Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

For International Men’s Day (November 19th), I am interviewing a few other men I know who, similarly, have mental health issues. I’m trying to get a perspective on male-oriented mental health needs in our society today. I have edited this interviewees comments a little for clarity, readability and grammar.

Q1: Please tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

I’m 48 years old, from Wollongong, NSW Australia. This is a moderately large city just south of much larger Sydney. It was a steel town but since that became less profitable in recent decades it’s basically a university town these days, with some tourism thrown in.

I’m on the dsp (disability support pension), and have been for going-on ten years. As such I’m extremely fortunate, but one of a dying breed- the govt seems intent on phasing it out for mental illnesses. It has its downsides too. I’m basically institutionalised at this point.

I’m bipolar and have had a whole swathe of former life phases.

I’ve been a Green Peace canvasser, a kitchen hand, apprentice chef, bindery hand, printer, musician, serious drug addict (lucky to be alive, many friends didn’t make it and an) art student. I’ve started, done well with for a time, and eventually abandoned degrees in English, Creative Writing, History, Ancient History, Archaeology. I’ve done aged care work, online research and I used to busk a lot, but no longer.

I have two sons (one 10 one 17), but have been separated from my partner for almost 8 years. Somehow we’re friends still, and I’ve seen her and my boys almost every day in that time. That took serious insight and effort, but I’m also extremely fortunate, because she is extraordinary and never deleted me

Q2: What mental health problems do you suffer from, and how long have you been diagnosed for? Do you attribute them to any particular cause?

These days I have much less trouble, personality wise. I no longer have regular panic attacks either, but I’m still cycling through hypomania and major depression, just differently to before.

My mental health issues are complex, layered and interact with each other.

Where to start? Well, my mother has serious depressive and anxiety issues, so there’s a genetic component to it all. Whilst pregnant with me she suffered severe depression and spent 3 or more months of the pregnancy on Mogadon (a benzodiazepine), a drug she had severe reactions to including aural and visual hallucinations (8 years later when pregnant with my younger sister they wanted to put her on it again, by which time she was more forthright and told the doctor what had happened earlier. They tested her and found she was allergic). So I no doubt steeped in her genetic issues and that potent chemical, which I suppose had an impact.

I spent the first days of my life (having nearly died in foetal distress due to a chemically induced labor) in Gladsville psychiatric hospital with my disassociating and suicidal mum, in an open ward. Mum underwent many brutal sessions of ECT and somehow saved me by bribing a nurse to call my father to drive 2 hours to collect me. I spent the next 4 months in the care of my dad’s aunt. I suspect any useful bonding with mum never occurred, and this too had an impact on me.

My earliest memories are of taking care of my, by now, alcoholic mother. Dad was drinking a lot too and never home. She used to praise/coerce care from me, told me I was a good boy who would always look after mummy etc. This, obviously, is an excellent method for brewing personality disorders.

At four I fell from a ten foot viewing platform whilst dad was buying a horse, fracturing my skull, breaking my nose, and I was in a coma for a week. Many years later I saw a psychologist who’d spent her career dealing with brain injury clients. She tested me and found cognitive impairment from this and other head injuries. This explains my odd dyslexic moments and panic when filling out forms etc, as the impairment triggers fight or flight responses with those tasks.

So yeah, brain injury is a factor.

We travelled a lot. I went to seven schools in 4 years, which left me unable to make friends and cripplingly shy. Eventually I did make a friend at a new school. In hindsight he’d been coached to procure other boys his age, but I at 8, had no idea – obviously. So there was the sexual abuse, with a group of men. They drugged me a bunch of times,- a lot of it I thankfully have no clear recollection of. Eventually I abandoned my ‘friend’, saving myself from further abuse of that kind.

Another friend abandoned me at around the same time, which affected me badly. Years later I discovered he’d been abused by the same ring of people.

With any support at all, I may have been able to somewhat put the abuse behind me. I got none though, and worse was to come. At school, someone or other who knew what had happened spread it as a rumour, and the bullying started.

The wors thing that ever happened to me was the institutional abuse that followed.

My female teacher, as it happens a friend of THAT family, made it her project to torment, humiliate and brutalise me for a year. She egged the other children to bully me, beat me with blackboard rulers daily, and utterly demolished me socially. This harmed me so much worse than the sexual abuse. I have no idea how I survived that year.

So by 10 I was really, personality wise, a write off. I won’t mention too much about my teenage years. D&D completely saved me there, though.

Alcohol, cigarettes and pot from 13 or 14. Years later in my early 20s I was a daily amphetamines user, for perhaps 2 years. I used heroin but circumstances saved me there. My friends that fell badly into that world are all dead. I had easier access to speed so I lived, I guess. Numerous psychotic experiences in this phase caused further psychological issues.

Well I’ve gone on a lot. Basically, severe childhood anxiety (first treated at 10). Borderline Personality Disorder developing from that time too. I was diagnosed with that in my late 20s. Bipolar 2, some years later, after many serious bouts of major depression, self harm, hospitalisation, poor outcome with medication. So, heading towards 2 decades with 3 separate serious diagnosis. I’ve had aural abberations and whispered voices etc since the mid 90s- generally at the tail end of long hypomanic phases.

These days I have much less trouble personality wise. I no longer have regular panic attacks either. But I’m still cycling thru hypomania and major depression, just differently to before.

Q3: What, overall, has been your experience with the mental health system in your country? What resources have you accessed?

My experience with the mental health system in Australia has been mixed, to say the least!

I had a wonderful, calm and caring family doctor really early on, who helped me somewhat with my crippling anxiety, night terrors, sleep walking etc. I was maybe 9?

He died.

His replacement, who I recall confiding in when I was maybe 15 (suicidal), as it turned out, was a drinking buddy of my Dad’s. He accused me of malingering and told me to wake up to myself- then told my father the same thing.

He was embarrassed and resented me for it.

During my writing myself off on drugs phase I saw a few counsellors. They told me to stop using drugs!

The first excellent help I got was when I got clean. I went into rehabilitation at a drug crisis centre. The matriarch of the place was a no-bullshit, former junkie who had seen the worst end of things in the Cross. She was brilliant, courageous, tough-loving and bullshit calling. She’s the first person who got through to me with the idea that I’d better save myself, because let’s face it nobody else was going to. That whole phase of intense group therapy helped me a lot.

Of course getting clean didn’t fix my mental health problems. I had a really brilliant golden phase at art school, then hit the wall badly a few times. Intrusive voices, panic attacks, extremely discreet self harm. I saw a bunch of psychologists in this era. They were universally unhelpful. After the twentieth time being complimented on how intelligent, self aware and articulate I was, I got over paying $40-$60 for compliments and stopped bothering for a while.

Tried a bunch of different anti-depressants in this period. They exacerbated things. Somewhere in there I saw my first several psychiatrists and was hospitalised for the first time.

I loathed my psychiatrists. I still have a dim view of them:

“How have things been since last week? Sleeping? Thoughts of self-harm? Any other intrusive thoughts? What about those voices? Well, I’m putting your dosage up. Try that and see me again in a fortnight…”

I had a really excellent psychologist for almost ten years. He was a University crisis counsellor but liked me and never played the “you’re so clever” game. He was extremely observant,reassuring philosophical and insightful. He helped a lot and twisted his limited reach to help me more. One frustration I’ve had at other universities is the counsellors not being allowed to offer an ongoing service beyond one off crisis sessions. He finegled things to arrange for me to drop in weekly for a “that’s not real, but this is…” session. He really helped me in that regard, in terms of timely, friendly, gentle and pointed intervention.

I’ve been on the psych ward three or four times. I absolutely hate being hospitalised. It’s a limbo state, basically, powerful sedatives, sterile environment, nothing to do. It’s been years now but I’m glad I do Everything possible to avoid those places. I’ve avoided being scheduled each time due to my polite, friendly, manner and ability to think on my feet. If there’s one place where my risk of suicide multiplies, it’s locked up in a psych ward.

Q4: Do you agree that the mental health approach needs to be more tailored to both the individual, and to men as a group? If so, in what ways?

Yes to both.

There’s so much more that I could mention. As I’ve pointed out, I spent decades feeling generally frustrated with psychologists’ apparent expectation that everybody was unable to articulate their issues and with psychiatrists’ being interested basically in what dosage and whether to schedule me or not. I found that very few indeed of either had much patience for my reluctance to just submit to a lifetime of powerful medications.

As for the male issue: it was bad and now is worse.

I’ve caught the end of the stiff upper lip, grin and bear it phase, where talking about my dark thoughts was obviously triggering for doctors, and now we’re at another extreme, where I feel generally unable to express myself for fear of being exposed as ‘toxic’.

One issue I’ve found in clinics and community centres is a generally negative attitude towards males. Whenever I’ve mentioned behavioural issues with my teenage son there’s been an expectation that he’s been violent. This was also assumed of me on a number of occasions when assisting my former partner with accessing care herself- once it became apparent we’d had arguments it seemed a given to them that I’d been violent, when in fact my partner had at times been physically abusive towards me.

Water under the bridge now, but galling all the same.

Whenever I’m in those circles I’m very aware of being seen as a potential postal case. That’s totally tied to me being a dude. I understand why they perform the protocols they do, but I often feel like they’re gaslighting me, trying to get me to admit to being somehow a threat.

So now I avoid them like the plague. It’s been 2 years now.

Q5: How do you feel the mental health system in your country currently fails men?

I answered this somewhat in q4.

Well, I guess there is more to be said.

Personally it seems they have a problem with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. On the one hand it sucks to be perceived always as a potential threat. Thing is, I’m polite, I listen, I don’t abuse staff in any way. This, within their binary framework, merely serves to remove me from the “perceived as a threat” category whilst also removing me from the “needing care and intervention” category.

It’s a squeaky wheel issue.

An old comrade with similar issues but a very different personality has created endless wreckage for others, regularly abuses any worker within earshot, misses appointments etc, yet whilst I’m on the edge of eviction in a decaying private flat (howdy homelessness!), he’s on his 4th dept housing flat, 3 of which he abandoned without notice, one of which he left with fire damage.

Is he more mentally ill than me?

Not really. He’s more criminal. He’s also still using drugs.

I guess my point is the system seems tailored towards ‘fixing’ the obvious problems and ignoring anybody with a complex case that can be delayed without immediate repercussions.

Q6: Why do you think it is that men access these services less frequently, despite being the majority of suicides and other negative outcomes?

Good question.

Not for the reasons they used to.

It’s bizarre and topsy turvy. Where once an earlier ideology invited men to be open to seeking help, let their guards down, now the whole social environment actively discourages that. Men are aware they’re seen as a potential threat. Malfunctioning men much more so.

I’ve stopped calling Mensline in recent months, for fear I’ll have the police at the door and end up either scheduled or dead. Australia has a long history of police shootings that started out as poorly prepared mental health interventions.

Q7: What do you think could have helped intervention, or seeking help, earlier in your illness?

A number of things would have helped.

Relating to the abuse, well, socially it was a fail on every level. I feel very confident that, with the same circumstances today my school would have identified the issue and staged some form of intervention. I feel like cultural factors in the late 70s/early 80s made it simple for me to be revictimised.

Obviously my parents really were no help. Not even 15 years later where, having gone through rehab I confided (not accusatively) in them about the abuse. I was chastised for upsetting my mother. It’s never been discussed again.

The key phase of my D&A recovery should have been a great opportunity for professionals to step in, but it didn’t happen that way, beyond the rehab I went to.

In this phase I was hounded by drug squad detectives seeking dirt on my former dealer, threatened, coerced, forced to make a false statement and then to move away when said dealer put out a contract on my life. In that predicament I failed to meet social security requirements and was kicked off the dole.

Homelessness yay!

None of this was a useful response to a troubled, self-destructive young man who was trying to get well, and very visible within the system.

Somewhere in that phase I did a work for the dole program, restoring the old military harbour defences at Port Kembla, clearing out bunkers and tunnels. This was fascinating work and made me feel useful at the time. The private agency that ran the program were crooks who gave us zero resources.

The supervisor, a lovely Christian man with a real interest in helping this group of lost misfit lads, brought his own tools to work and taught us some carpentry, concreting etc. My interest in a career in archaeology stemmed largely from the real desire of that one guy to help me. More of that kind of thing would have helped me a lot.

So yeah. I guess interested parties who were unwilling to let a young man slip through the cracks, and who offered a pathway to making me socially useful again- that would have helped the most. Very grateful not to have been left to starve, but more help with reentering society and getting work whilst managing my illness would have been better.

Q8: What have been the positives in your treatment through the mental health system?

There have definitely been positives.

As I mentioned earlier, having a good counsellor who I was able to see regularly, at times for long stretches, had a big stabilising impact on me.

The odd professional who was willing to be very honest with me helped a lot here and there. I have no use for a counsellor who, basically, seems to want me to think well of them first and foremost. I’ve had too many pandering psychologists so the straight dice ones were precious.

I’ve had the most success with intensive CBT (weekly sessions for a year) and group therapy around personality issues. Also I picked up many useful awareness tools with an intensive program using theories of Internal Family Systems (basically identifying splintered off aspects of identity that manifest: the abandoned child, the angry child, the punitive parent, the mediator, the medicater etc, and attempting to manage these parts of one’s self by accepting and validating their various conflicting motives whilst imposing a new responsible parent identity to intercede.

Sounds nuts, helps me a lot.

Q9: What would your idea of a perfect mental health system look like?

OK, I don’t believe there could be a perfect system but let’s see if I can make a list of things I’d like to see.

1) Being Useful. A focus on reactivating patients, paths to getting back on your feet rather than a welfare limbo. I’m not against welfare. I do feel I’ve benefited more from people believing in my potential than I have from people feeling sorry for me.

2) Housing. A stable and secure home base is a necessity but one which seems a rarity now. Oh well- only 6-8 more years to wait, if I’m lucky.

3) Routine. I felt a lot of benefit from small things that seemed to foster structure in my chaotic world. Drop ins and call backs from the suicide callback service, weekly sessions of group or individual therapy.

4) Removal of frustrating issues of red tape. Lack of access to medication I’ve been subscribed but which is only on the pbs for schizophrenics, leaving me forking out hundreds of dollars a month for meds (guess what? I went without).

5) Funding.

6) Maybe the odd program focused on responding to the issues many men are facing in the community. That’s not a high priority lately.

7) Maybe a tobacco ban need not be deployed on every square metre of every psychiatric ward in the company.

Q10: What has given you hope and pulled you back from the brink? 

My kids are my strongest protective factor.

Good company and being of use to people really saves me ultimately.

The fact that people have always wanted to be in my game has been a constant source of timely weekly validation.

Also just being a curious bugger. Boredom isn’t a thing for me. Whatever else has occurred, it’s true I’ve had a lifetime of daily reading, and I’ll never get to read everything.

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792ff0efca4a02382678eb238ac650adJust over a year ago I was standing on the far platform of a railway station, with crusted blood on my arm from self-inflicted wounds and trying to muster the courage to throw myself in front of a train. I nearly did it too. Standing so close to the edge of the platform that the side of one of the trains brushed and almost clipped the tip of my nose.

I couldn’t quite do it though. Not quite. Ended up going back home with my tail between my legs and trying to salvage the pieces of my broken brain.

I was in a very severe depressive slump anyway and then was kicked while I was down by life. One friend died and another, dear, friend turned out to be in a rather harsh home situation. I couldn’t help either of them in any meaningful way and was left feeling thoroughly impotent, even more useless than usual and selfish for feeling terrible. I was unable to ask for support and help when I felt other people needed it more.

Eventually, of course, people found out and were amazingly and wonderfully supportive, as they always are (depression lies to you about that) and while a dead friend can’t be brought back, at least the other friend now has an escape plan that I can – hopefully – help with.

My beautiful and lovely friend, and one-time unofficial, virtual housemate, Katie sent me a care package not long after my bout of suicidal ideation, and while some of the contents were an arcane mystery (a face pack? wtf?) amongst the goodies was The Book of You, a little diary/workbook of sorts with daily micro-actions for a whole year (there’s also an app). I just finished working through it (it was actually useful and not the hippy crap it might look like at first glance) and one of the things it tells you to do is to ‘report back’.

So, what’s there to report back?

I’ve made it 12 months without a relapse. No self harm in that time. No new suicide attempts. Only – relatively – mild bouts of depression and panic. I’m out of therapy but back on the drugs, on what seems to be a semi-permanent basis, constantly trying to anticipate and balance the dose. Summer is the worst time of year for my mental health, the heat I think – and the lack of sleep. I also tend to feel out of place at this time of year, it’s not really my ‘cup of tea’ and there are extra, physical chores that need doing.

I’ve been working hard to try and get back to the self-sufficiency I was at before the last few years’ heavy bouts of depression, but it’s tough. I’ve even been looking for supplementary part-time work but with the depression as it is I just don’t think I’m reliable enough for anyone to hire. This presents its own problems in terms of both self-esteem and finances, wanting to regain that full independence and being – seemingly – unable to. There’s not a lot of options to remedy that either. Seeking assistance or benefits is massively impactful to self esteem if you don’t feel you really need them and austerity has cut funding for such things to the bone anyway. An ‘invisible illness’ would be a tough sell to any assessor or board, especially the kinds that judge terminal cancer cases ‘fit for work’.

There’s no real prospect of ever ‘getting better’ at this point. Just varying degrees of coping. That puts a lot of stress on friendships and relationships, as does the aforementioned lack of independence. There’s things I’m good at, even very good at, but imposter syndrome is a bitch and even having talent isn’t enough in a very tough gig economy with a trashed reputation, caused by sticking up for what you know is right – no matter what. No matter the lies and aspersions. Even when some of the people you were sticking up for end up turning on you.

I’ve accomplished a lot, in spite of being sick. In spite of there being no prospect of ever getting better. These are things I should be proud of, but anhedonia – one of the symptoms of depression, look it up – makes it all but impossible to truly acknowledge and take it to heart even when you do something amazing and against the odds.

I’m still here, but the Reverse SAD is pretty bad, panic attacks are pretty frequent. The abuse and suspicion I’m used to by this point, and when you have severe depression nobody can hate you as much as you hate yourself anyway, so it barely registers.

All of that sounds really bad, but here’s the thing. It isn’t.

It’s just an acknowledgement of status. I’m coping. I’m plodding on. I’m working away on things – bit by bit. I’ve re-organised my work schedule and am much more productive. I have a large body of work on Youtube now. I’m at least looking for ways out of my problem situations and there’s slow but steady progress on every front.

That’s all much better than it sounds.

Thank you everyone who looks after me when I need it, stays friends through tough differences of opinion, doesn’t treat me like some fragile thing all the time and forgives me my failings while valuing my strengths.

Here’s where I was last year, for comparison…

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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.



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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


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.




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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.


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.


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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1115974135a4988249448lI haven’t written about my depression in a long time now and that’s been largely with good reason. I’ve been feeling a lot better. I came off the Quetiapine and switched my other medication to Sertraline, started seeing an excellent local therapist (who somewhat specialises in ‘man stuff’) and all that combined seems to have had me at 95% normal. All in all, that means I haven’t had much to say on the topic recently, which has been a good thing.

I say 95% normal because, honestly, I don’t think there’s a way back to normal any more and looking back over my life with a fresh perspective makes me think that I was probably depressive from 14-15 or so and definitely depressive – in bouts – from 17 onwards. I’ve been dealing with it being particularly bad for… three years at least now and am resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to live with it.

Why write now?

I’m in a down-patch, a pretty bad one (in current context), and I’ve been reminded by a few people just how much they appreciate me stepping up and talking about this whole area, showing ‘weakness’, talking about it, airing it out and so on. So I felt it was time to stick my head up about all this again.

Why am I down at the moment?

Well, I don’t want to get into specifics this time but much as I stick my head out on this difficult topic (depression) so I often stick my head over the parapet on other difficult issues. I welcome the chances – that come along – to talk about tricky issues but that always exposes one to failure.

I’m not good with failure, failure to communicate especially (since that’s what I’m supposed to be good at). Also, having a depressive frame of mind, failure, problems and criticisms hit with a lot more impact than praise or appreciation does. This is a natural human tendency anyway, but when you’re depressed it seems to be much stronger, askew, much more powerful. It means it can be very easy to knock you back into that mental state of helplessness and self-loathing, even though it’s often a relief to have a cause for that which you can point at.

So yeah, I feel I’ve failed at several things lately and most of those are attempts to communicate with people on tricky topics and the viciousness received simply for trying to have a debate, make a point or counter a rumour.

Make no mistake, I used to be an utter dick in debates. It was down to passion and commitment, so I get where people are coming from when they do similar, but I try very hard not to be like that these days (everyone slips from time to time). Trolls don’t bother me, an insult is meaningless from a troll, they’re just trying to get a rise. It’s the ‘true believers’ that bother me.

If someone sends ‘LOL FAG!’ messages I see no reason to get upset. They’re just being dicks.

If someone who genuinely believes in what they’re doing or saying calls you something horrible, bigot, misogynist, racist, whatever, that cuts deep even when it’s not true. Even when you know it’s not true. They seem to believe it and they believe it passionately enough to throw it at you, tarnish your reputation and treat you like shit.

I’m constantly trying to find a line between what I know is right and what others feel is right, and will judge you for.

You would think two people who are passionate about something would at least have that point of commonality to draw on and a base respect for each other’s desire to make the world a better place (or keep it better than it could be) but that’s not the case. Depressive brain twists that around into my failure to communicate, rather than their failure to listen, understand or enter into discussion with good faith.

Yet I keep doing it. Keep getting involved. Keep speaking up. Despite the pretty high emotional cost of doing so and weathering the hate of, well, let’s be honest here, fanatics.

It would cost me more, emotionally, not to speak up for the things I believe are right. That would attack my sense of self more than any accusation. Both have a toll, but one has a toll higher than the other.

However depressed I get, it’s hard to be passive, to let things flow or pass by without comment or involvement. Part of that is a sense of duty and a desire to protect others (a collective, greater good) and part of it is to protect and defend my own decisions and being. Whatever the other costs, I think maintaining that core of self-identity has served me well in weathering the storms of depression and it continues to do so. It’s a bit like a panic room and so long as you keep it maintained, it can withstand almost anything.

I’m trying to shift my head so that I can see these things not as failures, but as learning experiences – but it’s hard.

It’d be nice to get away for a few days and do fuck all, just see some friends and be looked after but there’s too much work on, too much pressure, too little money and nowhere to go. Fortunately, keeping up on the duties reinforces the safe room.

So, then, anything helpful from all this?:

  • Having something you can point a finger at and say “This is getting me down” is helpful, positive, even if it doesn’t sound like it. It’s – perhaps – something that will pass or you can do something about it.
  • If I had some advice, it would be to be true to yourself and whatever you can do not to become passive, is useful. Even if it’s just little things. If you’ve got a stronger sense of who you are it makes standing up to daily downers a lot easier.
  • Don’t forget to watch out for the black dog, even when you’re feeling good. He might ambush you.

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