effect it’ll have on others. In that way depression is a very selfishness condition as you focus on yourself. Everything becomes about you. You’re a black hole, everything gets drawn in to this void, this bleak state. After a while, there’s nothing left. All you can do is just collapse in on yourself.
That is what depression means to me.