It was October 23rd 2005 when I first remember feeling the emptiness, my 16th birthday. Every year prior to this, the night before I would be overcome with a restless anticipation. Eager to wake up at the crack of dawn and devour the wrapping from whatever action figure or video game I had been pestering my parents for.
This year was different, it was the first year I remember the sensation of getting older. I’d reached a point where possessions weren’t going to do anything to fill a void. My childhood was drawing to a conclusion and I wasn’t prepared. I awoke with no hint of excitement, greeted by my dad, card in hand; “Happy birthday, kid” he said in the same joyous tone he uses every year. I opened the card, out fell £20. This was it, adulthood. Cash for birthdays, socks at Christmas. It feels awful to make a link between something so inconsequential as receiving gifts to something so great as depression but for me, it acted as a trigger.
A darkness took over that day. I put on my jacket and shoes and opened the front door. The burning smell of Autumn was beginning to fill the air in the same way it does every year at that time. It was comforting in its familiarity; the emotion I was feeling or lack thereof was wholly unfamiliar. I walked from my house to Wandsworth Bridge, crossed over and carried on up Wandsworth Bridge Road, left on to the New Kings Road and then back over to the south via Putney Bridge. I returned home. The journey can’t be more than about 3 miles. I was so switched off and hollow that I didn’t notice day had turned into night by the time I returned home. I went to bed without blowing out the candles, I wanted to be alone.
When I was 18 I fell in love for the first time. Just after I turned 19 I was heartbroken for the first time. It wasn’t in any way a messy break up, it was merely a matter of distance. On the day it finally finished, sometime in early November I went on another walk. The burning smell filled the air again, once again comfortably familiar. This time though the emotion was familiar too, I began to think that this wasn’t a normal way to react. I walked from my home down the Thames path to Hammersmith Bridge. I crossed the majestic green, iron giant and followed the river on the north side towards Chiswick. I walked past the George and Devonshire pub where my friend Edd was in the midst of his Friday night shift. I flirted with the idea of going in and sharing his company, maybe drowning my sorrows. I didn’t though, I wanted to be alone again.
A few days later I bought a bag of weed for the first time. It would be over seven years before I buy my last one. Pretty much every single day in that time period I would be stoned. Sometimes before work, sometimes during work and always after work. It got more than the better of me and so did the munchies. At my lowest ebb I reached over 18 stone. It was my Gary Barlow sand box era. I went to my GP on more than one occasion seeking help, but I couldn’t get that help because I wasn’t prepared to stop. I sought solace in poetry, I was scared that I needed this vicious green stimulant in order to write. I smoked myself in to oblivion.
The weed years passed faster than I could handle and at some point in 2013 I discovered the powerful synthetic opioid Dihydrocodeine. At first it was something I would occasionally do to give myself a warm buzz, by summer of this year it was yet another daily crutch. After countless failed attempts I finally kicked my weed habit at the start of 2015, but the codeine dependency only grew. I was totally scared of sobriety, I hadn’t been straight since I was 19.
In January of this year we lost our friend Patrick to suicide. We always thought him a wonderful weirdo, but in recent years we had grown apart, only bumping into each other on the rare occasion. My friends and I sometimes question whether or not we could have done more to prevent it, I’m not sure. It was truly an awakening, it was suddenly all too real. My friends and I made a pact that we would never let this kind of thing happen again. There’s always another option, we all need to be closer, we need to take care of one another. Depression is like being lost at sea; even surrounded by an ocean of caring friends and family, you still have this unquenchable thirst for just wanting to be alright. 42% of men between the ages of 20 and 45 in this country have considered suicide. Something like 2 men a day die from it. That’s an epidemic.
It’s November 2015, I’ve recently turned 26, the burning smell fills the air again. I’ve begun the dihydrocodeine withdrawal process and I’m finally getting the help I need. I know it’s going to be a long path, but I’m relieved I’m on it. I fear that this ramble may be self indulgent, in some respects it is. It’s certainly somewhat therapeutic for me to write all this out. I just wanted to share my experience with depression and addiction. It’s very easy for people in that situation to feel like they’re alone. This is my small attempt at making sure you know you’re not.
If you need help, see our Get Help page. Huge thanks to Joey for his brave and honest writing.
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