“I’ve been to hell and back so many times, I must admit you kind of bore me.” – Ray LaMontagne
Being that I’m generally very happy, positive and enthusiastic about life and living, I sometimes encounter people who seem baffled as to how I could possibly talk with any authority on the subject of depression, let alone suggest it could - in many cases - be cured… which I firmly believe to be true.
Perhaps they hold the opinion that my life must always have been a bed of roses and I blog these bold and arrogant statements without having experienced anything more than feeling a little low?
There have even been suggestions that - because I didn’t kill myself - I can’t have been suicidal, as if the lack of making the final cut, so to speak, was a weakness.
What they don’t realise is, I went through hell…
I know that many, many people who have walked this planet have gone through or are going through worse ordeals of suffering, but in the sense of Western-world depression, I’ve ticked just about all the boxes except for executing a successful suicide… though that’s a very grim oxymoron if ever there was one.
I write about depression from the perspective of someone who’s been there. I spent over twenty years - more than half my life - inside that living nightmare and I speak openly and candidly about my experiences because I’d like to help others find their way through, too.
So… I’m going to use this blog to do two things: firstly, to give greater insight into the scale and depth of the depression I experienced; and then to explain the reasoning for my conviction that we can overcome it and remove it from our lives, as I have done.
If you’re already gritting your teeth and possibly whistling steam out of your ears at the suggestion that depression can be cured; if you think I’m meddling with things I can’t possibly understand… then I recommend you don’t read any further.
And before I carry on, I want to say that I’m not looking for sympathy in explaining some of the more intimate details of my experiences. From my perspective, here and now, I see every dark moment as a slab in the crazy-paved path that led me right to here, and I love my life. I am truly happy and have made peace with myself and all the content of my mind.
Scotland’s Action on Depression website lists the following as symptoms of depression:
• Feelings of hopelessness
• An inability to enjoy things which were once pleasurable in life
• Weight loss or weight gain
• Loss of energy or motivation
• Loss of sex-drive
• Disturbed sleep
• Poor concentration, indecisiveness
• Irritability, anger
• Social withdrawal
• Unexplained aches and pains
• Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
That list pretty much encompasses how my life used to be. I can relate to and have experienced every symptom, and they never came one at a time – they gang up.
I first started self-harming aged around 13. There was probably an element of bravado to begin with, because I used to do it with my mates, at school. We’d drag craft-knife blades across our forearms and see who could bleed the most, but when that fad wore out amonst my peers, I kept doing it. I’d cut myself, alone in my bedroom, choked up with deep, shoulder-rocking sobs and blinded by tears.
I was bullied at school, but also a bully. I’d get the occasional beatings, jibes, slaps across the head or punches in the back when I was walking along the corridors… and then I’d take it out on some other poor bugger (David – he forgave me, latterly), because it felt like my only means of control, when everything else in my life was so chaotic.
My parents had split up when I was nine or ten and my mother had to work crazy hours just to keep the proverbial wolf from the door. She’d leave for her factory job at six in the morning and return at nine at night. I had two older brothers still at home, but they both had jobs at a local hotel and usually worked in the evenings. I was almost completely unsupervised during those formative years, and without guidance, so began the descent.
I had a morbid fear of nuclear war and of people close to me dying. During my early teens, I lived in a constant state of terror, with the absolute certainty, however deluded, that I and all the people I loved were going to die in a fiery, atomic apocalypse. (This is why I advocate that people don’t live every day as if it’s their last… the last day is the shitty one.)
I was 22 ½ stone (315lbs/143kg) when I was aged 14. I was probably around six foot in height by then (being I’m 6’4” now), but I was disproportionately fat. It wasn’t condusive to the attraction of girlfriends.
I used to truant from school and buy – on credit, on my Mum’s account, from my local shop – loads of food. I remember Mr Kipling’s caramel slices, particularly. Afraid of every knock on the door, I used to hide away from the world and just eat. Sometimes, I made myself throw up, but most often I just hated myself and kept eating.
I stood on the outside of the parapet of Victoria Viaduct in Carlisle, on a ledge of about a foot, talking to policemen and explaining why it was my time to die. There was something like a hundred foot fall one step back from me, and I wanted to take that step. (The policeman lured me into talking to him, grabbed my arm and with the help of other rushing officers, pulled me over that wall.)
I’ve slit my wrist and seen the glutinous pool of blood spread across the desk, watching it and being afraid that this was it… that I’d be no more. Blood pumps out of you faster than you’d expect, if you have no expectations.
I remember being stomach pumped after a particularly nasty overdose, when I combined everything I had: sleepers, painkillers, anti-depressants… I wanted to die. I remember the tube down my throat, sucking out all the toxins, and not being able to swallow without pain the next day; and the next day, I still wanted to die – lying in my hospital bed, totally void of emotion, wishing I wasn’t there.
There were times I could watch women’s tennis and only be interested in the score.
I spent two occasions in mental hospitals. You don’t go there for fun.
I had agoraphobia and social phobia for years… I can’t remember most of my 20s. I didn’t step out of the house for months at end, at one point.
I almost pulled the life from myself, with that ligature in the woods.
I worried about everything… my past, my future… how I’d fucked up and how I hoped for better, but knew I’d fuck up again.
Now, I know I’m happy.
What I want to teach is that this really is possible – happiness is yours to take - and those who may pour disbelief and criticism upon my words are really not helping you or I.
I don’t pretend to know every form or manifestation of depression, but I’m guessing that a lot of you out there have experienced something of the above – and if you have, then the good news is that there is a cure… there is the truth that you don’t have to suffer until the end of your days believing that you have an eternal disease.
Depression is a lie we tell ourselves. It is nothing more than that.
Your own mind is attacking you; making you believe that you are it, when you are much more powerful than your thoughts.
This is the ego.
So, anyway, this is why I feel I’m qualified to talk about depression.