I suffer with depression. Last night I broke down quite badly. Hours later it was announced that legendary actor and funnyman Robin Williams had died. He had killed himself and he too suffered with depression.
I am a journalism graduate, and for the first time in months, maybe in a year, I’m writing something that isn’t forced. Something that I’ve not had to write. For the first time in so long, may it be only for a very short time, I’ve got that passion back. It’s a shame it’s taken the events of the last 24 hours for this to happen.
I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this. To speak out? Maybe even cry for help? I don’t really know. I want to help others and and voice my opinions on such a raw subject, and I guess let you in on what I’m going through, if I can explain it at all well enough. Forgive me if any of this makes little sense, my head’s been all over the place lately.
Last night the deepest of tragedies left the world talking about mental health.
“How can someone with all that money, all that success be depressed?”
“How can someone be so good at making everyone else happy yet be incapable of finding happiness for himself?”
“How could he be so selfish to commit suicide?”
These are some of the things people have asked. Uneducated people perhaps. I don’t want to be too hard on them, because I guess if they don’t get it then they’ve not had mental illness trouble them in life, and they’re so lucky for it. Allow me to try and answer a few of those questions.
Depression doesn’t care if you’re old or young, fat or thin, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, successful or otherwise. if it’s going to get you, it will. It’s a vicious illness, one that affects so many of us. In the UK alone one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem within the course of a year, while there are approximately 450,000,000 mental health sufferers worldwide.
You’ll only know if someone is suffering if they tell you. Perhaps you might see the scars if they’e cut themselves, but for many of us, we put on a brave face so you wouldn’t know, and telling someone is really fucking difficult by the way.
You don’t want to burden anyone with your suffering. You’re embarrassed, ashamed, angry that you’re in such a negative frame of mind. You don’t think others will understand the pain you’re going through, what you’re feeling or how you’re feeling. Often they don’t and that is a real issue. So many sufferers do so in silence, to the point depression has been given the tag as the ‘silent killer’ as a result.
I mentioned pain there. It is pain. It’s just not physical so people don’t notice. This image illustrates quite well how many people respond to mental health issues, and how ridiculous it looks when you compare that to physical pain.
Sometimes it seems that I have no place
And I don’t know what to do, with myself
Night after another, I can taste the filth inside
And I need to cleanse my soul.
Nobody knows, nobody cares that I die on the inside
Nobody sees the lie that is me as I smile on the outside
Nobody knows, nobody cares that I walk on the wrong side
Tell me who… Nobody
All the friends that I had, where are they now?
Guess I’m far too intense to be loved
All the things that I hate, I hate about myself
And I need to cleanse my soul. – “Nobody” – Amy Studt.
Those are lyrics to a song that, for me at least, relate better than I can put into words how I feel when I am depressed. You feel so alone. At times all you wish for is someone to just ask you how you are. How you really are. From my experience a lot of the time that’s what I feel I need, someone to talk to, someone who seems like they care.
My suffering, I believe, stems from a tough childhood. One where I was bullied regularly throughout my school life, not being as clever as I’d like to be (apparently I’m borderline autistic) and also having to deal with my sexuality. I’m from a family who has always struggled financially too.
I moved away at the first opportunity, to university, primarily for a fresh start in life, a first chance to be the man I wanted to be without the fear of what others thought of me. I wanted to get away and prove that I actually am good at something.
I did all that. Those were the best three years of my life, the last two anyway. I was in a place where I was accepted for who I am, and could be who I was, with no fear. I really found myself, a place I was genuinely happy for the first time in my life. I also got my degree, a 2:1 – I’d even surpassed my own expectations! Now I still had the odd bad day every now and then, but that’s all it ever was, a bad day.
Now I’m sat here back at home, back where I hated life. I’m here without the things and more importantly the people who made me happy at uni. I’m back living with my mother, and as much as I love her, the best part of three years away was great. I could do what I wanted when I wanted without anyone telling me what to do. I was independent and I loved it. I’m that unconfident, unhappy, unsociable 17 year old boy again who I fucking despised, and I feel trapped.
I’m currently looking for work. That’s the sugar-coated way of saying I’m on the dole, signing on every week. Associated with the slobs you see on TV. I’m embarrassed and ashamed at this too. I was working back in Chelmsford and had to give the job up to come back home. To be fair it wouldn’t have paid enough because I had my student loan back then. £57 in JSA just about affords a pot for me to piss in, the 35p Tesco Value pot noodles I’ve been living off at the moment. No nights out, no football matches – the things I actually enjoyed in life I can’t do. I can’t even go and see the handful of friends I have back here because I can’t afford the bus fare.
I’m also moving house. Moving from the family home that I’ve lived in since the day I was born. This is also very stressful, understandably. Trying to shift 35 years of crap from the house when it’s just you and mum, both out of work (my mum for health reasons) and broke. It’s taken its toll on both of us. Forever arguing because I’m not pulling my weight apparently, when I’m trying to juggle all this with looking for a job, with the now non-existent social life, my depression etc.
I don’t feel appreciated by my family in that respect. I don’t think they realise how tough being back home is for me, how tough it is without my friends, without the social life that took me 20 years to get, without a job, without any money. And they treat me as if I’m still a child. Mum’s the priority (don’t get me wrong the last few years have been very tough for her too for various reasons) but they forget about me. They forget, or don’t realise that I’m suffering too and that I’m 21 next week and have a life of my own which I sometimes need to put first.
That’s what caused the breakdown last night. Me and Mum argued for the umpteenth time since I’ve been back and we both boiled over. I spent an hour crying. Went out and sat at a random bus stop for an hour in an attempt to clear my head. It didn’t really help. Then I came home to the news depression had taken another great man from us.
Selfish? No, not at all. The problem with mental illness is that you feel like there is nowhere to turn. Suicide is the last resort. You’ve tried, you’ve battled but there is no light in the tunnel of your troubled mind. You’re alone, even with people around you. There’s no way out.
I’ve never attempted suicide. I guess I’m lucky in that respect, that I’ve never been that bad. I don’t think I’d have the bollocks to go through with something like that if truth be told, even though at times I’ve questioned what have I got to live for?
I don’t think there’s anywhere near enough support for mental illness sufferers, particularly depression. I like to compare it with cancer, they’re both actually very similar.
Cancer too does not care if you’re old or young, fat or thin, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, successful or otherwise. It also affects as many people as depression. You would never call someone selfish of dying from cancer, or ask “He/she had everything, why have they got cancer?” – That’s ridiculous. It’s just as ridiculous if that was depression. They’re both horrible illnesses yet one gets so much coverage, media attention and support, so many are aware of one but not the other. That needs to change.
Question: I ask you to try and name as many organisations/charities/fundraising events relating to cancer, off the top of your head, then do the same for mental health. Why is it that there are so many more of the former? Do we not know of any mental illness support networks available or is there just a lack of them?
The treatment you’re given too – I have sought help in the past. I had to wait six weeks before anyone contacted me regarding a counselling session earlier in the year. I couldn’t attend in the end due to uni work I had due in. That was a local organisation just focusing on teenagers/young adults. I dread to think how long the wait is on the NHS.
I’ve also been to my GP, more than once over the years. The courage you need to be able to book the appointment, go in and tell someone you barely know, in my case had never met, and tell them you suffer with depression is something I can’t quite explain. But you go in to basically be told to see how you go and come back in a couple of weeks, and that destroys you. You leave feeling even worse than before you went in. It’s as if they don’t care, that they have people with more important issues to be seeing instead, that they’re not bothered you’re suffering and this is your cry for help.
Imagine if you’d found a lump, turned up and your GP had told you to see how you are and come back in a few weeks. That could be the difference between you living and dying and I believe that’s exactly the same for depression too, for some people.
I was also given the label by my GP (as if I’ve not been labelled enough during my life) that I suffer with ‘mild depression’, this based on answering a few questions. That’s bullshit. Mild. If what I’ve gone through is considered mild then I certainly don’t blame anyone who resorts to self harming or worse. How fucking dare they call it mild when they themselves don’t know you, what you’re going through and you’ve been sat there with them for what, five minutes? That needs changing too.
I don’t bother with them anymore. Instead I suffer in relative silence, just hoping the next day is better than the last. I don’t really feel like there are places to go, people to talk to and I know that many of the millions of sufferers out there feel the same.
I don’t really know what I want to gain from this post to be honest. I guess the few hours I’ve spent writing it has given me something to do. It’s got stuff off my chest too I guess. If I’ve educated anyone with this (that’s if you’ve managed to sit through it) then that’s great, if anyone feels they can help me or anyone else they might know having read this then even better.
Even though I’m suffering I want to help people too. If you want someone to talk to to about anything or everything, you can talk to me if you like, in confidence. Chances are I can relate to some extent with what you’re going through and if I can help, even if I’m just ears and I can’t offer too much advice I will do my best. I want to help others because feeling like this is so fucking shit and nobody should have to.
Robin Williams shouldn’t have had to and it’s sad that his tragic demise is what it has taken to get people talking.
This is so very hypocritical of me to say given it’s how I feel a lot of the time, but don’t feel ashamed for feeling like this, or embarrassed to ask for help. Without the help of others we wouldn’t be capable of anything.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, it’s bloody long so fair play to you. I needed to write it, so even if nobody’s read it then I hope I feel better for it anyway. Again apologies if it didn’t make much sense.
If anyone wants to talk about anything then get in touch. Twitter’s your best bet @blake2108