So here I am at the end of another pretty much pointless day. I wanted to write and talk to you about how I am feeling but I struggle with understanding myself most of the time, so if my thoughts make no sense here (at least at times), please remember and forgive me. I am not here to frustrate you and I do not mean to make you sad, quite the contrary I wish I could tell you that I am alright, that I am happy, but I am not. Maybe there are a lot of others who are not happy, actually there will be others, but right now I am trying to concentrate on myself and how I feel.
That might sound self-absorbed, even selfish, but to me it isn’t. I have spent so much time over the last few years trying to please everyone all the time and trying to be everything and I can’t do that, it is impossible. As the days come the guilt from not achieving this will still float around my head and wound me the way it does everyday. Does that sound melodramatic? Maybe it does but for me it is a reality I live through. I hear my own voice criticising me and second-guessing me constantly. I am often confused about things and find it difficult to express myself and just become angry. When I calm down I berate myself for being angry and unfocused and for letting others and myself down and so the cycle begins again – this happens most days.
I can talk about my depression and sound rational and open-minded. The truth is when I am able to do this I am not connecting the thoughts in my head to my emotions, and it takes a lot to pass underneath the protective layer and get to my emotions. If I am able to get through this layer on a regular basis and connect events in my life to actual, tangible emotions then I will consider that progress. If I can’t I don’t think I can ever heal. Anger is an emotion and I certainly feel angry at times, but the anger, however justified, is a blocker and detrimental to my health as I cannot use it constructively now…maybe at some stage I will be able to.
My life so far has been OK. Better than some, but some of the events in it are crippling me now and the responses I have programmed into my personality are holding me back and damaging me. I am making progress there, but after 7 months of counseling I am still working hard on these things. In fact I am mostly working hard to discover them. A bit of a downer, but progress is progress. Actually, it pains me to write that when what I really feel is anger and frustration. There is no magic pill, there is no ‘off’ switch, there will be no progress until I faced up to issues that I have. I have developed a long list of neuroses and responses that block out positive emotional responses. When I say positive I mean those responses that are helpful and move me forward no matter what they are.
Sounds a bit like philosophy and counseling doesn’t it? I am not trying to be clever, I am trying to be clear for me and whoever else reads this. I just have some insight after Monday’s counseling session that I do not want to lose, because I know that for the last few days I have been going down hill again.
When I look back at the above, I can see that I am doing the ‘rational’ bit, I am at a point where I am 80% clear about what I want to say. I am not however, making any emotional connections within myself. I am glad of it and I hate it at the same time. My emotions scare me…I can feel there is a stirring of something. I really can feel it, but I can also feel myself suppressing those emotions. Does that sound mad? Maybe it does, but to be honest if you think it sounds mad, you probably need to think about it again and accept that in my experience what I say is true.
I have realised that my workplace and my current job is a real issue and trigger for me. That has taken so long to realise. Having been on annual leave for 5 weeks and then returning to work I realise that it affects me greatly. It seems like there is no way out, particularly given the economic state of the world at the moment. I feel trapped there, and I feel trapped within myself.
Before I was officially diagnosed with depression, before I started counselling, before I started seeing a psychiatrist, before I got involved with Occupational Health at work. – I have been happy, just getting on with life everyday, enjoying work and play and just living. I began suffering around 6 months before seeking help through my doctor, and slowly things got worse until something broke and I knew I needed help.
It is ‘funny’ that when I try and think of being happy and what it was like I cannot actually remember – why is that I wonder? Is it because of the negativity coming from depression just killing off the feelings which would illicit the memories? I don’t know. I am refraining from swearing so as not to offend anyone that might read this. I know there are better ways to express myself than swearing but a lot of the time swearing does just fine. Is that dishonest? In some way it feels like it.
So here I am. It is late and I am running out of things to write. I want to tell you about some of the events that have shaped me, but it feels self-indulgent and I also feel that I wouldn’t really know where to begin….Let me think about that.
Can I get back to where I was before all this started? I wish I could, I think that I can in fact, but facing up to things is hard and often I feel I should just shut myself away and not bother. That wouldn’t protect me now though. In some twisted way it has in the past, but then I am where I am partly because of doing just that. External events matter too.
I saw a lot of violence and arguing in years 9-13 of my life. So did my brother and sister, but they can write their own fucking letters. I am not here to talk about them. I am not unsympathetic, but then again I cannot afford to look elsewhere right now. I need to fix me. My parents fought and argued for around 2 years before my dad left on the 18th February 1980. I have just realised that that is 29 years ago this year, in fact Tuesday next week. I was sent on a school trip with my sister and came back to find that he wasn’t there. I felt relief, but that event and those of the next few years scarred me.
During those last 2 years he had put my mum through the wringer. My mum was devastated for herself and us kids. She fought for us for years afterwards, while he swanned around being the smiling, loveable rogue that he was known for being. I wrote a poem for my mum last year about the fact she was so strong for us. I compared her to a lioness guarding her cubs. When my mum read it she got really upset, it touched her deeply.
My dad was a critic. He was harsh, hard, violent in word and temper. He beat us kids really hard at times. I was so frightened of him if he called me in anger I used to wee myself. There is no shame in that for me. Some may laugh, but I never did and never will. I never saw what happened to me and what I saw as ‘violence’ as such until is what described that way to me by my counsellor and psychiatrist. That is indeed what it was. It was vile and cruel. I fear my children fearing me in the same way. I fear myself around them at times, I don’t want to be like him, but I do have a temper at times and since being ill it has been worse..Now that connects emotionally, but I have tears in my eyes, though not on my cheeks, I do that very rarely and often think that sometimes I cannot.
My dad died suddenly coming up to four years ago, and I was a bit sad, though mostly numb. I was concerned with how others felt at the time, but I desperately wanted to connect with someone in my family and let them know how I was feeling. Nobody reached out and when I tried to there was a backing away. Saved me from my own emotions though.
I wanted to be able to feel the loss, but mostly I didn’t. The woman that he was having an affair with for two years before he left, married him and she feels a victim. She has never apologised for what she did. On the contrary, after the funeral she said she met him, fell in love with him and wanted him, so took him. Her words not mine…just like that. I have remained on good terms but never told her how I feel. She is a selfish bastard, a millionaire. But recently, because I put my children before her at Christmas has decide not to speak to me.
She lives in Hong Kong, so big deal. It hurt a bit that she couldn’t understand why I asked her not to visit us (she had a very heavy flu, it was Christmas and our daughter was just 9 weeks old). I called her three times and sent text messages, but she did not return any of them. I have decide to cut her out of my life entirely. I had buried the hatchet many years ago, I was willing to see her and speak to her but now she can ‘do one’ and try and control someone else. She never wanted anything to do with us before dad died, but after, she started referring to us as ‘her children’ to other people who didn’t know us. She even sent my brother and sister cards with ‘Son’ and ‘Daughter’. No loss really, it just makes me angry when I think about it.
So, back to me. I am trapped, have kept on taking my medication but I have a lot of self-critical and harmful thoughts each day. I hadn’t thought about harming myself or punishing myself or being ill, angry, upset, numb, frustrated for around two months, but since returning to the work situation I have been going downhill and the last two weeks have seen these feelings and thoughts come back again. I find it very difficult to remember things in the short term.
My counsellor is concerned. He has asked me would I consider going on long term sick. He is not suggesting it but wants to explore it as an option, but more so to get my response and talk about that. I think that in some way it would be a good idea, but I worry about what work, occupational health, my family, my wife, my in-laws will think. My wife is totally supportive, but I project my own insecurities, thoughts and stuff onto people close to me, work colleagues, strangers, neighbours anyone really. So I cannot escape the criticism. I am so convinced by these things that I even think my wife has said things when she absolutely hasn’t.
If I argued with my mum she used to say I ‘was cracked’ and that there was ‘something up with me’. I do know that I was struggling with teenage life at the time and all that was going on with her and dad, but also my brother was a ferocious, angry, mean and violent bully towards me. He chased me out of the house when I was about 11 in my pyjamas and I had to run away down the main road, because he had lost it and was so angry. I had to call the police to him when I was about 16/17, he was foaming at the mouth, and was crazy angry. Once he stopped about two inches away from stabbing me in the throat in temper. He swung the knife and just stopped himself in time, laughed nervously, and walked away. Lucky me.
My teenage years were steeped in sadness, confusion, violence, bullying, parental disaster. It is only looking back now that I can recognise this. At the time I wrote a lot of poetry about unrequited love and my need for love. I just wasn’t getting any at home. My mum was suffering greatly mentally for two years before dad left and for a time afterwards.
All this baggage needs unloading, and this is just the first few items. My mind is like Heathrow Terminal 5. Full of lost, damaged and delayed baggage. I am 40 years old now (just) and some of those bags are being unpacked and some have yet to arrive fully.
Other life events, my stressful job and on and on have contributed to the weight and length of my depression. I have hope that I can come through this, move away from London and find peace somewhere else having changed for the better. I am at risk of relapse in the future, but I can’t live under that shadow. So I have hope, it isn’t very strong and it changes each day, sometimes I am just determined and not hopeful, sometimes the depression is winning.
I do know that if I stop struggling against this illness and all it entails above, I won’t survive it. Whether dead or alive, it won’t matter because the illness, this bastard depression, this strength and health sucking parasite, this commonly misunderstood and overlooked condition, will win if I stop trying to beat it.
I can’t say I will get there in the end, I am not that brave and I am not that sure. But for now I will try. I will fight it. I just need help and support and some clarity and space on a daily basis. But one thing I have a really hell of problem with is asking for help and then accepting it. To ask means there is something wrong with me, there is I know….but there lies a big issue for me…. I know I am depressed, but I doubt myself and my motivations each day.
I hope this makes sense to you,. It does to me right now, but tomorrow I can’t say how I will feel about it…maybe you might feel the same. Thanks for listening, you don’t need to reply…I just hope you might understand me a little more.