The good thing about a light switch is that it can be turned on or off. The light doesn’t simply extinguish of its own accord and plunge the room into darkness. Sadly my internal light switch is not like that, and alternates between light and dark at will. The plaster that is holding everything together always falls off eventually, and the wound reopens. It was like that yesterday, when the awful yet familiar feelings of anxiety and emptiness overwhelmed me, like at the flick of a switch. Was there a particular reason, or is it just combination of everything that is going on right now.
It’s been an extremely busy April, and in particular the last 7 days. Last Sunday I ran the London Marathon after about 7 months of training. An injury and record-breaking marathon temperatures meant that I was about an hour slower than I was hoping to be, but getting round the course was an achievement in itself, and something I could never have envisaged this time last year. (My Just Giving page is still open for donations if you can spare the cash: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/james-wiffen). The odd thing is that afterwards I didn’t feel any emotion at all, neither relief, happiness, pride or joy. It left a hole, not because I miss running as I certainly don’t, but perhaps because it was an anti-climax. Of course I’m glad I achieved it, and that I helped raised some money for Mind, but I was hoping for a bit more feeling at the end of it. This highlights my inability to gain pleasure from things in life, and also that happiness, or even emotional resonance in general, is a seemingly unreachable goal.
To add to the emotionally stressful week, this coming Monday I leave the job I’ve been at for the last 5 years. Whilst I will miss the job and the building, it’s the people I will miss most. I’ve made some lifelong friends in the last few years, and work has provided a constant in my life. Without it, I don’t really have anything. I really struggle around social occasions, and meeting new people, which is why the friends I have made have been so important. I don’t have a social life outside work, and that fact has been manageable (if not satisfactory) because I’ve been lucky enough to work with my friends. But not any more.
This week Avicii, the 28 year old Swedish DJ, sadly passed away, through what looks like suicide. His relatives said “He really fought a battle with thoughts about the meaning of life and happiness. Now he could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace”. The regularity of this type of tragedy cannot help me think that one day my depression could kill me. I’m not saying that to be dramatic, but merely as a statement of fact. Suicide is the biggest killer for men, even more prevalent than cancer (see my last post about Project 84). It may be a preconception that it’s people at the extreme end of the mental health scale that take their own life; those who are hospitalised, or unable to function in everyday life. However, you can be totally functioning, and only at a moderate level of depression, and yet that doesn’t necessarily reduce your chances of the black dog striking.
I know there are many positives in my life, and I’m a very lucky person. But these feelings of grief that overwhelm me every so often are painful enough to make me forget that. I know I’m missing the key thing inside that makes me whole, and that’s the ability to have happiness. And the ability to switch the light back on when it goes out.