Dead Already


On the Threshold of Eternity

At Eternity’s Gate by Vincent Van Gogh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many reasons not to write and post this article. It’s a little too honest to be out in the world.  I’ve written it and discarded it several times over the past few months, somehow writing seems to help me but it’s scary to post it. I haven’t given it my usual hard edit as that would require putting aside for a few hours and I’m afraid if I do that my anxiety will overcome my desire to publish and once again it will be trashed. I hope getting it out there is useful to someone.

I’ve been suffering from clinical depression for about eighteen months, for quite a while before that I was suffering from mild depression. This is the third major episode in the last eighteen years.

While I have had clinical depression I’ve been living in a different world to most of you. I’ve been living in a world devoid of hope, absent of energy, empty of will and without any love in it. A world of anxiety, sadness, regret and self-recrimination. I don’t have a full time job, I don’t have a social life and I can’t relax without my mind filling with the self-loathing of depression.

My anxiety can easily become crippling. Recently there was two weeks where I couldn’t answer the phone, couldn’t seem to answer an email or an SMS. I also have strong social anxiety, I find it difficult to talk to people and I find it hard to be around people I don’t know. It’s hard to leave the house.

About three months ago I found an anti-depressant that almost works. It was, according to my GPs records, the fourteenth I’ve tried over eighteen years. This one actually has a positive effect, none of the others seemed to, and the side effects are just annoying rather than disabling. I’m staying on it as better than nothing.

When I say it almost works it lifts me from a totally black hole into a grey void which descends into the hell only every few days and only for a few hours.

I still spend far too many nights unable to sleep from the constant pounding of the mental pain; the regrets, the sadness, the self-recrimination.

I’ve tried sleeping tablets but they don’t work terribly well. I have to take them early in the evening and then make sure I’m in bed two hours later. Then I don’t wake up refreshed but listless and fuzzy from the after effects of the tablets. So I don’t take them until I’ve had four or five sleepless nights in a row. I don’t want to take them at two or three in the morning when I can’t sleep because if I do that I sleep for four or five hours and wake up feeling that listless and fuzzy for the whole day.

I survive by constantly filling my head with trivia. Watching TV, reading and playing computer games are diverting enough that it allows me to get through the day. I can only manage to have a shower and get dressed once a week or so. When I do I can usually overcome my social anxiety enough to go out alone as far as a local coffee shop where I know the people and they know me, other than that about once or twice a week I can go out with my daughter, Jessica, to do some shopping.

Looking for a job is a difficult and cruel task. I live in such a powerless haze of self-loathing that it takes major effort to get myself to apply. It takes an effort to get over my anxiety to talk to a recruiter on the phone. Then on the rare occasions when I get an interview it takes a day of planning, preparation and pushing myself into a positive place where I can project a capable and professional personality.

Then every failure is like a kick in the head. It’s just further reinforcement to the lack of hope, further reinforcement for the self-recrimination. It makes me feel more of a failure, more useless, more unwanted. Of course it gets harder every time.

I’ve tried asking for help. I’ve tried asking people I know to stay in touch with me, to help my social isolation, even to help me find a job. Almost nothing. Of course every time I ask it gets harder, it feels more and more like begging, more and more that I’m imposing. Every failure feeds my self-loathing. It’s far too easy to believe I don’t matter, that nobody cares at all – I may as well not exist, I may as well be dead already.

The one place I’ve found help is with my GP. At one point, before I found the drug that almost works, before I found a therapist that isn’t a total waste, my GP saw me for a long appointment once a week. Once a week for three months I’d go into her office and cry for half an hour, sometimes I couldn’t even speak, I’d just cry. She’s also stayed by my side as I searched for help, offering suggestions along the way and never giving up on me.

Of course there’s Jessica. It is impossible to overstate the importance of my daughter in my life. There have been several points in the last eighteen months where she saved my life. Once she helped me get to the hospital and get admitted as I was too anxious to talk to the Emergency operator and get an ambulance. Twice it seemed the only reason I didn’t take my life was that I couldn’t do it to her. The tablets were on the table in front of me but I couldn’t cause her the pain. (I no longer keep those drugs in the house. It’s not worth the risk for the small benefit in slightly reduced anxiety.)

Quite a lot of the time I wish I was dead as it seems that is the only way to get a rest from the constant yammering and pain in my mind. I’m exhausted all the way down, it feels like I’m tired all the way in to my bones. I’m tired of seeking help and getting none. I’m tired of the constant mental pain. I’m tired of the constant sense of failure, of being useless, the self-loathing. I’m tired of feeling my pain is unnoticed, tired of feeling nobody wants to help, nobody actually cares. I just want it to stop.

Some of the time it feels like I’m already dead. I can hardly move, I can’t think, I can’t feel, I don’t exist, there’s nothing but the pain in my mind.

This is what depression is like. It’s not just an extreme sadness.

Depression attacks your sense of self. It degrades your capacity for love, both giving it and receiving it. It not only destroys your connections to the world it makes it painful to be alone.

Inside depression everything becomes meaningless. Every activity, every emotion, even life itself becomes meaningless.

Perhaps one day I’ll get better, even though right now I don’t believe that’s possible. Though I won’t “get over it”. It won’t shift with just a better diet or some exercise. I’m suffering from major depressive disorder. I’m suffering from a serious mental illness, by all measures I actually am ‘insane’. I have disconnected from reality; as I said in the beginning, I live in a different world to you.

It’s going to be a long, hard, slow slog back to mental health. I’ve been back from here before and it took time and tools I no longer have. It burnt up several friendships doing it and this time I don’t have the friendships to burn.

It’s a difficult road and it’s hard to walk when you’re dead already.

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7 thoughts on “Dead Already

  1. I realise you dont; think exercise will help but chemically it will if done for month or more, & it gets you out of the house which even if you don’t speak to people it help with the solialisation. It also makes your body feel better & strong. you could look at it as a science project use a excel spreadsheet or app & get the numbers. Couch to 5K there is an app (or 20) for that & a good project. Basically also force yourself to shower at least every 2 days also help with the selfimage, people in concentration camps who survived knew the value of trying to keep clean, it was the most important thing.

  2. Very moving piece of writing Tony, well worth sharing to raise awareness. People need to understand that depression is a disease not a lifestyle. I am glad that you have found a good GP and some medication that almost works for you. I have been reading an excellent book by Robert Sapolsky that has helped me understand the biological role of stress, Why Zebras Dont Get Ulcers. Sapolsky a neurobiologist/primatologist at Stanford also has a series of lectures on You Tube. I recommend his talk on depression (don’t be put off by the giggling in the audience – Sapolsky is battling with the stigma and the silence that surrounds depression, he is deadly serious, but also funny)

    • Thanks for the pointer to the lecture Tim. It was incredibly good to hear him talk about the symptoms, the difference between reactive and major depression and the whole chemical basis.

  3. Nothing I can say will help but…………. I’ve been where you are and it can/will get better.
    The talking to someone worked for me……….. long battle.
    Good luck

  4. Grazie per aver condiviso il tuo sentire. Non posso dire che sono come te ma posso capirti. Mio marito è ammalato da 30 anni, con crisi tra alti e bassi. Si è sempre curato con anafranil ed è stato l’unico farmaco che ha funzionato. E’ difficile per chi ti sta vicino, quindi cerca di sforzarti ed apprezzare quello che fa Jessica per te. Buona fortuna.e pensa che andrà meglio….devi crederci!!

    • Grazie. Sono contento che hai trovato qualcosa. Tuo marito è fortunato ad avere qualcuno che si prende cura di lui e sono sicuro che si dà a lui amore e la cura e la speranza nei suoi momenti bui.

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