The Fire Alarm on the Wall

This is edited down version of Rem’s very personal testament. From his blog...

The following text goes against a lot of what I would normally do but I hope that if just one person reading this who has had similar experiences to me is helped by the following then my goal has been achieved. I am also using this as a cleanser for my own mind and situation too.  Due to the long nature of this and that every passing line is statistically less likely to be read than the one preceding it there is one key point that I need to reiterate:

Depression is not permanent and you will be able to remove it from your life.

I enjoy talking frankly about almost anything.  I look for ways to add a surprise to a thought process and in return offer a lighter and funnier avenue of thinking.  Some see me as a party animal whilst others see me as the loud guy.  I would like to think my close friends see me as someone who is also thoughtful and a person they can turn to when in need.  I make the mistake too often of not turning to them when I am in need instead becoming a loner dealing with problems without their help.

Sometimes though this thought process of mine can back fire and instead of light it will find dark.  In that dark it will connect dots that do not exist or are emphasised in a negative way. With these dots I find darker further connections and eventually the spiral races away from me.

Those that know me well have come to understand that although I talk often I will very rarely let people know how I am feeling inside.  We all do this to a degree and our internal thought monologue hardly ever becomes directly connected to our mouths.  I would like to take this opportunity though to raise the veil on myself and give you an insight into my mind.

Identifying a problem can sometimes solve it in one action.  You could say that to find a shadow with a torch is an impossible task.  Where ever you shine your light to search for the darkness you will always find light.

Although attitudes are changing, we as a society do not enjoy talking about mental health.  Newspapers, tabloids and social media are quick to offer opinions and views on strangers with no context or point of reference for others to relate to.  We see depression without context as an unhappiness or loathing to enjoy.  Hopefully I can shed some light onto this misconception and offer a better more personal point of reference that can help others understand how depression occurs and develops.  In turn I would like to explain how I have overcome depression and my steps to prevent it happening again in the future

As promised, I need to give you a bit of history.

In 2011 I approached my GP with concerns that I wasn’t feeling myself.  He asked “What do you mean Rem?” “I don’t know.  I just don’t feel right… Everything just seems better if I don’t get involved”

He prescribed me some antidepressants and told me to concentrate on feeling better. Chemicals didn’t change my thought process and in turn made me worse as I thought that I couldn’t get better or back to my old self.  As each day passed the feeling that my old self was more unobtainable became more prevalent.  The speed at which I deteriorated quickened and I shut myself away from friends and then family.  My dreams made no sense; a tangle of metaphors and flashbacks to past experiences.  My mind was racing at all hours trying to solve the problem of “How do I get better?”.  The more I thought about it the more I descended away from any hope of an answer. I became a perpetual world of self conflict.

The ability when you are exhausted to do anything, even feel becomes nigh on impossible.  One misconception for me about depression was that you actually feel depressed.  For me my depression was that of numbness. Before I felt numb the early signs were that of utter self confusion. I lost all ability to do anything.  I couldn’t sleep at night but when I eventually passed out, in the morning I couldn’t pull myself from my bed.  As with many aspects of my own depression it was a circular motion of thoughts that escalated with each cycle.  These cycles were running in my head with every breath.

I resorted to trying to experience physical feelings to bolster this loss within.  Many have asked about the scars on my left arm and some know where they come from whilst others I have told it was a cooking accident with hot water.  The truth is they are the remnants of cigarette burns.  Each burn gave me a searing reminder of feeling again.  The first one hurt but it excited me.  Not because of what I was doing but that I realised at the back of my mind that this could be reversible. Quickly though the pain passed.  It’s strange that I will always shy away from wanting a tattoo because they are permanent and yet without thinking I now have a reminder of my decision every time I check the time.

My damaged arm quickly raised questions amongst my family.  I tried to explain to my Mum how I was feeling.  It was incredibly difficult because I genuinely felt all I was doing was trying to attract attention and consequently I had an overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t talk about my feelings.  I had never experienced these feelings before and thought that in my early 20s I would understand my head by now.  I met a counsellor for the first time the next day.

His name is Andrew Richardson and our first meeting started with me completing a short form ticking boxes relating to how I felt.  Andrew listened. Andrew asked questions.  Andrew asked me to give his consent to let him help me.  I said yes and he asked me to listen to his Depression MP3 each day until I saw him again the following week.

Quickly we (and it did feel like we were both tackling my episode as a team) worked back through my past to find what could have triggered my feelings.  We traced it back to before my parents divorced to my change of schools at primary level.  I changed schools in my final year to a private school where the classes were smaller and money was more important to the majority there than anything else.  Others had 5 years of friendships already established and I found it hard to make friends.  I dreaded each morning and could not understand why I had to go there.  I had gone from being a big social fish in a small pond to the small fish with what I perceived at that age as sharks.  I’m not blaming anyone.  Kids are kids.

Andrew and I continued our sessions together for a few more weeks.  My sleep was becoming cherished again with it I was able to reconnect to my friends.  I did though keep a secret what I had gone through and I lied about my arm.  Other than the scars I had no evidence that could haunt me of my depression.

I have only told a few people in the time that has passed since the truth.  One of them though was my friend Ben that I reconnected with at the airport in Ibiza on my arrival to start a season working out there.  I didn’t realise until recently that sharing problems with people who really want to listen can solve most of them all in one go.

Over the last 18 months my confidence socialising became more polarised away from letting myself connect with people.  I went through a messy relationship that ended after the discovery that almost every aspect of the world they had led me to believe was a lie.  She had lied about her age, job, health, pregnancy, homelessness, the list went on.  I was stuck in a mind process of thinking “If you can’t trust someone you said I love you to then who can you trust?”.  I spent more time worrying about how to not worry that I lost complete track that my friends who I could trust and they begun to drift away.  More importantly I lost track that I let 6 months from a liar change my mind on the years of friendships I had elsewhere.

Let me speed up this Delorean to the present.  In the past 6 months I didn’t notice the signs occurring again.  Hindsight is depressions best weapon for detection.  This time my lack of control was from stress with my work compiled with family pressures.  I started passively pushing friends slowly away.  I’ve done this by hiding and not actively staying in touch. Friends I was once close to are now getting married or buying houses or moving further away.  I was thinking that they were not wanting to see me but really I hadn’t made attempts to see them.  I was connecting dots again that didn’t exist.  I used the power of Facebook to lull me into a false sense that I was spending time with people when really I was only clicking Like.  My Facebook has more friend than I do.  I wanted to talk to people but never about anything that really matted; emotions and feelings.

At first I thought this was because relying on Facebook had become routine and so left it.  Quickly without the crutch of seeing what people were doing (even though I wasn’t actively spending time with them) I had removed one of the three principles that Andrew’s sessions had taught me:

For a healthy mind and life you require stability within your work, your emotions and your relationships

About a month ago just before leaving Facebook I gate crashed a party with a friend and in the following hours of alcohol, new stories and laughs, I fell over carrying someone on my back.  I landed quite heavily on the pavement outside a bar in Billericay opening a deep dent into my right  arm.  My new-found friends that were hours earlier strangers helped patch my arm up and I went to see my local nurse the next day.

I’ve been with Andrew again recently and he emphasised that although I was sat on the comfy chair in his office again that I was scoring higher than my very first visit years ago.  Already I felt the tingle of self-awareness.  The first step towards fighting my recent depression had been made.  I can now clearly recognise within myself the warning signs.  I call it my fire alarm.  It sits there on the wall in the back of my mind always present but I am able to use it to warn me before my mind races away.  I can use it as a self-defence mechanism for good.  Just like when we begin our first months of driving we soon slow down after our first bump

In the past few weeks I have moved geographically away from my stresses next to a river. The extra distance to get to work has been a great way for me to wind down.  I’ve quit smoking and have managed to keep it going for coming up two weeks now thanks to Nurse Pat.  I’ve started running and have entered a 10k run for the end of August.  Most importantly for me, I’ve begun making contact back with my close friends I have known for years.  I still know there is work to do but Rome wasn’t built in a day.  For many of them this page of text will be the first indication that something was wrong with me and not me thinking there was something wrong with them.

Andrew told me I had three aspects of my life to turn my attention to and with work going fine and my emotions now in check all I have left is to get my relationships back on kilter.  The last time this happened I lied until people stopped asking questions.  Now I’m ready to let people in and answer any questions.  At the same time I’m sure they already knew and I’ve just got to start being the friend again that I was years ago.

My experience of depression now means I can prevent it happening again before it escalates and I can now recognise the warning signs.  

I would like to leave you with these thoughts:

Depression is not an emotional shadow rectified when you acknowledge it.  I covered mine up with partying, jokes and plethora of additional hobbies.  Depression in my opinion is more like a gobby drunkard in a pub that doesn’t want to leave.  You can fight it but it comes back strong and more convoluted.  You can ignore it but it will just get more and more vocal eventually causing you to snap.  You could though stop and take time to speak to others around you and listen to their thoughts.  Loud drunks don’t work well on their own against you and your friends.  Sometimes we confide in strangers with their lack of preconceptions better than talking to our friends  and so I would recommend contacting Andrew Richardson or at least browsing his website:

You never know who out there may be feeling alone.  Sometimes you have to ask “But how are you?” more than once for the truth.

Talking to someone independent of my world worked for me but now I’m ready to let my friends know my demons.  You’re not alone.

I heal emotions so you can live a happier and more fulfilled life

 
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