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.

The Lucky Addict

Ive mentioned on social media this week that I’m finding it harder to blog because it was originally set up to help me understand and share my struggles. I was coming to terms with alcohol dependency and being sectioned – two things that I ignorantly thought would never happen to me although looking back, I was prime meat for that outcome! The blog was written in diary form as I moved from hospital back into the community and followed the long path of recovery. I had a great mental health community nursing team, my wife accepted me back home to be with her (and my girls) after a short period of time at my parents (which for a 34 year old Dad with kids, a job and a mortgage, was very soul destroying) and I returned to work, who have been very supportive throughout this whole period.

I’m under no illusions this isn’t the way it works for everybody battling addiction and mental health problems. I have often struggled to voice my issues because I felt like a fraud feeling the way I did and drinking the way I did when to others I had this ‘perfect little life’. I’ve had access to a lot of support and interventions too along the way which again, many haven’t had in the UK and beyond. It’s a postcode lottery and for me my numbers came up. Maybe I was just a lucky addict.

But what you need to realise is that when you’re struggling with severe mental health conditions like I was – you can’t see beyond your own struggles (and often the bottle) so even the love of your children isn’t strong enough to make you want to continue or fight for change. It hurts to write that but it’s true. There were many times Id be pissed on my own at 1am on the couch thinking dark thoughts whilst my wife and little girls slept oblivious to it all above me. I was functioning (I hate that term actually – clearly I wasn’t functioning within myself) but to the outside looking in I was ‘Okay’ (another term I don’t like. ‘Okay’ is so beige. So nothing. So open to a swing in both directions) .

I’ve just realised I use brackets a lot in my writing. Sorry! I’m conscious of it now…

I had therapy with great addiction therapists, my employer paid for a Psycologist, I completed courses of CBT and above all I have a loving and very understanding wife – we have plenty childcare cover for our daughters and she would always encourage me to talk. Something I rebuffed. To many people reading, all of these things may have helped you not get to the point I did, maybe not. But I say this not to rub it in anybody’s faces – It’s a reminder that one size doesn’t fit all and whether you have this, that and everything in front of you – if you’re not ready or invested in getting help or starting your recovery it isn’t going to work. No matter how much money or resource is thrown at it. Just look at how many ‘celebs’ and people with money have succumbed to addiction and suicide over the years, not always as a duo but rarely they come as a stand-alone in the cocktail.

It’s only since I’ve been in long term sobriety (minus those two stand-alone days of picking up again) that I’ve realised that my life can be wonderful but only I can navigate it that way. The depression cycle I was in (aided by alcohol) meant I was only ever a drinking session away from blurring my happiness and judgement again but I no longer have that fog in front of my eyes. I’ve written loads of times about dips in mood, increased anxiety and a few bouts of mild depression since I’ve been sober but that’s part of the bigger picture of living life with a mental health condition. What I can do now is identify and manage my condition without the additional obstacle course of alcohol.

The only time I’ve wanted to harm myself in the last 17 months since entering recovery was on one of the two occasions I drank (to excess and in isolation) – For me, alcohol is clearly the loaded gun in my story.

It’s 11:40pm now and it’s been a very long week so I’m going to leave it for now and watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV before I turn in for the night. I’ll be sure to post again soon – even if it’s just to boast about how perfect my life is (joke!)

I’m keen to talk a bit more about how AVRT is working for me because it really has been a game changer so I promise to share more on this in the coming days. Take care everybody and speak soon!