Firstly let me apologise in advance for this long post. I don’t intend for this to be a sad post or one that requires sympathy. I’ve suffered with mental health issues for most of my life, and like many people, suffered in silence. Over the years I’ve developed lots of coping mechanisms which meant that only those closest to me could tell how I was really feeling.
I’ve been battling a major depressive period for over a year now. I believe it’s vitally important to talk about mental health not only to normalise it, but to show just how hidden and debilitating it can be.
Funnily enough, I was inspired to write this post with its odd title by a character from Agents of SHIELD. In Season 1, Phil Coulson has this catchphrase “Tahiti, it’s a magical place”. One thought led to another and here we are!
Being alone has never been an issue for me. One of my dreams is to own a lighthouse, preferably my Great-Grandad’s lighthouse where he was a keeper, and live on it.
But feeling lonely and being alone are, to me at least, two different things.
It’s often said that with depression you can feel lonely in a room full of people- I get that totally and its absolutely nothing to do with the other people. But for me, the worst thing is the empty feeling. I feel empty, almost dead inside. It’s like I’m here physically, but I’m just a shell and unable to find myself. I spend a lot of time in a bubble-like state (Its called derealization/disassociation- they are quite similar) and feel like I’m in a never-ending corridor- I know I’m out there somewhere, but the closer I get the further away I am and nothing seems real to me. Where I used to be happy in my own company, I can’t find that person and I feel lost and alone.
Since this episode began I’ve been pretty much isolated and have developed a fairly bad dose of agoraphobia. Over the past 14 months, not counting my weekly therapy visits, I’ve left my house roughly 10 times- all of them accompanied by either a family member or a friend. The one time I went alone it didn’t go so well. I’ve been living my life online.
So how have I coped? To be honest, I haven’t. There have been a fair few bad moments, including a hospital visit and a close encounter with a bottle of whisky.
But I have found some things that have helped a bit.
I’ve always been known for being a sci-fi geek/nerd. From a young age I was into all that and developed an obsession for geeky t-shirts and caps. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of bullying at school and where I live- so much so that one of my defences was that I learned to dial my geekiness down a lot. Even when with like-minded friends I was never my true nerdy-self.
Over the past year or so, that part of me, the nerd I had suppressed, has risen again to help me and this time he isn’t going away- I just have to somehow reconcile who I was with who I am now as they are two very different people.
So how has the inner geek helped? Well, it’s all about diversion- diverting my mind away when I can feel things are getting too much or that I’m on the verge of a total breakdown. It doesn’t always work and there have been a number of breakdown moments. But in the long run, even a little bit of help from the nerd inside has helped.
My therapist told me to try to do things I enjoy and as I’ve said I have become pretty much isolated so I should find reasons to go out.
I booked films on my Odeon card to try to give me a reason to go out but 99% of them I never made it to. I think I managed 3 film visits with family and friends. Most of the films I have reviewed on here have been from buying digital downloads or, unfortunately, using streaming sites that stream current films.
I have tried to totally immerse myself in my hobbies purely as a means of distraction.
My 3D printer has become like a new body part. I build models and busts of TV and Film characters. Its mostly to keep my brain focussed when building and painting.
I’ve been using my blog- putting up reviews and reactions to present and past TV shows and merchandise etc and some publishers have been kind enough to send me preview copies of books that I then post about. But even that is hard- I feel is it worth it? Do people even read it? What I do know is that sitting and rambling on via the keyboard is a big distraction.
I’ve tried to watch TV and Film as a form of escapism. The problem is that at the moment, there are many things I find hard to watch as anything that I have an emotional attachment to makes me cry. Over the past year my diet of TV and Film has consisted of trying to watch Star Wars/Trek, Death in Paradise, Rizzoli & Isles and finally the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have tried to watch entire run-throughs over and over again of all of these.
I’ve also attempted to watch films from my collection of my favourite actress, Emilia Clarke. I have a poster for each of her films that had posters and all of her films on DVD but it’s Emilia’s most recent film, Last Christmas, that is the only thing to bring a smile to my face for a long, long time. One day I will hopefully meet her to say thank you.. There have been at least four opportunities over the past year where I could have possibly met her after a show or at a premier but I couldn’t manage it. I just could not leave the flat.
Now this might seem like fun to most people and normally it would be for me but I have had to force myself to do stuff otherwise I would just sit and cry all day, which I have done. In fact, for the first 4 months that’s exactly what I did and when I finally felt able to watch things again I wept through them.
The one things I do find hard is reconciling in my head trying to get through depression by doing something fun. Dealing with the emotions linked to depression and then combining that with the emotions of doing something I usually enjoy is incredibly difficult- I end up feeling guilty afterwards which then lends itself to making me feel even worse so I have to do these things in VERY small doses.
What I do know is that the old me is gone. The seemingly happy, helpful, would do anything for anyone person who likes to play pranks no longer exists. May he rest in peace.
I need to find myself- I need to be me again and I hope by opening up myself to my true nerdy nature is the key but its damn hard. Maybe the emotions around bullying as a child because of it is part of the problem. Maybe I don’t want to let him out even though I think he can help. He does come out occasionally and help but never for long enough.
Only time will tell I guess….