This week has been bad…excruciatingly bad. I’ve not felt as low as this in a long while, and by Friday it got to a point where I was in danger of spiraling down so far that it would prove extremely difficult to get back up again. Sometimes these phases have a recognisable trigger, whereas on other occasions they seemingly arrive from nowhere, like rain springing up on a bright and sunny day. In this instance it was a bit of both. There certainly was a trigger of sorts (which I’m not going to go into here), although I was already struggling and teetering on the edge, and consequently it only required a gentle push for me to fall in. It’s incredibly easy to be pulled down, but desperately difficult to get back up again, and requires a superhuman amount of effort.
When in these difficult periods it feels like I’m a different person, and that the real James has been kidnapped. Normally I thrive on having fun at work, making people laugh, and generally trying to make people happy. However, when the mist descends, and the darkness creeps in, it feels like I am looking at everything from far far away, and all I want to do is be alone, invisible, and slip under the radar. Depression is cruel as it takes away a persons true identity, and instead creates a defeated, tired, hopeless impression of a person, one without any fire in the belly, and very little fight left to carry on. It’s not the real me that I despise, its this false, hijacked manifestation.
The things that normally make me happy instead become a cause of sadness, anxiety, frustration and the sensation of feeling bereft of any hope. For example, going out with friends at work for lunch, or drinks in the evening, is usually a cause for happiness and enthusiasm, and something to look forward to. However when the depression hits, these events actually cause pain and anguish, and thus have the reverse effect from what they are intended to have. Seeing people laughing, socialising or having fun causes a sense of unfounded jealousy and bitterness. Why can’t I be like that, why can’t I be included and why is everyone else having able to be happy? These thoughts are entirely unjustified, because of course its not me that is being excluded, but in fact I am the one excluding everyone else, pushing away the very people that can make me better. Another one of depressions’ evil characteristics…it forces away the people that you need at the times when you need them the most.
It’s impossible in the these dark moments to prevent thoughts entering the mind, infesting every corner of the brain, even if they have no credence, or are utterly unjustified:
Why can’t I be happy?
Will anyone every love me for who I am?
Why can’t I go back and start my life again, with all its hope and potential?
What can I do to get myself out of this hole?
Do people actually like me or care about me?
Does my depression put people off me?
These thoughts pollute the mind, clouding your judgement, and ensuring that it becomes even more difficult to pull yourself out of the hole you find yourself in. I find on a personal level that they cause me to reach out to people, purely for the fact that I know that I can’t get out of the pit without someone throwing me a rope.
It may take 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months, but I always eventually pull myself free and am able to get back to my normal self. I’m not sure how I manage this really, it just seems to happen. Much of the time I simply need to get away from everything for a few days to clear my mind, and cleanse the soul. It’s a process where you have to remain patient, and know that however deeply you become trapped, there is always a way out. The one thing I would say, is that if you know anyone with depression, or similar, never be afraid to talk to them about it, or ask how they are, especially if you can sense they are in a bad place. Loneliness is one of the biggest issues during these difficult periods, as you feel like no one cares about you, and therefore the realisation that people do actually care about you and your wellbeing, can some times be all it takes to set you back on the road again.
I’m not quite out of the pit yet, but I can at least see the rope being lowered down, and that is certainly a start. This week I’m being filmed at ITV about my experiences of mental health, and so that is giving me some positivity as it could be quite a cathartic process, whilst also hopefully helping and inspiring others. I am pretty nervous…i’m much more comfortable on the other side of the camera! But it will give me something to focus my energy on. I’m not naive enough to think this may be the last painful slump, and I’m sure I will have worse ones, but the hope each time is that it will get longer and longer between each episode. You have to dig deep and try and find a glimmer of belief that things will get better. After all, whilst the rain and clouds may fill the sky, and be the only thing that you can see, you have to try and remember that once they clear, then the sun will shine through. And very often a rainbow will follow the rain.