Blokes Who Talk

Day 372: I’ve mentioned this in a previous post that I think of my depression as a black hole. I’ve no doubt got the physics of a black hole all wrong but in my head it works. I’m travelling each day in my little space ship around space. My space ship is my head. Space is life.

It’s all pretty normal and sometimes it is nice. Occasionally a storm shakes my Space ship but it’s been engineered to cope with bumps and a bit of turbulence. It can even cope with collisions with other travellers.

Every now and again there are warning signs that I’m approaching the vicinity of a black hole. I should be vigilant about this as I know from experience that the black hole isn’t somewhere you want to get too close to, even worse would be a trip into the black hole!

Too many of us wait until we are in the black hole before attempting to do something about it, or worse still ignore the issues and sink deeper and deeper. I have been a Mental Health First Aider for three years now and I’d still say that 70-80% of people I have spoken to are female. It is no secret that male suicide is at an alarmingly high rate especially in that 24-40 age group. Men start to forge careers, relationships, start families and try to keep up their social standing – Women do too, but traditionally women have been good at using support networks and identiying when they are struggle, men don’t.

Of course, I say all of this very broadly and with a hint of sterotyping but it isn’t as straight cut as that. Women struggle with mental health disorders, conditions, issues, etc as do men – but all of the statistics lead us to the evidence that women seek help and are diagnosed. The male figures don’t add up when comparing rate of men reaching out vs men who end up beyond the edge of the treatment cliff… suicide figures, breakdowns, erratic behaviour and incidents resulting in a criminal conviction. So many times it is retrospectively realised that the man was struggling, hiding and becoming more and more vulnerable to the outcome that they eventually faced.

I only know too well the dangers of suppressing depression and anxiety. I self-medicated with alcohol in secret whilst still ‘functioning’ as a parent, husband and employee. Not everybody will self-medicate but either way, depression has a nasty way of wrapping itself around your inner being and suffocating you slowly. I was trapped within my own head and the depression was feeding off my inability to fight it and I guess it enjoyed the taste of whisky too.

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I kidded myself that this depression I was in was just me and I should accept it. Give up on trying to be ‘perfect’ and just survive. Looking back that is such a sad way of looking at life but you don’t live your life with the drive and desire to better it anymore. You just want a painless day as possible.

It isn’t until you break free from the suffocation and shout out;

“HELP ME! I NEED HELP!”

That in itself gives you the oxygen you need to think a little clearer. And then you start to plot your way out of the Black hole and back to the serenity (well, the calmer but not always serene) path through life.

Personally I felt like a weight has been lifted off my chest and my vision had become clearer. I felt at ease knowing there was hope and the prospect of seeing the beauty of life again – my children, the outdoors, music, feeling in love once more. It would all return in time but I had to allow myself that moment to be able to believe in it again.

Don’t ever think there is no way out of the black hole. I can promise you, there is always a way back out if you allow yourself to find it.

Black Hole

Day 154: I often think of my depression as a black hole. I’ve probably got the actual physics of a black hole all wrong but in my head it works. I’m travelling each day in my little space ship around space. My space ship is my head. My being. Space is life. I can go a long time travelling in my space ship (let’s call it the Super Orbiter 5000) passing by different planets, stars, storms and other travellers. It’s all pretty normal and sometimes it is nice. Occasionally a storm shakes my Super Orbiter 5000 but it’s been engineered to cope with bumps and a bit of turbulence. It can even cope with collisions with other travellers.

Every now and again there are warning signs that I’m approaching the vicinity of a black hole. I should be vigilant about this as I know from experience that the black hole isn’t somewhere you want to get too close to, even worse would be a trip into the black hole! If I’m on my A-game I replot my course, make some alternations to the Super Orbiter 5000 and travel far enough away from it to relax and focus on the things I enjoy like space walks, racing through asteroid belts and eating popcorn as it floats around my zero gravity cockpit.

Unfortunately I get distracted from time to time and even dismiss the risks involved with getting close to that hole. Maybe it isn’t so bad I say to myself. Maybe its just a doorway into something I don’t yet understand? What’s the worst that could happen? I’ve heard of people flying into the black hole and returning again. Yes, people go in and are never seen again but maybe they don’t have a great ship like my Super Orbiter 5000?!

Let’s be brave. Relax a little! What will be will be. I say that despite doubting my own words but I’m drawn to allowing fate to take over and if I’m meant to interact with the thing I’m told to stay away from then so be it. Nobody knows the answer to everything – especially not the physics of a black hole!

Weeks pass. I keep on doing what I do best. I feel ok, I’m content and I’m even enjoying some days as I journey through the wide open space. I feel guilty for being ok. Successive days of feeling content is greedy. I’m enjoying my time in this Orbiter 5000 that I’ve developed over the years but with enjoyment comes doubt. Why? I really don’t know. It is what it is I say to myself. I do like my space ship and I do like my travels but I’ve never been comfortable with accepting this is my Mecca and appreciating the good feelings it gives me. I just see it as a job. Getting from one place to another. Yeah, that is easier to accept. It’s a process and I’m progressing. Try not to get too comfortable.

Then there it is. Out of nowhere. And I can’t do anything about it. The Super Oribiter 5000 is no match for the velocity and the sheer power of the Black Hole. How didn’t I notice it? Surely I should have known I was approaching it?

Or maybe I did. But I ignored it. Told myself to just go with it. Then I forgot about it. And now I’m here. I feel silly. I feel helpless. I feel like accepting defeat. I can’t fight this monster. My ship is good but not that good. Maybe I should just turn off the engine and close my eyes. Yeah, that sounds like the best thing to do. After all, I got myself into this mess. Nobody else did. I’m on my own in this space ship so nobody will miss me. Well, I guess some of the other travellers might. The ones I fly past most days. Always talk to on my radio. The people I sometimes go for space walks with and then join them on far away planets for adventures. Great people. I like them a lot. They always tell me to be careful about the Black Hole and to let them know if I get too close. So why didn’t I?! I’m so stupid. I didn’t listen to them. Maybe they were just being polite though? I don’t like being a burden on other travellers. They have their own space ships to think about.

I’m in the hole now. I can feel the energy being sucked out of me. The Super Orbiter 5000 is shaking and making some really worrying noises. The windows are cracking and the lights are flickering. Do I try and escape this mess I’m in or do I close my eyes? I wish I had the answers, I really do.

Then I hear somebody on my radio. Somebody is trying to talk to me. It’s crackling and hard to understand but it is definitely contact from another traveller. I open my eyes, I grab the mouth piece and I shout back. Loud and clear I shout back.

“HELP ME! I NEED HELP!”

I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest and my vision is becoming clearer. I feel at ease now because I believe I can survive this. And I do. I’m not sure how and I’m not sure why but the Super Orbiter 5000 finds it’s way out of the darkness and I can see the beauty of space again. The planets, the stars, the storms and the other travellers. I wave, I smile and I cry.

I replot my course and away I go. I don’t know where to but I know I want to find out.