I should be at a wedding now. I should be sitting down with my beautiful wife surrounded by people, making new friends and celebrating two old ones. I should be having fun, relaxing and enjoying myself.
Instead I’m sitting in our hotel room, staring out the window as the sun gradually sets over the city. To all outward appearances there’s nothing wrong with me to cause this, just 24 hours ago I was sitting in a restaurant and joking about the impressively large lobster that had just been delivered to the table. Look at me in the street today and you’d have seen just any other person walking by. So why am I here instead of there, alone in the twilight instead of surrounded by people bathed in the warm glow of a hundred lightbulbs?
Actually that’s an over-simplification, there’s a few different mental health issues all teaming up to kick my metaphorical arse but for the purposes of this tale it’ll do. Outwardly I’m fine but in the privacy of my head I’ve been fighting a war for the last twenty five years or so and, as with all wars, some battles you win and some you lose. From out of nowhere last night I lost a battle that I wasn’t expecting or prepared for. The battle itself - the topic, the whys and wherefores - is almost irrelevant here, but the aftermath isn’t.
Wherever you are right now stop and look around you. Whether alone in private or surrounded by thousands of people at some fabulous event it doesn’t matter. Picture the sounds, smells, even the sights of wherever you are diminishing, falling away into the background as if you’re experiencing them from the other end of a tunnel. Replace them with the thoughts of your own subconscious as it batters away at you, convincing you that everything you hate about yourself, every last neurosis and fear, is absolutely, 100% correct, overwhelming any attempt you might make to fight back.
Imagine your body refusing to respond the way you want it to. Muscles shaking, your voice taken away and replaced with sounds you didn’t know you could make. The world around you going dark and cold as you spiral down into yourself. Becoming more and more tired, your eyes barely able to stay open, your mind and body putting more and more effort into trying to process the stresses you’re inflicting upon yourself.
Picture coming back to yourself, forcing all those demons back into their cages, to find your hands and arms trembling, your words stammered as you try to reassure anyone who was with you that you’re alright. Wondering if that’s a lie in the long term, knowing that it’s a lie in the short. Trying to convince yourself that it’s just one fight, one battle, that the next time will be different while you can’t help but wonder if the next time may be the one you can’t come back from.
Why tell you all this? Why ask you to consider what an experience like that may be like? Because it’s something I rarely see discussed. Because it’s something that affects many people, too many. Because it’s an illness that can be devastating, even lethal, yet for the most part is utterly invisible even to those closest to us. Because there’s a stigma attached to this whole field that makes people afraid to seek help or even discuss it. And because maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance that these words may help someone out there and even the smallest chance makes that worthwhile
If you suffer from depression, in any form, please think about getting help. This is an illness after all and there are medications and other treatments available. If someone comes to you to talk about it please be patient and listen. Help if you can but even just being there and giving them an outlet to work through their situation can be a great gift. And, finally, if you’re someone I know who’s had to deal (or, indeed, has had to deal since publication) with me when I’m suffering from this then all I can say is thank you. Thank you for your understanding, thank you for your patience and help and thank you for giving me time to at least start finding a solution.