I’m emerging from what was, to all intents and purposes, a mental breakdown. Not a fully blown, complete collapse of mental systems, but a breakdown nonetheless.
The black dog had been hanging around for some weeks but I was still in control. I normally know when a bout of depression is on the way and, more often than not, I can deal with it, partly by techniques learned in treatment and partly by drugs. And I thought this latest descent was middling to low in terms of its effect on my life. Wild mood swings, the occasional dark feelings but nothing overwhelming. And then came yesterday.
Actually, it wasn’t just yesterday. It had been building, although I barely noticed. But as soon as I woke up yesterday, I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t talk to anyone and I kept wanting to cry. I did my job in a very busy shop with tears occasionally rolling down my cheeks and when it was at its worst, I pretended to be having an asthma attack and puffed on my inhaler. I could not talk to anyone because I knew I would burst into tears. My head was spinning, I felt light-headed and there were moments when I thought I might pass out. I was sure people I’d talked to yesterday would have been aware that something was wrong and they all confirmed today that they were. In fact, one of my bosses was convinced I would not be back in work today.
The rest of the day was a meltdown. There are huge chunks I don’t recall but I did play a round of golf on a deserted Par Three course at Thornbury. I hardly remember it, even though it was just yesterday, but I do know I spent most of the round crying my eyes out. Bizarrely, I was on autopilot playing golf. My legs were incredibly heavy and my head more so. I managed to write down my scores but I don’t remember anything else about the round, nothing. It is almost as if I wasn’t there at all and the rest of the evening I recall through a blur. Very strange.
I have been here before. I did not know I was going through the breakdown stage as it happened – you just don’t – but I have had a few of these meltdowns in the past. I dread to think of some of the things I did when falling down. In late middle age, I played golf.
And so I went to bed and for a couple of hours I must have slept. But I remember everything from around 2.00 am onwards, as the wind howled outside. I looked at the clock from time to time and thought about nothing at all. I knew I should have been tired but instead I was more awake than I should have been. Normally, I would turn the radio on, quietly enough to make me strain to hear it, whereupon I would nod off, but it didn’t even occur to me to do that. I suspected it might be too cold to get up so I lay quietly under the warm winter quilt until a few minutes before the alarm was due to go off.
It came to pass that I went to work and got by. It was the human equivalent of putting on blinkers and going on autopilot again. I was very tired, mentally at least, and I knew that if I didn’t concentrate hard the words might not come out the right way. I cannot remember anything about this afternoon.
This evening and the world appears to be in slightly better focus. I feel like I have flown across the Atlantic and back and been forced to stay awake and my 24 hour memory is shot to pieces, but I have some idea of where I am now.
I was, and remain, very touched by the kind messages from friends about my little episode and I am humbled by the startling (to me) revelations from some of you that you too struggle with the demons in ways I never imagined. Of course, when you are cocooned in your own little depressive world you don’t always think of others who may well be in a much worse place than you. I am sorry I didn’t notice but I promise I will be there for you like you have been there for me.