Monday 19 January 2015

Right in/on the Noggin

I'm very open about my mental health. It's not something I'm shy about discussing because I believe leaving this kind of thing in the dark is a sure way to compound the problem(s). Besides, it's a part of me, it's shaped and guided my life in some way for almost thirty years, and I own it because otherwise it would own me. This has not been an easy process, it's been a long road… it's not a place you can get to by a boat or train. It's far, far away… behind the moon… beyond the rain… Wait, I've gone all Wizard of Oz, where was I? 

Right, Darkness = Mushrooms, and everyone knows they're the devil's haemorrhoids, so I'm not embarrassed to talk about my "problems". However, I don't wish it to be a subject of levity for someone who doesn't understand what they're talking about. Ask me about it, but don't dismiss me or minimise my experience. That will get you on my shit list quicker than you can say "Ignorant Fuck Chops".  I've lost count of the number of times I've heard glorious variations on the following: "oh, you're all right though, aren't you?"; "...but it's nothing serious?"; "you're too cheery to be depressed"; or my absolute fucking favourite "you're life's so easy, so stress free, what do you have to be depressed about?". I've heard them all so often they ring in my ears at the best of times, but when I'm down, for want of a better word, they positively bellow at me. 

By my reckoning, for ten months of last year I was depressed. Seriously depressed. For days at a time I was unable to leave the apartment, my OCD was out of control (I'm neither a cleaner nor a checker, my problems are mainly intrusive thoughts and excessive worrying - and no, while you feel like you worry endlessly, it's probably not the same thing. Be grateful, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy), and I licked my wounds in private. I felt lost at times, more lost than I'd been in a very long time and it was frightening. Did many people notice? No. Not many. Why? Because I've learned to live with it and to hide the worst of my symptoms (plus sometimes people just don't want to see). This isn't purely to make myself fit for human consumption, it's also a coping mechanism. I pretend to be well to persuade myself of the fact as much as to persuade anyone else, probably more so. It's tiring to carry it with you all the time, so losing yourself in the moment and being a human again just for a while, if it's possible, can be liberating. Yet, so often I still feel like tearing my face off when I'm surrounded by people. It's not easy but I manage not to. I've taught myself how. 

So to explain to those of you who are surprised at my diagnosis, who don't really believe me when I tell them, this article is the closest to understanding me you'll probably come. Don't read it for my sake, although friends of mine might want to (I don't expect it, I gave up setting myself up for disappointment of that kind a long time ago - people don't always do well with you when they know you're a "mental" and many just don't care, alas), read it in case there's someone right under your nose who might need your help or, at the very least, your understanding.

11 Habits of People with Concealed Depression

These past few weeks though, they've been good. I feel clearer in my mind than I have for months. My mood is lifted, not the manic euphoria that can take me over after a down (which can last for moments, days or weeks), I have a genuine sense of well being and a positive frame of mind. You know why? Once again, I've survived myself. I did even better than that, in fact. Through it all I worked, I connected with others, I lived, breathed and enjoyed myself despite its ever present tyranny. So I win. I know how to live with it, I know how to function despite the despot sitting in my brain pan. Every time it comes and I live through it, I become stronger. Who knows? One day it might get tired of messing with me, one day it might realise it's not worth the effort anymore because I refuse to be broken.  With that in mind, I consider myself monumentally lucky and I refuse to take that shit for granted. There are too many of us who don't come through it, too many lives wasted by this measly shitkicker of an illness that too many people continue to pretend doesn't exist. 

Fuck you, Depression.