My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim

by Rick Johansen

I’m being badgered, quite rightly, by my local health centre. They think, to put it crudely, that I am taking the piss by not providing a urine sample as part of my annual health check. They’ve given me the pot to piss in, but every morning I arise from my slumber (actually, that doesn’t read too well) and forget all about it. And it has to be the first effort of the day, too. A later caffeine driven affair won’t do. What a pity there is no such check for one’s mental health.

Months after halving my medication, I thought I was doing okay. My depression, and I know you have read this a million times before, never goes away, it will probably never go away. It varies between bad and not so bad. The so called good times, I have learned, are temporary. Having gone a while since I crashed, I had begun to wonder if mild to middling depression might be the new normal. Fat chance.

The crash, as I call it, came quickly and unexpectedly. Having shaken off the brain fog of Covid, I may have become complacent. I could finally see clearly now that the clouds had gone. Then came a thunderclap of sorts.

Inexplicably, to me, my mood went from okay to flat. My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, as The Eagles sang. I didn’t have to stop for the night. Life still went on, I did my food bank stuff thanks to my carefully honed acting skills (“I’m fine. How are you?”) but in truth I’ve spent a couple of days where I can barely stand up and leave the house. The last thing I have wanted to do is see and talk to anyone, except perhaps a psychiatrist, but that ship sailed a long, long time ago.

You don’t, or shouldn’t, contact the GP if you have something minor like a cold and you shouldn’t contact a GP if you have something minor like severe clinical depression. In each case, you have to simply deal with it until it goes away. I could send a message to my health centre telling them I’ve gone downhill mentally, but what would they say and do? Double my prescription drugs, back to the level they were, which they told me I could not longer do? Send me a list of ‘helpful’ websites? Say, “mind how you go” or “don’t waste our time. Pull yourself together. You don’t know how lucky you are”. You’d think I’d be straight onto the medics, wouldn’t you, at times like these, but guess what? I’m not. It’s still difficult. I’m convinced medical folk, or most of them, still think mental health is more about self-pity and the like. And all the leaflets and posters in the waiting room are merely to “show how much we care” even if that care doesn’t extend beyond displaying a few leaflets and posters.

An anxiety ridden night of bad dreams confirmed my self-diagnosis and I woke this morning absolutely knackered after nearly nine hours in my bed. And now it’s just a question of muddling on until, hopefully, it passes.

What caused it? I know me pretty well, but if I had the answer to that question, I doubt I’d feel this way. Nothing unexpected has happened, no shocks, no crises. Just another rainy night in South Gloucestershire.

So now it’s off to the Melchester food bank for our emergency spill-over session because one afternoon is no longer enough. This could possibly be the thing that keeps me on the side of sanity, reduces my self-pity, eases my mood, being with people who have literally nothing when I have, seemingly, everything.

And it is the lives of others that gives me perspective. I have seen countless people at our food bank, including yesterday, those who have terminal illnesses and are not long for this world. I am not sure how we allow that in a civilised society, but I guess when we have a prime minister who prefers cracking jokes about a murdered teenager than making a country better place to live in. “You’ve got cancer? You’re hungry? Ha ha ha – well, at least you will die before you starve to death.” Thanks, Rishi. At least the anger you inflict on me helps me get through another day. Thanks, Rishi.

This is not a plea for sympathy, it is not a cry for help. It’s just me, blogging and whingeing about my mental health, that’s all. I just want to be honest and, you never know, help someone else who is feeling rubbish that they are not alone, even if there is precious little you can do about it. But don’t give up. Please don’t give up. Someone loves you and for me that’s what stops me doing anything catastrophic, even if the negative thoughts prevail.

Situation hopeless, not serious. That’s about it.

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