Broadcaster and writer Iain Lee very kindly agreed to let us publish his article about depression after he came across the website. It works great as a letter. Here is his Website
Last week I had the worst run of depression I think I’ve ever had. It was certainly the worst I can remember. I managed to get myself out of bed and get to work…but that was it. And even then I nearly called in sick every day.
I present a radio show and man, was I ever just going through the motions. It felt like I was sitting in the studio watching myself present a radio show. I was in control of me, but I was operating myself through a three second delay and doing a terrible job. I was faking it to make it. I was acting what I thought Iain Lee should say and do.
After the shows, I came home and crawled into bed. Nothing unusual there, that’s what I tend to do. But I then spent all day in bed. I slept for a couple of hours, woke up, lay in bed for a few more hours wide awake, padded downstairs for a coffee, then back under the covers until the morning. Repeat.
What made it more painful was my kids would come into my room, intent on creating the joyous mayhem that children do, and I simply had nothing for them I couldn’t give them a single thing – no affection or love or interaction. ‘Daddy isn’t feeling very well’ was pretty much all I could say as I sent them on their way.
That of course broke my heart, filled me with shame and self hatred and sent me even lower. Great little cycle there, thanks head.
While I was lying in bed, I just felt, and this is where it gets hard to put into words, er, useless, low, meaningless, lost, spent, sad, tired…it’s a toughie and none of those descriptions really sum up the pure bleakness I was experiencing. I hated myself and everything I had achieved and simply wanted to stop existing. I didn’t want to die necessarily, I just wanted to not be.
There are some of you reading this nodding and going ‘yeah, that’s me!’ and probably just as many scratching your heads and thinking what a twat. Stop being such an idiot and get on with things.
Ah, the old ‘pull your socks’ up brigade. If only it were that simple. I’d love to pull my socks up and get on with things. Ignore this little voice in my head that tells me I am worthless and no one likes me and actually I only make things worse for people. Some days I can. Some days it’s just too loud. And sure, my life is actually pretty good. I have a good career, financially I’m OK, so what have I got to worry about?
And that’s the thing. Depression, for me anyway, isn’t always about what’s going on in the external world. Sometimes it is. My dad dying, my mum being ill, being hauled over the coals for something I said or did at work – they can all have an effect. But it tends to be either really small things or simply nothing that sends me over the edge. Jesus, I found an ink stain on my favourite coat today and I could feel the well of blackness starting to overflow within me. It was insane.
I’m pretty confident that for me, the depression is primarily a chemical imbalance in my head. Just as there’s no logic to who gets cancer or asthma, the same goes here. Yeah, there are outside elements in all of these conditions or diseases that may have an impact, but, sometimes it’s just bad luck or bad genes or bad karma or whatever the fuck it is. There’s no point in asking ‘why me?’ although, ironically, that’s a pretty common question amongst depressives as we struggle with existential angst while trying to get enough inner strength to get up and go to the toilet.
I’m lucky. I had a REALLY bad week. Some people have really bad months or years. I tend to even out throughout the year. Sometimes I’m pretty good, sometimes I am like utter shit but generally I’m bouncing around in the middle. Just below the middle perhaps. Last week was an extraordinary and freakish one that I do not want to repeat. I’ve had this long enough though to know that no mood lasts forever. This too shall pass. I just have to ride it out. For me, talking, exercising, eating, listening to music…none of that stuff works when I am in it. It’s a disease of isolation and I need to hide. When I am in it, I just need to ride it out and know that I will reappear on the other side at some point.
I had a weird thing yesterday. I was doing OK. And then it hit me. And I could feel it hit me. Just before midday, this wave of bleakness swept up my body and there was nothing I could do. I went down under the surface and let it sweep over me. It may sound odd, but it was kind of beautiful. Does that make any sense to anyone? A beautiful bleakness? It only lasted a few hours. I was well enough to move downstairs a bit later and put a film on. Something shifted and I had a rare moment of feeling powerful and invincible before it sort of evened out. I’m bouncing around a bit at the moment, mainly down, in fact I’m typing this in bed, fully clothed, wearing the coat with a stain on it. Does anyone know how to get an ink stain out of a jacket?
I have absolutely no idea why I’m writing this. I suppose partly because I believe that journaling ones feelings and moods is a helpful tool and I had enough energy to drag my computer out of my bag. Maybe it’s to partly explain for last weeks shows being a bit crap (although, if I’m honest, right now I don’t actually care about work). I suppose it’s to let people know that this is OK. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Or scared of. Well, be a little bit scared. This disease can be fatal. But it’s real and people have it and people come through it. Don’t be embarrassed (although the thought of actually posting this rambling online is making me very anxious) and let people know you have it. Those that do the ‘pull your socks up’ or ‘oh for Christ’s sake, get over yourself’ lines are probably not people you need around you. If you told a friend you had cancer and they said ‘just man up’, is that someone you’d want to hang out with?
Ah, I dunno. I’m not doing this for sympathy, I tell you that much. So, you know, thanks but no thanks. I’m doing this to show that you’re not alone. Although, I bet you feel very much like you are, whatever anyone says.