***TRIGGER WARNING; I talk about depression, mental health, death and suicide in this post. Please don’t read it if you think it’ll upset you inordinately. Advanced apologies for the over-share***
For all the issues that exist between sleep and myself, there are some days when I just don’t want to get out of bed; days when the world seems bleaker than it was when I went to bed. Abbie awoke this morning and told me the sad news of Robin Williams’ passing, my little black heart sank a little further and I was saddened, as I’m sure millions of people are. However, I also realised how lucky I am.
I’m a 31 year old human being; male, white, heterosexual, privileged, lying in bed reading news on my iphone, healthy, warm, looking forward to some freshly ground Ethiopian fair trade coffee and spending my morning sequencing the digital download of the new Kaddish LP; I seemingly want for nothing and am grateful. I think about Robin Williams, I think about my own mental health. I think about how I preferred Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting to the comedies. I think about my friends who have passed, I think about my family members who’ve passed. I think about my friends who have killed themselves. I think about the history of depression, addiction and mental illness in my family and worry that it’s in my genes. I think about suicide. I think about how it surrounds so many of us, how it’s inescapable and how its effects are ever-lasting. I think about death. I think about all the times that I’ve thought about these things and that I’ll probably never stop thinking about them. I think about how punk has always been my place to go. I think about the stupid songs I write to make myself feel better. I think about the songs that other people have written that make me feel better. I think about the International Space Station and the ever-expanding nothingness. I think about how I’m yet to master sleep.
I know that I can talk to Abbie about my worries (this morning I did) and ask for a cuddle. I know I can call my mum and tell her I feel unwell. I have a band and friends and family that have been through everything with me and supported my every choice. I’m sure many people will have stories and lord knows that I’ve put my band mates through hell. I feel like I always (at least tried to) address my problems in the songs that I write, even when it’s been an uncomfortable exercise. I must have been a nightmare at various points. Through all of it, I know how lucky I am to still be here and to have the people in my life that I do. I’ve pushed the boat so far I almost sailed over the edge more than once. I had to shed the bullshit and admit how badly I was struggling. I asked for forgiveness and support. I received it in spades. Many people are not so lucky.
I suffer from depression. I suspect that I’ve lived with it for most of my life (as perhaps an extension of my perpetual feeling of “otherness”) but was only formally diagnosed as such around two years ago. It took the death of my father and the subsequent six months of catastrophic emotional turmoil and behaviours for me to even entertain the idea of speaking to a doctor. I’ve been seeing various different therapists and counsellors off and on for over a decade now, so this diagnosis came as no surprise to me. Depression is real. My depression is sheer inexpressible emotional desolation. It’s not a case of “chin up Chuck”. I can speak only of my own experience but my tale is in no way unique; I’ll never be “cured”, all I can do is learn to live with it and try to keep it at bay. The best way to do that, I’ve found, is to talk about it. To EYC, if you will. It took me a long time to realise that, though.
There is no definitive answer, no cure, no magic wand, no pill (well, there are thousands of them but none are the answer), only “coping mechanisms”, “distraction techniques” and “de-escalation”. All the cognitive behavioural therapy in the world won’t mean shit if you’re not willing to open yourself up to it and admit the truth to yourself. For me, it was about putting honesty and the “greater good” (I’m hesitant to use language such as “higher power”) ahead of my own bullshit and ego. Booze played a massive role too. Stopping drinking was a huge step for me, especially after partying my way through the entirety of my 20s, and has improved my emotional well-being beyond imagination previously; undoubtedly one of the best decisions of my life. Again, I am grateful and realise how lucky I am; I have the most dependable and compassionate “support network” you could wish for. That shit doesn’t come easy though, it takes (for me) brutal emotional honesty (“lacerating self-analysis”) and a willingness to admit my failings and shortcomings, of which there are many. I could write you a fucking list. I used to think of that as weakness. Now I realise that it is actually strength.
Whenever I talk about this, I always think about the Bill Hicks “ex-smoker” sketch; for me to preach would be hypocritical in the extreme. I used to think of myself as a “fuck up”, now I realise that we all “fuck up”. I’m not going to tell anybody what to do and I’d hope I’m not conceited enough to dispense “advice”; only you can truly know. However, that doesn’t mean that others can’t help you find yourself, especially if you’re lost. I’ve begun to realise that I’m not as “other” as I thought I was, that we are all human; that we all bruise, break and bleed.
Ultimately, the point I am getting at is YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
The stigma attached to mental ill health and depression needs to be removed. The statistics speak for themselves, there are millions, probably billions, of humans suffering. Don’t suffer in silence. We make enough noise about the bullshit, we need to start making some noise about the important shit. Without resorting to YOLO/OLOC cliché/sloganeering horseshit, please talk to your friends and loved ones. Please listen to your friends and loved ones. People care more than you’d think and more than they let on.
Please reach out for support and support those that are reaching out.