(Author’s note: as the title implies, this blog is about mental health issues. If you are particularly sensitive to them, proceed with extreme caution)
In the last couple of weeks, I experienced a series of nervous breakdowns. The third and most recent one was so catastrophic I felt like it was threatening my life. In a state of severe distress, I said some very upsetting things to the people close to me as I was convinced that, in very simple terms, I didn’t want to exist anymore. It wasn’t very nice for those people to hear. One of them told me recently that she was almost traumatised by what I said to her.
So there’s that.
In 2008, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Specifically, moderate depressive disorder. It was unpleasant, to be sure, but it was managed successfully, for a time, with antidepressants and talking therapy. I got better. Hooray.
But now I’m not better anymore. I am worse. Much worse, in fact. Because along with the depression, which is shit and horrible and tedious, there is now the anxiety – depression’s corrosive, hyperactive cousin – and in particular it was two anxiety attacks that I had not too long ago which left me feeling as if being alive was simply unbearable.
In the six years since my first diagnosis, my mental health has, somehow, gradually gotten worse. How do I feel about this? Do I feel demoralised? Dispirited? Self-pitying?
No. No I do not. What I feel, more than anything, is PISSED OFF.
I do not believe I have a degenerative mental health condition. I believe that I have made a series of choices with my life since 2008 that have brought me to this point. I was doing some things right, but at the same time I was doing some other things wrong. I also believe that a small number of mental health professionals sent me driving, for a short while, in the wrong direction. I am loathe to point fingers, but I feel I must. I was mishandled, but that is often the nature of the beast in this business. Mental health treatment is trial and error. For the past six years, there have been a few trials and one too many errors. And now here I am. And I am very, very angry about it.
It’s not all bad. I have a better GP now and I am in the early stages of seeing a new psychotherapist. Both these individuals make me feel like I am not driving in the wrong direction anymore.
So where am I driving, you may ask?
I am driving to a better life. And I am sick and fucking tired of being in what I have referred to, in moments of anger, as The Crazies Club.
I am tired of all of this. I am tired of depression and anxiety and going to war with myself every day. I’m tired of taking pills to make life more bearable, as vital as those pills are at the time of writing this. Once upon a time I wore my depression diagnosis like some grim badge of honour. “Look at me; I’m special. I’m complicated. I’m like Sylvia Plath.” I don’t know if I want to be special or complicated anymore. I’d much rather just be happy.
And let me be clear: while I am furious at the direction my life has gone in, I believe that understanding mental health issues is vitally important to our overall wellbeing. I don’t think they should carry any sort of stigma and the people suffering from them should not be carrying any guilt or shame for doing so. I also know that however bad I’ve had it, other people have had it a lot worse.
This is not entitlement I am talking about here. Life does not “owe” me anything, but I owe everything to myself, to make my own happiness. And I am angry. I am angry because instead of being able to nurture and enjoy that happiness, I have ended up in a worse place than the one I started at back when I was first diagnosed. I wasn’t TRYING to get there, but get there I have. I am annoyed that professional help misfired on a few occasions, but I also believe in my own sense of responsibility. This mess is mine to clean up, with whatever assets I have at my disposal. And I am lucky to have more than a few.
I’m not too sure where to go from here other than forward. There’s a lot of work to be done. I want a new, better life for myself. Getting there will not be easy. There will be some difficult times ahead. But I am going to get there. It may take years, but I am going to get there, because I believe that, fundamentally, I am not this thing I appear to have turned into. I wasn’t always like this. I know that deep down, past the layers of neurosis and the fog of negativity, there is a good, loving, happy person. I want to be that person again, not just for my sake, but also for the sake of the people around me. I don’t want to traumatise my beautiful, wonderful friends and family anymore by making them worry that I might kill myself.
Now, more than ever, I want to live.
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