Sunday, 22 December 2013

Isolation

I am not the only one here. Lets just be clear on that. Your brother might be depressed. Your mother or son or best friend might be in unimaginable turmoil. Most people refuse to talk about it or stick to sweeping generalities on the topic. It's a little awkward to talk about, is it not? I understand it with crushing clarity and often I find it hard to talk about. 

I tell more people than most that I am depressed. People I've just met, even when I can't tell people I've known forever. Acquaintances and friends, family and colleagues get the mundane privilege of hearing about the essence of my wilful self-destruction almost on a daily basis. I know some people think I talk about it too much. I know that there are some people who simply do not want to know any more. I can understand it if they think at times I do it for shocks and attention. I wouldn't even attempt to deny the charge. Sometimes I crave attention, even the bad kinds. But the reasons for talking about it so openly are precisely because of the contrast with many people in the same boat. People die because they can't talk about it. Because they think nobody will listen or care. People suffer pain in silence for years because this isn't something we talk about. 

There is a generally accepted opinion that the stigma around this thing has largely disappeared. No doubt it has but nowhere near enough. I hear all the things people talk about all day every day. All the food and the clothes, the quantity of alcohol consumed and the xfactor. These aren't bad things. All I'm saying is that in the middle of all this if you ever get the feeling that someone around you isn't feeling good, even when it doesn't look like they want to talk, please make an effort to speak to them. I know myself how difficult it is to talk to me on my worst days. That I don't respond or engage is typical. But it's not that I don't want to talk to people it's often that I physically can't. I apologise for that but I'm not really sure I should.

The stigma still persists. Not in me or in many people I know but still it's a hushed conversation with many. There is no reason it should be anymore. This is why I'm happy to talk about. It might help somebody else talk too. Someone forty years my senior recently asked for my advice on depression. It's only because I am open to it that I can help. It isn't something that should be pushed into the background only spoken about in whispered conversations. Ask me about it any time. 

The quest to de-stigmatize depression is undoubtedly a current personal crusade. You see I had an episode a week ago. Perhaps feeling no worse than I have at times before it became a crisis because I allowed the symptoms to manifest themselves in the physical dimension more than I ever have before in public. I'm glad people saw it. They need to because like I said, I'm not the only one here. Now I'm not allowed to work because people had to confront what has always been there and what will remain there when I do go back. Isolation seems a bizarre treatment for an illness often directly caused by it. Out of sight out of mind I guess. Up to a point I understand the policy of getting me out of there and keeping it reasonably quiet. Then I thought again. It doesn't really encourage anyone who saw me that day to open up about their problems. Better to keep sitting on them until they're fatal because this type of thing clearly isn't acceptable. I'd be scared to talk about it too if I thought that would be a typical reaction.

It's easy to think I was always so open about the illness but I most certainly was not. Years I spent hiding it, denying it, putting it down to a bad day or tiredness. This, unfortunately had a profoundly negative effect. Over time the depression became the general perception of my personality and so how could anyone see it for real. I left it too long to get help. I won't ever see a definite end. It is part of me now. I was convinced the doctors thought I would be lying to them when I first went. Perhaps I had contrived the whole thing and they would be able to see through it. Most people I have spoken to are quite receptive however. I only wish more people would be willing to speak up.

One million people a year die from suicide. That's more than through war and murder combined. I'm not shocked by that at all. It's under reported because it's still a taboo subject. There is no way all of these could have been prevented. Unfortunately some people are beyond help. But I know a lot of these could have been prevented if people felt more confident about talking or seeking help. Even in a few cases if one person had made the effort to offer some help. People with broken arms don't pretend they are fine although people with cancer do. Imagine how well that works out. I suppose we could just continue to brush it under to save that awkward conversation. It'd be worth a million or so lives.