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FIRST PERSON: Losing Love, Reclaiming Life

first person

Then she uttered the immortal line “I love you, but I can’t accept that you’ll never get past this”. These are words I’ve heard before. The sense of loss, however, was new to me.

The incoherent feeling of déjà vu is uncomfortably familiar. The person has changed, but the sentiment remains the same. I’m left alone with my faults. I’m left alone because of my faults.

I find myself measuring my life through failed relationships, close friends now lost; justifying each with the belief that it wasn’t meant to be. But losing your soul mate, your muse…that hits you hard, in a deep down place you thought was protected from the real world.

How are you supposed to pick yourself up after such a profound loss? Does all the progress you thought you’d made mean anything if the dream that was driving you forward is ripped away?

I’ve struggled through life with this weight on my shoulders; the antisocial teenager running to the mountains because they were steadfast, never changing; the anxiety-ridden student, finding comfort in nature because it didn’t judge; the geek in their mid 20s escaping to worlds of make-believe, because fantasy seemed safer somehow. Then came my inevitable breakdown. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t fit in with the outside world. So for 10 months I hid, unable to work, unable to socialise.

In the past I’ve self-medicated with nature, with sci-fi, with fitness, with games, with drink, with building muscle.  This time, when the whole world turned against me, I fled to an imagined otherworld. Terrible dragons and fantastic warriors seemed to understand me more.

But she was always there. The only light I could see in those dark days… She was the reason I kept on trying. Our dreams of life, of children, of happiness, pushed me forward. When I eventually managed to return to reality it was too late. The foundations had been damaged beyond repair.

I’d let her slip away from me. After years of success followed by inevitable falls, after losing everything time and time again, somehow I managed to find her.  Her existence justified my continual struggle through life. I’d never be a success in my career, but through some chance encounter, some trick of fate, I’d found my reason to be.

I lost a part of my soul the day I moved out…

The most frustrating part is that I know exactly what my brain is doing. I beat myself up and second-guess every decision. I dissect everything down to the smallest detail, until all I’m left with is a variety of ways that I can fail. So I remove myself from the situation. I remove the chance of failure by not even trying. Combine that with the feeling that everyone is watching you, judging you, and you’re left with the daily challenge of simply getting out of bed.

You think I’d learn from all this. I’ve done it enough times to understand the consequences. I’ve grown up with it, lived with it, experiencing first hand the damage it can do to a family. Yet through everything, it still lingers. Every happy social event, it’s lurking in a dark corner. Every success, it’s there ready to point out my faults. During every loving relationship, it’s there to remind you that you’re undeserving.

There have been days – truly dark days – when there didn’t seem to be an escape, when the whole world overwhelms you and all you can see is one way out. It’s hard to come back from that emptiness. You begin to wonder just how many times you can come back. But you keep on fighting. You keep on breathing. You keep on waiting for the next sunrise.

We all have our ways of coping, of pretending that we are managing. The day-to-day becomes routine, with the promise of escaping to our own personal hidden wilderness, shining like a lighthouse through the storm.

At the moment I am dedicated to my amazing job. I work for a charity and have 30 volunteers to look after. With all their issues though, the
truth is that they actually look after me. As hard as my days might get, I know that I can escape to my flat and distance myself with reading, movies and weights. After going through CBT and reading many books on the subject, I know that I’m still avoiding the issues at hand, but at the moment life seems to be working. So I soldier on and, who knows, perhaps by sharing my story, I might work through some of my issues.

I am slowly coming to terms with this illness. It is only through sharing that I’ve realised how ‘normal’ I am. I’m aware that I will have to deal with depression for the rest of my life. I know there will be bad days. I expect to be knocked for six by it again at some point, but that’s not necessarily a problem. The problem comes with not accepting and understanding that I’m ill. Only by doing that can I hope to move forward.

There are so many people out there like me, struggling with the day to day. We do it in private. Alone. Unable. Ashamed. Scared of sharing. Worried about being judged. It’s a taboo that needs to be confronted. I guess that’s the reason I wrote this…

If you’ve been affected by depression and low mood and need to talk to someone about it, you can call the CALM helpline on 0800 585858, open 5pm – midnight every day of the year.  Calls are free from landlines and pay phones and won’t appear on your phone bill.

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