How depression has helped me

My regular reader will know that most of my posts are somewhat jokey in nature. I thought I'd have a go at something a bit more personal - my dances with depression and anxiety.

I'd known I wasn't generally happy in life for a long time. I could see everybody else having fun and getting on with their lives. I knew that wasn't me - I didn't deserve it. I didn't have a problem, I just wasn't worthy of the happiness and contentment that everybody was having. This was how I lived for about 20 years of my adult life.

I guess I started thinking that there was something I needed to change when I had extended time of work for "stress" four years running. Every autumn I would not be able to cope, so went to my GP and got signed off for between four to six weeks. In these times I lay in bed, read books, and made damn sure I didn't meet anybody. After all, who would want to meet me - I'll just bring you down and ruin your life. I am, after all, not worthy of love.

My breaking point came in 2007. I was at work (in the autumn) and really struggling with life, the universe, and everything. I thought I was doing a great job of hiding it. But clearly not. Clare, a colleague and one of my best friends, came up to me and put her hand warmly on my shoulder. That was it. She said nothing, just reached out to me. I ran away and burst into tears. I even have tears pouring down my face as I remember this. Something inside of me broke. I imploded.

Even somebody as slow of the mark as I am could realise something was going on. I was not coping. All of the defenses I had built up throughout my adult life were failing. Fuck. I had no idea what to do about this. Yes, I know I'm screwed up, and I know something has to change. But what and how?

As with most situations like this, the answer was easy. Though I did need somebody to point it out to me. Go to your GP and be 100% honest with them - even if they might not want to hear it. So I did that. One of the hardest things I've every done. I'd built an identity of being independent and robust. Having to ask for this help was harder than the day I, aged 17, had to phone my brother to say mum had died in a car accident. But I think going to my GP and being so open was the best thing I've ever done (and I've done some amazing things!). I think it saved my life.

I explained to my GP where I was. I didn't want medication (for many people that's their good route - though it wasn't what I wanted). He recommended therapy, and gave really good tips on how to get a therapist. I'm very lucky in that I could afford long term therapy, so this was a good and practical route for me. I found a therapist who I was comfortable for me, and me for her. That said, it still took me about eight months to tell her that my mum dies when I was 17, and I was somewhat responsible - as if that wouldn't have been part of what shaped me!

That was about seven years ago. I still see my therapist every week (yes, it costs a fucking fortune!). However, since I've been in therapy, I haven't had a big depressive episode. And that's a Good Thing. I still have many anxieties. We're trying to work through those - with so many of them having roots in my childhood and adult life, it will take time to unknot the tangled web that is me. There are no shortcuts, it's only ever small steps. Mostly forward, though there are backward steps at time - me falling off the wagon if you like. But it's OK to fall of the wagon from time to time - I can get back on it soon.

I'm learning that I might actually be not only an OK guy, but a nice person. If I interact with you, I won't poison you. If you interact with me, it might just be cos you like me because there are bits of me to like - we can be mates! Perhaps, and for me this is still quite 'out there', somebody might actually love me in that intimate way that only intimate soul buddies can be.

Oh, so the title of this blog - how depression has helped me. I'm so much more self aware - that's always going to be a good thing. It's also helped me realise I am not alone. There are so many people that feel what I do. They can help me, and I can help them. Talking about how we feel helps all of us. Small acts and little rays of hope (like my friend that put her arm on my shoulder) can go miles.

And the image is a party. Cos we - me, you and everybody else - should be able to party!

I've also found Twitter to be so helpful. So many people have helped me (thank you all!), and I hope I've been able to help others. Being able to be in solidarity with others - whether they're helping me, or me helping them - is very emotionally nourishing. And I've managed to overcome some of my social fears by meeting people in real life from Twitter.

It's all about small steps. I'm confident that these small steps will take me on a great journey. I hope you, my reader, will find your steps and your journey.