“Hello, Burnham and Berrow Doctors Surgery?”
“Hi, I’d like to make an appointment, please. To speak about depression.”
Yesterday was a big day for me. After fighting with depression for the better part of two years now, yesterday was the first day I was able to reach out and admit that I’m not coping. That I need help.
And by God, did I need to say it.
My fight against depression began exactly as it does for many sufferers: first, with the eventual acceptance that there is a problem that needs addressing; and secondly, with the ridiculous notion that I could do that on my own.
It is a strange reaction we have, that when faced with a wall we know to be unassailable we would rather make a farce of attempting to climb it before asking for a leg-up. Think back to any time you have ever tried to put together a large piece of furniture, insisting the instruction manual’s recommendation of two or more helpers is superfluous; or when cooking a large meal for many guests, turning down every offer of help despite knowing you have six fewer arms than you really need.
The same was true for me when I first encountered depression. The thing with depression is that it knows it cannot contend with strength in numbers – that the moment you bring someone else in to fight your corner it is doomed – and so from the off it works to isolate you. It tells you that it isn’t a real problem; that no one wants to hear you going on about it; that if you were a real man you could handle it all by yourself. And therein lies the first truth I learnt about depression: it is a big, fat liar.
Needless to say, I didn’t learn this until long after I needed to. I listened to my depression and pushed away all those who might have helped. After all, what did they know? This was my problem to deal with, it was all within me; who else could deal with it but me? I listened, and I closed myself off to those around me. I thought then that I was doing it for my own good, as if I were quarantining myself lest my depression should catch and bring a loved one down with me. Little did I know then, I was doing exactly what my depression wanted me to do.
Once it had me all to itself, my depression got right to work. With nothing to distract me my mood would plummet, and with no one to take my hand and share the load, this negative energy had nowhere to go but back on myself. I was caught in a feedback loop, brooding on my inability to help myself and sinking ever lower because of it. I turned to drinking; on dark days I drank to pass the time, and on good days I drank to celebrate. I gave up making music because every time I picked up my bass, a voice in the back of my mind would whisper, “What’s the point? You’re only going to do it wrong, so why bother?” I fought with my family, with my friends, with people I barely knew, for no reason other than them being there to fight with. I was out of control, and whenever these things happened I had nowhere to turn but back on myself; or at least, that’s what my depression told me.
If I am grateful for one thing during this time, it is for the group of true friends who stuck by me despite my best attempts to drive them away. They had every opportunity and every reason to wash their hands of me but didn’t, and for that I will always love them. I found their help where I looked for it least, and it was to them that I was first able to admit my depression. Without them, I know I would not have been able to pick up the phone yesterday morning and reach out for the help I knew I always needed.
Therefore it is to them that I dedicate this blog, with which I plan to chronicle my journey forward from here. This is to become the diary of my recovery, hence the title of this post and all those to follow it. This is the first day in my acceptance of depression, and hopefully the first step towards being able to look it in the eye and tell it to jog on.
And, if you will forgive me this, I would dedicate this blog to myself as well; or rather, to the version of myself that I hope to see emerge the stronger from this fight.
Come on, Depression. Let’s be ‘aving ya.