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Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

Lowest Ebb

596664298I’m at the lowest I have been in some time and while the stresses that got me here are long term it has been a rather rapid and sudden descent over the last few days.

As I’m sure you’re all extremely tired of hearing from me at this point, I suffer from severe and ongoing depression. I had been a lot better for quite some time, to the point where I no longer need the drugs and have been phasing out the therapy sessions – up to now.

That wasn’t my full diagnosis though, there was another aspect to it that I haven’t been quite so open about. I had a sub-diagnosis of Dependency Disorder which, though mild, is definitely present in me.

The long and the short of that is that I judge myself a great deal by how I am seen in the eyes of others. It means I need good, close, loyal friends. It means I need to feel appreciated, valued, useful. All hard things to be when you’re a depressed lump. This is part of why I’ve always taken criticism so badly and why, despite trying to be stoic, the attacks on my reputation and the horrific way in which I’ve been attacked and hounded for several years now have affected me so very badly.

I’ve lost a lot of my old support network. Some of that’s geography, some of that is family – people starting their own inevitably fall out of touch. Some of that is people listening to the rumourmongers or not having the common decency to talk to me or listen to me.

I guess they weren’t really my friends after all. Friends have your back and reciprocate, standing up for you in the way you do, or would, stand up for them. I’ve been let down a great deal and lost a lot of people I care about and it’s mostly for bullshit reasons.

This means the support network that I have left becomes increasingly important and integral. The people who still think well of me and say so occasionally. I have met some good people in the time I’ve been losing old friends, but I haven’t made close friends or the kinds of boosters that I guess I need. It doesn’t feel real or sincere, and the depression creates a compliment-resistant forcefield.

I’ve also felt less able to say on social media when I need help or feel down because there are people who’ve seemingly dedicated their lives since my ill-titled blog post to attacking and provoking me at every opportunity they can find. Most internet harassment isn’t worthy of the name, but I think, if anything, years of consistent abuse and attempts to trigger suicidal episodes counts. The other issue is that well-meaning and loving people – the ones that are left – overreact when I’m low, which leads me to keep it to myself to avoid upsetting or panicking them, and to avoid the stress that comes from well-meaning people hounding me about how I feel.

A lot has happened, and continues to happen, to grind me down, the background radiation of my life.

I have some personal issues I can’t go into here, but there’s other stuff that I can.

When my reputation was first attacked it had no real impact, it was positive if anything. My attackers have, however, been very persistent and much as it pains me to admit it they’ve done real damage. I can’t get my fiction published unless I use a pseudonym and even that’s touch and go. Freelancing has dried up. New work doesn’t do so well at the moment and there’s that constant threat of the banhammer of Damocles hanging over the main publication sites for PDF games. You don’t even have to be particularly controversial or graphic to be under threat.

Thing is, all these people know the accusations and reputational damage is bullshit. These are real-world friends, people I’ve met and hung out with at conventions, professionals I’ve worked with, and they’re all running scared or hostage to the false impressions of other people that I haven’t.

Doing the right thing is intensely costly.

Expressing opinions is intensely costly.

These things shouldn’t be, but that’s the world we live in. It’s not even as though the things I believe and fight for are awful anyway. A big part of me rails against all this in a righteous fury. Things would be so much easier if I were a meek little tag-along, if I let my principles go.

I run the Darkzel Scholarship every year, and this year it was like pulling teeth to find entries. Some of that was down to sabotage. Someone ‘warning’ people they didn’t want to be associated with it. Some of it down to communications channels not wanting to boost my signal. There I am, trying to commemorate a dead friend, help young artists and create a legacy and some people hate me so much they’d attack that.

Our friend Craig died recently, of natural causes. I’ve written about that already. It was a terrible shock and has made me reassess a lot of things in my life. Losing someone that way is very different to suicide, drugs or accidents – the other ways I’ve lost people. It makes me realise that I need to be happier. I need to look after myself. That always feels selfish though. I almost never put myself first and every time I do it feels like I’m compromising my morals and it usually ends badly. What makes it worse is that when I put myself out for others it rarely seems to be reciprocated to the same degree I would sacrifice for them. It’s an uneven relationship.

That’s not how it should be.

I have not been able to work properly for the time I’ve been ill and I can’t get financial aid. I have an invisible illness and the fact I can work at all seems to disqualify me, even though my capability is unreliable day to day and a a conventional job seems out of the question. In a time when people who are genuinely crippled are being allowed to starve to death or are driven to suicide, my ‘feels’ aren’t a priority – and fairly so.

The stalled Gor project hangs over me like a big black cloud but there’s nothing I can do to make it go faster and its not the artist’s fault its taking so long, but it’s my responsibility to get it done. A rock and a hard place, with the licensors, sponsors and crowdfunders getting increasingly – justifiably – impatient.

There’s the friends with babies. I wanted to start a family years ago but for various reasons we never did. Today I held a friend’s child in my arms and it was like shards of icy glass stabbing through me. I love them dearly and I love their child as a reflection of them, but it’s painful to me every single time and it’s the same with my nephew.

Roleplaying has been my life’s passion, as silly as I am sure that must seem to a lot of people, but the joy of it has been robbed from me the way my love of art was. Relentless, negative, boring interference and dissatisfaction with the end result.

And finally, in the last few days, I’ve lost one of the very few people who helped make all of this tolerable, survivable, liveable. Someone who was able to cut through all the bullshit and self-deprecation and make me feel like a worthwhile, good human being in spite of everything else going on. Worse than that, they’re in a bad, abusive situation – that they’ve chosen for themselves – and there’s nothing I can do to help. You have to let people live their own lives, but it is agony to see them hurt and worse when you can’t fix it. Even worse when they’re someone so valuable to you. Essential. When that’s all abruptly and capriciously taken away from you.

Sometimes there’s no good choice to make, no moral or right choice to make, no choice that doesn’t hurt anyone and my brain can’t handle those situations.

So that’s why I’m so very down. There’s all this long term shit going on. I feel betrayed and let down by a lot of people I consider – or considered, friends. I can barely work and I know that whatever I do I will be attacked and hated. I’ve lost people, to death, and to bullshit and I have nothing left, no reserve of ‘cope’ or ‘fucks’ with which to persevere and endure. I’ve lost hope.

My heart is broken. Everything I care about is taken from me in one way or another and I don’t see any way forward from that.

A lot of that is the fuck-brain talking, but there’s some truth behind all of it that will linger even when (Zarquon willing) I feel better.

I was so close to quitting therapy, we can’t really afford it any more either, and now I feel like I’m all the way back where I started. That’s so disheartening, even though it’s not quite suicidal (I have cut, but not severely, to make the pain more manageable).

You must all be so sick of me being a useless, miserable lump.

I’m sorry, but I can’t hold it in any more and I know there’s at least some use in me chronicling it so other people know they’re not alone. Still thinking of others I guess.

G

x

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DennettQuote

It has been a weird, difficult year. So was 2014, but 2015 has been a full year of many of the same issues and problems and has been a steep learning curve for an old dog who hit forty this year. Some things have changed, some things have to change and on the broader stage I finally see some positive change.

Hitting 40 wasn’t too much of a concern, weirdly. It was mostly a non-event, though a stark realisation of age has certainly exacerbated other problems, 40 itself doesn’t mean much to me, just like 16, 18, 21 and 30 didn’t really.

***

Depression (and related anxiety) has dogged another year and although I am a lot better than I was (off the dried frog pills and coping) it continues to have a savage impact on my ability to work. I had hoped that signing on with Chronicle City would enable me to step back and take more of a project management role but problems there – outside anyone’s control – have stalled that and forced me to go back to Postmortem to keep that going and to keep money coming in.

***

The ongoing difficulties with getting the Gor RPG to market have not helped matters either. The backers have been incredibly patient – thankfully – and it is only the art that is still being waited on, but its impossible to tell at this point when the last parts will come in and all I can tell anyone is that there’s good reason for the delay. Still, it’s a lot of pressure and a lot of money is tied up waiting for the printing and posting. That also severely limits my ability to commit to new projects and to work.

Despite all this, I did manage to release…

Which when you look back at it, isn’t so bad. It’s about a project a month.

***

I also self-published my first full length novel, Old, Fat Punks, which was a bit of a waste but agents and publishers weren’t biting and it was annoying the piss out of me having it just sat around. Fortunately the people who have read it seem to both ‘get it’, and love it. That may not pay the bills, but its artistically satisfying. I have two more full length book ideas in a position to write this year, but it’s hard to justify when there’s so little money in it, even compared to what you’d think would be a profitless niche – roleplaying games.

***

Honestly, it comes hard to write or create anything these days. Something that will doubtless give my tireless critics cause to celebrate and it is, indeed, because of them that it is difficult. The urge to self-censor in order to avoid yet another shitstorm is strong, to the point of creative paralysis often. Even if the conclusion is ‘fuck you’ and the urge is to take them ‘from hell’s heart I stab at thee’ approach to ‘criticism’, it is extremely wearing both to have the Sword of Twittercles hanging over your head, and to endure the thrashings of the hateful ‘SJW’ mob whenever you do anything.

This is different to trolling, though trolling comes with it too. Trolls lose interest over time, while some of these people are persistent enough to keep going for years and years. With that comes a volume of unfair and inaccurate material online which turns up when people search for you, which then turns up when new people look into your projects. How can you fix it? I don’t know that you can.

I don’t concur with people like Mike Cernovitch or Vox Day on… pretty much anything, other than their commitments to free speech, yet I get treated – on a smaller scale – with the same kind of scorn normally directed towards them. Both have written books on their approaches to the problem of social shaming but what they amount to is that they don’t give a shit.

I don’t have that luxury. Vox and Mike aren’t my kindred spirits when it comes to this because I do strive to be a good person and so end up nonplussed and genuinely hurt by being portrayed as some sort of avatar of evil, as this misogynist, racist horrorshow they’ve conjured. It bothers me because despite their protestations, I am not. It should be sufficient to know who and what I am and am not, but reputation matters and it takes a lot more effort to remove a stain than to make one – it’s a sort of Gish Gallop of slander.

Jon Ronson’s book and TED talk on this issue is perhaps more my speed. He shares my hand-wringing incredulity that people who are ostensibly on our side are acting so appallingly, being so intolerant and resorting so such tactics. That they are throwing basic liberal values under the bus towards some nebulous and opaque end, so unclear concept of the ‘greater good’ that tramples on individual liberties.

***

It’s also a time of hope, at least on the broader stage, as we seem to have reached the peak of this kind of stupidity that society as a whole is willing to tolerate. There are signs of hope from Spiked and FIRE to Ronson, Dave Ruben, Bill Maher and Sam Harris. ‘SJWs’ have burned their allies with a fanatical commitment to an orthodoxy most people – fortunately – don’t share. We also have language to describe things now, we are cultural libertarians, the censorious, authoritarian voices calling themselves liberal are the ‘regressive left’ (Maajid Nawaz).

The fuss on university campuses is a laughing stock and appears to be provoking a backlash, which may reinforce intellectual and free-speech spaces on and beyond campuses, rolling back the Tumblrisation of public discourse.

More and more it’s the people whose side I supposedly should be on (as a far-left anarchist) who are intolerably dickweasels, while the people whose political, economic and social views I am opposed to, who are polite, engaging and willing to talk. I’m far more likely to have a productive discussion or cooperation with a conservative libertarian or even an Objectivist, than I am a self-styled progressive, even though I would agree with the latter on so much more and the former only on one thing.

I don’t know what tactic to use to cope and to feel free again. It’s not so simple as trolling, which can simply be discounted, I don’t have the self-confidence to ignore it or self-assert though it, but I have to find a way to cope. There’s a toll to simply blocking people, each time I have to resort to it its a violation of my principles, but that’s something else that’s going to have to be got past. There’s simply no reaching some people and while wanting to debate, discuss and reach people is a noble goal, it can be unrealistic.

***

A bigger problem, and one other depression sufferers will empathise with I’m sure, is that pleasure and fun has become elusive – and this has been going on years now. Even as I’ve gotten better in so many other ways it has become much harder to derive pleasure and satisfaction from things. I’ve been a gamer over 30 years now, with a consuming passion for it that has taken me into it as a career, but I’m just not getting the joy and wonder I used to from it.

Every gaming session, whether I’m running it or not, leaves me dissatisfied, frustrated and even upset. Even when everyone else involved seems to think it has gone well. Somehow I need to recapture my love of gaming and find a way to do it more. Thing is, it’s not just gaming, it’s reading, it’s computer games, all of it is simply going through the motions on mental life-support, which is rather worrisome.

***

The quote at the beginning of this look-back is from a speech Dan Dennett made, he’s quoting a friend of his – partially, but he makes a good point (even though it is a bit of a downer). When you take a stand on things, it costs you. I’m an opinionated guy with a very strong moral and ethical sense – despite accusations to the contrary.

  • That’s why I took a stand on Gamergate – and lost friends over it, or rather the lies told about it.
  • That’s why I’ve taken a stand on censorship and free speech issues – and lost friends over it.
  • That’s why I’ve taken a stand on the toxicity and nonsense of religion and woo – and lost friends over it.
  • That’s why I’ve taken a stand on various men’s issues – and weathered accusations and lost friends over it.

This year has, perhaps, brought home that people who really are friends have tolerance of difference, are willing to talk about it and those that don’t, perhaps were never really your friends in the first place. It’s never me that cuts people off (who I consider friends) but the same concern and courtesy rarely seems to extend to me. You never aid, help or support your friends seeking reward, but there is an expectation of reciprocity which, sadly it seems this year – and for a long time – hasn’t been particularly forthcoming.

On the other hand, I’ve made many new friends and acquaintances, made of sterner stuff and with similar concerns, and whom I should make the effort to cement my friendships with. I’ve also strengthened existing acquaintances, and that’s definitely worth strengthening and renewing too. To have people you can trust to give you honest feedback, knowing where you’re actually coming from rather than projecting their own biases, is good too.

***

So looking forward then, but not resolutions, because resolutions are bullshit.

  • I need to try and be more positive. Fighting to protect and defend things is great, but it necessarily means you’re always coming across negative, reacting to shitty things that other people do. This is obviously a tall order for someone with severe depression, and has never come naturally to me (a pessimist can only ever have a nice surprise).
  • I need to cement, secure and strengthen the new friendships I have.
  • I need to stop self-censoring and find a way to work through the dread of genuine harassment.
  • I need to let things go more often. People, arguments, people who don’t deserve, or return, respect or who hurl accusations when they should know better. Some progress on that this year, but not enough.
  • I need to find my enjoyment of my life’s passion, again. Somehow. Playing more games, making time for it.
  • I need to somehow overcome this exhaustion and lack of confidence to work more again, and pick more of the projects I really want to do – and let that guide what I choose to work on.

Little changes, really, but they all add up.

Wish me luck!

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Sick Again

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The black dog has me in its teeth once again.

The last time I was really down was triggered by events surrounding Gamergate and the resurgence of old bullshit accusations towards me. Of course, these are ceaseless, but sometimes its worse and sometimes its better – depending on how bad the depression is at the time.

I’ve made pretty good progress dealing with external depression causes – thanks to good support structures etc – but haven’t yet figured out a means to deal with the natural ebb and flow of mood when it takes a steep dip like this.

I’m not suicidal, even though I’m pretty damn low (physical symptoms too) but it seems like I’m going to have to take a bit of time off from things. One can only pretend to be OK and ignore things (hoping they’ll go away) for so long.

So this is a courtesy note to people to let them know I’m going to be shit for anything, at least for a couple of weeks.

Love

G

x

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I don’t really know what to say. Anything seems trite and stupid and I feel ashamed and stupid about letting this happen to me.

It was a perfect storm of things that lead to this.

A low ebb in the natural ebb and flow of depression.

Two days of headaches, stomach upset and not eating properly.

I have been profoundly, soul-deep, disappointed in so many creative people being against Gamergate and believing what they’re told by its enemies and that has crushed my spirit, especially when its people whose back I’ve had or who I’ve given support in the past.

I’ve been fighting some of the aspects of this same battle in tabletop games and fiction for years now and, thanks to my involvement in Gamergate people have been dredging up old, nonsense accusations against me and dragging my name through the mud. This happens every time and every time there’s more of it and no matter how often you deal with it, it springs back up.

I try, very hard, to be a good, principled man and when people are endlessly repeating false accusations of bigotry or rape apology it’s a stab in the soul

I was also, bullied, horribly, for years when I was a kid/teen. So, make of that what you will.

Being called a ‘madman’ – while perhaps more accurate than the person meant – didn’t help either.

I thank you all so much for caring so much and coming together. I understand a bunch of you gave a lot of money to a suicide prevention charity and that is a fantastic thing, as has been the effort to fund anti-bullying campaigns. I’m going to try and keep – and print out – many of your positive, caring messages to read through next time I feel low.

Inevitably some people have been saying I am lying, or that I deserve to feel bad, or trying to get mileage out of switching gears and being concerned when they’re the self-same people contributing to the problem. If it’s given them pause and highlighted hypocrisy, good, but forgiveness doesn’t come that easy I’m afraid.

Maybe later on, once I’ve recovered and am back in the country I can reach across the divide to someone similarly affected on the other side of the argument and we can get something productive out of a bad time for lots of people.

I’m staying out for a while, and we’re supposed to be going away to the US next week, just in time to catch ebola, so I’ll be out for some time but maybe I’ll be back after that. I don’t see things stopping any time soon.

I’ll try to honour my appearance on KingOfPol’s stream on Sunday, but no absolute promises. I just don’t like letting people down. I’ll understand if people want to ask about what happened, but let’s keep that to a minimum please.

I don’t expect special treatment because of my illness any more than someone with a physical disability and I don’t want my breakdown used as a weapon either. Just look out for each other and be the best representatives of Gamers, or their opposition, you can be.

I am Grim, I have severe depression and I am Not Your Shield, but I am Not Your Sword either.

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Noteworthy game designer and pundit Internet arsehole James ‘Grim’ Desborough was found dead this morning in his home in Hampshire. James had committed suicide killed himself, like some kind of pussy following a long struggle with depression feeling sad, and being a huge burden to everyone he knew and was discovered by paramedics in the bathroom of the home he shared with his long suffering wife having slashed his wrists under the influence of alcohol shitfaced because he was too much of a fucking gaylord to cut himself without some dutch courage.

Born in 1975 to Norah and Barry Desborough brother to John Desborough and husband to Donna Desborough none of whom REALLY loved him, James had no children because he’s a pathetic loser but is survived by his wife who doesn’t really like him, his extended family who never understood him and the two cats that he doted upon because he’s a fag.

James will not be remembered for his devotion to the art of storytelling, role-playing games, his strong defence of the arts and of free expression and his forthright and candid views on many topics including advocacy for atheism and sexual freedom. He will not be deeply missed by his many few friends, who were fed up to the back teeth of putting up with his shit to whom he was often a source of comfort and aid, even when he had little to give himself.

In accordance with his wishes, his body will be thrown into a ditch for crows to eat his head will be cryogenically frozen, but a small humanist memorial service will be held in the village hall and the rest of his remains will be interred at the local woodland burial site to the village where he spent most of his life.

Depression lies to you. It will twist anything good into something bad and it takes enormous discipline and willpower not to listen to that dark little voice on your shoulder undermining anything and everything people say.

Robin Williams’ death was a surprise to a lot of people and a lot of people cannot seem to understand why a man so beloved and successful could or would do such a thing. Many of those people are angry at him and they call him selfish, before the body is even cold.

Worse, many papers are reporting in lurid detail what happened. Many anchors, pundits and others are opining on why and how he did it and what a selfish act it was.

That is not good and not helpful and it is going to set off people like me who have depression and who suffer from bouts of suicidal depression. It’s overwhelming. When people talk about the ‘easy way out’ and how ‘selfish’ such an at is, they are talking bullshit.

Bullshit.

Depression eats you up like a cancer. It steals everything good from your life and perverts it into something bad. It’s not logical, it’s not rational, it doesn’t make any sense. You will never be good enough for that black little voice, you will never be successful enough. No amount of money, or love, or family, or friends will work.

Maybe you seek out substance abuse as a way to silence the voice but drugs and alcohol only make things worse in the long run. Cutting yourself makes the pain real, something that can be seen, felt, dealt with, healed, but people understand that even less than they do depression itself.

Suicide isn’t the easy way out. It’s the last resort after years, decades, a lifetime of struggle. It’s what you have when there’s no fight left in you, no spirit, no willpower, no ability to reach out to anyone and say ‘I need help’, and people aren’t going to know you need help because you get so fucking good at hiding it, at smiling through, at playing the clown or talking earnestly about your art. You get good at alchemy, transmuting this deep irrational hurt into rage, fixation, anger, righteousness. You pour it into your work – when you can work – as a way of getting it out of you.

Good things don’t penetrate and don’t last, while the slightest little snide comment lingers in your brain for eternity.

Is it selfish? It doesn’t feel like it when you’re sitting in an ice cold bath, swaying drunkenly and drying to keep your hand steady enough to cut a vein. It feels selfless. Nobody should have to put up with your crap. Everyone would be better off if you were dead. So cut…

Cut you fucking coward.

Free everyone from worrying about you.

Free everyone from being bummed out whenever you enter a room.

Do it.

Don’t do it though. It passes – eventually – even if it does come back. There’s drugs that can help. There’s therapy – even if it’s oversubscribed. People aren’t as pissed off with you as you think. The papers and news might be being irresponsible but the rest of us, we can use this opportunity to reach out, to help people, to show that this big black dog can be survived and that we’re better than this stupid illness that fatuous idiots only see as news or an opportunity for a controversial soundbite.

Here’s some stuff I’ve written before that might, hopefully, help people out:

 

 

 

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dexhedSo, the village I live in is flooding and I’m not having too much of a good time either. This bout of depression/insomnia is a real arse-kicker. The insomnia’s been going on nearly a month now, the pit of depression at a ‘can’t cope any more’ level for about two weeks. The flood actually makes a good metaphor for the depression as day by day, inch by inch your defences get worn down and the water rises higher, threatening to drown you.

I already do everything I can do to mitigate this FUCKING BRAIN DISORDER I’ve been saddled with. I take the pills. I see a therapist every week (what am I, Californian?) I try to intellectualise, process and distance the emotions that are hurting me, to remove the factors that make it worse, to understand where it comes from and what sets it off.

And it’s no good. The fact of the matter is that there’s something physically wrong with my brain and all the psychobabble and barely-understood psychiatric drugs can do is cushion me a little and stretch out the patches where I’m a functional human being.

I know, like I tell others with this problem, that this will pass and I’ll feel OK again – and I will.

But ‘OK’ isn’t enough. I want to feel happy. I can’t actually remember the last time I felt happy. I can remember happy patches in the distant past but otherwise, no. I can feel angry, authentically sad, awed, full of wonder, many other emotions but not actually happy. Momentarily content seems to be the best I can hope to accomplish.

I lie to you all, constantly, about how I feel. Put on a happy face, a joke, a laugh, a witticism but it’s all a terrible struggle and physically and mentally exhausting to pretend to be a normal human being day in, day out. I am absolutely terrified of going into the red in everyone’s sympathy bank. This black pit of despair wears me out, it must be boring, strenuous and difficult for people unfortunate enough to be my friends.

How can I expect my business partners to put up with this if I’m out of action – effectively – for many weeks in a year and barely functional for others? How can I keep deadlines, take the strain, help out or otherwise be anything than a liability?

How can I expect my wife to put up with this and stay with me? To patiently cope and take up the slack when I can’t, when she already works very hard and deals with life’s little disruptions for the both of us.

I want a child. Is it fair to bring a child into the world with a mentally ill parent and a good chance of inheriting the disorder, or is it selfish narcissism?

I don’t want to lose my friends, my family, because they don’t understand or they lose patience with me. I don’t want to admit when I feel bad not only for fear of losing people but because I care about them so much I want to spare them the pain I know they feel, that I feel, when someone they care about is in pain.

My drugs are up (150mg Sertraline now) and a short course of sleeping pills to try and get my sleep pattern back on track. While I was at the doctor though, I caught sight of some private letters relating to my diagnosis and treatment from my old CBT counsellor and psychiatrist, before I left the CMH’s remit (Community Mental Health). It didn’t make pleasant reading (I read very quickly). Anxiety, severe depression and dependency was the headline. The detail was a bit too personal, even though I try to share in the hopes it helps people understand and helps others with the same problems, but let’s just say it wasn’t very flattering at all. It is almost certain that I will be coping with and managing this stupid fuckbrain of mine for the rest of my life.

That is not a nice prospect.

Put yourself in my shoes for a moment. You are sad, desperately sad, for long periods of time. The power and grief of losing a parent, sibling or friend in intensity but for no explicable reason. You’re just sad. Nothing you do makes any impact on this sadness while you’re feeling it and you’re so desperate NOT to feel sad (or anything) that self harm, drink, spending as much time as possible asleep, all these things become palatable just to have to not feel soul-crushingly tired any more. At these points even suicide starts to seem like an option, even for someone as intellectually dead set against the idea as I am.

I do everything I can to drown out that little naysayer in my head. Keep my mind engaged from the moment I get up until the moment I go to sleep. I play games, I write, I argue – endlessly – in part from my conscience but also just to keep busy. I deal with my own pain by trying to ignore it and to help others. I raise money, spread the word when people are in need, try to reassure and support people that need it, try to be a good person – even if I don’t feel like one. Even this feels inauthentic though. Am I helping people for good reason or just to make myself feel better? Even this… talking about it, being open about it – which people think is brave or helping – why am I really doing it?

This is depression’s ‘superpower’, overanalysing and doubting every motive for everything you do.

Now I know that the professionals think I’m going to be dealing with this all my life and that it will likely get worse and harder to manage.

Imagine that.

Knowing that you’re going to be feeling this same, spirit-crushing grief for the rest of your life and may never feel happy again. Just imagine that. Think how it feels. Think what lengths you might go to to dull the pain or block it out.

Then there’s the shame. Mental health issues do not feel like real issues. Like being poor, disabled or unemployed in modern Britain being mentally ill is seen as ‘shirking’. Even if you don’t really believe it yourself you feel somehow ‘inauthentic’. Every time I manage to force a smile on my face or make a joke a little voice inside my head tells me that I’m not really depressed, because if I were I wouldn’t be able to do that. Wouldn’t be able to perform, or joke. In a perverse turn of events I am gut-churningly jealous, jealous, of people with physical disorders whose authenticity is more rarely challenged. People I admire and care about like Mandy, Alex, Jamie and more whose coping ability is legendary but who have crutches, or wheelchairs, or braces that SHOW that they’re ill.

There’s shame too in that this is all a horrible stereotype. The locked away writer with depression, the ageing goth getting by on pills and spite.

I’m a living cliché.

I don’t know what more to do or how to cope. I’ll probably be a lot better off after a couple of proper nights of rest but I’m low as hell and terrified my friends and loved ones are going to get bored of dealing with me being like this, tired of futilely trying to prop me up or make me accept a compliment. I’m scared of losing my job, my wife, my friends and my life to this horrible, fucking, disease in my brain.

dexter-labI’m utterly exhausted. My body hurts from feeling sad. Every joint and sinew, every muscle.

You’ll be tempted to write platitudes to me on Facebook and Twitter or in the comments and it’s not going to help, at least not right now. Later, when I come out of this it might but, if you’re going to say anything I want you to really think about it. Not just say something quick and reassuring. Really think about what I’ve said here. I’m lucid, if tired and depressed, and I’m trying to explain and show what this is like.

This is the long haul. I’ve got to adjust my thinking and anyone who calls me their friend is going to have to do the same.

I’m sorry I’m a burden, and don’t tell me I’m not.

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Happy_catI’ve recently had an ‘attack’, for want of a better word, of depression. Blog followers will know that this is something I live with and struggle with on a day to day basis. There’s things I do that don’t help and there’s things I do that do help. There’s things that help short term that don’t help long term and vice versa.

I was asked how I cope and how I keep up the output I do, which was a strange thing to ask someone who has effectively been laid up in bed for just over a week coping with feeling near-suicidal (I think before the current regimen of pills and therapy there would have been some self-harm or an attempt this time around).

Whatever things I’ve had set up to keep me motivated, coping and working have clearly failed, but I guess I’ll run over it anyway to honour the request, though I think I’ve talked about it before.

I try to keep a Schedule

There’s a story about the Belgian surrealist Renee Magritte that I like to reference and share when I talk about this. Magritte would treat his painting as a job. He would get up, put on his suit and tie, go to his studio and paint from 9-5 with a break for lunch. He treated his artistic enterprise with the same discipline and commitment as any other job.

I don’t have that discipline and frequently fail to keep to anything like a standard work day but I do try to get up in an orderly fashion, do a few chores, exercise and work to a daily – achievable – target.

Demand too much of yourself and you’ll fall short and that reinforces your feelings of failure and pointlessness. Learning to accept ‘microvictories’ – especially when you’re down – gives you a bit of a boost without straying into CBT/Positive thinking stuff (that I don’t get on with).

Frankly, when you feel like I have been this past fortnight, just getting out of bed is worthy of a quiet, internal little ‘woohoo!’ of victory and meeting goals might be worth a reward, some time on the computer, or reading a book.

When writing I try to do at least 2,000 words a day, good or bad, and don’t actively try to go over that any more. This can be difficult for someone who used to be able to run to 10,000 words a day but it stops me burning out and, some days, 2,000 words is like shitting a whole pineapple studded with razorblades. It’s MUCH harder to set meaningful and trackable goals when you’re not doing something like wordcount though.

Intellectualise

Sadness, self-loathing, self-doubt, anxiety. These are all emotions and often ones that run out of control. Especially if you have a mental illness like depression. I shore up my defences against it by trying to take a step back from the emotional side of things and to look at them more logically. Again, I frequently fail because emotions are the cheat-codes to your mind, but it can and does help. About the only useful thing I did take away from CBT therapy were work-sheets that help you quantify your feelings, assess them from a distance and see if they make sense.

Accept ‘Strokes’

‘Strokes’ are little nice things that happen, compliments, trust, that sort of thing. I am FUCKING TERRIBLE at taking compliments due to my horrendous self-image problems and haven’t managed this yet but I am trying to accept more compliments in good grace and to try and allow my brain to process them and weight them more equally with the abuse. This is bloody tricky because – for sound evolutionary reasons – our brains tend to pay more attention to negative outcomes than positive ones. It can just get to the point where it’s no longer healthy.

So the short version then is:

  1. Schedule
  2. Set goals
  3. Reward yourself
  4. Accentuate the positive – just not in a hippy, new age way (keeping an objective score helps show up your brain as being a shithead).

NB: I also find distraction and stimulation help me stave off the sads and – weirdly – help me concentrate and accomplish. Most people find this distracting but I find argument, learning, joking and messing around on social media helpful. I understand that I’m a freak with regard to this and most people aren’t the same.

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