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