The Marathon of Life

Sometimes I feel I’m going nowhere
Sometimes I’m sure I never will
She said it’s ‘cos I’m always moving
I never notice ‘cos I never stand still

Sometimes I feel like I’m falling
Falling fast and falling free
She said my darling you’re not falling
Always looked like you were flying to me

© Passenger 2014

“How was your weekend, did you get up to much?” “Yes it was good, I went out for drinks on Friday night, brunch with friends on Saturday and then out to the theatre in the evening, and on Sunday a walk in the park and lunch on the Thames. How about you James?” “Umm…mine was ok thanks, didn’t do much”. That’s pretty much an accurate Monday morning conversation, one which has an inevitability about it despite my determination for it to be to the contrary. By the time the weekend rolls round I am so exhausted that all I yearn for is rest, catching up with sleep, and shutting myself away. This exhaustion is almost certainly caused by a number of factors: broken/little sleep, early starts for work, mental fatigue caused by anxiety, and could also be the resulting symptom of the medication I take. All in all, by Friday evening my energy reserves are totally spent, and my mind and body is running on empty.

In the short term a weekend of doing very little is not only a relief, but also a necessity, because anything other than that would mean by Monday morning the internal battery would still be dead. However, come Sunday night the frustration, regret, disconsolateness and anxiety sets in. I’ve wasted another weekend, failing to achieve anything, or gain any pleasure or enjoyment from supposed recreation time. These regrets are in a sense a metaphor for the regrets in my life: missed opportunities, unfulfilled ambitions and failed potential.

Approaching a milestone this year (I’m currently 29) is frightening, not for the number itself, but more so as an indicator of all the time that has elapsed previously, and how the path of my life has turned out. Of course the depression induced pessimism ensures I don’t contemplate the positive moments and the achievements that I have been gifted, or the incredible people I have met, but instead I dwell upon where I should be now in my life, and all the things I have not achieved on a personal level. My anger and frustration is aimed predominantly at the ‘Black Dog’ that has held me back, and the probable truth that I was too weak to resist it. I guess approaching this years age milestone also makes me reminisce about how at 20 years old I naively thought I could beat this illness of the mind; time was on my side, and I had everything ahead of me. Now that hope seems a lifetime ago, and in its place is hopelessness, and none of the optimism I felt all of those years ago. Could I have done anything differently? I’m not sure.

It’s why I find it so difficult to look at pictures of myself as a child:

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It feels as though I’m looking at a different person, an undefined child on a landscape of possibilities. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, and in those eyes I can see a perception of hope, expectations, bright eyed innocence, and all the promise of fulfillment still ahead. When I look in the mirror now I see the same eyes looking back at me, but they are tired, and filled with sadness, resignation, and most worryingly, defeat. I question whether I could have made alternative choices all those years ago to forge a different path, but I feel this is being unfairly harsh on myself, as the depression would have taken hold regardless. People will tell me that nothing can be done about the past, and its the present and future where things can be changed, and they are quite accurate in this hypothesis. The complication to this theory is that I can’t see that potential for change, and even if it were possible, I can’t clear my head of all that has gone before, and all the things I should have experienced and achieved by now. This becomes more difficult the older I get. I’d liken the passing of time and its relationship to depression as that of running a marathon; the first few miles are pretty easy, and you feel confident and full of energy, believing wholeheartedly that as you move further along you will become stronger and stronger. But the more miles you run, the harder it becomes, the finish line seems to get further and further away, and your confidence in making it dwindles by the wayside. You have been weakened. As each mile (or year) goes by, it becomes easier to look back, than it is to look forward, ensuring a sense of being trapped in a tidal wave of conflicting emotions.

As Mental Health Awareness Week ends, I realise I need to focus on this years topic of maintaining and building relationships, because running this particular marathon is too difficult to do alone. It’s been encouraging to see people opening up and highlighting the importance of mental health in these last 7 days, and as I said in my previous post, its vital that this doesn’t end now that the week is over. Opening up isn’t necessarily going to help me solve my problems, but if it can inspire or help others to give voice to their own experiences and issues, then I will be very proud of that, and it will be an achievement that will stay with me for some time. No one should ever feel alone. In this day of the internet, social networking and global platforms no one is ever truly alone. The hardest part is realising this, and finding the courage to admit your thoughts and feelings both to yourself, and those around you.

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