It’s mental health awareness week in the UK and national mental health month in the US. Due to that, I thought I’d write something a bit more personal for once. Forgoing the book reviews and memes in favour of this rambling nonsense! Yes, it’s a book blog and I’m fully aware that this isn’t a book related post, but as I already post poetry on the blog, well, to paraphrase the brat saying ‘I’m an only child, I can do what I want’ I offer you this ‘it’s my blog, I’ll do what I want‘.
Let’s start with an introduction. Hi, I’m The Tattooed Book Geek, but that’s only my blog name. I’m actually called Drew and I’ve suffered from depression, yeah that dreaded ‘D‘ word with the stigma attached to it. While I’ve never attempted it, in the past I have thought about suicide, even going as far as to write a goodbye note, that’s a two for one people, the dreaded ‘D‘ word followed by the dreaded ‘S‘ word, better run for the hills before my unclean taints you.
Sadly there is still a stigma and label surrounding both mental health and depression, it’s not like you can help feeling the way you do, it might mean you’re damaged and broken but it’s not fundamentally ‘wrong‘ and there shouldn’t be a stigma attached to the label. I’m quite happy to say that I’m damaged and broken, it’s true, I call myself it often but tell me I’m ‘wrong‘ and we’ll fall out and trust me, I can hang with the best in debates and arguments. But I digress, there’s labels attached to lots of things, not just mental health and depression, you see someone acting like a jerk and you immediately label them as a jerk when they might be a very nice person just uninformed and ignorant, Nah, chances are a jerk is a jerk and a fuckwit is a fuckwit. Having mental health problems or depression isn’t something to be ashamed of and you shouldn’t be labelled for it. I am me and I’m OK with that, issues and all.
It’s been quite a few years but the ghost is always there taunting, haunting you as you are never quite sure when that sadness and bad mood you’re currently dealing with will morph into something worse, pulling you back into the depths of depression.
Often there’s a reason that starts the depression and at times there isn’t. It’s a hard one, it could just creep up on you as you finally realise that how you are feeling isn’t going to go away and that something is wrong. But do you even realise that something is wrong? You get stuck feeling the same way, in a rut, rinse and repeat each day, not living, just getting by.
I’m also introverted, it’s perhaps hard to see behind the occasionally foul-mouthed and often sarcastic blog posts, but it’s true. In real-life I’m also loud and sarcastic (foul mouthed too if we are being completely honest and keeping score) which are extrovert tendencies. But I’m also shy and quiet, especially with people I don’t know, I find it hard to talk to people and I’m also rather antisocial far preferring to stay in and my own company than to go out, which are all introvert tendencies, I guess you could say I’m a contradiction or perhaps complicated sounds better! 🙂
It’s a hard thing, finding yourself sitting there, all you can see is the darkness and thinking that the world would be a better place without you. It’s unsubstantiated and stupid to feel that way but you don’t realise that and it’s not stupid to you, you question would you be missed? Would anyone even care? And the answer that always comes back to you is no. No, you wouldn’t be missed and no, no-one would care either.
When you wake up in the morning and you have a choice, get dressed, go to work, pretend everything that is fine, it’s just a bad day or leave, just go anywhere, some place far away, away from it all to let the darkness decide what will happen. That decision, to get by is one of the hardest you’ll have, which path do you choose carrying on or letting go?
For me, there were two things that I would consider the worst when I was dealing with depression.
Firstly, the feeling of self-worth, or the lack of to be more precise. I’m not a confident person, never have been, never will but when you lose any sort of self-worth it’s a terrible feeling. Thinking that you are worthless, that nothing you do is good enough, a hopeless case and just plain fucking wrong, unlikeable, ugly and unloveable. That sense of being worthless, it’s hard to describe just how bad it is to feel that way, it’s something that you can’t shake, no matter how many people tell you otherwise, no matter how many times you are told that you’re not worthless, that everyone is worth something, it seeps into you, festering and lingering. Sadly for me, it’s still something that I have to deal with, that damn malignant feeling that I’m not good enough, low self-esteem is part of who I am, I wish it’d just fuck off, truly I do but it won’t, maybe one day!
Secondly, feeling apathetic, nothing, numb to everyone and everything, empty, dead inside. What you once enjoyed, you now don’t, you lose the will and want to do anything, wanting to sleep all day (for others it might be different, for me sleep brought release from the dark thoughts plaguing me), spending your days going through the motions without caring, you become a robot, on autopilot, you walk around in a daze, like a zombie. When you feel nothing you need a release, something that brings you back from the ledge you’ve found yourself standing on. I’d find myself sitting there, empty-eyed and staring at nothing. I could have talked, found someone to help and talk to but that’s not me, I’m not an open person, I struggle to let people in and there are no more personal things to talk about than feelings, so that was out of the question and anyway, some of us don’t like talking, revealing our secrets. So, the only thing that brought me back was cutting myself.
I’d ‘cut to feel‘ it’s as simple as that and it’s not something that a lot of people understand. They ask you why but when you tell them they still don’t get it. For me it was easy, it wasn’t a cry for help or about the pain, when you’re feeling numb you don’t really feel pain, it was the blood. Sounds crazy right?! It was seeing the blood flow, even small cuts bleed and the blood showed me that I was alive, it pulled me back (never wrists, I never went that far, too strong to do it, too weak to do it, at the time I didn’t and looking back I still don’t know) and it made me feel. Even though it was only a short release and I’d find that I needed to do it again and again, carving my arm to pieces, bleeding buckets (slightly melodramatic but you get the point) but it got me through. However at the time, it became akin to an addiction ‘feel unhappy, knife cut to take away the pain‘ which wasn’t healthy.
I might be damaged with some minor bodywork scratches but I survived. My scars are faded and tattoos hide most but they’re there, a reminder of the past, of dark times and places, a part of me.
Now I write poetry, it is only in the simple and rhyming style but the words have meaning to me and it helps, as I wrote I’m not good with opening up, so the spoken word is out, that leaves the written word to express myself. I guess back in the day that poetry would have been a better outlet than playing with knives, oh well, we live and we learn!
Looks can be deceiving, a smile is easy to fake, it’s so simple, it’s the eyes that show the pain, anyone can fake a smile to pretend their OK, you need to look deeper, a smile can lie but the eyes. Likewise, being asked if you’re OK? Yeah, I’m fine, yeah, I’m just tired, I’m good, they all roll off the tongue, simple lies, pretending that you are fine while inside you are crying. I lied so many times and do you know what the worst of it is?! I’ll tell you, it’s not lying to the people who have asked, it’s lying to yourself, trying to fool yourself and succeeding into believing that everything is alright when it’s not.
When you are unhappy it could be the smallest inconsequential little thing that tips you over the edge, changing feeling down into an actually depressed state. Lots will scoff and deride, telling you that it’s ‘stupid‘ and that there are ‘people who are far worse off than you out there‘ and yeah, it’s true……..but! To the depressed person that one minor thing that tipped them over the edge is the most important thing to them, it might be silly to you but to them, at that moment in time it’s the one thing that matters, it’s something major. So, even if you think it’s stupid, keep it to yourself as to them it’s important and trust me, when they are feeling better there’ll look back and laugh at it for its stupidity, laugh with them then, not at them before! I know full well what tipped me over the edge and where I lost my way. Looking back, it shouldn’t have done it, that doesn’t devalue the importance or significance, it just means that I can look back and know have a better picture of events.
Mention also needs to go to the worst question you can say to someone that is unhappy ‘what have you got to be unhappy about?‘ I mean, c’mon, there is no worse question to ask someone who is depressed than that. It’s not a ‘woe is me‘ thing to feel, it’s all fucking consuming, when people ask that do they even care? Maybe, maybe not, if they did care though they’d show it and not ask an asinine question you might not know the answer to, or you don’t want to tell people the reason as they might think it’s stupid. That ties into the point above, look at me being coherent, boo ya! Point is, there is no stupid reason to be depressed or unhappy and don’t let anyone tell you that there is, if they do, fuck them, they just don’t understand.
When you’re depressed you don’t want to hear shit like ‘there are people who are far worse off than you‘ while true, it’s irrelevant and the depressed person doesn’t give a shit. It’s not them being selfish, it’s just how it is, when depressed the world’s most caring and empathic person would struggle to care about others. When you have the mindset that the world and everyone in it can burn, you just don’t care what problems others have, it’s not wrong and it’s not selfish. If anything the people who tell you that there are ‘people worse off than you out there’ are the ones being selfish, as they are deeming and belittling you instead of supporting and trying to help you.
It’s years ago now and I got through my depression. I’m one of the lucky ones, for me, the storm passed and while it’s always there lurking in the background, it’s not a constant everyday battle just to get by. For others sadly this isn’t the case, it’s a daily struggle and my heart (yeah, surprisingly I do have one) goes out to you all who suffer from this bane.
Unfortunately, something bad happened in my life and it pulled me out of my cycle of unhappiness. I told you earlier that I’m a contradiction and that sentence proves it. Something bad causes depression and something bad takes it away, yeah Drew, fucking ace way to describe it, but for me it’s true. It didn’t necessarily take it away, that’s the wrong word but readers of this blog already know that I’m lacking in the eloquently worded department. It was the catalyst that made me realise that I had to get myself together, to be there for someone else and it was the shove that I needed. I refuse to say that depression is selfish or that anyone who suffers with it is selfish, but it is personal, while it indirectly affects others (those who care about you) it’s something that you predominantly go through on your own, even with help, you’re not alone but it’s your internal battle and I had to win that war to be there for someone else.
How do you tell someone that you want out of life? It’s not exactly a normal thing to say. Depression isn’t a selfish illness, but that is a damn selfish thing to say, looking into the eyes of the one who gave birth to you and telling them ‘I’m sorry, I’m not happy and I want out‘. It’s the only time I felt selfish as you see the heartbreak it causes and there’s nothing either you or they can do.
I wish that I could say that it was all ‘just that easy‘ and that was the end of it, but it wasn’t. I’d have gladly traded places and been the one to die, it would have made things easier for all but it wasn’t to be, I had to carry on and I realised that my own darkness was selfish because they needed me, they were more important than my issues, I needed to be strong for them in their last months and for the future for another to rely on (sadly you find in hard times that people you should be able to rely on, family, cough cough, you can’t), I needed to be there for them and I couldn’t do that when I wanted to let go of life.
Over the years I still have lapses every now and then, episodes of feeling sad and down, that might last a couple of hours or a couple of days, it is what it is. Depression is something that never truly goes away, as I wrote earlier it’s a ghost that haunts you and shit happens, it’s called life, it’s full of bullshit and cunts that fuck with you. But you have to take the bad with the good, I fall down, I pick myself back up. I haven’t played with knives seriously in years, a couple of minor occasions here and there, but overall I count that as a resounding win. I even got through the loss of my dog last year without bleeding, hardest trial yet! It would have been unfair to her legacy as my companion for over 13 years, through the good times and the bad but always a constant (best dog ever, not a pet, hope, a friend, someone to rely on when others showed their true colours). It was fucking hard but I did it, I won’t lie and say I didn’t hold a knife in my hand but I got through, it wouldn’t have brought her back, it wouldn’t save or heal my pain and I got by, I endured. I guess beneath the low self-esteem and self-worth even though the depression still calls, I do have some strength.
Nowadays, for the most part, me and my demons live in harmony with each other, two sides of the same coin. Can I say I’m happy, at times, yes I certainly can and honestly, I am. At others, sadly no, I can be a real miserable fucker and I have dark days, but who really can say that they are happy 100% of the time? Hands up? No-one, thought so, show me someone who states that they have never felt sad or unhappy and I will show you a charlatan, a liar! But I am content with things and for me and many others that is good enough. Yes, you can always strive for more but there’s nothing wrong with getting by and being content with what you have.
Remember, you’re not alone and it’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up, survive, fight and make it through, even if it’s a day at a time. Our scars don’t define us, they are a part of who we are and we are alive.
I’m honestly not entirely sure what the actual point of this post is or even why I decided to post it! I thought I’d see about writing something for mental health week/month (yeah, I have weird ideas at times, I’m an expert at nothing with an opinion on everything) and this 2,800-word ramble is what came out. Make of it what you will but it’s real.
If any of you got this far then sincerely, thank you for reading.
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