Little Lies

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For the best part of twenty years, I’ve been trying to escape the gravity of a particular insult. Most of the time I manage to succeed, but occasionally comes the point when, after a flashpoint or a particularly stressful situation, that derogatory term is wheeled out. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked for it to stop, but people have short memories and often find it easier to wheel out the nuclear option early on in a ‘discussion’ when they know it’ll end the debate and reduce you to mush.

Trying to explain to people what depression does to you is fucking hard work when you’re stuck in the dark. In those moments when all you hope for is a light and a friendly hand to help pull you though, often comes the realisation that yet again, there is no magic cure. Nope, still not getting better here, but managing everything far better than I have at any point in my life. I spend far less time stuck and disorientated, because now I can sit and write out the words I’m unable to vocalise under pressure.

Yes, anxiety is a pig. No, I don’t like being like this. Yes, I am trying to not get angry. No, shouting at you because that’s how I learnt to deal with this as a child is not the solution either. Really, truthfully, all this makes sense, even with approximately zero hours sleep. It is roughly akin to knowing the pieces you have in a puzzle make a picture, but you don’t have a visual guide on what that finished ‘thing’ looks like. There is the ability to pick out notable features and find the other bits to make a portion of a completed puzzle, but the lack of comprehension to work out how each feature in that whole is connected.

What makes it worse is that I’ve learnt to live without the need for completion. Closure is not going to suddenly make me happy. It won’t ‘cure’ me overnight. Management is the key now, I realise: if you really think that makes me less spontaneous, I’m sorry. This is the most adventurous and confident I’ve been for years. I’d not be pursuing the Patreon and trying to make sense of it all either. There would be no forward momentum. All I do now is forward, and I refuse point blank to go back. I know every mistake left in my wake. Honestly, you don’t need to remind me of any of them.

I am the problem here. That is an understanding that can exhaust me on the days when everything else is impossible. Trying to function as ‘average’ is an ambition on days like today, and guess what? I’m doing it. This is real, tangible progress. It might not look that way but trust me on this, if this was my last day on Earth I could say that yes, things were great, despite all of the turmoil that exists inside me. Sure I’d like to be happier, but sometimes, to make it up to the next level of your adventure, something needs to be left behind to lighten the load.

Writing makes me happy. Being able to speak without fear, and not to care that no-one could listen. That’s not the point any more: for so many years my voice did not matter and was irrelevant. I was never heard, truly, for what I was. Now I have a chance to change that and it will take a force of nature to separate me from this joy, for that is what it is. It is why I am happier than I have ever been, even on the days when surrounded in darkness. Finally, I am free to be what I have always been.

This is my true voice.

Blue Skies

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Not every day is brilliant. What bothers you might not be the same as other people. It is really easy to get hung up on details. Every day you are lucky enough to wake up, have food on your table and a roof over your head should be sufficient to keep you happy, but that’s inevitably not the case when all that can be seen are your own failings. Trying to understand why happy is not possible for other people is, like it or not, like trying to catch smoke. All of these could start a blog post today, but I choose to use them all.

When you live with depression on a daily basis, watching other people having to deal with it can be rather uncomfortable. There is no instant fix: each person’s reaction to the demons is different. You can try and find a solution to their peculiar situation and that’s great if you do, but this relies on the person wanting to be helped. Communication therefore can be fraught, or even impossible: if someone refuses to listen, there’s nothing that can be done. You have to hope that a gesture or an assertion might make a difference, but that is all it is: hope.

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I know that, for a long time, I did not want to hear a lot of what was said. The impetus was not just on other people to accommodate the shortcomings and understand what was needed. There had to come a point where, like it or not, I had to get off my arse and contribute. I can tell you exactly when those moments occurred, and what the consequences were when this happened. Some sent me backwards, but most were enough in combination to help force an escape from crippling internal fear. Now, the concerns are wrapped around staying put, and not letting circumstance snap back.

That person that I was is frightening, looking backwards on history. Selfish, inward facing, supremely arrogant. Nothing was my fault. Everybody else was the problem. Me now, in this space, is nowhere near perfect but I have shit under control. Knowing what causes the issues really helps, controlling situations in terms that allow things not to be stressful or confrontational. The problem will come, undoubtedly, when something major hits. Illness, death, trauma… all have the potential to throw everything skywards,  destroying sanctity.

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Depression is a deeply personal experience, and impossible to accurately quantify. I’m incredibly lucky to have people around that care and understand, that will listen and sympathise, but some of them still don’t get how to deal with me. I’m keeping busy because it stops me from thinking about the bad shit: please don’t guilt me into feeling bad because of that. It isn’t you that’s the problem, it is ALWAYS me so please give some extra space to allow problem solving to happen. Trying to explain this to people is hard. Some days, this is the best way: at a distance, so there’s less emotion involved.

I’m learning as much as everybody else how living with depression works.

Black Dog

Yesterday was a horrible day. When you’re staring at a screen at 11am and crying your eyes out? You know the situation has the potential to go South very fast. Fortunately for me the Internet saved my sanity, and I feel I ought to sit here and thank everybody who offered me a smile when I really desperately needed one. Those moments are undoubtedly crucial when you are trying to steer your life down a particular road: however, all the help in the world is completely academic if you do not decide to take what is offered. Being happy is a very delicate balancing act, and I watch many people get irate when it is suggested that you can find it, or create it as you see fit.

Happiness is an incredibly complex equation of factors. You’ll see people write books telling you how to find it, or the circumstances in which it can be ‘created’ but mostly? It’s all bollocks. The best way to be happy, a family member told me, was to just not think and of all the ‘solutions’ I’ve ever heard, it is this one that actually possesses the most merit. Because if you remain ignorant of everything except yourself? Yeah, I reckon you could be pretty happy. In fact I’ve watched a few people this week carry on as if they are the only person for whom you should care about, and that’s never going to end well.

Appreciating others is worth a lot of happiness, often without you realising.

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What was most revelatory yesterday was where my happiness came from: people before who’ve been problematic, that I’ve spoken to about their behaviour whilst the time we’ve interacted with each other? They turned up and provided the goods, and I was surprised. There is always the opportunity for individuals to do this, but after a  while you learn that unless someone is prepared to show that they’re listening? It’s often easier just to ignore them when they start being dumb. The irony is, of course, that once you begin to become more proactive with your dealings with relative strangers, the rewards increase for everybody. Just randomly ranting or attacking people is great for a single Tweet or the occasional Blog post, but if all you do is single invividuals out for destruction without showing you understand the consequences of the action? There needs to be the acceptance that you’re trying to be better when other people make the effort to do the same.

Mostly, I wanted to thank everybody who helped banish my black dog yesterday, because I saw you all and the effort was noted. More significantly, it has helped me going forward, for which I will continue to be very grateful indeed.

Inside My Head

When you suffer from mental issues, explaining to people there’s a problem can often be, like it or not, largely pointless. Sometimes, it’s also utterly unnecessary: going up to random strangers and explaining you have depression is not *exactly* the means by which you’ll make a good first impression, and many people may consider it information they simply didn’t need. Because when only one in three individuals ever suffer from mental illness? That means the other 66% of the population won’t necessarily ever grasp your problem. That doesn’t mean they can’t, it’s just that you need to educate them in your own, unique slant on the situation. Of course, this is where the whole ‘stigma’ label stems from to begin with: often you are damned if you do and more if you don’t, because in the interests of Full Disclosure, at some point, everybody has to know. Except that’s not true either. You don’t need to accurately recall how many times someone uses the bathroom in a day, whether they pick their nose or not. Some information is yours alone to covet, and that’s probably the way it should be regardless of your mental state. When you deal with new people, finding a coping strategy that works for you and conversely which doesn’t isolate every new person you ever come in contact with is a good idea for everybody concerned.

This is not easy, and over time makes you a lot stronger than you probably realise.

Mugs

This morning I wanted to use this article as the basis for discussion: more and more, especially on social media, I see people playing the ‘I’m sorry I have X so please forgive me if I’m rude to you’ and you know what? NO. Just absolutely, positively NO. If you’re able to explain what your problem is, you’re also at least in some way capable of managing how you interact with others. Using your issues to draw attention to yourself, or to attack others because they clearly don’t grasp how significant YOUR PROBLEMS ARE is also a massive no-no. I’ve spent a long time considering this, and I find myself thinking that actually, using your Twitter profile to make sure everyone knows you have a mental illness is noble, but maybe a step too far. As that article states: ‘There are unobtrusive ways to bring up the fact that you found something offensive because of the illness you’re struggling with.’ Using your issues as a banner to stick in the ground the first time you interact with someone? Things are not likely to end well with those who stick other things in their profiles. In fact, it is often tantamount to inviting certain people to fight you, just on the basis that they initially refuse to treat you purely on your terms.

It might seem a great way to keep your personal space intact, but there are consequences.

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Like it or not, with a mental illness you exist in a world where the majority hold sway. If that makes you a minority then, by default, you’ll always be playing catch up. Of course, some minorities are better placed, others learn to hide, or pretend they are something they’re not, and the consequences of that can be dangerous. Mostly, you face a damning choice: do I try and exist in this world or not? If you want to then that’s fine, and on the days when you don’t it’s about finding that neutral ground to walk. However, what happens with depression (at least in my case) isn’t just about coping, it is about choices where for other people there are none. If you’ve never woken up and just wanted to ignore the existence of everything else? If you’re the type of person who’ll always find the positive in a situation? You just won’t get the utter empty terror of realising that today could be the day when you just give up. You don’t have the energy, there isn’t anything to brighten the morning, you just wish you could wink out of existence. You can try and blame other people for not helping you if you wish, but ultimately, the choice to move forward is yours alone. If you cannot find the strength to carry on? However hard other people try? It doesn’t matter.

More significantly you need to grasp the days when you’re just tired and the ones where its a bigger deal, and not allow them to run together. Building a routine is vital, and letting that repetition slip actually has a detrimental effect. That’s why I understand how significant writing has become, that exercise gives a beneficial and utterly natural chemical boost to my body on days when I’m emotionally low. Having a routine matters more than I ever grasped, that when you have things to look forward to and places to aim for it makes the journey far less painful and wearing. Nothing however will prepare you for those crucial moments when your journey hits a fork: then, you have to make a choice based on the best possible data available. You have to believe you’re doing the right thing, and although it would be wonderful to think there’s never a wrong turn, you often make them regardless. Being wrong is okay. Making mistakes is normal. Expecting people to provide you with all the answers isn’t just unfair, its also highly unreasonable. In the end, like it or not, you are your own final arbiter.

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I can’t offer anyone else solutions to their own mental health problems, and finally after nearly 50 years I’m beginning to cope satisfactorily with my own. If you decide to use your mental illness as a stick to beat me with you can expect short shrift as a result, because that’s not how this works. You have a responsibility to yourself to be better, and to society to educate others. Don’t mistake a mental illness as a badge of honour, because it isn’t, it is a failing, often not even of your own creation, that needs your effort and hard work to both manage and correct. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it but ultimately, at some point, you will be alone with the problem, and you need to learn eventually how that works.

If you want to make the most of your life, stop using that life as an excuse.