Depression is not a natural subject for me to write about because I have suffered from it more than once in my adult life. It’s not a subject I find easy to talk about in general, less still when it relates to myself. Indeed, not talking about it has long been one of my ‘coping mechanisms’ when it comes to the long dark tunnels into to which I have on occasion wondered. Not, I will admit a very good coping mechanism. Not one which worked awfully well for a start, or helped me get past that dark tunnel at any point. Just a defence against having to deal with my problems, and at the time because talking about them was the last thing I could bring myself to do.
You might well ask at this point, ‘Why is he talking about it now?’ which would be a fair question. The simple answer to which is, because I can. The more complex answer is probably because I should.
I can talk about my depression right now because I am not currently depressed. As has always been the case my depression is not a constant state, it comes and goes over the course of months or years, but has never taken up permanent residence. It tends to come in cycles, and it can be years between attacks. And every single time I get away from its grip I assure myself I will never let myself be dragged back down that tunnel. So as a consequence I don’t talk about my depression when I am not depressed either. Talking about it may bring about its return, why would I risk that?
So why am I talking about it now?
Well as I said the answer is complex but comes down to because I should. Because by doing so I may help others going down that dark road see there is light at the end of the tunnel, which is not an oncoming train. And because the disease of depression is one that can affect anyone and everyone, no matter who they are.
We are perhaps all products of our society and our environment as much as we are products of our own invention, and I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when ‘real men’ we were told, did not get depressed. Indeed, for most of my life, the impression society has fostered upon me is that depression is a woman’s condition. Men just man up and get on with life.
This is of course what can only be termed as bollocks.
But never the less it was what society taught me back in my youth and a lesson that I took to heart back then. While at the same time suffering from depression in my teens to the point of contemplating suicide on more than one occasion. Dark thoughts in dark tunnels of my emotions. The feeling the world would be better without me. That I would be better without me. These feelings were so strong at times, and for all I got past them they are feelings that have come back more than once in my adult life. And yet I have seldom talked about it to anyone because society taught me to do so was wrong, weak and unmanly.
Like so many things in my life, I have found the prevailing logic of my youth to be saturated with untruths which we, as a society, have moved passed. Ideological concepts I despised in my youth have slowly withered away. Racism is on the retreat, all be its ugly head has arisen of late. Homophobia seems almost a thing of the past, talking to my children they would not believe the stigma I saw some of my friends coping with in the 90’s. While we have far from reaching a point where a strong feminist movement is no longer required even the most vitriolic feminist would agree we have come a long way in the last few decades. As a society, we have moved on in this and so many other ways.
With depression, there still seems to be a stigma that was always there in my youth. Real men do not get depressed (whatever real men are.)
Perhaps this is because, of all these things, depression is the one which has affected me directly. Perhaps I do not see the change in society in this regard, any more than a black lesbian in Hackney may not see that attitudes of racism, homophobia and the misogynous have not changed awfully much either.
Perhaps both I and my fictional Hacknian are fooled by our closeness to the subject, and we have progressed a long way as a society. I hope as much.
My last bout of depression started last spring; I lost my job and my focus, and a steady spiral that I suspect I had been sliding down for a while before that became a death slide. Looking back the signs had been there a long while. The relationship I was in at the time was struggling a little, and importantly I was not talking about my emotions and feelings much, but when it hit me, it hit me hard.
It a depression I have moved past, my relationship ended which inadvertently helped, if only because it gave me the impetus to move on and not having to struggle with the problems within the relationship gave me one less problem in my life to feed into the darkness. Finding a new job, all be it a short-term one in November, then finding a full-time job in January helped also, but mainly I managed with the help of friends to move past the walls of depression.
I am lucky in many respects; I can see positive things which came out of my depression. My first novel was finally finished and published because I needed focus and something to feel good about. Changing aspects of my personal life helped too, and once I had moved beyond the walls of that long dark tunnel, I found a new impetus for life that will keep me from slipping back.
But I know others among my friends and family who suffer from depression. Who don’t talk because they feel they can’t, or should not. That they will be seen as weak, or lacking in other ways if they admit how they feel.
Depression is an illness.
It should not bear a stigma.
It’s okay to be depressed, and it’s okay to talk about it.
It’s not weak to do so.
It’s hard I know, but find someone to talk to, don’t go through it alone.
You’re not alone.
There is always a light at the end of that tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train
This is an important message we need to keep getting out there.
The links below talk more fluently on the subject
Additionally, if you can talk to no one else, or just want to talk to someone who will listen The Samaritans numbers are listed below, along with links to their websites