Monday, 12 December 2016

Taking the black dog for a walk

I have a confession to make.

No, that’s not right. ‘Confession’ suggests I have something to be ashamed about. And I haven’t. Well, not in this instance, anyway.

I have some news to tell you.

Hang on. This is making things sound more ominous than they are. I’ll start again.

I haven’t been well for a while. Before you get concerned (and bless you if you were for a second there), it’s nothing terminal. But being (a) British and (b) male, we tend not to talk about this sort of thing. Which is wrong. So here goes.

I have suffered from depression, amongst other things, for quite some time. I’m fine. Well, obviously I’m not fine, and we’ll get to the details in a minute. But I’m seeking help; I’m getting good care and the people around me who know are very supportive. Currently that’s a small circle of people. I hope it’ll get a bit bigger in the days to come.

In my case, my depression is classed as ‘moderate’. It’s accompanied by anxiety and stress as I think the Doctor was having a three-for-the-price-of-one offer on the day of my diagnosis.

What’s it like? Well, I think it’s probably different for everyone. But for me, the best way I can describe it is by conjuring up a clumsy analogy.

You see that smartphone in your hand? It probably has a ‘battery saving’ function. When energy levels get low, it slows down. It can’t do more than one thing at once. The screen might dim, the various connections switch off one-by-one until it just about performs the basic functions of a phone.

Essentially, I’ve been in ‘battery saving’ mode for a couple of years.

I found myself withdrawing from things that I used to do. I gave up singing in a choir, I found myself no longer writing, I didn’t even want to pick up a book. I haven’t been on the bike for a few months. My personal mantra had become: “What’s the bloody point?”

During my worst phases, my day-to-day life is performed through a sort of fog. Short-term memory, decision making and motivation tend to go out of the window. And boy, do I get tired. I could sleep for Britain. Although I still wake up tired. which is a bit of a bugger, quite frankly.

But I’m getting help. And, given that one in four people will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives, I think it’s important that I talk about it. Which is why you’re reading this.

It might be the case that some of the symptoms I’ve mentioned are familiar to you. We all have bad days and reacting to them is perfectly natural. But if you’ve been feeling like this for a prolonged period of time, seek out support. It’s there.

I’d like to say that I’m the same Phil I was beforehand. Clearly that’s not the case right now. But I will get better. I still enjoy life. I laugh and I joke about things. People do get better.

And the more we talk openly about this, the easier it will be for everyone to get the help they need.


Tom Asby said...

Thank you for saying this aloud. Many men need to see and hear other men acting thusly. I applaud you, good sir, for your courage.
I'm guessing my favorite advice, as a mental health professional and as one married to someone that suffers a similar malady, to "snap out of it", wasn't as effective as you would have hoped?

Anonymous said...

Good luck in your journey

City Girl said...

You are brave. You are kind. You are good. All these qualities are made evident by this post. Thank you for sharing your challenge with your friends and fans. Many, many of us struggle with non-physical issues and we frequently feel isolated and ashamed. Thank you for reaching out to us all - we are here for you, Fabs. xo


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