Depression Daddy

It’s no secret that I suffer with diagnosed depression. It’s something I’ve tweeted about and mentioned in my Blog a number of times.

Depression effects people in many different ways but for me it’s both physically and mentally debilitating to the point that I can barely keep my eyes open or even muster a conversation. Thankfully my depressive episodes are a lot less frequent these days and I put that down to the various self care tools and mechanisms I have put in place such as taking daily medication, exercising and abstaining from alcohol.

That said I have just come out the other side of a pretty bad episode. I try not to scale my depressive episodes in terms of severity but they have varied in both longevity and symptoms over the years. On this occasion I saw a nosedive in my mood first of all on Thursday which quickly lead to an increase in agitation, extreme fatigue, thoughts of self harm and by Friday Evening – a desire to drink alcohol.

On the one hand I didn’t practice what I preach because I didn’t talk to anybody but on the other hand I used AVRT to crush my addictive voice. I felt good on Saturday morning reflecting back to the nauseating battle I had the previous evening.

I went for a run on Sunday morning but I was already downplaying the positive energy a run normally brings by the time I set off out the door. I knew I wouldn’t be running far as I’m carrying a small injury plus it was my daughter’s birthday so wanted to get back for her day ahead. I hobbled for 3km and returned to the house in a foul mood. I recognised my foul mood wasn’t fair on my daughter celebrating her 4th birthday which just intensified the self-loathing.

Now if I was comparing my various depressive episodes I would say that this wasn’t so bad because I actually managed to get out for a run which also meant I managed to get out of bed, put clothes on and brush my teeth. Some of life’s little basics which depression can so often turn into climbing a mountain! I remember about 3 years ago I struggled to get out of bed for several days due to my depression – not washing, eating or getting dressed. I suppose there is little to no value in comparing the severity of my depression when it surfaces because I can only focus on the present. What I experienced, felt and did three years ago is irrelevant.

By Sunday afternoon I was struggling to stay awake and focus on what was in front of me. I had no interest in doing anything and just wanted to be alone. Not easy when you live with two young daughters who want their Dad’s attention. I had thoughts of just leaving the house and driving far away. I guess I was in the early thinking of suicide. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last time I think of this, in fact it’s common for people to have fleeting thoughts about it. I think there is also a misconception from many that just because you admit to having these thoughts you suddenly need locking up.

The only way I can describe my most recent thoughts about suicide is that I was consciously thinking about the mechanics of planning it and luckily this lead me quite quickly down the path of who would be impacted and the mess it would cause for them. That’s why it stopped there and then. I realised it was the wrong way out. I will never understand the final thoughts of somebody else who has taken their own life and they are no longer here to tell us what was at the forefront of their thinking in the final moments of their time on this Earth.

Yesterday (Monday) wasn’t a sudden return to Happy Daddy but I did wake up feeling as though some of the heavy weight had been lifted from my chest. My eyes and mind didn’t feel as cloudy and I had the desire to get outdoors. I chose to go for a walk around a local park along with a coffee, grabbed a sandwich then took a trip to the local library to return some books. It gave me an opportunity to feel the Winter Sun on my head, the crisp air in my lungs and to move my legs at a pace which doesn’t constitute running!

I just need to keep doing what I’m doing. One of my favourite quotes is “Storms don’t last forever” and with that in mind I know that healthy mindfulness tools such as my running, blogging, self gratitude, yoga, sobriety and connecting with my family and friends will help minimise the damage that my mental health conditions try to do to me. What I won’t do is NOT write about it. Some people would prefer I don’t share my private life and how I feel but I know it helps likeminded people out there to read about a story which resonates with them. Not everybody will want to share their struggles publicly and that’s ok but I find it not only helps me but gives hope to others. After all I’m still here!

I don’t have the answers to defeating poor mental health once and for all but I certainly know how to fight it.

Desire to Drink

There have been some pretty tough days of late where I’ve come so close to succumbing to my Addictive Voice and feeding it alcohol.

For context (not that I’m using it as an excuse or for approval to drink) my oldest daughter who is 7 years old has been in hospital for around one month now. It’s been a very traumatic experience for her and whilst me and my wife have been strong for her, it is naturally taking it’s toll on us too. We have another daughter in nursery school so the juggling act has been tricky.

During this time our family unit has been split in two. Me and my wife only see each other when we are at the hospital swapping ‘shifts’ between daughters so that in itself is an odd dynamic. Our oldest daughter has her own struggles and long road ahead but we need to be acutely aware of keeping routine for her little sister too. It may feel like an afterthought but the mental health of both me and my wife is so important because if we break we become a burden, not a help to the family.

That’s where I wanted to go with this post – my first in a while. It’s not appropriate or important to share the finer details of my daughter’s condition at the moment and blogging about our day to day in the four walls of a very busy and overwhelmed NHS hospital won’t do any of us any good so I’ll give you an update on me instead.

As you may know if you are a regular reader of Happy Daddy, I’m a man with diagnosed and long standing mental health issues who for 17 years was a binge drinker turned alcohol dependant boozer. Throw in life events like my daughter’s illness and I won’t deny it tests my metal despite the progress I’m making in recovery.

It’s very much about pragmatically using the tools I’ve come to rely on or have successfully utilised in the past to ensure I can keep myself in the strongest mental and physical place whilst also appreciating we are not super human and there is a likelihood that despite all of our best intentions and efforts there will be kinks in our armour during periods of high stress and disruption.

Tiredness, fatigue, exhaustion, agitation, irritation, anger, self pity and despair are just some of the buzz words that pop into my head when describing the last 5 weeks or so since my daughter’s health took a pretty sudden nosedive.

I even reacted immaturely in Tesco tonight. I’d just popped in on my way home from Hospital and was walking down an aisle browsing the shelves. I could see a bloke walking towards me and assumed he’d walk around the outside of me as I was pretty close to the shelf but he didn’t move. We had an awkward few seconds staring at each other before I nudged past him and said “you weren’t going to move were you?” – He replied “nah” so as I walked away I called him an obscenity which he most definitely heard.

Why do that? I didn’t have right of way as much as he didn’t. I could have easily walked around him and carried on with my day but I’m finding that I’m spoiling for a fight more of late. It’s like the old me in the height of my depression (not always drink related) where I would get angry so easily and use any excuse to get into an altercation. I used to have really bad road rage for example, and that has increased again of late despite a good few years of being a zen driver. When I got back to my car after paying for my bread and chocolate I told myself off and accepted I was pathetic. That’s the difference. In the past I would have justified my behaviour and let it wind me up for hours later.

I suppose it’s all a way of saying I’m under a lot of stress at the moment and in the past I would have used alcohol as my go to relief yet all it would do is fuel even more intense anger and irritation further down the line. I know deep down that I’m not a bad person but I also know I have unresolved deep rooted issues which need to be addressed by a Therapist or Psychologist.

In the past when I had counselling or a psychologist I wasn’t being fully truthful with them because I was hiding the severity of my drinking. I think I’m in a unique place in my life now where I can address my issues clearly and without alcohol blurring and undoing any work I achieve through therapy.

I’ve made the first steps to accessing said help.

I’m off now but I just wanted to thank everybody for their kind words and thoughts. I’m still active on Twitter (albeit maybe not as much as normal) and the majority of interactions I have in the Recovery Community are positive. Focus is of course on my little girls and wife but it is so imperative that I recognise my own struggles before they become something more uncontrollable. I think I’ve done that successfully just by writing today but the next important step is applying solutions to the problem.