In honour of World Mental Health Day, I state the fucking obvious

Content note: I talk very frankly about my mental health problems in this post. Some of you might find it upsetting.

Today is World Mental Health today, so now is as good a time as any to be honest. I have alluded to this in previous posts, and Twitter, and so on, but let me say this outright: my mental health is not exactly tip-top.

I have depression. I’ve had it for so long that it’s just kind of become a part of me. I remember going through a brief period in the middle of it when I wasn’t depressed, and I felt so light that I might float up, up and away into the atmosphere. My usual state is kind of numb and apathetic, weighed down by a burden I barely notice any more. Sometimes I literally cannot be bothered to do anything, and will sit around and stink. I don’t usually feel miserable, instead I tend to feel nothing at all. And when the emotions do creep in, if I’m own they’re not usually the nicest ones. It’ll be misery, or anger, or frustration. I eat whatever is easiest to cram into my maw when I feel hunger; I smoke a lot so I feel slightly more sated by the crappy food I prepare.

I get anxiety from time to time, particularly as I emerge from the depths of numbness. Sometimes it’s a dull knot in the pit of my stomach which accompanies me throughout the day, and other times it’s like I’m drowning. It does not fuck off easily.

Sometimes the two bastard things team up, and I make some fucking dreadful decisions. I become reckless. Very, very reckless. Not in a “making-out-with-the-wrong-person” kind of way, but more like not crossing roads very safely because at that point half of me is not caring, and the other half of me seriously wants to be able to stop thinking. It’s not like I want to be dead, rather that I’d really like to be unconscious for a bit which will mean I don’t have to pretend to be a functional human the next day and it might hit the hard reset on the anxiety.

I’m not on medication. I have epilepsy on top of everything else, and most antidepressants don’t exactly mix well with that. I’d have to go back on daily epilepsy medication–a side effect of which is not being able to feel a fucking thing. I get prescribed a benzodiazepine for my epilepsy, to take when I need it. Sometimes I accidentally-on-purpose confuse the feeling of anxiety for the feeling of an oncoming seizure. I don’t do this very often at all, because I know benzos aren’t a good thing to have regularly. I probably don’t even take the stuff as often as I need.

I tried mindfulness therapy once, because this was what was on offer. I don’t think it helped. Before I had the therapy, I’d had a tendency to somatise my anxiety: rather than feeling shit, I’d kind of puke a lot and my body would hurt. The mindfulness took it out of my body and into my mind, and then it stopped because you can’t seem to get free therapy for very long at all.

I have a hell of a good support network, which I believe has been the key to me never sinking too far, and giving me a reason to get out of bed. I have friends and lovers who I adore, wonderful people who have handled me at my worst and also get to enjoy me at my best. I talk to a lot of amazing people online, who help me more than they’ll ever know. Twitter is truly a beautiful source of mutual support. Work is pretty understanding, too, and I have got time off when I’ve really needed it.

So that’s me. I felt like I should tell my story because I don’t doubt that it’s similar to others. I felt like I should tell my story in case there’s a magic wand that could make me not depressed that anyone knows about. I felt like I should tell my story because we don’t talk honestly about how we’re not OK anywhere near enough. I felt like I should tell my story in an attempt to smash down stigma surrounding mental health problems. I felt like I should tell my story because I haven’t been able to talk about it this fully until now. I felt like I should tell my story so you can know me better.


10 responses to “In honour of World Mental Health Day, I state the fucking obvious

  • korhomme

    Have you tried Tegretol?

  • cabrogal

    I felt like I should tell my story in case there’s a magic wand that could make me not depressed that anyone knows about.

    There is and I found it. For myself at least. And the completely frustrating thing is that I’ve got no idea how to pass it on to other people.

    I’m bipolar 1 and almost exactly a year ago I came out of the worst ten years of despair I have ever experienced in my 52 years of life.

    I was having one of my not infrequent mania induced psychotic breaks when my headspace suddenly changed radically. The whole world changed with it and my depression lifted completely. It hasn’t come back and I don’t believe it can touch me again.

    I’ve been trying to find a way to explain it to other people but with very little success. At best it comes out like a whole load of New Age guru twaddle about discarding your ego and seeing past apparent separateness to the underlying unity. At worst it sounds like the sort of “don’t take yourself so seriously and pull yourself out of it” shit that used to drive me insane when I was depressed.

    If I could go back in time and try to explain the whole thing to myself even just one day before it happened I still don’t think I would have understood it – though I would have thought I did and had already done so for years. It’s like I already had the intellectual concepts, then suddenly I had the reality of it too.

    The closest thing to practical advice I can offer is to stick with the mindfulness meditation. I’ve been doing it most days for decades and while I can’t be sure it was an important factor in what happened to me it sure feels like it was. Specifically I’m talking vipassana and the practice of observing the arising and subsidence of thoughts and emotions.

    Best of luck with it stavvers.
    Depression is shit.

  • sciamachy

    Thanks for that – that’s quite similar to my own experience of anxiety & depression. I recently had a psych-eval that recommended REBT, but I suspect I’m not going to get that through work & it’s expensive (local health authority doesn’t offer it), so I’m trying out mindfulness based CBT instead, using various guided meditations, and implementing Seligman’s Positive Psychology habits – things like writing down every day 3 things that went well or that I found good, and what they mean to me, and performing 5 acts of kindness to other people every day, recognising when someone shows good qualities, playing to my strengths, that kind of thing. I actually had the mindfulness stuff delivered yesterday, and being as I’m not engaged in anything right now at work I’ve brought it in & mean to read it cover to cover by the end of the day. I may have mentioned before but I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I don’t have epilepsy though – my sister has that, so I’ve some appreciation of what that’s like.

    One thing that keeps me awake at night is this: 70% of people with ASD develop depression and anxiety. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome too, and there’s some evidence my daughter may be that way too. I’ve read that ASD in girls expresses itself differently, so that may be why Frank has been failed by his first mainstream school & Lissie thrives there to some extent. She’s a lot more sociable in some respects, but both, like me, tend to catastrophise, assume the worst of any situation, or are quick to condemn people who annoy them, blame & denigrate themselves when what they do isn’t 100% perfect despite myself & my wife, Susan, telling them that it’s fine, it’s only a slight defect, and it’s miles better than most people could do at the same age or level of practice. I’m going to try to include my kids in my mindfulness training, try & give them some skills to fight depression or proof themselves against it. It creeps up on you. I think it’s like any habitual thinking – you strengthen synaptic pathways the more you repeat a given thought, and the more you condemn yourself, or catastrophise, the more ingrained it gets, till like a martial artist who’s practised a combination of attacks over & over till it’s a single fluid motion, you can beat yourself up like a masochistic Bruce Lee. It’s hard to break those connections, really hard.

  • Emma L (@littledreamer_)

    I don’t really have anything useful to say, I just want to comment as a kind of…solidarity? I have various mental fuck-ups, including anxiety and depression, and it fucking sucks. In the last year or so my anxiety has changed from the classic panic sort of thing to hardcore apathy and avoidance, which I kind of feel is worse. I’ll get through it, though. I’ve survived this long, so I can keep going. And even though I know I’m not alone, reading accounts like yours is really comforting, so thank you.

  • sciamachy

    Reblogged this on Emergent Behaviour and commented:
    I’ve commented on the original post – go look at that instead.🙂

  • Mich

    Solidarity, fair Stavvers. You’ve put into words the ugly, unwashed apathy that so often overcomes me.

  • Johnnie

    I love this post. Thanks so much. I am not sure what I am. Whether I’m depressed or not. I am transgender, something to female. I’d “normally” say male to female. But what the fuck is male. I was never male except as performance. Acting as if. Whatever the fuck. Anyway thanks much for your post. Love reading you.

  • superfurryandy

    How much this? Soooo much this:

    ” It’s not like I want to be dead, rather that I’d really like to be unconscious for a bit which will mean I don’t have to pretend to be a functional human”

    As I put it, I probably don’t want to die, just escape for a bit.

    Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: