speaking up against the silence surrounding mental health problems
How do you come out to your friends that you’re having a depressive episode?
I've spent the last two weeks watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt from bed in my own, non-salacious version of Netflix and chill. Like Kimmy I'm buried underground in a secret location, unlike Kimmy I'm doing this to protect myself from slipping further into my depression.
Now, some of you might think hiding away from the world is counter productive - watching Making a Murderer didn't make you a Criminal Psychologist, so reading this doesn't make you Dr Miriam Stoppard.
Currently my hair is out of control because I can't keep a hair appointment for fear of leaving the house, I've used up all the Deep Heat in the bathroom cabinet because my neck muscles are so tense. However, I have learnt that arguing with Deliveroo gets you nowhere and herbal Nytol is the best cure for insomnia. For now, the outside world is best left outside.
Since I was 14 years old, I've periodically sat in stuffy rooms, adorned with dying, dusty pot plants to talk about my feelings with people who only ever say, "So, what do you want to talk about?" I've lived with depression for 16 years but every time a stint of the blues hits, the well-worn rug is pulled from beneath my feet.
A long time ago I made the choice that I didn't want to be medicated so I put in place a daily routine of early morning swims, herbal teas, days off from my phone, to do lists and bed before midnight - none of which leave you feeling numb, unlike the pills. This does mean I occasionally lose the battle and need to take some time out.
This current episode is my first major dip in seven years so most people in my life (I think) are completely unaware I struggle to keep my mental health in line. Most of my mates would say I'm just super organised, never answer the phone and my endless lists are part of my OCD. Unfortunately, when you have tendencies of being erratic, reclusive and overly emotional most friendships only last seven years.
I know its all the rage to tell people you are bi-polar (even if you don't, for the record I don't) but I wince at the idea of sitting in a circle with friends, holding hands whilst trying to orchestrate a weird group hug of mental health acceptance to enable me to come out to them - in fact the thought of it raises my anxiety levels.
How do you tell people in 2016 you need some TLC? The internet, obviously. I told my friends via Facebook I was taking some time out - it got three likes. I was sort of livid that none of my friends took the bait. The baby picture it sat beneath got 104 likes, a few shares, tons of comments and even some emojis. A quick way of knowing if your mental health needs patching up is if you're angry at the attention a newborn baby is receiving.
Over the past few weeks I've written, rewritten and deleted many a tweet because I feared they would reveal my fragility. Evidently, on some platforms I feel I can be open but on Twitter I worry that "I love watching the Jeremy Kyle show everyday" portrays me in the wrong light - that cliché about social media being bad for our metal stability isn't far from the truth.
I set up an 'out of office' that said I was taking time off - most people have ignored it, some just phone me demanding their super important email is responded to.
Coming from a long line of depressives, I told my parents I was upset that my experience was nothing like those mental heath TV adverts in which everyone keeps asking if you're alright, nodding their heads like the Churchill dog, paranoid you might say something dark and they'll have to find a way of restraining you so you can be sectioned. Mum, with all her wisdom responded: "People don't want to hear it, love. They are used to you being well and don't know how to respond, they just don't hear it."
Sometimes living with depression can feel like you are in one of those dreams in which you scream your head off and everyone ignores you. Although, the reality is it's more like those dreams where you're trying to scream but you make no sound so people can't hear you. I think this is what you'd call a lazy analogy because a Facebook status update is hardly opening up, is it Scottee?
The admission of one's mental health decline is a tricky one to navigate - no one wants to do a Britney or a Sinead, nor should we pretend everything is OK. You've also got to be careful not to step into the over share - put one foot wrong and your friends will have you on suicide watch. Trying to find the middle ground is tough, you want the world to know so they can send you flowers/biscuits/a whatsapp but you don't want to have to cut your hair off to get the message out there.
In danger of contradicting myself, there is a great misconception that those of us who live with depression are in need of shoulders to cry on or deep'n'meaningful's to make it all better. I don't speak for everyone but that's not what I need. I want space, an occasional check in, a bit of time to repair and the recognition I'm ill. I don't particularly want to talk about my feelings - I spend my life doing that. I want to watch Titus Andromedon dressed as Iron Man singing songs from the Lion King, not to feel I'm not harbouring a dirty secret of depression.
Today the sun seems higher in the sky and I can see the wood for the trees - if this dip has taught me anything it's that life from now on has to slow down. Throwing everything I have at everything possible to make ends meet (whilst pretending everything is OK) does not a healthy mind make.
For now my email is off, Facebook is deleted and I eagerly await Season 2 of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to guide me through the next rough patch.
Photography Wade Morgen