Running with the Black Dog


…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:

devildog

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:

flat-cap
‘Eee by ‘eck lad, thas got a nice flat-cap (Trans: “Well I never, young man, that’s a lovely hat you have”)

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:

17

To this, rather dashing, toothless chap:

mad2balbert2bflat2bcap
Gummy Bears, anyone?

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.

royal-engineers-flag
Even looking at my Corps colours, I feel quite upset…

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:

depression

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:

depression

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 🙂

Elton

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9 thoughts on “Running with the Black Dog

  1. Wow, what a brutally honest post. I’m actually in awe of how you’ve written such personal thoughts so well.So much of this resonates with me. Although our backgrounds are very different much of what we’ve done is similar. Much of what i’m doing now isn’t obliterating my past but showing myself i’m learning from it and also learning to discard the parts I no longer need to hang onto. Wow that didn’t make sense. But reading your post has also demonstrated to me that i’m not the only one. Of course I think myself a reasonably intelligent person so i know i’m not the only one ….but to read it from (and no offence) another “normal” person, not a celeb or someone with something to gain, is so refreshing. Thankyou for the post, thankyou for your honesty

    1. Well that is my mission Gareth; it’s not pleasant but it is a reality for us and no doubt millions of other people who may not even know that they suffer with depression. And yes the key to it is learning from the past and NOT holding on to it, as hard as it is to let go of certain things.
      Nope, nothing to gain apart from, hopefully, opening peoples’ eyes.

      If you ever need to off-load or chat, just send me a mail, it’s no problem. If anything, I’m TOO honest! 😉

      All the best

      Elton

  2. Very moving, it’s difficult for others to be non-judgemental so it must have been amazing to have someone in a position of influence to be so supportive. Though like everyone I’ve been a bit down at times, but realise it is absolutely nothing like real depression. Hope folk read all of this and can learn from it.

  3. Hi Elton, I read this post last night before going to sleep. Believe it or not, I kept recalling what I had just read and had difficult to put my mind to sleep. Not because your story if so disturbing but because I started mentally talking to you, expressing my thoughts about your story, experience, life.
    I’ll try to make this comment as short as possible. First thing I thought was: “Ahh! so that’s it!”. Since I started reading your blog and mentions to depression I always wondered what are the reasons behind it but as a polite person I never asked. So… to read such an open self-account of your own experience of depression is a million star bonus. THANK YOU so much for sharing IT with us all. I have suffered from depression myself on and off so I understand you very well.
    Secondly, I sense two important main topics here: rejection and self-love.

    Rejection – I’ve learnt this: we are NOT other people’s opinions. We are not other’s people’s projections of fear/anger/resentment etc. If someone disapproves or rejects us, that is their problem not ours. They are probably projecting those self-low energies into ourselves. So, if we believe that we are as they say, we are surely going to feed our mind and body with feelings of depression and stress in big waves.We are unique in all our strengths, weaknesses, failures, achievements… to constantly compare ourselves with others is a danger terrain if we can’t keep a distance between our true self and the ego of others, which might be plagued with negative stuff.

    Self-love: think of this – you live in your body 24 hours a day. You are blessed with the eyes to read this comment, the feet to run, the hands to take beautiful photographs, the lips to smile, the brain to write. Why on Earth should you not LOVE yourself, Elton? Loving ourselves is primarily the most important thing in one’s life. How can we expect others to love us, if we don’t love ourselves? We should not allow external influences/opinions/situations/people to interfere with our sacred being, with our inner-peace. I know sometimes it’s very challenging, and although this sounds a cliche, it’s true in my opinion: we only live once, and no one and nothing is worth our emotional pain, our tears, our depression. It took me a long time to reach this awareness and knowledge. I’ve had my panic attacks, my tears rolling over my face, my worthless feelings and so on. When you hold your hands together and gently place them over your chest and say to yourself: “I am so special. I’ve been through so much. But now I am here, and only now matters. I now make a decision to start loving myself. The whole of myself. And I now gently close my eyes, take a deep breathe and smile.” Ahhh! Some release… some freedom… some peace is starting to emerge.

    There’s so much I could write but I don’t want to bore you.Just a final thought: there are alternative therapies which you may which to consider (like meditation, past lives regression therapy and Emotional Freedom Techniques, or Tapping as it’s also known, come to my mind).

    Elton, make peace with your depression and slowly it will be something of the past. You’re not alone. Never be afraid to share.

    Natalia 🙂

  4. Wow. Thank you so much Natalia for this comment, or blog post in itself 😉

    It is true what you say about rejection, although it’s something I would put literally and more directly “If you don’t like who I am and what I stand for, you know where the door is” 😉 I don’t have time for people who judge me based on my illness or past transgressions. Those people don’t matter to me. What matters is my conscience is clear.

    I do like myself more than I used to and most importantly, I will laugh at myself so much more these days; I try not to take myself too seriously but inevitably that can get in the way sometimes; I am a big kid at heart! I AM a good person, who cares for others and I will stand up for folk who I believe are getting a raw deal. I’ve often done this in a work context as I’m a firm believer in equality in the work place and some employers just do not understand this and treat people how the hell they want. Unfortunately, and it’s no fault of theirs, some people are just not brave enough to stand up to the system if it is flawed. But that’s another story for another day 😉

    As I say, depression is a part of me, of who I am and I accept that now after years of not being able to; it doesn’t really bother me any more in that context.

    And no, you wouldn’t have bored me; I am always interested in how others have dealt with their own demons, so if you ever need to off-load to someone that understands….

    Thank you so much for all your other comments too, and are you sure I can’t convince you to start running? Hehe 😉

    All the best, Natalia 🙂

  5. Hey Elton, I’m so glad you liked my comment/post style 🙂
    Indeed, our time is precious, so why waste it with those who choose not to like us or respect us? I personally send them compassion and move on. It’s not good to have feelings of hate or anger towards anyone. I rise above and beyond them. Not because I’m superior, but because it brings me peace and wisdom.

    Unfortunately workplaces tend to be a magnet for discontentment, stress, unfairness and, insanity in some cases. I have first hand experience on that too. It’s always the good heart individuals who end up suffering the most. But out of suffering we can all learn as I’m sure you have throughout your journey of depression. We learn about forgiveness, compassion, self-love, being present etc etc. These are qualities that arise out of suffering.

    I sense you’re definitely on the right path of healing. And thank you for offering your support, I’m touched. Maybe I will in email land one of these days. As for running… can I just walk? 😉

    Take care and have a beautiful Sunday!
    Natalia
    x

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