…and no, I’m not talking about our silly dufus of a black labrador. I mean look at him, Dufus of the Year or what:
No, what I am talking about though, is something that the UK and the rest of the world is slowly starting to come to terms with and recognise as what can be, a very debilitating mental illness; depression. Charities such as Mind are making real in-roads where this is concerned. This is a long read, but please stick with it, if you have the time or interest as I’d appreciate this. I’m going to write in two parts, to ease the reading 😉
I’ve been inspired to write this post by a fellow blogger, who I will not link to, just in case he/she does not appreciate this. Because I’m a kind and considerate human being.
I’m known as a very frank person who will say it how it is. In the UK us northerners (a VERY proud Yorkshireman) are known for our direct approach where ‘a spade is a spade’ whether you say otherwise or not. Unfortunately, being a Yorkshireman, I’m ashamed to say that I do not own or wear one of these:
Although I do plan on remedying this and perhaps my lovely wife will get me one for my birthday, I’ll be 40 you know, yes. And by the time I’m in my mid-40’s, I’ll go from this, dashing young chap:
To this, rather dashing, toothless chap:
So, consequently I’m not afraid to talk about my own battle with this illness in the hope of educating the masses.
What I say may be upsetting and uncomfortable for some but that’s depression for you and I make no apologies for not sugar-coating any of it. I’ll probably inject some (dry) humour here and there (see above) as it can make hard reading. I guess I’m writing this as I would like my followers to get to know me and what I am about; lots of bloggers write about their depression so why should I be any different?
Where to start? 1996 I guess. This year was a bad year for me, as I was medically discharged from Her Majesty’s British Army due to an ongoing knee injury. Since I was very young, I wanted to be a soldier and as I came from a pretty insecure and torrid upbringing, this gave me the chance to escape home and be part of a very different, close-knit family. Although I was not in the infantry, (the Royal Engineers, in fact) you knew that your best mate would take a bullet for you and you him. There’s nothing macho in that, it’s just how it was; you had somebody to rely upon, if it ever came to it.
After leaving, I was out of work for a bit as I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I ended up doing awful jobs in factories and this only led me to feel really crap about myself, thinking that I deserved better. Don’t get me wrong, some people love working in factories, I don’t as the work is mind-numbing and in my experience, repetitive and holds no challenge. My brain needs a challenge, and if this does not happen at work, I can become depressed.
So, I ended up working in front-line customer service and the very first interview I had I apparently blew them away with how brilliant I was; my ethics, principles and how I did things generally. So naturally, I was chuffed. However, the position was working as a ‘Customer Service Professional’ with Beaverbrooks the Jewellers. What pretentious bollocks!
I was in this job for a year and a half, until I told the assistant manageress where to stick her silver letter opener, after she had been treating me like a child for most of the period that I was there and even though I reported it to my boss, whom I loved, she never got any reprimands I was aware of; I worked in an all female environment, coming from an all male one. And to be honest, even today, I’d rather work with women. But this was the start of the downhill for me…
I just started to feel like I had no control over my life or the words that came out of my mouth; I’d gone from being quiet as a mouse at school, having to grow up very fast in the Army, to someone who would absolutely take zero shit from anybody. And why should I? Or anybody for that matter? Treat others how you would like to be treated yourself. Nicely.
After a visit to the doctor and lots of tears, I started on anti-depressants and a course of counselling. This was in 1998, I think. I enjoyed the sessions as I could get anything off my chest to an impartial individual, but I really disliked the clinical approach and feeling like I was nothing to the shrink, as when ‘time was up’, I was literally cut-off and had to wrap up my hour of counselling. This just made me angry. With everything and anything. The smallest things would send me into a rage and my brain would be an addled mess. I was really struggling being a civilian; from having order and structure in my life, to none. Even today I must have an element of this or I just go around in circles, like the dog chasing its own tail (dufus).
I became increasingly narcissistic, and anything good that I had in my life, I purposely went out to destroy, especially in relationships. Even though most of them lasted a few years, they almost always ended in disaster. A lot of the issues surrounded rejection. I personally attribute this to being placed into foster care when I was young on two occasions, and even now, still not knowing the reasons why as my mum denies all knowledge of it. Nice. So being discharged from the Army was, yes, another massive rejection and it was playing havoc with me.
I didn’t trust anybody or anything that people told me thus my list of friends became vertically challenged. So I became very alone and very lonely.
This went on for years as I went from job to job, and from one relationship to another with no time for me to grow to love or even like myself. I was so bitter about things and naturally I blamed everybody else for my problems, but there was one thing I did know and admitted to myself; I was severely depressed. This quote sums it up nicely:
I started to have blazing, anger fueled arguments with whomever I was having a relationship with at the time. Never once was I physical as the thought of hitting a woman made me feel quite sick, however, I threw things and even smashed a door to pieces once as the other person said some very hurtful things that just were a red-rag to a bull; these things came from a person who didn’t understand and could never understand what I was going through. I’ve been called “psycho”, “fucked in the head” and other nasty, untrue things. This was back in 2007 when I was with somebody I didn’t even want to be with! What was I doing? I had an ok job working for one of the UK’s largest insurers and I could have left and rented my own place, but I couldn’t bear being alone, as the black beast would be there constantly looking over my shoulder:
I just didn’t want to be around any more and I couldn’t stand even being around myself; I hated what I had become. I didn’t want to hurt others so had to hurt myself instead. I started self-harming and again, this was in about 2007. Like I said, I won’t sugar-coat this. There was a strange release with this. Each time you hurt yourself, there was a rush of chemicals to the brain and you felt free, for a couple of seconds; you could release your anger in private without directly hurting anybody. I made an attempt on my life, selfish I know, with an entire packet of Fluoxetine anti-depressants and rather a lot of paracetemol. Little did I know that I couldn’t OD on AD’s but they did make me very ill. I was in hospital over-night with some of the worst stomach cramps imaginable; every 10 minutes I felt like my insides were being ripped apart.
I left hospital late the next day feeling very ashamed and stupid, but strangely, liberated. It was a kind of turning point for me to sort myself out, but unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the last time I ‘hurt’ myself intentionally.
Alone now, I lived in a really lovely, quiet shared house where I barely ever saw the others. But I didn’t mind. The landlady was nice and like me was a keen cyclist, so we used to put the world to rights about the injustices we always have to suffer with on the roads.
I slowly started to rebuild a social life mainly by going indoor climbing, cycling and yes, running (more on this shortly). I used to really enjoy our weekly nights out in York and had loads of fun with the guys. So I always went home smiling and started to feel a bit better about my own company. I had loads of time on my hands so I filled this with PC gaming, reading and watching the awesome and funny Scrubs, which always had me laughing:
I was still working at the insurer and my last manager there ended up really helping me out. Like me he took no crap off anybody. In my opinion, he was one of the best managers around the York offices. After a rocky start with him, we ended up having mutual respect for one another and he always stuck his neck out for me, which sometimes didn’t go down well with other managers. But that was him. He never judged me, like other people did; he looked after his staff and stood by his morals and principles, even if it got him into trouble. Too many people with that employer were too afraid of their seniors/managers and if you’re a manager who can’t be approached, you’re in the wrong job.
Anyway, I ended up having a brief fling with a girl around the other side of the office. She confessed her undying love for me and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Sure, she was beautiful and way out of my league, which proves that looks are not everything. We had a good time for sure, but she broke it off after a few weeks after discovering my depressive tendencies.
This hurt me very badly, more because I was afraid of being alone again, not because she was leaving. I thought I loved her but my manager assured me that I didn’t. He was right. But that didn’t stop me going off the rails again. One morning before work, I was in such emotional turmoil and a total mess; I should have just called in sick. But instead, I self-harmed for the last time, but this would have major consequences.
Arriving in the office I tried to hide the blood (foolish) and my boss was soon alerted by the still wet-behind-the-ears first aider who didn’t have a clue what to do. She was sent off and an ambulance was called.
From here on would begin a sequence of events that would set the wheels in motion for another massive bout of depression.
My trust was completely betrayed by a staff member who came in the ambulance with me (one whom I thought I could trust) and this got back to the office and naturally, to my ex. All the office found out about what happened and people I was ‘friends’ with previously, ignored me or took a wide berth. My true friends, didn’t judge. I contemplated sueing the employer for breach of confidence, but decided I just did not need the stress on top of everything.
I was suspended and held onto my job, by the skin of my teeth. This was mostly thanks to my manager and my exemplary work history prior to this misdemeanor. Doing what I did before work was the dumbest mistake I could have made, but my brain was so fucked up, I just didn’t think about it. So I was labelled some kind of psycho by most of the office afterwards.
This, I decided, was the turning point. Not the suicide attempt. The next few months were so incredibly difficult for me having to work in the same office, but thankfully on a different floor and team. Part of the condition was that my manager would ‘take me under his wing’ and keep me straight. This worked and gradually, with his help, things improved.
I am going to cut this writing short now, as I appreciate it’s a lot to read with difficult subject matter, but the bad stuff has passed now thankfully and the next part I will focus on the happier side and my recovery and what running has to do with any of it.
If you are still reading, I express my heart-felt thanks to you and I hope you will return when I write the second half, probably tomorrow.
Otherwise, I can understand.
I hope to catch you all later tomorrow 🙂