“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”
What do I know about depression and grief I hear some of you ask. Although having a diploma in Health and Social care – which only briefly covers mental health and grief – I believe that no matter how much studying you do, there is no substitute to life experience and actually living through the conditions.
I have stressed the importance of men being able to talk and not hide from the stigma attached to mental health issues. So I will get the ball rolling and talk openly.
I take you back to my earlier post Four Weddings and a Funeral and the experience of losing my father. I was 18, had a good job and an even better circle of friends. Life was good – I was exploring the early stages of adulthood and all the benefits that came with it. My father had always had Crohn’s disease from as far back as I could remember and Spondylitis, but he lived a good life and was the best dad. He loved his garden – shared passion – playing cricket at the beach on family holidays to North Devon and was a devout Christian. Our family life and upbringing was based around the church, Sunday school then youth club as we grew older. It was then that I started to question my faith and what I truly believed. My father passed in July 1987.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t talk about his passing, I didn’t want to. My mother tried to be there for us all as well as trying to manage her own grief. My younger sister had just had to sit her GCSE’s whilst watching our father’s health deteriorate. My older brother who I saw was trying to take on the role as head of the family, looking out for our mother. Commendable at the time but something I despised over the years as I saw it to be controlling. We were and still are very different people. It was 12 months later I left home and moved in with my friend and his wife. It wasn’t ideal sleeping on the sofa, but it gave me the escape I needed to run away from my grief. It was while living there I met my first wife and we started a life together. I transfigured my grief into trying to emulate my father and within the year we were married and had the first of our three children, Jon before Tabbi and Jay soon came along thereafter. Through the next 10 years I never really talked about losing my father. I talked about him, but not the experience of losing him. After that marriage broke down it wasn’t for a few more years until I finally opened up. Unfortunately it was with a bottle in my hand in a tempestuous second marriage, laced with alcohol. I would NOT advise that it was the best way, but for me it seemed to open my mind and made it easier to talk openly – after putting the bottle down. Talking though still helped. I never returned to the faith that I had at an early age but do still find myself talking to my dad – whether he can hear I guess I’ll find out when it’s my time.
I was going to start by saying that I didn’t have depression, but that in itself is denial and exactly what I’m trying to quash from the minds of those searching for help. Depression comes in different forms –
- Major Depression – if you feel depressed most of the time for most days of the week.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder – a term used to describe two conditions previously known as dysthymia (low -grade persistent depression) and chronic major depression.
- Bipolar Disorder – mood episodes that range from extremes of high energy with an ‘up’ mood to low ‘depressive’ periods.
- Psychotic Depression – the symptoms of major depression along with ‘psychotic’ symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.
There are many other forms of depression. So where would I put myself? Major depression can be called a number of other names, one simply being depression which would be what I went through.
So what was the cause? You would think that losing my father would be credible but not in this case. The cause was the breakdown in my third marriage and my wife leaving me. I thought at the time life was perfect, we had a beautiful little boy and only 17 months earlier had had the dream wedding in Central Park NY. It wasn’t so much my wife leaving me, it was that she was taking our son with her. I’m not getting into a blame game, we are friends now and that part of our history is over. And yes, I see him regularly and she has never prevented me from seeing him. For me it was the fact that I wouldn’t see him every day, I would miss birthday mornings, Christmas mornings, the little things that we sometimes take for granted when we are in a happy family environment. I cried, a lot. Living on my own, which I’d never done before was a sobering experience. I used to drown myself in music. I’m a great believer in music therapy but on those occasions it was the wrong type of music. I used to cycle three miles to work, 6 days a week. At the start of my journey was a long steep hill , adjacent to it was a busy dual-carriageway. Both roads curved to the right as you neared the bottom – I will admit that on a few occasions I contemplated carrying on and hitting the barrier separating the two roads. That was when I was at my lowest. There were two things that stopped me. My children were the first reason – they were the rock that I then built my life upon – especially my daughter. The second reason was a silly one but I was going that fast down the hill by the time I’d thought about it I’d already turned the corner. The first couple of years were hard but I came though it. I still get low times, especially after fun days and then having to take him home afterwards but nowhere near to the same extreme.
I will cover living with someone who has depression another time. There is a list of UK helpline numbers on What lies beneath.. for anyone suffering from depression. You are not alone. Alternatively you can message me on firstname.lastname@example.org I am not qualified to give advise but will help you find someone in your area that can.
Goodbye to you from your Hoobaddyhoo