Friday, 15 April 2011

The Real Me ?


A few weeks ago Twitter started a hash tag to raise awareness of Mental Health Issues. It was neatly listed as #WhatStigma.

What stigma indeed ? The world and his wife know about me, in my own self-indulgent way I have never hidden my problems, if anyone hangs around long enough I will self eviscerate, I have a tendency to over-dramatise, to "show off" as my mother used to say. I delight in making myself "look interesting" by telling tales of my bad behaviour or fragility and I think, when things aren't too grim I do it with some humour. It is a coping mechanism though, most of the time I'm scared, scared of doing something wrong *smile, laugh*, of being rejected *smile, laugh*, of fucking up in some way I don't even understand.

When I was in my teens the simple answer was a cocktail of Librium/Valium/Diazepam et al because if I was quiet I was OK and that seemed to be the accepted method of dealing with mental health issues. By the time I went to Uni I had learnt a bit more about coping with the black pit as it crept towards me, keep drinking, stop thinking and it seemed to work pretty well.

The the real world intervened, I graduated, got a job and despite ending a long term relationship I kept myself together fairly well, there were, of course, ups and downs, but they were manageable. The times that a good night out or a long chat with a friend would sort out, although the fear of "the pit" was always there. Then I met my husband in 1981, a man of infinite patience he worked hard to keep me on an even keel, coped with the ongoing symptoms of bulimia and picked up a lot of the scary credit card bills that my "feel better" shopping trips generated. I knew how lucky I was and how hard it was for him to understand me.
In 1989 I had our first child, I gave up work and became a mum, except I wasn't, I was numb, felt nothing and beat myself up about it. Every day I had to prove I could do everything, not as a competition with anyone else, but with myself. Fail and the doubt kicks in. After months of a bouncy high suddenly all you can do is cry, hide, hibernate. Weight loss, weight gain and self loathing, feeling you have failed everyone. Oh great, let's add post natal depression into the mix. I was beginning to feel like a text book. "Loons for Dummies". Second child, more pretence, more sobbing, more ranting, much, much more medication, the miracle cure all that is Prozac.

This became the norm for the next 15 years, in the end the mask became the real me and only if things became particularly stressed was there a public falling apart. Then I was given a diagnosis of cyclothymia and prescribed Venlafaxine which has been a huge help, my husband no longer wonders if he is coming home to Tigger or Eeyore, but that doesn't change what has happened. Inevitably the temper swings, introspection and self pity take their toll on relationships with friends and family, the risk taking behaviour can destroy trust and hope.

I had meant to publish this post a while ago, while the hash tag was in peoples' memory and with a positive and upbeat conclusion, but unfortunately I have been skirting depression again recently, glancing at it sideways, rolling my eyes like a worried racehorse. I think that I have hidden it reasonably well; in real life I have stayed at home as much as possible, smiling and socialising seems an effort. On Twitter how I feel is protected by constraints of space, it is much easier to be chatty, glib and give nothing away when you only have 140 characters to express yourself. Chat without repercussions, chat, that if you feel fragile you can drift away from without offending anyone. Eeyore is the racehorse's stable companion.

This week was National Depression Awareness Week and I wanted to finish this post, however incoherent, trying to explain what depression can do to me, to any of us, that suffer from this debilitating illness. Please stick with us, believe we can be good friends, partners and parents and please forgive us if the mask slips.

Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

19 comments:

William Gallagher said...

If I ever think the world is against me, please point out that it's only the internet: I just wrote you a long comment which my connection then decided to throw away before posting. Grrr.

The gist of it was that I liked your piece and that I found it a help: seeing what anyone is going through that's even quietly similar to one's own issues is in a strange and perhaps selfish way a bit of a relief. How much so when it's someone interesting, someone you like.

Trying again to post...
William

Francesca said...

Extraordinarily brave and impressive post.

Mo said...

Ditto the previous comments, thank you for writing. xxx

Kitty said...

That last paragraph really got to me. Brought me to tears.
People who don't understand depression, who don't realise that the actions, reactions are NOT a mature/thought-out choice. That the behaviour is really and truly not of one's choosing. Certainly not of my choosing.

You are blessed in that you have a wonderful partner who loves, supports and understands you. I envy you. Out of everything that could be offered to me by the Universe, that is the one thing I most desire... and most lack.

I'd like to offer you a cup of tea and a hug. Since I can't do that in real life, let me offer it virtually.

Thank you for this post, I read so much of myself here. I'm glad you persevere. And I'm also really glad it's Spring.

Kind regards, Kitty xx

Exmoorjane said...

Oh bless you, dear heart. I hate to read that other people suffer but I do love this kind of heart-rending honesty. When all of us who suffer depression and other mental health issues are as open and honest, then surely the attitude of society as a whole must change?
BIGGEST hug from another owner of the bastard dog. Janexxx

rivergirlie said...

hugs for you, my very dear xx

So Lovely said...

Thank you so much for writing this post. I have suffered from depression my entire life. It comes and goes, and as you know you're never sure when its going to appear, that pit. I've been on and off medication - some help, some don't - I'm so happy that you have a supportive husband who can "ride the storms". xx Charlie Circus

Susan Champlin said...

Thank you, H, for writing the truth. I have a sibling who has gone through similar terrifying dark times. Medication has helped, finally, but there's always the concern that it's still "out there." Sending thanks, empathy and an annoying American hug. xo

Wzzy said...

I'll see Susan's annoying American hug and raise by a kiss. As a very wise woman once told me: the embrace of your friends, seen and unseen, shall be around you for as long as you need.

shayma said...

a very brave piece, H. i send you a hug, too. x shayma

Helena Halme said...

Fantastic post! You write incredibly well about what must be such a difficult subject for you. Thank you for sharing. Helena xx

Lucy Fishwife said...

Hello dolly - I've been off Blogger for a while. Very lovely post, very moving - with a history of depression in my family I remember the feeling of "is he Eeyore or Tigger today" - and wish I'd tried to understand my Dad better, or at least not to get angry when he didn't behave in a "Dad-like" way. xxxxxL

Titian red said...

Thank you all for your comments, I'm sorry not to have replied before but the hibernation has been ongoing recently. Although I can Tweet most of the time more "joined up" thinking is sometimes too difficult. I really appreciate your support and kindness.
Normal, flippant, service will be resumed as soon as possible x

Miss Hemmings said...

Thanks for such an honest and well written post. I too have been pawing and snorting at the shore of the dark pool over the last few weeks. I can't bring myself to label my affliction or indeed seek out medication. Perhaps I should. I wake up desiring absolutely nothing. I look forward to absolutely nothing. It's not good and I know it. I'm just waiting for it to pass whilst doing my best to avoid the outside world. Your post kept my attention to the very last sentence, which is quite an achievement for me of late. Thank you.

zephyr said...

Thank you for writing what i dare not...with such good humor. May you enjoy many moments of deeply satisfying giggling

Runescape Gold said...

Happy to find your blog and the great images that you have on a regular basis!

Anonymous said...

wow, a truly inspirational piece of writing, to show and bare all takes allot of guts and I applaud you for that! - I too have suffered from the same problems over the years - what I have found through self, behavioural examination is that I am a little odd I suppose in comparison to the "normal" out there, but we are all born as different people and we seem to spend our whole life trying to be the same, through this self evaluation, I have learnt to ignore the "labels" that society gives us and especially those who say you cant, because I know know you can, since adopting this, ( I suppose) ignorant attitude I have become quite successfully in business and have settled into an accepting place in life where were "supposed" to be different! - don't be sheep, be free to enjoy life, and if that means other people judge us for being different, well that's just there problem I am afraid - history has taught me that most often those who were persecuted for being different, years later were heralded for being geniuses, its just the prejudiced Hippocratic society we live in - embrace the "real you, and enjoy life I say. many thanks again for your great blog!

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