Now

In February last year I wrote this. Putting words on a page was a breeze. Despite a head jammed full of thoughts everything felt surprisingly clear, probably through the relief of acknowledging something was wrong and finding help.

Since then I’ve tried writing several times but words have been more difficult to come by, until now (you lucky sods). I want to put words on a page that might provide hope to someone who needs it, just as I did. It’s not about me, it’s a tiny ray of light, a compass, for someone who might find it one day.

I’m finally here after spending the past seven days trapped in a dark, silent forest with no clear path in any direction, just a sense of hopelessness (sounds like a bad TripAdvisor review). I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when. The day before I had been a million miles away but that morning a switch had been flicked and I was back in a place I used to call home. From serenity to despair, every moment of every day craving isolation, rejecting calls, hating everyone and everything, apathy & that flippant attitude towards death. It’s especially dark when you come in from the sunshine.

I’d stopped taking Citalopram three-months earlier and while that brought about feelings of relief and a sense of achievement (go me) I’ve always kept my feet on the ground. From the first day I’ve been conscious that the bad vibes are a friend for life, lying dormant, ready to resurface. Most of the people closest to me know that but it’ll never stop me being overwhelmed by their kindness and brilliance, all sorting me out in their own little ways. Interestingly I also saw how some people had seen the departure from medication as ‘he’s cured!’ and when I told them about my little episode they may as well have responded ‘But I thought you were OK now?’. This wasn’t a cool thing to hear, especially given my openness over the past two years. But people are people and mental health is still largely misunderstood.

Practicalities

On a more positive note If you know the storm/fog/[insert euphemistic weather type] is coming you can try to equip yourself to deal with it. If it’s prolonged your usual tricks might not be as effective but try not to stop. Getting out of bed will be hard, riding your bike will be harder, laughter will cease to exist and the appeal of sitting in a darkened room will be enormous. Enjoying life will be off the menu but you just have to try to live it (dancing in the rain). Hopefully the people around you will know you’re not yourself and if they’re emotionally retarded you can always tell them. More people than you think know someone who has dealt with things like this and they’ll probably surprise you (even colleagues!).  Try to ride out the storm & be confident it will pass, cling to that feeling.

There is no telling how long it will last, it may be two days, it may be two weeks. For me, just as it appeared from nowhere, after a week it vanished overnight. No explanation, no trigger, the darkness was gone. I know it will come again, when I least expect it, but that’s a much better prospect than the years of depression I went through that would peak around Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s day, like clockwork. Only by acknowledging the roots of that misery was I able to move away from it. If you’re ignoring something, and dreading certain dates, people or places, that dark shadow will remain unless you confront it. It takes courage, but people are there to help; there is no shame in it! (& you only get one crack of the whip). Lately I’ve also been quite taken with the thought that for all I know I may have already lived 99% of my life to this point – I think it’s a nicer way of saying I could die tomorrow & weirdly it helps. This might be a really irritating thing to read but different strokes for different folks.

Enough blabber; my brilliant twin is one of hundreds who will be running 10k for CALM in July to help them continue to break down the cultural barriers preventing men from seeking help when they need it so cough up!