#3: The Result
(Originally published in 2009.)
To add to my ability of over-analysing and over thinking everything known to man, having an illness like mild depression on top can make life even more complex than it already is. In fact, I’m pretty sure that sentence is the most obvious statement to have been made in the world, ever.
The best way I can describe what it feels like to have it is something like this:
Imagine you’re looking at the world as you would do normally, through your own eyes, in a first person perspective. Then, imagine that every so often, everything you look at has turned a slightly different shade.
Not different colours, but different shades. Darker shades. Duller shades. The powerful radiance of a row of daffodils will now be ‘nice’, or the explosions in the latest Hollywood blockbuster will now be ‘quite cool’ instead of the mind-blowing clusterfuck they had been billed to be.
Sometimes, it’ll stop there, but often in social situations, you’ll find yourself with mental headphones in - the inner ear bud kind - where you’re listening to the world through your own soundtrack, often interjected by feelings of self-doubt, over complication and helplessness.
In line with my typical headphone listening etiquette, you won’t want to be seen to shout when people talk to you through your muffled earphones, so you often stay silent, or feel that it’s really not worth the hassle of taking your headphones out to say an anecdote. Especially if it doesn’t have the required effect you were after.
This act can then have some serious implications. With a mental gagging order in place, and your self-confidence under house arrest, honesty can be seriously afflicted - even with close friends and family. Whilst you could be screaming inside your little self-made prison, the screams are never heard - often leaving people probably thinking you’re a complete dick as a result.
Dynamic, free-flowing conversations are like relics in an unloved museum, while simple tasks like having showers, organising social events or going food shopping can take hours to start (if at all), as it never feels ‘right’ to do - so you can easily imagine what a job interview feels like.
It’s similar to being trapped in a hazmat suit. The outer side of the suit is another version of yourself, who is doing all they can to make you seem like either a very dull candidate, or someone who is incredibly stupid and can’t string a simple sentence together
Or like that episode of Doctor Who, with the freaky shadows that lived inside space suits…
You can pretty much adapt the hazmat sentence to any part of life, as mild depression has affected every part of my life. From playing football, to cooking, to nights out, through to sleeping - even dreams have been centred around scenarios thrown up from having it.
Football turned out to be one of the main factors that made me seek out help this time around - a search that started back in 2007. Instead of being able to take a shot at goal and score, suddenly my shots were hitting the post, the bar - going everywhere but the net. It might have been just a rough patch, but I could feel something wasn’t right.
So it was somewhat comforting to hear that Neil Lennon, the former Leicester, Celtic and Nottingham Forest footballer speaking out about his own ordeals. More recently, hearing a few lines from Slipknot’s Corey Taylor adds additional strength to the cause.
They both comment on feeling like the loneliest person in the world. It’s also something that has come out of my counselling sessions, too. From my experience, the general lows can be more-or-less dealt with, but the self-imposed mental exile is what can break you.
Just writing this section is making feel like an anxiety attack is imminent. After having the feeling of loneliness and mental headphones in place for so long, it can be difficult to remember when a silence in a social situation is ok, when it’s becoming awkward, or when it’s totally disastrous.
Even just talking generally can be a struggle. If you’ve ever had a weekend on your own, or spent a little too long talking on the internet, sometimes it can take a minute to snap back into conversational mode - general chit-chat can take a mammoth effort. It’s a similar situation to that, just all of the time - with a hefty dose of anxiety thrown in, too.
Sometimes, it can feel like you’re learning to talk all over again, or you’re trying to talk to locals in a foreign land.