Mary has asked me guest-blog for her today. She is improving, thanks you for your concerns, but is, I think, needing the break. She will be back soon.
She asked me to write about how depression has affected me, as a man.
My depression can have days of sitting staring at the floor. I’ve learned to stop fighting such days. If I’m on a downer, it’s best to let it run. Sooner I’m down, sooner I’m on the way up again. If it’s a fast descent, the stay at the bottom is shorter too. Still unpleasant but not as bad as what the depression has morphed into - the most ferocious anxiety.
I’m scared of being trapped in crowds. Trapped with no chance of escape. Heart racing, feeling sick I want to be anywhere else.
This anxiety is now really affecting my life. I am a Freemason. Our meetings have two components: a closed-door meeting and a meal.
Anxiety manifests itself on two main occasions: rush hour tube travel and Masonic meetings. The tube anxiety is manageable by careful choice of route and by the realisation that it tends to be brief. Escape possibilities to the street and what passes for fresh air in London are frequent.
Masonic events are not so accommodating. Sitting with others, however friendly, has been at times overwhelming. To stay is an extraordinary effort; to go is, at best, rude but the urge to go is sometimes irresistible. And the relief from going is immediate. The shame and self-disgust at giving in to the urge comes later.
I don’t go out much now. In the past, I have embarrassed myself, set a very bad example and made myself look a right fool by leaving early. I’ve sat at home so many times dressed up ready and unable to leave the house.
I’ve left meals midway and walked through strange streets until the emotions subside. It can take a long time.
I’ve turned up for a meeting and, completely overwhelmed by the occasion, left immediately. I have been out since, each time with a sense of dread.
If I do go out, I don’t stay long. I want to stay but the fear of entrapment is so strong. In my head it is easier to go home. And the next time, it’s easier to not go out at all.
Society is a very macho place. Strength is rewarded. Strength of organisation, strength of character. It’s a cliché but men are supposed to be strong. Unreliability is a weakness and, in this dog eat dog world, trampled over. Depression, by its nature, makes me unreliable.
My life is now a daily fight. To try and be nice when it is easier not to be. To try and have a good day. To remember that feelings of dread can last as little as ten minutes and as long as four days and to hope that the next one (for there will be one) will be short. To try to smile. To say ‘not bad’ when people ask you how you are as to explain takes too long and because I’m not ‘good’ and you won’t see me if I’m ‘bad’. But above all to hope that the next day will be better. Because the alternative is too awful to consider.
A Moodscope buddy and sufferer with depression