Of course, I, like most people have days when certain things bring me down and weigh on my mind, but those days are few and far between and don’t really bear any resemblance to what a lot of people with depression go through.
I recently read a very moving account of one sports man’s battle with depression.
His name is Stan Collymore, and he used to play football for a living, now he’s more of a broadcaster and sports commentator.
Here’s his extended tweet, in its entirety:
“It’s 4:48am in the morning(Sat 26th Nov 2011),and i’m wide awake.
I decided to tweet my own personal experience of my latest bout of Depression yesterday,and firstly wanted to thank the hundreds of messages from friends,journalists,mental health workers,doctors,and sufferers,as well as well wishers.It’s very humbling to read the stories of fellow sufferers,links to blogs,and general experiences of this awful illness.
I want to elaborate on what Depression is for me,as the illness has so many facets,and varies from bout to bout ,that it can be hard to explain to a fellow sufferer,never mind someone fortunate enough to have never been afflicted!
I’ve spent so much time with Depression sufferers who have anxiety,irrational fear,too much sleep,not enough,that it’s hard to pinpoint one “thing” that Depression is or isn’t.All i know is that depending on the severity of the bout,it can be made of mainly one or all of these things,so i’ll explain this latest bout,and what it’s effect is.
I keep myself in really good nick,i run 10k every week day,and only not go to the gym or exercise at weekends,when i commentate on football for talkSPORT.The running i find really has helped massively,as i’m sure you guys that suffer who exercise find,the tangible release of calm,and “being on top of things” powers your internal dynamo,and keeps the black dog from the door.
Around 10 days ago however,i started to feel anxiety,which grew into irrational fear,which in turn turned into insomnia for 3 days(little sleep,and an incredibly active,negative mind),that in turn over last weekend(Swansea v Man United) into Hypersomnia,whereby my energy levels dipped to zero,and my sleep went from 8 to 18 hours overnight.
So i went from last Saturday at the gym,running 10k as i normally do,looking forward to working,to Tuesday morning being unable to lift my head from the pillow, feeling like my body had been drained of any life,my brain “full” and foggy,and a body that felt like it was carrying an anvil around.
So fit and healthy one day,mind,body and soul withering and dying the next.This to me is the most frightening of experiences,and one fellow suffers i’m sure will agree is the “thud” that sets the Depression rolling.
Once it hits,then cause and effect start to kick in.I sleep 18 hours a day,so i don’t see sunlight over sometime a period of a week(my worst ever bout,i spent a month in bed),which i’m sure a doctor then would tell me makes the body shut down even further.My personal world grows smaller,i detach from friends and family,partly out of self preservation,partly not wanting them to see the man bounding around days ago,now looks visibly older,weaker and pathetic.
I eat less,my personal space gets smaller,none of the vain grooming of days before,as bathing,washing,and even going to the loo seem almost impossible.So its me,pyjamas,bed and increasingly despairing thoughts of how long this one will last,a tired,desperately tired but wildly active mind burns through its own blue touch paper until the paper ends,and there is simply nothing left.
That’s the point when the practicality sets in,and not a nice one(and incredible to think when you finally get well).
Thankfully i’ve not got to that part yet,and in my last 10 years only once or twice has this practical reality entered my head,and practicality its is,unpalatable the thought may be to many.
Why a practicality? Well,if your mind is empty,your brain ceases to function,your body is pinned to the bed,the future is a dark room,with no light,and this is your reality,it takes a massive leap of faith to know that this time next week,life could be running again,smiling,my world big and my brain back as it should be.So what do some do? They don’t take the leap of faith,they address a practical problem with a practical solution to them,and that is taking their own life.And sadly,too many take that route out of this hell.
I’m typing and my brain is full,cloudy and detached but i know i need to elaborate on what i’m going through because there are so many going through this that need to know it’s an illness,just an illness.Not bad,mad,crazy or weak,just ill,and that with this particular illness,for its sufferers,for family and friends who are there but feel they can’t help,you can!
Patience,time,kindness and support.That’s all we need.No “pull your socks up”,no “get out of bed you lazy git”,just acknowledge the feedback the sufferer gives,get them to go to the GP asap,and help them do the little things bit by bit.
That may seem simple but in my experience,and currently as we speak,having a bath,walking for 5 minutes in the fresh air,making a meal,all things that days before were the norm,seem alien,so friends and family can help ,just by being non judgemental,and helping in the background to get the sufferer literally back on their feet.
I hope that if you are suffering,or know someone that does,that a little insight into someone elses experiences might resonate with one or two and give them the comfort of knowing that there are millions out there like us that deal with this reality in our lives.
We contribute like everyone else,so treat us like everyone else.
You are not alone,there are millions of us.
Just over twenty-four hours later, Gary Speed, the Welsh football manager, and former captain of the Welsh national football team, took his own life. His wife found him hanging in their family garage.
Gary had battled with depression for years, but it seems that very few people outside of his family knew about his issues. It’s speculated that another bout of depression led to him taking his own life.
Gary Speed was a fantastic guy. I met him a few times at The Reebok Stadium, where he used to play for Bolton Wanderers. He will be very much missed by the whole football fraternity.
In my own life, I’ve known and know people who constantly fight with depression. They can go for weeks, months even, on an even keel, then all of a sudden, the grey clouds seem to take over their lives, with very little warning. It suddenly becomes hard for them to think of a reason to get out of bed, and the very act of living becomes an inexplicably enormous battle, with no end in sight.
I don’t really know what I wanted to accomplish with this post, it just seemed important that I raise the issue, because a common refrain amongst people who have lost loved ones to depression seems to be that it was never openly spoken about, or indeed taken seriously. I’d hate for that to be the case for any of you guys.
Can I ask if any of you have experienced, or know somebody who’s experienced depression? How do you/they deal with it? Do you have any advice for fellow sufferers?
I would say that if you suspect a family member or a friend of being clinically depressed, don’t hide from it, and don’t let them hide from it either. Talking about the problem is always a positive step forward, and can only help, rather than hinder. Like Stan so eloquently states, they are not alone.