Sometimes, life isn’t all happiness and sunshine. Sometimes, life isn’t even something easy to tolerate. Sometimes, it is like a dark, ominous cloud is looming right over your soul, and you’re not even sure why you feel so bad, but you do.
This is the only way I can describe my own personal experience of mental illness, and the way it affects me from time to time. Luckily, those times are fewer and far between these days, but when they do come, I’m not even sure why. I certainly can’t pinpoint a reason, or a trigger. It just happens.
I feel like I should be grateful though, as this blanket of quiet, inexplicable dread is nothing compared to the all-encompassing clinical depression I suffered from throughout my early twenties.
I had my first breakdown at 21. This followed a few years of heavy drinking and generally not looking after myself physically. I left home at 18 and made the most of my freedom, out every night with my workmates, frittering away my wages on my social life. I was drinking too much, not eating properly. My mental health eventually bore the brunt of it and, after a particularly bad period, I spiralled into a despair of which I had never experienced before.
I remember seeing no way out of it, and wishing that I didn’t exist. I quit my job and spent days holed up in my poky flat, struggling to make ends meet. I had no motivation to find a new job, no desire to meet new people. Life was too hard – if I could have ceased to exist there and then, I would have. But suicide wasn’t an option. I cared too much for my family to hurt them in that way. Instead, I wished to God that I hadn’t been born. I just wasn’t cut out for this life.
Eventually, after two and a half years of wallowing in a pit of despair, dosed up on 150mg of Dothiepin a night and feeling like my world had ended, I finally managed to motivate myself and get a job working as a kitchen porter in a local hotel. I loved it, and so began my recovery.
I can’t say it has all been plain sailing. I’ve had my relapses, I’ve felt like I was losing my mind all over again. I’ve sat at home, numb and empty, or cried myself to sleep over something that now seems insignificant. I’ve felt like I couldn’t cope and that I didn’t want to be alive. But never again have I given up on myself like I did back then, and allowed the darkness to consume me.
I see that as a major achievement. I’m proud to be me, and to have gone through such despair only to come out the other side, alive and well. And maybe I do have darker days, when I feel down and I’m not sure why. These days, I put it down to the phases of the moon.
I’ve always been a little moon crazy, after all. In my teenage years, I honestly believed that I would end up in an asylum for the mentally ill. But look at me now.