Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Back to square one

About 12 months ago I wrote a very clunky but heartfelt blog about my lifelong battle with depression and related low self-esteem. It was a big deal for me as I’d always resisted publishing my jottings for fear of being judged and compared with writers far more eloquent and readable than I’ll ever be. It was very well received, with some folk saying it was a help to them as I was voicing thought patterns they could relate to. This praise and approval was gratefully received and for a few days I was strutting round like a cockerel on cocaine.

At the time of writing I had just finished an intensive course of therapy, during which I had reached deep into the murky and oft avoided parts of my early life to try and fathom why I had so much self-loathing, zero confidence and a perceived inability to function effectively in even the most mundane of situations. It was helpful and for a time I was better. I had a spring in my step, I dealt with disappointments without feeling like a Bellend of the Year winner and started to do some of the things I’d always wanted to do. Life was good.

But, as is the way with depression, or my shadow as I call it, it gradually returned. The old feelings came back to knee me at the back of the head, as if to say, “Sod you, you spineless weasel, I’m here again and I’ve brought a gang of other insidious hood wearing accomplices to help me”. This is the nature of depression: it comes and goes; each episode more destructive and upsetting than the last.

A feature of my shadow cloud is the painful, pathetically needy desire for approval. We all want to be admired, respected, loved, adored and seen a worthwhile addition to this ludicrous blue marble we call Earth.  I know, when thinking straight, that that isn’t always possible. Why, because we’re human, and humans, with the exception of Piers Morgan, aren’t perfect. But that doesn’t matter when you’re depressed. You feel useless and unlovable; a total pain in the arse to everyone, even those who love you the most.

This longing for approval changes your behaviour, so much so that your constant striving for compliments, pats on the back and ruffles of the hair become an irritation, both to yourself and those you want to impress. That then sets off a negative spiral and cycle of gloom, worry and self-absorption which is destructive and utterly pointless.

As a depressive you initially try to hide your illness.  This is because you don’t want to be seen as weak, hopeless and not much fun to be around. It took me 40 years to admit that I was a sufferer. I suspected it, as did others, but like any negative conclusions about yourself it’s really hard to do. Once admitted I felt better, empowered, but it doesn’t and probably never will go away, not forever anyway.

So as I write this, I find myself back at square one. I’m very ‘down’, both on myself and my ability to love, work and conduct normal relationships, and on others, some of whom make me feel lower than tin of dog food in a lowly midden. At the moment I hate myself and the minuscule triggers it takes to set me back. (All depressive know about these triggers). I’m no great fan of life either, which as it is the only one we get is tragic.

So, I’m now beginning the long, slow, painful, weepy road back to contentment. I’m back in therapy. I’m relearning how to think more smartly, and not perhaps quite so intensively. I’m exercising. I’m starting to see the beauty in one or two things, rather than the ugliness underneath. I know I am lucky to have an amazing, beautiful and super smart wife. I have a great family and one or two friends who care about and put up with me. I have a gorgeous son, who can take the piss out of me and knows how shit in a potty:0). I’m luckier than most.  I know that; just sometimes I forget.

I’ll see you next year for an update. Thanks for reading

Much love


Monday, 27 June 2011

Me and my shadow

What follows is not a cry for help or an example of Mental
Illness-chic. It is not meant to be entertaining or amusing. It certainly isn’t
an attention seeking way of gaining sympathy. I’m only actually writing this to
see if I can actually do it. Let me explain.

As a child I was in every sense a daft bugger –a clown. I
spent more hours in my bedroom as punishment for sniggering when my siblings
were being bollocked, and making dopey remarks about how funny it was to see my
Ma’s eyes bulging like the spiritual bloke from Kung Fu. I was regularly
slippered or rulered at school for the same thing. To me there was nothing
funnier than an irate teacher at the end of their tether. To be honest I still
think it’s hilarious.

At the time I didn’t realise that this behaviour was masking
an internal shadow that has stayed with me ever since. Unknown to many people,
I was not the tit I portrayed; I was in fact cripplingly shy. Or so I thought.

I couldn’t bring myself to do anything that I felt people
could judge me on. I was petrified that they would see my school work or hear
me read and think, that Ian is not only a tosser but stupid with it. It held me
back; it still does.

I remember reading a lesson in church (now a seriously
lapsed Anglican – notice how that doesn’t sound as cool as lapsed Catholic?)
and being physically sick for weeks before I actually did it. I just thought it
was me being, well, shy and over anxious to be liked.

Another thing, I didn’t take criticism, constructive or
otherwise, well.  I immediately assumed a
passive position. My attitude being ‘You’re right, I am thick and dumb and yes
I could be slimmer and more proactive’ Again, I was so desperate to be though I
did hate this pathetic need for constant reassurance.

So I took this behaviour (was it learned or innate?) into
young adulthood. I always wanted to be a writer or do something arty to please
others. I couldn’t do it though. I couldn’t do it because I never felt my best
was good enough and that it would be deemed a steaming pile of shit. I couldn’t
write a sentence like Alan Bennent, so I bloody well won’t write one at all. I
dealt with it by putting it down to shyness.

I blamed that for my social clumsiness too. I used to enjoy
going out at the weekend but relied on others to prop me up and make the effort
to invite me out. Whilst out I was constantly shitting myself, worrying what
everyone was thinking of me. I never dared to go out on ‘the pull’. The thought
immediately put out of my mind as no one would look for one second at a podgy,
nail biting loser with a low forehead and sub Tony Hadley hair. Eye contact?
You must be joking.The fact that I did meet and marry someone is still one of
the wonders of my world.

This insecurity, lack of confidence and general social
retardation was a problem but I didn’t consider it anything other than how I
was. The label depressive didn’t even cross my mind. Depression was something
that happened to drunks and people in soap operas. I wasn’t a depressive, I was
me: a twit with a pathetic neediness to be wanted and loved.

As I got older the symptoms became worse, I became solitary
– not easy on my other half believe me – anti social and pretty much
hermitically sealed in my own mind. All I could think about was me and whether
anything I did was good enough. I stopped pretty much everything for fear of
rejection. I had nothing to offer. I was a rubbish husband, dad, teacher, and
friend. I was a failure a useless, bloated wanker. The thought of doing what
I’m doing now- writing this- was inconceivable. I lost friends, who gave up on
me. My marriage was suffering.

I really was becoming everything I actually wasn’t or wanted
to be.

About a year ago I decided, or more to the point we decided,
that enough was enough. I needed help. The tears, the self-loathing and utter
misery had to stop. So I had therapy. In a 16 week period I had my whole life
deconstructed and assembled again. It was the first time I had ever seriously
evaluated my life in its entirety. Some of it was truly bloody awful; other
bits much better than I remembered. It was one of the few times I’d ever asked
anyone for help.

 I also started taking SSRis. I can’t tell you how difficult a decision it was, but that’s what
depression does; it stops your brain from functioning properly, then your body,
and in the end your life.

The process of recovery from depression is long and on-going.
I still am gripped at times with self-doubt and loathing. I still think I’m not
particularly bright and an ugly bugger, but I’m more able to deal with it. Most
of the time.  I am, however, recovering.
The fact that I’ve written this and am happy for you to read it is a major step
forward for me. I know it’s not the best thing you’ve ever read. I know it
could be alot better, but I don’t care.

Right I’ve said enough.