The other Friday I was going to celebrate Kevin Bacon’s birthday.
Not because I’m a particularly big fan. I mean he’s good in the adverts…and I
loved Footloose…and of course we’re only separated by six degrees, which makes us practically bezzie mates… But it’s still weird that I’d intended to honour his special day. Nah, the only reason I was going to celebrate Kevin Bacon’s birthday is cause I didn’t want to celebrate my own.
I haven’t properly acknowledged my birthday for a few years now even though I used to love it. Being in July meant that I was always off school, often away on holiday, the weather tended to be good and I was partial to the usual birthday hoo-ha – eating cake, receiving presents, being the centre of attention etc. Not now. Now I struggle with day-to-day general living, far less living it up.
I blame you for that. Yes I’m talking to you Depression.
I’m sure you remember that a while ago – 2013 to be precise – I said that I was fed-up of you making me feel so bad and I asked you, relatively politely, if you could leave me alone. Did you listen? Did you buggery? In fact you’ve been here more than blimming ever.
You actually seem to have intensified your misery-making mission. You’ve changed me so much I barely recognise myself anymore. I’m no longer the fun, social, life-loving girl I once was. It’s sad but I’m not sure I remember the last time I enjoyed myself. I’m not sure I even know how. Social life? What’s that? Apart from completely destroying my confidence so that I worry that hanging out with me is an endurance test that I don’t want to put anyone through, it’s also nigh on impossible to make any arrangements. Just cause I might be feeling okay when the plans are made it does not mean that’ll be the case on D-day. Getting out of bed might be a struggle then, far less getting out and about.
And then cometh the feelings of guilt – in whopping great, big, humongous waves – if I do have to cancel any prior engagements so it just seems easier not to put anything in the diary in the first place.
Oh yes I’ve had so much experience at party pooping these days I’m practically a professional. ‘How to Suck at Living Your Life in 10 Easy Steps’ by Stacey Berry. Coming to all good bookshops soon.
My wonderful friends and family have stuck with me despite your best efforts to turn me into person repellent. In fact the whole Kevin Bacon thing came about cause one friend thinks that the anniversary of my birth should be cause for celebration (we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one), but knows I’m not a birthday fan so suggested we have a drink for someone else. Kevin, fellow originated-on-the-8th-July-person was that someone.
Except he wasn’t. Cause you see this birthday wasn’t just any birthday. It was my 40th. A significant one that I’d always remember what I was doing on that day. Or rather not doing if I let history repeat itself. So I decided not to let you win. You weren’t going to piss on my birthday cake this time. You’ve stolen enough years of my life.
Yeah I know it’s unlikely I can get rid of you for forever (with age comes wisdom and all that.) And okay I didn’t exactly rave it up on my birthday (note to self: refrain from using expressions like ‘rave it up’ if you don’t want to show your age) but I celebrated my own birthday (sorry Kev) in my own special way. By booking a last-minute flight to Spain and buggering off. But most importantly I didn’t take you with me. And although I’d only planned to come for a week initially, I’ve stayed on and eleven days later you still haven’t made your way over here to join me. And that, quite frankly, is the best present I could’ve asked for.
It’s my party and I’ll not cry if I don’t want to.
You can fly if you’d only cut loose, footloose
Kick off your Sunday shoes
Oo-wee, Marie, shake it, shake it for me
Whoa, Milo, come on, come on let’s go
Lose your blues, everybody cut footloose
Kenny Loggins – Footloose
What a wicked game to play
To make me feel this way
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
There are times that I’d expect to be asked if I’d ever had mental health issues.
Like when going through my medical history with a new GP. Or if I was buying a gun.
I did think it was an unusual question to be asked over dinner though.
Especially on a first date.
I nearly choked on my steak. (Or I would have if I was actually eating steak. My friend Amanda says best to avoid it on dates after she went out with a guy who said ‘order whatever you want’, but then calculated his portion of the bill when it arrived.)
I nearly choked on the cheapest main on the menu.
Woah there cowboy!
Don’t get me wrong – I love it when a guy shows an interest in me, but surely that question features in the First Date No-No’s Rule Book? Just after ‘should we have two children?’ And ‘will you be paying for my steak?’
Or was I being unfair? I mean we didn’t really know each other having only ‘met’ through
a reputable dating website where people go to find long-lasting meaningful relationships Tinder, so all he had to go on was my name, age and anything he’d gleaned from my photos – like the fact I own a purple dress and have ridden a camel.
And those things might not be accurate. I may have borrowed the dress.
Perhaps he just liked what he saw and wanted to know a bit more about me before we confirmed our quota of kids.
And I do think it’s important to be truthful when you are dating (‘that’s strange you don’t think I look like my photo. I can assure you it’s me. When I was 21.’)
So in the spirit of honesty, here is my revised profile Mr Tinder. Lets see if you want a second date after you’ve read this…
Stacey’s Depression Profile
The basic stuff
They call me Stacey. (That is my name. That is my name.) I’m a Scottish lassie but live in Manchester, which I absolutely love (or at least I do when I’m not depressed, cause then I find it a struggle to even like anything.)
I’m 38 (much to the amazement of the young guy that asked me for ID in Aldi recently. Said I looked good considering I was ‘so old.’) I’ve never wed or bred and I’m single (which should be obvious seeing as I use a dating app, but sadly doesn’t appear to be a rule others abide by.)
Spent most of my working life in telly as an assistant producer in TV documentaries and filming hotels abroad for tour company websites. Now working for a market research company, though still deal with videos. I’m also still freelance and my hours are still sporadic and erratic. Bit like my moods.
My favouritest things include receiving post, a good blether with my friends, lying on the beach, drinking Champagne and the sound of crickets.
My least favouritest things are the scratchy noise when you take something out the freezer (bang goes me ever working in Iceland. The store or the country.) People that say the word ‘panteez’ (I can’t even bring myself to write it properly.) And Tinder dates.
When did all this depression malarkey stuff start?
I previously would’ve said, quite confidently, January 1994 when I was the grand old age of 17 and also when I was diagnosed with a rare lung disease (Churg-Strauss Syndrome). I was on chemo as well as high-dose steroids that made my face so round that even my own mum said I looked like a Cabbage Patch Kid.
I remember telling a consultant at the hospital that I felt depressed and she replied that it was understandable and bound to be down to
my fat face the drugs I was taking.
I’ve since found a diary from the year prior though (pre-chubby cheeks) that contains various entries such as…
Thoroughly depressing day. I was on such a downer. I didn’t go out. I would have been very bad company. I just watched Eldorado and went to bed.
So who knows whether I did actually have depression before then. Or I was just being 16. Or just depressed about the acting in Eldorado.
And what about since then?
I had a couple of really memorable bad spells in my 20s but looking back I realise now that it’s always been there bubbling away under the surface. And even if I wasn’t suffering from the main symptoms associated with depression (low mood, feeling helpless and hopeless etc) I’ve pretty much always had some other ones (self-loathing, lack of energy, inability to concentrate.)
There’s been no disputing it over the last few years though. It arrived with a vengeance and I’ve accepted it is here to stay and just needs to be managed.
What flavour is your depression?
It’s more of the mood-swing variety. I can veer between being as high as the clichéd kite and then come crashing down as low as a worms boobs.
At one point I wondered if I was bi-polar but I went to see someone at the Priory and she said not. Reckoned I don’t fit the criteria as I don’t go on crazy spending sprees (though I’d argue that paying £240 for a Priory appointment would constitute as exactly that.)
So seemingly I just have the bog-standard type of depression. Vanilla, you could say if you were ever foolish enough to compare depression to ice-cream.
How do you deal with it? Drugs/therapy/crossing your fingers?
I was prescribed anti-depressants once, when I was 17. I was walking back from the pub (sorry did I say I was 17? I mean 18 obviously #lawabiding) with my then-boyfriend and we started having an argument. He was being such an arse that I felt compelled to give him a slap (a girly one on the arm – I’m not Kelly Brook). I took a run at him. And missed. He laughed.
I decided it must be down to the anti-depressants (rather than the Diamond Whites I’d been drinking) and they must be stopped immediately. I wasn’t concerned that they were inducing violent tendencies when I was normally very placid. No, just that they were giving me a crap aim.
I’ve never taken depression meds since. I know they are miracle workers for many people but after having so many side-effects with my chemo I’m always wary of taking any medication unless I really, really have to.
I’m a big fan of therapy though. Getting to talk about yourself for an hour. What’s not to love?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work. It can be mentally draining and that’s if you even make it through the often year-long wait/endurance test if you are getting it on the NHS. I totally recommend it though. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s saved my life.
Anything you want to say about depression?
I’ve just told you that I love therapy…I can always come up with more to talk about. I’ll finish with my own quote though (which I came up with for info purposes, rather than to feature on my gravestone) which I think just about covers it.
“Having depression is like having an orgasm…you can never really know what it feels like without experiencing it for yourself.”
They call me Hell
They call me Stacey
They call me Her
They call me Jane
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
The Ting Tings – That’s Not My Name
If you fancy doing your own depression profile (you can remain anonymous if preferred) then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll let you know what’s needed. Go on let’s make The Depression Profiles a thing!
“Are you really doing the rice experiment?” my friend Kimberley asked me, “Or is that just a stock photo?”
Am I really doing the rice experiment?
Well, it was really me that made a special trip to my local Tesco’s (which is a stressful experience in itself, cause although I’ve been in there almost daily for six years, and chat to the security guard more often than I speak to my own dad, it’s been refurbished recently and I now can’t bloody well find anything).
And it was really me that perused all the available rice and opted for some Uncle Ben’s Boil in the Bag, adhering to the finickity (ie annoying) side of myself that thought it important to use rice from the same bag for the experiment to be ‘right’.
It was also really me that cooked one bag of rice, measured out two portions of the same size, put them in the jars and added water.
A while later it was really me that started panicking about the fact I’d added water. I’d seen a video where Dr Emoto described doing that, but I was sure that in his original experiment, there had been no blimming water.
So it was really me that felt a bit agitated, and decided to start all over again, cook another bag of rice and put it in the jars. Without water this time.
And really me that then began stressing about whether that was the right thing to do.
And me that told myself I really needed to get a grip, cause I was only doing this in an attempt to stop having negative thoughts rather than undertaking a proper experiment. I’m not a scientist (and I don’t think I’m being unnecessarily hard on myself by saying that) and no-one was going to give a shit about the results or whether they’d been obtained in a controlled environment.
And then me that really ignored my own talking to and decided to add a spoonful of water to each jar, just to be on the safe side. As a happy medium. Somewhat ironically, as I was feeling far from happy.
Then it was me that had the leftover boiled rice for my dinner. With fish-fingers. Really.
The following morning it was really me that woke up feeling anxious. For no reason. Admittedly I had been having weird rice-based dreams during the night but they weren’t exactly frightening. I was probably more disturbed when I worked in a Chinese restaurant and had a rude dream about one of the chefs, who had always given me the heebie-jeebies (that’s not a euphemism. Or an oriental dish.) In the real-world he couldn’t speak any English, but in the dream-world he was fluent. In that, as well as the language of love, body language, talking dirty….(ewwww!) It was a nightmare. Literally.
It was really me that just couldn’t shake the horrible feeling of anxiety that morning. The nausea and heart palpitations to name a couple of symptoms. I remember being at school and me and a friend both had a mind-blank on how to pronounce anxiety. We knew anxious was ‘ankshus’, so thought that logically it would be ‘ankshitty.’ In a way we were probably right.
So it was me that thought it would be a really good time to talk to the ‘bad’ jar of rice. I lay in bed with it beside me and said horrible stuff to it for 9 minutes, while my alarm snoozed. Like some bizarre rice whisperer.
And me that still felt really weird and unable to be positive towards the ‘good’ rice, so decided to have another snooze. A sort of 9 minute thought-interlude.
And woke up 90 minutes later. Bollocks.
So it was a really frantic me that jumped in the shower and in my haste managed to splash water to the end of the bath where my rubber duck sits. The one that starts changing colour when it gets wet. As it began flashing blue…pink…purple…it made me smile and I started feeling happier and perfectly able to chat to the good rice. Except I hadn’t taken it in to the shower with me. Obviously. Cause what kind of weirdo would do that? (Says the girl that had just had rice in bed with her.)
I then really had to get to work so there was no time for flirting with food anyway. And by the time I got home that evening my positive vibes had all but disappeared.
Until…I discovered I’d been shortlisted for best personal blog in the Blog North Awards.
Me! Really me!
So it was really me that put that news on Facebook and then received some of the loveliest compliments ever.
And then it was really me that sat and read all those compliments to the jar of rice with the pretty bow around it. For 9 minutes.
“So in answer to your question Kimberley, yep, I really am doing the rice experiment.”
“You do know that is a bit mad don’t you?”
“Yeah I’m starting to think it really really is.”
ps Would be lovely if you’d vote for Bitten by the Dog in the blog awards. It just takes one click. Down there in the personal blog section. Thanks – just like my jar of rice with the pretty bow around it – you are great!
I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook or the ovation
Gloria Gaynor – I Am What I Am
I was stood up recently.
On a blind date.
Well I say ‘stood up’ but I wasn’t exactly sitting in a bar nursing a Sauvignon, anxiously checking my watch and staring at the door willing every bloke that walked in (even the ugly ones) to be him. I just mean that we’d pre-arranged where, and when, the week prior, but when I messaged him to check the time and meeting point the evening before, I didn’t hear anything from him.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that fussed. I swear. Yeah, I did a bit of ranting about his lack of manners, but I wasn’t particularly bothered about not going on the date. He was my friend’s work colleague and although she’d told me he was tall and funny (have you heard the one about where I stand you up?) I didn’t know anything else about him. Or even what he really looked like, having only seen a blurry, taken-from-afar Facebook photo.
It’s hard to be upset about being rejected by someone you couldn’t even point out in a line-up.
And while I’m on the truth serum….I actually think he’s had a lucky escape. I wouldn’t go out with me either.
I really wouldn’t.
Okay, there are occasions that I have my confident head on and go around singing ‘I am what I am….and what I ammmmmm needs no excuses…la la!’
Those times I would say that he’s missed his chance.
Not at the moment though. At the moment I’m not banging my own drum. Nor do I think I’m a special creation. At the moment I wish I wasn’t who I am, cause I amn’t all that great.
I blame depression for this. Yes, I’m sure everyone goes through periods of self-doubt and times when they are lacking in confidence. Except perhaps Simon Cowell.
It’s difficult though to have a healthy self-image when you are constantly bombarded by negative thoughts and reminders of every stupid thing that you’ve ever done in your life.
Remember when you were 6 years old and you filled up the hole in the ground that was meant for the washing line whirligig thingy with lots of little pebbles? Your mum was so angry with you. And no wonder. What did you do something like that for? You’re an idiot. It’s no surprise that you’re still single.
The sad thing is that I’m only partly jesting. That memory on its own is irrelevant (except perhaps to my mum who couldn’t hang up her washing) but when all your personal thoughts are bad, you end up thinking you are pretty shit. The judge was more lenient on Oscar Pistorius than I am on myself.
If only I could just block myself on Facebook and pretend I don’t exist it would be fine. I can’t though. I’m stuck with me for the foreseeable, so myself and I will just have to learn how to get along.
I’ve therefore come up with a plan. Not a good one obviously – I’m not capable of that, but a plan nonetheless. Remember the rice experiment that I mentioned in a previous post?
Basically there’s a Japanese bloke called Dr Emoto who is known for his belief that the human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water (cheers Wikipedia). Which basically means that if you direct negative thoughts/energy towards water then it will end up ‘bad’ and vice-versa. He has done experiments which he reckons proves this. He also did one with cooked rice where one jar had ‘thank you’ written on it and another ‘you’re an idiot’ and after 30 days the slagged-off rice was grotty and mouldy, whereas the praised grains were practically good enough to be served at your local Chinese. Or something like that.
I’ve decided to give this a go. Except to one jar of rice I’m going to say ALL the negative thoughts and criticisms I have about myself, and the other I’ll do my best to think of some nice stuff to say (er…uhm….I like the colour of your nail varnish…)
And for an added variable I’ve also got a couple of little’ grass men’ which are ornaments that grass grows out the top of their head. (You know it makes sense.) One has its arms crossed over its chest as if defending itself from such insults as ‘You whirligig-hole-blocker idiot that even someone who has never met you doesn’t want to date you!’
While the other has its hands on its hips, and looks all confident and secure in the knowledge that it is a good person with a great choice in nail-varnish. That one I’m putting beside the ‘positive’ rice (which I’ve put a pretty bow around so straight away it will feel better and more loved than the other one) to see if it grows any quicker or more lustrous.
I’ll keep you updated and we’ll see the effect, if any, all this negativity might have on me, albeit in rice and grass man form.
Ps My ‘date’ told my friend that he’d ‘chickened out’. He asked if I was cool about it. She replied ‘Stacey? Well Stacey is super cool – she’s creative, funny, trendy and intelligent, tiny, exotic (as in Scottish!) and has big boobs. But I guess you’ll never know just how cool she is now.’
The Scottish bit is a bit uncertain at the minute – I’ll know after the referendum tomorrow whether that’s still accurate. The boobs bit is true, I’ll give her that. And the rest? Maybe after 30 days I might have learnt to accept some compliments.
I’m my own worst enemy
It’s bad when you annoy yourself
Don’t want to be my friend no more
I want to be somebody else
P!nk – Don’t Let Me Get Me
It could be said that blog posts are like buses. You wait ages for one and then two come along at once.
You wouldn’t hear me saying that though.
a) Because I don’t think anyone was waiting for a blog post from me in the first place.
b) Because I’m not sure that over a week later can be classed as ‘at once’.
c) Because I fancy myself as a writer so you won’t catch me using clichés.
And d) Because it isn’t actually a new post. It’s something I had published on the Mind website last year. It had a great response – well over 600 Facebook likes and lots of lovely comments (you are just going to have to take my word for that though as the site was updated a couple of weeks later and they all disappeared!) – so when I realised that I’ve never actually put it up here, I figured…
e) What the hell. Here it is…
I don’t think that there is a mental health condition called Depression Verbal Diarrhoea (though DVD does sound familiar…) but if it does exist, then I have it.
I’ve gone from keeping completely schtum about my depression, to telling everyone that will listen. Sometimes even those that won’t.
I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed, hence the secrecy. Then on the spur of the moment…by that I obviously mean after agonising over it for a few months, I decided to ‘come out’ by writing a blog about my mental health issues. I put my first post online and added the link to my Facebook page. I immediately felt sick. What on earth had I done that for?
I needn’t have worried. The feedback was amazing. People told me that I’m brave. A lot said they were surprised cause I don’t seem depressed. Some shared their stories with me and others even thanked me for starting the blog and helping to try and end the stigma. I felt like a depression blogging rockstar!
But more importantly, I didn’t get a single negative response. Not one.
People can be great can’t they? Especially when you need them to be. Which is why I wholeheartedly recommend sharing your problems and giving others the opportunity to support you.
Easier said than done though. Talking about it is the best option but where to even start? “Did you watch X Factor last night and have I mentioned I’m depressed?”
I reckon doing it the retro way and sending a letter could be a good idea. I appreciate that it could still be hard to know what to say though and bizarrely you never see a template for that kind of thing, so in true Blue Peter style, here’s one I made earlier…
I am writing to confide in you that I have been bitten by a dog. Before you rush me off to get a tetanus injection, I should explain that the bite was from the metaphorical black dog. In other words, I suffer from depression.
I appreciate that you might not properly understand what that means. It’s a bit like having an orgasm – you’ve heard about it, you know what occurs, you may even have seen it happen to someone, but you can never really know what it feels like without experiencing it for yourself.
Having depression isn’t like being depressed about the fact you can’t afford those fabulous shoes or that your football team lost. People with depression don’t tend to say ‘I’m sooooooo depressed.’ We don’t have the energy to use unnecessary vowels.
We also don’t sit at home rocking backwards and forwards. Unless in a chair designed for that purpose of course. We aren’t crazy. We aren’t weak. We aren’t usually depressed about something we don’t like in our lives because if we were we’d change it. Similarly we aren’t able to just ‘think positive’ and ‘snap out of it.’ Believe me we’ve all tried.
Also there’s a lot more to depression than feeling lower than a worm’s boobs. It’s a bit like having a horrendous hangover – the paranoia, the lethargy, the guilt. Being unable to think straight, being unable to sleep and being a bit useless in general. It lasts a hell of a lot longer though and there has been no fun night out beforehand to make it worthwhile.
If I had a broken leg I know you’d make allowances for me and help in any way you could. I realise this situation is more difficult to deal with because there is nothing to see and there’s no plaster cast to write a funny message on, but if you think about it, the same could be said if it was my heart that was broken. You’d still be straight round with a shoulder to lean on, assurances that I’ll get over it and appropriate little white lies that I will never hurt again.
Any chance of doing the same for my broken head? I’ll put the kettle on in case…
Thank you for being a friend
Travelled down the road and back again
You’re a pal and a confidant
Golden Girls Theme Song
Realise it’s approaching the first anniversary of me starting Bitten by the Dog. Also realise I haven’t actually posted anything on afore-mentioned blog this year. Decide this would be the perfect time to do so.
Cross off ‘Update BBTD at least weekly’ from my 2014 resolutions list. Wish I’d typed it so I could just press Delete. Curse myself for doing it old skool stylee. And for not owning Tippex. And for using terms like stylee.
Decide to mark the occasion by making the dog look like a reveller. Message my brother to ask if he can draw a party hat on the dog. Was also going to see if he could put on one of those cardboard trumpet things but I couldn’t remember what they were called. Google seemed to think they were ‘blowouts’ which made sense but thought it might sound weird if I asked my brother to give the dog one.
Refer to the internet again to see if there are rules on how you should celebrate your blog’s birthday. Start typing in ‘How to…’ and the search engine suggests that I might want to know how to make money, train my dragon, lose weight fast or have sex. All very useful (and may prevent me having to erase more resolutions) but I have an important deadline and refuse to get distracted.
Wonder whether I should check the ‘how to have sex’ info. Just out of curiosity. Eventually decide against it. It’s been a while but surely it’s just like riding a bike?
Start feeling anxious when I realise that there are no official instructions on celebrating your blog birthday. How on earth am I supposed to know what to do? I’ve got depression – I’m mentally disadvantaged. I can’t be coming up with idea after idea. I used up my quota with the commemorative canine suggestion.
Decide to try thinking out the box and look at websites focusing specifically on dog birthdays to see if I can get any inspiration….
“Your puppy’s first birthday is an event worthy of celebration….throw them the coolest puppy birthday party in town.”
Er no. Maybe sites with advice on marking anniversaries?
“The one-year mark signifies that you’ve overcome the beginning stages of a relationship and you still want to be together beyond that.”
Decide to think firmly in the box in future.
Get a reply from my brother. “Yeah, I can stick a party hat on the dog,” he informs me in a sentence he probably thought he’d never say.
At least something is going right.
Check out what other bloggers have done on their blog birthdays.
Given it a fancy title that’s what. Blogversary. It’s my blogversary! Has a nice ring to it. I can see the tagline now…She overcame adversity to make it to her blogversary.
Oh wait…someone else reckons it’s blogoversary.
And Google wants to know ‘Did you mean: blogiversary’
Well which flipping one is it? It’s times like this I wish the Grammar Police were a real thing. Feel my stress levels rising. And then they rise some more about the fact I’m getting stressed about such a simple thing. Bloody depression. Won’t even let me be happy on my blogioblimmingversary.
Spot an advert for some blogger accessories. Wonder if I’d find it easier to write if I was wearing a t-shirt or a tie that says “I blog therefore I am”. Or a trucker cap emblazoned with “I think therefore I blog”. I’m sure I’d look the business in that.
Probably shouldn’t get the mug that states “I blog therefore I am no longer in therapy” though. Unless I want to be ironic.
Read through some birthday blogs and seems there are some common themes after all. You have to talk about your ‘blogging journey’. No problem. I’ve seen every series of X-Factor. It’ll be pimps (as the cool kids at school used to say for easy) to talk about my journey. I’m all over that.
You’ve to be self-congratulatory. “Join me in wishing my pretty blog a happy birthday.” “Thank you for always supporting this wonderful blog.” I’m not all over this.
You have to say how many posts you’ve written…”I wrote 61 in this first year”…do-able…”this is my 297th post”…show-off…”I posted 450 times!”…oh piss off.
And you’ve to promise to write more next year. That wouldn’t be hard.
So I’ve got my hatted up dog and am feeling pretty confident on what to do. Just have to write the thing now.
….Oh dear. Is there such a thing as celebrating your blog’s one year 4 months and 9 days anniversary? Nope? Better buy some Tippex.
It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you
Lesley Gore – It’s My Party
I’ve had some crap Christmases. Like the one where I ended up in hospital shortly after opening my presents. I’d just started enjoying a full English and a glass of Buck’s Fizz when next thing I knew I was lying on the kitchen floor with various relations looking down at me, my mum’s fingers in my mouth trying to stop me from swallowing my tongue and my uncle phoning for an ambulance.
I spent the next couple of hours in A&E feeling anxious. Not so much about what was wrong with me, but more about the terrible mis-matched pj’s I was sporting and berating myself for not putting on the new ones I’d received from Santa that very morning. If I wasn’t embarrassed enough then, I certainly was later when I was diagnosed as having simply choked on a sausage.
#FestiveFail. It did get me out of peeling spuds for dinner though, so it wasn’t all bad. And you might be surprised to know that it wasn’t my worst Christmas. No, that award goes to the time(s) when I’ve been suffering from depression and had to endure the season feeling anything but jolly. Fa la la la la la la la la.
I’d love to say that I could tell you how not to feel depressed at Christmas. I can’t though. That’s asking for the impossible. Even people who don’t have depression often feel like they do during the full-on festive period. Just ask my brother, who has flashbacks to the time over 20 years ago when he claims he’d been a good boy but still ended up with a black and white portable TV, instead of the Skeletor’s Snake Mountain playset he’d asked for.
Plus there are already plenty of existing articles containing advice on how to survive Yuletide. Unfortunately though, many are clearly not written by people with any experience of depression. One so-called expert says that “thinking that the glass is half full, not half empty, is a simple but effective tool.” Why didn’t we think of that? Honestly sometimes us depressed folk are stupid, as well as sad. Think positive and all will be fine. Wish I’d known that when my beloved Grandma was still with us. She might have been able to think herself out of her wheelchair to dance to ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.’
As suggestions go, at least it’s not as bad as the one to send yourself a Christmas card with a nice message in though. I mean seriously. How ridiculous. Have they not seen the price of stamps?
I realise I’m making light of this. I feel I can though cause I’ve been there. I’m not even sure that I won’t be there again this year. I’m okay at the moment but depression is like herpes – once you’ve had it once it lurks in your system preparing to break out again.
I could have a repeat of the year that I’d got through the weeks and weeks of build-up, but started the descent into meltdown mode when I had a terrible bout of insomnia on Christmas Eve. I tried desperately to get some sleep, not only cause everyone knows Santa won’t come otherwise, but because I knew I’d be fit for nothing the next day. I couldn’t and I wasn’t.
By Christmas dinner all the familiar feelings had arrived. I was tired and lethargic. I was irritable and anxious. I was starting to feel paranoid about the presents I’d bought. Despite being in a room full of 21 people I felt alone and unloved, like an unwanted Brussel sprout. Mostly though, I just remember feeling despair about the fact I didn’t seem able to have a good time anymore.
By Boxing Day it had got too much. I drove home tears streaming down my face. Anxious to get back to my flat where although it was cold, dark and my cupboards were bare, it felt like a welcome relief. Bah, humbug.
There will be people reading this who will feel I could be writing about them. There will be others who [whisper it] just don’t like Christmas and can relate. While there will be some who bloody love it and think we’re all crazy.
It is to the latter that I appeal to and say that regardless of your opinion of depression, now is not the time to debate its existence. For the duration of the season of goodwill can you just pretend that, like Santa, it is very real. And show some compassion to those that don’t feel so merry this Christmas cause that would be the best present you could ever give.
Almost as good as the Snake Mountain playset I’ve found on eBay…
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas
…like when you were a kid and it was one of your brother’s favourite games to sit on you and fart. You feel helpless. You feel trapped. And it stinks.
…like Facebook. It makes you think that everyone else is happy and you are the only one in the world that isn’t.
…like being a vampire straight out of an episode of True Blood. You don’t function well during the day and are awake all night.
…like watching The Champ. You can’t stop crying.
…like having diarrhoea. It makes it hard to continue with usual daily life, people don’t know what to say when you tell them you have it and it’s totally shit.
….like the hangover you had when you started working in a Mexican cantina and the manager made you taste all the different kinds of tequila so you know what you are selling. You can’t imagine ever feeling OK again.
…like getting your first period. You wish it had never happened, that you could just ignore it and it would go away. But deep down you know you have to find ways to deal with it or you’ll end up in a right mess.
…like banging your funny bone. It’s not funny and it hurts like hell.
…like wearing a sumo wrestling suit. You have no energy, your movements are slow, it’s hard to do anything and even a simple task like standing up requires a lot of effort.
…like when your phone runs out of battery. You feel cut off from the world.
…like the worst ex you’ve ever had. You wonder what you did in a past life that was so bad to have to suffer so much in this one. And it’s rubbish in bed.
…like going on a German exchange and realising that you don’t actually know as much German as you thought. Completely isolating.
…like having a smear test. Awful and you can’t wait for the experience to be over.
…like a thieving bastard. It robs you of the good things you have in your life.
…like when your hairdresser has been scissor happy. You can’t imagine ever feeling confident in public again.
…like herpes. If you are unlucky enough to experience it once, you are susceptible to getting it again.
…like when a dog wees down your leg. A really horrible feeling and you can’t believe it’s happened to you.
…like watching an episode of Jeremy Kyle. Really depressing.
…like man-flu. Completely debilitating and it takes everything in your power to survive it.
…like being stoned (so I’ve heard, Mum). Your brain doesn’t work properly and you can spend an evening, trying and failing, to remember the simplest of things like the name of some chocolate biscuits. ‘They are made by Cadbury’s and they are shaped like animals. What are they called? Anyone? Think it’s something clever. Why can’t I remember? Damn you brain.’
…like an egg. It can be beaten.
Yes I do feel better
Yes I do I feel alright
I feel well enough to tell you
What you can do with
What you’ve got to offer
McAlmont and Butler – Yes
I can’t quite remember when I decided to start writing Bitten by the Dog but I do remember being inspired by another blog. I’d been on Twitter and Jeremy Vine from Radio 2 was raving about one of the best accounts of suffering from depression he’d ever read (or words to that effect.) I had a look and agreed.
The owner of that blog, Paul has very kindly let me share one of his posts with you. I thought my male readers would particularly appreciate his words, but I think that for all of us it is, albeit in a warped kind of a way, good to hear about someone else in the club and to be reminded we aren’t the only members.
Over to you Paul…
Dealing with depression has taught me – among many other things – to try not to take things personally. But there’s one thing I really do take personally, and that’s depression itself.
Depression is a cruel, malicious bully, and its most devastating weapon is that it knows you better than you know yourself. It knows how to hurt you. It is merciless and relentless.
Bullies can cause terrible damage to your mental health, and their words and actions can stay festering in your head for years. Depression is a particularly effective and nasty bully because it’s inside your head, pulling the strings. There is no escape from it. It attacks you with your own thoughts.
It’s not just a mental bully. It gets physical too – headaches, nausea and all manner of other ailments that add up to more things to worry about and cope with.
What I really resent about depression, though, is how it can affect your relationships with those closest to you. When you’ve been used to carrying on and dealing with everything that life throws at you, it’s a mean twist that you can feel like a burden to the people who love you.
That feeling of helplessness breeds further frustration and anger, making you irritable. This irritability is blended with a feeling of deadening detachment, an intolerance of noise, an inability to concentrate, hopelessness and drowsiness – a toxic blend that turns you into a drifting, zombie-like presence in your own home, sleepwalking through each day and staring at the ceiling at night.
And, to add guilt to the mix, you’re not the only one having to deal with what’s going on in your head. Your black cloud rains on your loved ones too – and depression makes sure you’re painfully aware of how hard it is for them. You’re used to being the strong person who’s always there for your partner (my wonderful wife, Jane, in my case) and children, then suddenly there’s a grinding, long-lasting problem for them to deal with every day. And not only can you not help them with it; you know that the problem is you.
Jolly stuff, eh?
There is some good news. Depression doesn’t have to win. You can beat it, and one way you can do that is to treat it like a bully and expose it. Bullies – and depression – lose some of their power if their oppressive, intimidating, secretive tactics are brought out into the open. Tell someone about it.
I’ve found counselling invaluable in driving my depression out into the daylight. Now I see each bit of progress I have made, am making, and will make as a satisfying kick in depression’s nether regions.
Don’t get mad – get even. Many of us have been through this soul-destroying illness. The more of us who talk about it, the more we can learn from each other and the more we can kick depression where it hurts.
I hate depression, but instead of dwelling on that hate and being led by it, I am now able – with the support of family, friends and anyone who reads my blog – to tackle it head on, and give myself the best possible chance of leaving it fully behind me. Forever.
The show must go on
I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On with the show
Queen – The Show Must Go On
Read Paul’s wonderful blog, Dippyman and follow him on Twitter at @PaulBrook76