Like many writers and musicians, I am a depressive alcoholic with an obsessive streak. Unlike many of them, this parlous state of affairs has led me to attempt suicide. What will follow is an attempt to write through my pain, try to express what I am going through, and hopefully reach out to others who are perhaps suffering from the same illnesses as I am. ‘You are not alone’ is a mantra oft touted about the mental health community, but part of the very problem that most depressives grapple with is precisely that feeling: of being all alone with thoughts that are all too often torturous and confusing.
By setting out some of my own thought processes and experiences I hope to bridge this gap; as a man of words I am reasonably confident I can at least try to convey what I’m dealing with, and maybe encourage others in a similar predicament to open up too.
Depression (which I will use here as a blanket term to encompass the anxiety and obsessive/intrusive thinking that have also plagued me for years, and which I believe plague many other depressives) has proved a costly illness: I have lost two partners and a job to it and, on one or two occasions, nearly my life. It has also led me to acquire an alcohol habit that can only be described as problem drinking: it’s not that I don’t know when to stop, it’s that I no longer know how to. Just as mental illness will push a relationship to breaking point, it can also damage friendships, particularly those of the less robust, forgiving kind: one advantage here is that fair-weather friends will soon be weeded out. Beware also those ‘friends’ who appear to be there for you in the first moment of crisis but may prove less willing to accept that depressives are subject to mood swings, which may render them unable to express gratitude or other social niceties as effortlessly as their less troubled fellow human beings.
Anyone who tells you that as a mental health sufferer it is your responsibility to draw the line between your behaviour and your condition has no understanding of what depression is about. Someone suffering from poor mental health can no more be expected to behave appropriately at all times than a man with a broken leg be expected to walk unaided: patience is required when dealing with us. You would not believe, dear reader, the number of times I have been told to be patient about my condition – and yet patience is a virtue that we require from others as much as it is necessary in ourselves.
Beware also of closet parasites who initially appear helpful but only give to receive – specifically a sense of power and control over someone in a vulnerable condition. Once you appear to be up and running again they will quickly withdraw support or expect you to mollycoddle them in return as if they were your personal guardian angel. Of course, many people who helped me through rough patches did not prove to be of such flawed character, but I have been disappointed by one or two initially fair-seeming acquaintances. In my humble opinion a touch more forgiveness and understanding would not ill become them, but then I suppose such people clearly have their issues too, so who am I to judge? You see – patience… we could all learn to have a bit more of it 🙂
In my next post I will do what I can to express my definition of depression, what it is and what it isn’t, and in so doing attempt to clarify one or two things both for my own benefit and for the intended benefit of other sufferers and those close to them who wish to help.