“What is it,” asked my psychotherapists and counsellors, “makes you depressed?” Since I “came out” as a clinical depressive, I have been surprised, in a nice way, how others have felt able to share with me their own demons. None seem to be the same, each Black Dog is unique but they are have the same effects.
I know that one of my issues is the accumulation of mental clutter. Lots of things happen at around the same time, a lot of decisions need to be made and things need to be done and, with many of them, I don’t know what decisions to make, nor how to do some of the things that need to be done. And what happens? A kind of meltdown occurs and I end up making no decisions, doing nothing that needs to be done. Everything becomes a blur which I attempt to put in a separate place and I then try to forget it about, which I never do. And there lie the seeds of depression and anxiety in a kind of chicken and egg scenario. Which came first?
I have been told often enough by trained mental health practitioners that disorder is a common theme among those with mental health problems. Generally, I muddle along reasonably well, so long as I do have order and that I can live my life with blinkers on, if you will, down a straight line. It is the deviations that throw me. Not always, mind you, and sometimes I deal with stuff, almost by multitasking. Afterwards, when I have come through the other side, I feel very pleased with myself. Such seemingly small achievements are major breakthroughs for me.
I was reminded of this when speaking to an old friend who revealed to me that they too suffered from a surfeit of clutter and they went through the same meltdown. Even when their darkness has descended, they too compartmentalise the clutter elsewhere and no one notices. At least they don’t think they do. I know that with a few managers during my working life, I could barely keep myself together emotionally when pressed to do lots of things seemingly simultaneously, as well as help run a household. The anxiety would boil over, at huge detriment to my blood pressure, it has to be said, and the darkness of depression would descend because of the inability to cope. I told my friend all this, so as to explain they were not alone and, not really surprisingly, this was their life too, almost exactly.
It is more than likely, I suggest, that the clutter – sorry to overuse the word, but it does somehow feel appropriate – is a significant trigger to darker times. To others, what I see as clutter, they see as a problem to be solved. I know people who, as we say, just get on with it; fiercely dealing with all manner of issues, objects and problems thrown in their way and dealing with them effortlessly.
There is a reason why I write all this today because in all honesty it is how I feel. I have had a lot of things to think about this week and they have ended up as the blur to which I referred earlier. I have tried writing things down, but then something else comes along and the list gets bigger. And, yes, I have ended up doing none of them, adding to my anxiety and depression, though not, it has to be said, a major episode, just the usual one that goes on pretty well all the time, controlled by a combination of drugs, the love of family and friends and the things I have learned from the wise, the wonderful and trained therapists, in any order as appropriate at the time.
It is hard to describe how it feels. I am able to concentrate enough to write, focused on this essay, let’s say, with ideas springing from the recesses of my brain relatively unimpeded but the long list of things to do is in pieces, which each making a random appearance in my head and then quickly moving on.
If you have felt anything like this, it’s not the end of the world. I’ve managed to reach the lower foothills of old age and I am still here, in a good if confused state of mind and I’m ready for a lot more. See a doctor, see a counsellor, see if it all helps, but whatever you do, don’t leave it, like I do with so many things right now. It’s a slippery slope down and a long way back up, assuming you ever make it.