Three years ago, or thereabouts, I sat in my living room crying like a kid that got clothes for Christmas. About nothing specific and, I suppose, everything as well.
This came off the back of a massive ‘stag do’ weekend and I was as hung over as is humanly possible. We all have the hangover ‘fear’ so I tried to put it down to that. I had given up smoking some years before, but had smoked on the ‘do’ so was a little worried about that too. I hoped that the space of a few days and some decent (greasy) food would help and all would be back to normal. The reality though was that it was only getting worse and I was sliding into what can only be described as a ‘catastrophic state.’
Any thoughts I had spiralled out of control into negatives and it was as though life was sure to end very quickly regardless of what I did. Everything seemed to have a sense of doom attached and no thoughts, however positive they may have seemed, gave me even a little joy.
It is a terrible situation to be in, being incapable of any sort of joy and your own mind seemingly intent on making you really irritable, annoyed, angry and disillusioned about everything. A feeling of a total lack of control of your own mind is terrifying.
It would be too extreme to say that I wanted to die, but I did want to switch off completely, and to be turned back on at a later time and date. I cannot describe that any more succinctly, but don’t underestimate the sentiment. I wanted to be switched off completely and saw no alternative.
My then girlfriend (now wife) was away and my Mum came to our place to try to ‘make me better.’ The solution, it seemed, was to see a doctor and I now look upon that day as one of the finest I have had; it was the start of being normal again.
A referral to a Consultant Psychiatrist was the order of the day and was followed with an enduring course of Citalopram and some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT.)
The truth of it is that anyone that suffers as I have has to snap themselves out of it. Not in a casual, you’ll be alright, flippant moron sort of way, but more by giving yourself every chance you can, like choosing the right trainers before going out running.
CBT has given me the skills and tools to rationalise life, stresses and strains, and worries. I was and am, a very happy man indeed. Relatively well educated, with a reasonable career, I have friends and family as well as a beautiful baby girl. I was on the edge that day though and was incapable of dealing with the simplest of minor deviations from routine.
Citalopram brings you back to the starting level of everybody else. No more than that. You’ll have good days and bad, but so does everyone.
When I have my bad days, CBT has given me tools to avoid falling off the cliff and in so many ways I am better equipped for life.
My thoughts on ‘stress’ and any sort of anxiety prior to my personal experience went something like, “People who are ‘off work with stress’ are just taking the p*ss aren’t they? Just making sure they take their sick days every year?”
I honestly was in that camp and the examples that I had seen up to that point, seemed to support the theory. Those people that were always off for one reason or another and always seemed to be swinging the lead, they were the ones who went off with stress.
I have managed to remain at work throughout and have managed to function, but not without very hard work and I can see why there may be circumstances where some cannot.
You’ll find, very quickly, that you’ll meet people who sense that they have an affinity with you. It will later transpire that you either inspire them to get the help they very desperately need, or they have in fact experienced something similar already.
Long gone are the days when you’re seen as weak, fragile and incapable. Mental health issues are insisting on a place in common conversation, in relevant debate and in a search for answers.
In my case, the shrink was very precise in explaining that I had a depression. The best analogy I can give is that my arm was broken, not amputated. It could be pinned and maybe the pin would need to remain in forever, but my arm would function normally again. I wasn’t just ‘completely mental.’
It is now apparent to me that I had suffered with a depression for some years and that it was only a matter of time before enough circumstances came together to tip me over the edge. Thank god they did, as it’s clear now that I needed to deal with it.
The shitty moods, the intolerance, the aggression, the lack of patience all pointed to it and have now faded.
Don’t feel like a baby, getting the assistance you need will almost certainly change your life for the better.