A personal account on living with the ďcommon coldĒ of mental illnesses
A personal account on living with the ďcommon coldĒ of mental illnesses.
The first thing Iíll say is Yes, this is looking for attention. Get over it.
Depression is considered to be the ďcommon coldĒ of mental illness in terms of how common it is. Yet, because of the huge stigma around it, itís still a hidden illness. When someone asks you how you are, youíre not going to say ďbad enough to be fair, have depression, what about yourself?Ē It canít be that blasť to be fair as itís very serious but it shouldnít be the other extreme either where a person canít open up about their most intimate feelings to people they love like close friends or family. People canít just ďget over itĒ either, itís like telling someone with a broken leg ďget over it and go for a walkĒ, itís not that easy and all that approach achieves is people feeling like theyíre failing at not recovering, hurtng their confidence. Nobody who has ever just ďgotten over itĒ has ever really had depression as itís just not possible.
Like, for people who doubt the power of the stigma around mental illness, I can guarantee anybody who reads this will at some point think Iím just looking for attention or exaggerating things. Well, I canít give a response to that other than to say if Iím considered to be exaggerating then Iíd hate to see anybody you consider to have an ďacceptableĒ level of mental ill-health that they can be open about it and not be judged. Besides the fact the constant judgement is part of the problem. If someone is helped by putting up their dreary life-story on Facebook, so they can get sympathy, then so what? Maybe things are that bad thatís the level of desperation theyíre at. Maybe they wouldnít have to cry out for attention publicly if they didnít live in a culture where thatís the only way they can be listened to. Even if itís only a ďDid you see that eejitís thing there last night on being depressed?Ē in the yard at school or in the workplace, thatís far better to the person concerned that at least people know, itís out there.
On to my own thing anyway. Iím not giving my life story as itís not important but all I can say is I donít really know where it came from. If I did I could sort it but I still donít know. I first started feeling the early signs of it when I was about 12 I suppose. Having very little confidence in myself, being afraid of every and any social situation, not being able to do basic things people my age were doing, like be involved in sport for a fair period and not dropping out after only awhile. I felt ďsadĒ, that was it, I didnít understand it, it wasnít always there but something wasnít right. Then into my early teens things became more mixed, I was better overall but there would be short-term periods when things would skydive. I just put it down to being a teenager and everyone was going through it, I was nothing special there. But as things went on, as I went into my mid-late teens, things were getting worse. Iíd always be saying something wrong or making the wrong decision, nothing was going my way and I was aware there was something not right again. Iíd slip in things, like I was always feeling I did wrong in something, in school or with friends it was like I felt incapable of getting the positive side of things and it always felt like it was my own doing. Things didnít go so well at that time either outside my control, maybe it was my fault I donít know, but things around me were pushing me down and down.
I started calling myself ďdepressedĒ around this time, age 15/16. I didnít really know what it meant to be honest, there was a feeling that I wanted to just give this thing Iíd felt since 12 a label, even if it wasnít accurate. I know now it wasnít depression as such, more the beginning of it. I came open about it to my mam and dad and got seen for it, and was told it was anxiety. I had a lot of typical teenager feelings, for typical things, but for me, because of that anxiety, it meant it meant more for me than other people, like it was more permanent rather than just a temporary thing, with more of a lasting impact. I didnít get proper sessions with the ďprofessionalsĒ to be fair, my age was awkward and services for people at that age werenít so good from my experience. Around my late-teens then, things went worse. I knew this wasnít just anxiety but that ďblack dogĒ in the background was forcing its way in. My confidence collapsed, my mood was vicious, I hated everyone and was always right, everyone is against me and Iíd get them eventually. Everything was negative. I took no pleasure in things I used to; reading was boring, playing x-box was boring, going out, which was becoming rarer and rarer, was boring. There was nothing upward about my future. I put it down to the Leaving Cert coming up, it was an obvious load of pressure and I just needed to make it through the next year or so and Iíd be grand. Iíd finish it and get a job, get every new game and film, get involved in helping people more, maybe meet a girl, get things sorted and Iíd be starting college and everything would be a breeze, just if I got through this bad patch. Unfortunately, it wasnít like that.
I felt that, going into 6th Year things got worse for definite. Iíd gotten involved in new things and was diversifying what I did, but I was still feeling worse and worse. Iíd be taking days off school because I hadnít the energy to go in, Iíd take the approach of ďitíll be grand, just leave it offĒ, to everything; my diabetes, my schoolwork/Leaving Cert, responsibilities. Nothing got done and I didnít care. I eventually went for more counselling but it didnít do much good. I got put on meds eventually by my GP after we all felt all other avenues had been pursued, I needed a boost. I thought things were going to be fine then. I was on meds and so was officially depressed, it had a name, and therefore a solution, an identity to it. It didnít last more than a few weeks until things slipped and even taking the meds became a duty I couldnít manage, or care about. Thereís few worse feelings than being on medication and going off it. Iíd sleep until 5 or 6 in the day and do nothing, had a constant tiredness, short-temper and a hopeless attitude, I felt physically unwell. Taking the meds erratically did nothing but alleviate these, it didnít remove the core problem. It was all just a circle of problems Ė depressed cause I wasnít taking my meds, not taking my meds cause I hadnít the energy.
Eventually, after a year of straight hell, I made it through Leaving Cert, got old enough to drink and was about to start college. Well, Itís almost a year later after this point now and things havenít improved. On the surface Iíve more to draw on but inside little has changed. Iíve accomplished so much in that time but that means little if youíve no bearing on it. Iíve helped people, like Iíve always tried to do, but it still means nothing. I think ďfuck them allĒ, lash out the odd time, take the wrong approach, but still that does nothing either. Itís like Iím miserable anyway so what difference does it make what I do, good or bad? Iíve passion for things that I never had before, but even then it reaches a limit. I feel Iíve so much potential and things I can achieve, but I just canít get there due to not having the confidence. Iíve pulled out of so many things and disappointed so many people by avoiding responsibilities but itís like Iím down but not out. Like have you ever seen in films a boxer getting mangled but still getting up, knowing heís going to get hit again and again and probably lose anyway but he still does it. Thatís how I feel.
Itís tough doing even menial things, things I should look forward to are more of an obstacle or a challenge. I couldnít even keep up going to my therapy sessions, it was too much energy. Now if I canít do that and thatís meant to be helping me, imagine my record in facing social situations, college, and all that where Iíve to make a huge effort to just get through it. I try and do it anyway, I try to enjoy things when it should be happening naturally but Iím not that lucky. I have to achieve enjoying something, have to put a load of effort into it. Itís hard and fails most of the time. Like leaving a place early for fear I wont enjoy it. Sometimes it succeeds and itís a small victory, very small. I dunno, I think Iíve no option but to try anyway and eventually Iíll get more strength and things wont become a chore. Iíll be happy more and because I put effort into it, itíll have a meaning. I wont be there for, to be realistic, a few years I think but I donít have a choice. The s-word isnít and wont ever be an option. Itís there every day, the thought of it, but it canít be entertained. Iím fighting because Iíve far too many counting on me, my parents, my brothers and my sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins and people I know are my friends; the people Iíve tried to help and will help, not just myself.
Iíve rambled here a bit I think, but trying to put this into words isnít easy, you canít leave some things out or people wont get what youíre saying properly. I know now some people might think, like I would, that Iím just looking for attention. Well yes, I am, unashamedly. If I get more people to properly understand where Iím coming from maybe things might get easier. I donít know how this will be recieved, people might ignore it or it might be read by a lot of people I know. Iíd prefer the latter obviously, if getting likes on Facebook is my only way to raise my confidence then Iíll do it. As I said, itís the small victories for the moment. If it means people will read it and feel better about themselves then even better. Iíve seen people with depression and noticed it instantly, I know the tell-tale signs. The worst is when I see it and know for a fact these people donít even know they have it. Maybe if they know the signs they can see it early.
Itís a bollix alright trying to appear more confident every time youíre in an exposed situation, sometimes it backfires and you just look arrogant or obnoxious, when in reality you donít know what to do. Appearing funny, tough or whatever is the easiest way of getting those small victories, but to get the big ones Iíve found all that you can do is get people to understand you, know what you mean and how you feel, rather than take you at face value as a fool or someone nobody wants to be around. I can only thank my family and those whoíve helped and apologise to people Iíve been negative to.
Anyway, Iíll end on a lighter note: Renua got no seats in the election!! :)