People are always coming up to me (no, they aren’t really!) and asking me this: “You are quick enough to tell your loyal reader when your mental health is a shambles, but what is you like when it’s okay?” Well, thanks for (not) asking. I’ll try and explain.
My mental health is relatively okay at the moment. I’m quite strong – the world’s strongest man, I reckon, but that’s just my opinion (and not that of the British Red Cross whose occupational health genius called me “emotionally weak”) – and stable, as Theresa May would put it. Thanks to therapy, prescription drugs and life with the minimum bumps in the road, I’m in a half-decent place. So, you might ask, where does the Black Dog go at times like this? Answer: nowhere. He’s still there.
As you can imagine, having spent many years undergoing various types of treatment, I have come across many people with differing mental illnesses. Clinical depression (my world), Anxiety (also my world), OCD (this is anything but funny, despite the myriad of jokes about it), Paranoia (people make jokes about this, too, which is just sick) and Schizophrenia (which is nothing like the way it is described by people who know nothing about it). Getting to know these people has been a revelation, but only in the sense that in most instances you would never know there was anything wrong with them. It’s the ultimate hidden illness, unless things go really wrong.
In a half decent place as I am now, I function relatively well. However, the depression is still there, in a parallel existence in the back of my mind. I don’t hear actual voices – and I know people who do – but the depression that is sometimes at the surface never goes away. Which is what doctors, therapists and counsellors have always said to me. Manage the illness because it probably won’t ever go away.
I lay in bed last night, thinking too much as usual. I have a lot of creative stuff going on in my head – at least two major writing projects simultaneously on the go – and the remains of yesterday playing over and over again, like a broken record, accompanied by fretting about things that I cannot affect or change. My late father would probably throttle me for the last bit because not fretting about things he could not affect or change formed the basis of his success. And I felt the depression there. Of course, I did not want to slip back into illness but there it was. The difference was that if I had a negative thought – and I have plenty of negative thoughts – it didn’t take me down. I saw the depression but I wasn’t depressed. Does that make any sense?
It could be that my current state of mind is a result of years of therapy, lessons learned in life and drugs which could explain a lot. I messed up my school life, I messed up my professional life but, as Elton John put it, I’m Still Standing.
I’m taking each day as it comes, rather like a football manager whose career depends on what happens in the match tomorrow. If I look beyond that, I fear I will lose the plot again and that parallel world will overwhelm me again.
It is weird observing the depression when it isn’t making me depressed. If this makes no sense, I can only apologise. How do you think I feel?