It’s still there if you look closely.
Just under my chin. Can you see it? Just zoom in a bit.
Ten years ago I was at the top of my game. Money was great, family was great, loved my job, loads of good mates; it was fantastic.
Then the darkness.
I can’t really remember the first experience but it didn’t seem to creep up on me. It happened suddenly and I was very aware of it. It terrified me.
There is a vague recollection of lethargy. Things just going out of focus and a fortnight off work when I “couldn’t cope.” Nothing had changed in my life. There was no discernible trigger point. It was as if a tap had been turned on and I was filled with despair. It was all very odd so I went to my doctor and he gave me some pills.
I have no idea what these pills were but I hated them and binned them within weeks after seeing a documentary about people getting addicted to antidepressants. So on I went.
I thought I was happy but looking back I know now I was starting to do some very very strange things. I would have months of really out of character, ultra-positive behaviour – being the life and soul of every situation and exuding confidence. I remember presenting some bollocks to a room of about 2,000 people and it didn’t phase me at all whereas before I would have been crapping myself. Then there was the come down. Another week or two off work. Days lying there staring at the wall cursing my good fortune.
Life went on. I found myself moving up the ranks in my company and working with some seriously important people. I was regarded as this egregious life of the party type person, full of ideas and positivity – someone I didn’t recognise. Was I drinking a lot at this time? No. My job involved a lot of driving and I wasn’t stupid. Yet.
I used humour to mask what was tearing me apart inside. The nature of my job meant that I could hide away for days at a time while I was “working at home”, all the time climbing the walls and gradually beginning to dread having to put the mask back on. This cycle of highs and lows continued and eventually the lows invaded the highs. I had to take the lows to work and things became unbearable. I was never a big drinker but found that alcohol somehow allowed me to put on an act.
Occasionally I went to the doctor and would be given a prescription for some pills. Inevitably these were discarded in some hotel room.
My stupidity mounted and my family life crumbled. I wasn’t able to articulate what I was feeling and on the rare occasions when I was able to say “I feel shit” was told to have another pint.
The crunch came when I began to suffer from panic attacks for no apparent reason. I would be in a situation I would have previously been entirely comfortable with and for no discernible reason the room would start to spin, I would lose my sense of balance and lose total control of my breathing – so much that I thought I was going to die. My first panic attack was the most terrifying experience of my life. They don’t get any easier.
My life spiraled out of control. I was by then using far too much alcohol in a vain attempt to control the panic attacks – a spectacularly dumb idea as alcohol is a depressant.
The darkness when it descended became more and more pronounced. My mood swings had totally alienated my family and I felt very very isolated. I remember making a very conscious decision to take my life.
By this stage I was living in England and after finishing work drove down to my favourite pub which just happened to be next to a railway crossing on the east coast Rail line from London King Cross. I ordered Steak and Ale Pie (my favourite) and then moved outside with a pint and a chaser. In my pocket I had a bottle of vodka and would occasionally take a sneaky slug from the bottle. I kept staring at the railway crossing and knew what I wanted to to do, was determined to do.
Somebody saved me.
A stranger ( I still don’t know who) came to talk to me and very very reluctantly I spilled my guts and he gently disuaded me from the course of action I was contemplating.
Suicide isn’t easy.
Two days later I was back in Belfast.
On the second day back home I saw a fantastic doctor (who will remain anonymous) who did not prescribe pills but instead referred me to a therapist, experienced in mental health issues. The waiting list was long. Very long.
Six months later I found myself with my current therapist.
The six months had been traumatic. Ambulances were called on more than more than one occasion as I siphoned pills from the medicine cabinets of friends and family.
The darkness had taken hold.
My therapist was a friendly fella. He relaxed me and and asked me all the questions I wanted to answer.
“Tell me about the scar under your chin?”
I explained that on two occasions I had passed out and fallen, causing very deep cuts in my chin, the first time when I was eight or nine years old.
When he asked “what happened” I found myself explaining the loss of balance, the fear, the loss of control that had terrified me in later years. I was carrying the scars of a child.
So the panic attacks were not new. What of the depression?
I have literally no idea.
I have read about chemical imbalance and misalignment and all sorts. All I know is that the cure for Depression is not on the horizon. The brain is a right bastard to deal with.
So when I look in the mirror and see my scars, although they are physical, I see them as a manifestation of many years of pain. I carry them with pride. I’m winning a war that not everyone can win.
Meanwhile the mainstream press try to align a ’cause’ to Robin Williams tragic suicide thus demeaning a real illness.
Robin Williams died of depression – not bankruptcy or whatever – get over it.
As for me. I’m okay. I like what I’m doing.
I like rocking boats.