This is a blog post I wrote in March, but only published for a few minutes before pulling it offline. I wasn’t ready to share my experience, but now seems like the right time to do it.
This is my (unfiltered) story about my experiences with depression. I want people to be more open about mental illness. A few members of my family are suffering or have suffered from various forms of depression, but they still treat it as taboo.
Before I begin, I just want to say that this isn’t about blame. There were many factors which made me feel how I did, but I just want to talk about my experience and how I continue to solve it.
For a while I felt empty. Not sad or happy – just empty. I felt nothing. When my girlfriend was upset about something, I wasn’t angry. I didn’t think she was being stupid, I just felt nothing. It was like this for a while.
That’s not to say I was never happy or sad, the emptiness is just what I remember the most. It was frustrating. Imagine wanting to break down and cry all the time without being sure why. It used to happen when I was driving, when I was at work, any time. I’m most embarrassed that I burst into tears watching the X-Factor finale. Not one of my finest moments.
I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t want to speak about it. I wanted to hide it. In social situations I would be the funny guy, chatting to people, having fun. I saw other people enjoying themselves – going out drinking and having fun. I was drinking more than I had before because I thought it would fill that nothingness. It might have worked for a short period of time, but it didn’t last.
At my worst I would put myself in dangerous situations on purpose. I would drive too fast, brake too hard, and steer too late – hoping that something would happen to make me feel something. I was more careless than I want to admit.
I must have been horrible to be around. Even though I felt nothing, I was over-sensitive. I would snap at the people who were closest to me for the smallest things. I was never violent, I just took out my aggression in other ways.
I never told anyone any of this of course. I thought I would be able to figure it out myself – but I couldn’t. It wasn’t until something bad happened that I realised things needed to change. I almost lost my girlfriend of 5 or 6 years. It might not seem bad to you, but anyone who knows my girlfriend will know how much of a wonderful person she is, and how much better I have been since we got together. My friends called me stupid for wanting to end it, but I was blinded by what I was suffering from. When we almost split up I realised how much I needed her, and that she wasn’t the problem. She was the opposite – the person who stood by me when I was at my worst – she was the solution.
Snapping out of it
Depression makes you focus on the wrong things. What I thought was making me feel this way was a red herring. I thought going out, seeing friends, eating more, drinking more alcohol were making me better… that wasn’t the case.
I’m glad I listened to my girlfriend, my friends, and my heart. When that horrible thing happened, I realised some big changes were needed. My main focus was to work harder to make our relationship better. We needed to communicate. So we did. I broke down and I was honest about everything I felt.
Getting things sorted
Within 6 months, my girlfriend and I had made some huge changes. I had started to exercise more and managed to lose a lot of weight. Me and my girlfriend made sure we had more time together and more time apart – both important for a good relationship. Biggest of all, I got a new job in Bristol. When Larrisa read out the email from my future boss telling me the job was mine, I started crying. It felt like everything was about to change. It did.
Since my move to Bristol I’m a different person. Me and Larrisa have never been happier. Arguments we have are petty and forgotten when we wake up in the morning, and we love having our own little place to live. Exercise helps. I continue to run and I cycle now too. Exercise helps me keep fit, clear my mind, and gives me some time to be alone and think.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel down at times, but now I try to pluck up the courage to talk about how I’m feeling. But there are always people willing to not just talk, but listen. I’m fortunate to have some great people who will take the time to listen.
How do you feel?
I was lucky enough to be able to identify the problems I had and solve them in my own way. Though this might not work for everyone.
It doesn’t matter who you are, the Black Dog affects millions and millions of people. It is an ‘equal opportunity mongrel’.
I also learned that there was no silver bullet or magic pill. Medication helped some, and others might need a different approach altogether.
— Excerpt from I Had A Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone
I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, I just want to tell people what I went through and how everything got better. Being honest, open, and talking to people has helped me a lot. I used to be embarrassed but I’m not any more. If you’re feeling down, speak to someone. Depression is a one size fits all illness – anyone can get it, and anyone can get that burden lifted if they seek help.
Find more details about mental health at Mind. Want someone to talk to? Email me: email@example.com.Add your comment