Avid readers of this blog (all three of you) will have noticed I’ve been quiet of late. It’s because I am suicidal. That’s a very bald sentence and deliberately so. Because I am. I’ve had enough. This horrible monster I’ve carried on my shoulders all my life is back and with a vengeance. For some the colour is dark, for me it is orange, meaning everything I see has this orange haze, like looking through a Quality Street wrapper, or through a camera whose lens has a Lucozade-coloured filter. It caves in my head, which aches like mad the more I try to push the colour aside, the harder I try to banish the thoughts that come with it.
Bad thoughts. Unbeatable. Loneliness when all my loved-ones are travelling from far and wide to see me, doing all they can. When friends are phoning, texting, doing all they can too. Still loneliness. Despair, still despair, and still all the other crap that comes with life for the millions of people like me and millions not like me too. Bereavement, yes I’ve had my share. Regrets, I’ve had a few. Broken relationships, tick. Unemployment, tick and thanks for that. Poverty, inevitably. Homelessness, oh yes. But what can you do? Only try to crawl your way back from the roadside. Mercifully I managed, I clawed my way back, I found work, I found love, got myself a nice apartment. Yet the monster couldn’t or wouldn’t leave me alone; it has moved in with me, refusing to leave me alone to get on with my life in peace… Anger, oh definitely. Anger at the fact that my success is history and my talents turned to memory. Anger on behalf of those whose mental health is misunderstood by heartless, gutless employers whose only answer is to manage out the problem, when others with young uncluttered brains and less talent warm their fat posteriors on vacant chairs. Anger at the email that once did for me, that was meant for the boss and mistakenly went to me and I did nothing about it because I chose to rise above the petty tittle-tattle. Anger at the monster who warned me I was weak for that, that I was too nice, that magnanimity would cost me. Anger at all the people who ever hurt me. Anger on behalf of professionals who do understand the epidemic and do their best under pressure and with resources stretched to their limit. Anger with myself for being angry when all these things are spent, for allowing my mind to dwell on those for whom I shouldn’t waste my breath or words. For hurting others for I have been no saint and I am only human after all. For being negative about all that and everything else. Hatred of all the evils of the world, hatred of myself, hatred even of the fact that sometimes, yes sometimes if I’m absolutely honest, I find some weird, masochistic gratification from the pain (does anybody know what I mean?). Medication, I’ve had it all. I’ve recently touched the sun on cocktails of valium, venlafaxine, mirtazapine, and come down mourning an addled and negative mind.
But for millions like me, negativity is what life is, negativity is all you see. Negativity, loneliness, lovelessness, waste and pointlessness coated in orange-coloured tasteless sugar.
Not too many full moons ago it was Mental Health Awareness Week. I watched programmes on my TV and applauded, welcomed the positivity that things are improving, society is working with me, erasing the stigma and encouraging me to talk. I’ve talked. I’ve talked and talked yet nothing I say has any meaning. Just a string of words struggling to convey what’s in the yoke of my mind. I’ve written before about the dog being not just for Christmas but for life (see The Ottermobile blog). I feel that now, because while I genuinely applaud “the week” for raising awareness, encouraging understanding, championing acceptance, it’s not enough. When a thing has a week-long run to own a stage the curtain then will fall, the audience files out of the theatre having had an experience, they may talk about that experience, they may even resolve to act, but soon other experiences follow into the spotlight of their lives and they forget. As is their wont. As is their right of course.
Paradoxically, the more mental health is broadcast, I fear, the more compassion fatigue could fester, the more impostors might be prone to erm, “impost”. I’ve also said before that the problem with mental illness is that it can go invisible, sneak around the corridors, skulk in the stationery cupboard and go unnoticed at the watercooler. So could it be that when one feels a little down or fancies swinging the lead, he may say “I have depression?” It’s the modern way, the age of the hypochondriac who has “flu” when it’s a common cold, “lumbago” when it’s an achy back from sitting for too long in front of a computer screen because the pacey wheels of industry will leave skidmarks for nobody, “a migraine” when it’s nothing a couple of aspirin or preferably massage or Bowen or relaxing time-out couldn’t shift. So the more we talk about it the more we could be in danger of watering down a problem I think is monumental and want to know why.
The same question was asked of Alastair Campbell last night in the brilliant programme Alastair Campbell – Depression and Me, and he, like me, had nothing tangible. “What triggers my depression? The honest answer is I don’t know.” Yet he, like me, and millions besides, knows it’s there, knows he can feel it in the room, knows he can see it, and knows the fact he has no tangible answer is not his fault.
Because what is the answer to why? What is the cure? If there is none, how do we best address and manage it? Is there one at all? All I can say is that it’s simplistic to suggest that just because one is bullied in the playground he will suffer in later life. As for more profound solutions, I pledge to give it some thought and get back to you. If I’ve time.
8 thoughts on “That Was The (Mental Health Awareness) Week That Was”
You are very brave to bare your soul like this, Mark. Your loved ones are all behind you and willing you to feel better again X
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I hope this finds you in a better place than your blog suggests?
I too thought the Alastair Campbell doc was really good – because he had no answers, even after seeing all those different specialists.
How’s it going otherwise? Any news on your novel.
I’ve not had any follow up from agent submissions, so probably time to move on to some more.
Thinking of you and looking forward to meeting up again in person at some point soo .
Sent from my iPhone
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Amazingly said and I hear you…..more than you know !
It is a monumental problem Mark. If it’s any consolation, you explain and articulate it brilliantly. Last week it hit my son and my two daughters’ partners, sending them, respectively, home to mum and dad, to the doctor and into time away from work. For me, it comes with monthly regularity in the waxing period between the new and full moons, but never with the force that you describe.
I don’t have any advice or answers. In my case, I just try and sleep well and long. Talk to my wife. And get into nature if possible during the daylight hours. Magic mushrooms also help as an occasional, temporary boost. It seems that you have tried all of the widely proscribed remedies.
For the record, I have enjoyed your writing this year more than anything except CJ Sansom’s medieval fiction. To reiterate, your tin can travelogue could easily be televised, and would attract viewers by the millions. Your talent has not deserted you. Opportunities to display it are a different matter.
I wish you as well as can be, and will continue to read your blogs with the mixture of pleasure and pain recognition that each one conveys so well.
Hoping that the orange can fade for you.
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Thinking on about your feelings Mark…….One thing that I find inspiring is a website hosted by Nick Cave (https://www.theredhandfiles.com). Nick lost his teenage son to suicide several years back. On the site, he replies each week, with all his honesty and acute perception, to a fan’s question. These questions can contain palpable existential anguish and sorrow at the business of being alive. Yet he always finds a way to mine the upside, and point out a path forward. It helps me to read some of his answers. Maybe there is a nugget or two there for you? Just a thought.
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Mark, are you ok ?
Fine now thanks John
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