We’ve been sparring for quite a while now. Some days I win, a lot of days you win and occasionally we fight out an honourable draw. You do have a tendency to cheat though by inviting your mate ‘Anxiety’ to help you from time to time. When it’s just the two of us I imagine we’re like Inspector Clouseau and his manservant, Cato Fong, with you attacking me at any moment and the two of us going at it like the old rivals we are. Of course the big difference is that Cato was trained to attack to keep his master sharp and alert. You seem to have the objective of achieving the opposite which can be, if I’m being totally honest with you, a little irritating. That’s the reason I occasionally use some illegal moves of my own such as the Chinese burn and the wedgy. Seeing you get a Chinese burn cheers me up far more than any ‘happy’ pill ever does. Take that depression!
A little while ago I wrote a blog post in which you featured heavily deprression. Amazingly it’s been read more than 1,200 times in over 60 countries. It seems a lot of people have some experience of you or something similar. To be fair, quite a few suffer a lot more at your hands than I do and I hadn’t quite appreciated the responsibility I would feel for the people I shared it with. I know I need to keep learning about your inner workings and how it impacts me so I can be better prepared for others who need to talk. At the moment I’m hopelessly ill equipped and that causes me difficulties.
I am getting much better at recognising when you are likely to strike though. I know you like to leave little clues that I can watch out for and that I can also do certain things to keep you at bay. Luckily for you my big ‘self destruct’ button keeps getting pressed so I ignore the signs and do the opposite of what I’m supposed to do. When this happens you never miss a chance to kick me right where it hurts the most. Remember a few weeks ago when I could barely move for two days. I thought you had me then, I really did. It was the closest I’ve been to doing something really stupid but, with the help of my guardian angels, I managed to ride it out.
As someone who is interested in what drives behaviour I’m well placed to observe how people respond and deal with the knowledge that you like to rough me up a little. It’s not an exact science but I notice people falling into three main groups;
1. People who understand depression because they relate to it themselves and are able to see and understand the pain you cause clearly and easily.
2. People who can’t relate themselves but accept that you are a genuine and try really hard to understand.
3. People who don’t really believe, perhaps because you aren’t easily visible, that you exist and can have the impact you do.
I know people from all three groups and I’ve realised they’re not always populated by the people I’d expect to be where they are. Of course it is possible for people to move groups as they develop their own understanding of who you are and your nastiest of habits. In many ways I know I am fortunate to live in more enlightened times. It must of been so much harder, not that long ago, when the people you attacked might of had their whole lives defined by you in a negative way without ever even knowing they were under siege. Someone who is angry, irritable, shy, withdrawn etc.. today is often identified as potentially having you as a recognised illness rather than just being tagged with a label in the parent category of ‘negative personality trait’. No matter how understanding people are though, they sometimes forget. There is no cast on my leg which clearly shows everyone why it would be difficult to walk across a room with a broken limb. It’s a lot harder to see why someone being tormented by you can’t get out of bed today, especially when they got out of bed easily yesterday.
I’m back at the doctors later which is why I’m writing this letter to you now. It’s a good thing but I do find these appointments difficult. Perhaps I’m better than some at articulating my feelings but I still find it really hard. It worries me how many people there are who are unwilling or unable to get the help they need to defeat you once and for all. I bet it gives you pleasure to see the discomfort on my face when the doctor asks me about suicidal thoughts. The fact is, for me, this is something of a grey area and one I struggle to understand myself so my answers are not fully formed, a bit of a fudge I guess you’d say. I very much doubt I’d do it but can I really say for sure there won’t be a moment when it seems like the only answer. The rational part of me knows it’s never the only answer but you are so, so good at blocking and distorting these kind of thoughts and replacing them with your own subtle suggestions. At the moment I have your number sunshine but I do worry you’ll become even more cunning.
Although there is a plan to slowly but surely exterminate you I wonder what will be left of the old me if I ever succeed. A very good friend thinks my personality has changed for the worse and it’s a worry that the pills that prop me up are creating a distorted version of who I really am. I want people to like and love me for the best of the genuine Phill, not for a chemically managed creature from a science lab.
Nearly time for my appointment so I’ll sign off. You’ve won our battle today but you haven’t yet won our war. Also I’m having chips after the doctors as a pleasurable treat. I intend to smile after I eat every single one so stick that where the sun don’t shine (which in your case is everywhere).
Yours until I’m not.
p.s. I write this postscript after my doctors appointment about my depression and a few hours before this letter will be published on the Blog. As often happens I look back on things I wrote months, weeks, days, even hours ago and feel like they were created by someone else. Someone I do know, but not the same person whose writing now. There’s often an urge to change or delete things but I try hard not to do that. I hope to use some of these posts as a reference to progress made in the future.
When I slip, which I will, I use writing to ease things even though I know they’re not always the best things to read. It’s why I often try and write something funny as the next post in order to balance things out.
I’m always very anxious before a doctors appointment and always have a bit of a high for a few hours afterwards. Both of these have now passed so I’m lying here writing this and feeling quite even. Hopefully I’ll sleep better tonight. If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading. If you jumped right to the end straight away you’ve missed the sex scene!