“Woke up this morning…..”is the classic,opening words of a number of blues songs.That said this piece is less about the songs,the music than it is the blues.In talking about the blues,i guess i am going to shuffle up to it sideways on rather than directly.
Those words might well be how i would start a description of most if not any day over the last week or two.
I developed what may have been my first episode of clinical depression in the summer of 2002,over a decade ago.One of the features of clinical as opposed to reactive depression,might be the difficulty for both the sufferer and the doctor to identify source or cause of the condition.Upon reflection,i may have developed reactive depression much earlier in 1985,but that is another story.that i may or may not explore somewhere else on another occasion.
I certainly had a second episode of clinical depression in about 2004/5,and then in 2010 it was diagnosed as a moderately severe,chronic condition for me.I consider the words,the language of diagnosis are reflective of medical opinion rather than as experienced.hard though the admission is,i consider it sometimes to be an absolutely awful experience,although i would not want to pretend for myself that it compares in seriousness either with other people or with other conditions.After all it is not a competition.
Now,i want to write mostly,a little about the last episode and my current experience.
From 2002 until 2010 i took daily amounts of an anti-depressant.I admit that i was quite shocked in late 2010 to find myself buried deep in another episode,partly because i had taken what seemed to be a highly successful anti-depressant which more or less worked all that time,and because the depth of the experience that began in the autumn of 2010 was in some respects the deepest and most damaging and painful for me.
I do not intend at this point to tell the whole story at this point.Suffice to say that on Thursday 16/12/2010 i hit a crisis,which for me even several years on was a powerful and frightening experience.
I got into work as usual that day,and felt like things started going wrong immediately.A call from a friend-colleague with an enquiry about a glitch in a report,which she wanted to check before she rectified it.I also catch something wrong in the tone of my voice.I put the phone down and my colleague i shared the office with that day asked whether i had been talking to a therapist!This i take as another ominous sign.Another conversation with one of IT support staff being her to contact my manager to tell him of the problem with the computer programme which prevents me completing an overdue assessment-i can hear the hysterical tone in my own voice and feel my anxiety that i could now lose my job.I know it is getting worse.
Then my interviewee arrives and i begin our interview:A serving soldier who has pleaded guilty to an assault,but who wants to be able to return to Afghanistan to continue bomb dispoal in due course- ajob in which he rsisks his life every time he is sent as part of team to deal with and IED(improvised explosive device).I have the smell of death in the room.We have anumber fo difficult discussions.Although i have peace and socialist oriented politics,individual soldiers in this context-both professionally and personally are not the enemy,and i have some sympathy and respect for his position).At the end of our interview i follow professional portocals and then between other intervews during the day,i draft my report neogotiating my way through the labyrinth of issues i need to consider.This is more difficult than usual not for profesional reasons but because it has taken its tooll on me persanly and taken me to the edge of myself.I am haunted by sonciderayions of death.I cannot stop cryin.This must have taken its toll on my colleague,although i am eternally grateful for her support that day.Five or six hours later i am still there-i am still between tears and the dark edge of something else.At about 7pm i leave when i simply know that soon i will not be able to function at all.I struggle with myself on the journey home,and when i reach home.If i was not in obvious tears then i was crying inside,however trite that sounds and i continued to feel like i’m falling apart.
Next day,i happened to have a doctors appointment about something else entirely-slippage means i had made an appointment about something that had now past,Though i felt so bad i kept the appointment anyway,where i burst into tears again and fell apart.The diagnosis began although i still refused to be “signed off” from work.On the Monday,after a weekend in semi-constant tears during which i continued to feel i was disintegrating,whilst bizarrely also self observing,watching as if independent and separate from myself,i telephoned my doctor and virtually surrendered that continuing to go to work was impossible and called in sick.
i never returned,and leaving a major part of the story out for now,eventually obtained early medical retirement.
I guess if i did not actually come out of that episode of depression,which i prefer to refer to as melancholy,then i have mostly learned to manage it.That includes living without anti-depressants- as i would rather manage even my extreme sadness than be marginally less sad whilst feeling “zonked” and even more disconnected from whatever constitutes reality.
I have learnt some new survival and self management techniques although they are not always successful and do not always keep me from usually shorter but sometimes equally profound “bouts”of depression.Sometimes that actually comes out of strong and positive experiences.That too is another story.
As i write today,i am in one of those dark periods and places.having surrendered that i cannot do what i had originally planned today due to both physical and mental discomfort,i decided to write as both the best use of the time,rather than waste it,although it too is also hard.It is also therapeutic although i tend not to write cathartically or thinking therapeutically.I write mostly thinking that the side-effect might be therapeutic,hoping that i successfully communicate.Thirdly,like my young,courageous friend Tom,and others,i believe in talking and writing about it,like him-because it is important that these issues ARE talked about,and particularly that men should do so…….
It felt like i spent a large part of 16/12/10 in tears.I have cried virtually every day since at some point during the day.I have grown used to this and have learned as part of my self-management to try to treat it as a gift.Some days its is worse than others.
For me,the symptoms of the melancholy can often be very banal-like living in a grey dust wasteland in which any action or activity is doubtful if not impossible.Whilst rarely if ever suicidal there can come times when i am simply indifferent to the future or the consequences of of a particular thought or action.I sometimes experience a self destructive desire to withdraw from things,projects,campaigns,events i am involved in>Sometime my self confidence or various aspects of it will desert me,although i was always shy.self doubt haunts me,like the dust/dark grey eminence,the personification of the melancholy that accompanies me:the empty,grey monks habit not unlike the nazghul/ringwraiths of Lord of the Rings..
Today,this week and much of last week was like this too.
Just as Tom in his openness about his own condition has assisted me,so has my friend Laurel in her insights,observations and indeed her support to me.She talked amongst other things about procrastination-and whilst i don’t especially regard this as a feature of myself i now acknowledge that this explains at least in part both some of my own inertia,and pinpoints some of those occasions when i now understand that both not allowing myself to go out to some events and the consequences of such a decision are equally problematic and reinforce or feed feelings of disempowerment.
I have had a variety of these symptoms and effects today.I woke too late to be at a local leafletting event.Hauling myself out of bed,i felt so”under the weather”i never made it to a 2nd campaigning event of the day.I felt a certain amount of relief,but the still have to manage my regret and my continuing discomfort.my loneliness increases because i miss my friends and comrades.i hav eregret at “letting others down”even if rationally,that is not the case.I still have the feelings of my 17 year olf selfin my head,that i jahve mised something.Writing about it does not ease it….
I mulled over what i would write throughout the day.What has come out is not quite as envisaged.The turning point,which brought me to actually write was what happened when i turned on the news:
The 1st item up was news of the presentation in court of a man charged with the strangulation of his 11 year old daughter.I went straight to tears,and tears perhaps more than usual.i do not assume he is guilty,i do not condemn or judge-it is not my place,and whilst i am no kind of saint,i like to think it is not in my nature.
I cannot continue to do social work as a full or even part time job-for what use to someone in potentially greater distress can be a man who has tears in his eyes or burst into tears.Yet in a sense whilst i can remove me from the social work in another sense they cannot they cannot take the social worker out of me.So that makes moments like this harder.The gift of its is that i still feel”pain with the world”and compassion for people within it.On the other hand,when employed i was aware that i was part of a wide community of people drawn together and connected by a caring and a desire to do what they can in such situations which people.That is no longer the case for me.Whilst this and many other incidents demonstrate the pain of the human condition,which for me does NOT require a fixed veiwe of human nature,nor that it is inherently evil-its is much more difficult for me to play or see my part of in a network of care.what is”out here”is much more tenuous than a network of at least good intentions(i realise that this is idealist,but i am not making a materialist analytical point;it is a description of personal and possibly shared psychology)
So i must bear it and bear with it,work it through,manage it and hope for better times…..