There’s no easy way to say this

‘’It’s weird when you realise you’ve got a problem. It’s not physical so it crept up on me. It hit me like a train and I re-evaluated a lot of things. Who was I? How did this happen? When did I become depressed?’’

There’s a fragility to his voice now. I’ve been with him for an hour, chatting about all sorts of things and you’d never think that this guy, who is the picture of confidence, has this struggle inside, eating away at him.

‘’I’d be feeling down. Your thoughts are consumed by whatever it is that’s upsetting you, and everything else stops.

‘’You can’t function. You feel tired from it. But you walk past the doctors or counsellors office and think, ‘they’re too busy, I’ll come back’, like you can see through the walls or something.’’

It took a while to get help, but he believes you need to be ready to get better before you will. Tackling depression head-on was big, that’s clear. The sooner he started the sooner he’d be better.

‘’I didn’t want to shy away from my problems, but maybe I deal with them too thoroughly in my head? I didn’t want to have any scars from my experience. I wanted to be able to move on with my life and not carry any baggage with me.’’

So what happened? What’s the thing that gets him trapped in his own head, thinking and rethinking so many things he does on an almost daily basis? Apparently, it’s inconsequential. He can’t control it, but he can control how he reacts.

‘’It’s not about what happened to me, really. It was a combination of things. I got hurt, but pointing fingers or holding grudges won’t solve anything. I’m not blaming anyone for what happened, or where it left me. Sometimes people make decisions and others get hurt. Do I wish it didn’t happen? Of course, but it did, and you need to deal with reality.

‘’I certainly could have dealt with things better. I made plenty of mistakes. It’s about six months down the line and I’m moved on, but I’m just not healed fully. One of the hardest things is realising that six months, even a year, isn’t that long. There is no time-frame for recovery. That’s tough.

‘’You want to be better. Healthy. But along with counselling, cathartic activities and whatever else, you need to give it time. Be patient with yourself. What I’m trying to do is find peace with those who hurt me. An apology probably wouldn’t hurt, I don’t know. But I’ve come so far without that, and I know I’m getting better.’’

He speaks about his “train hitting” moment of realisation. Stood by a pedestrian crossing, waiting for the lights to change, he realised death was about three feet in front of him. The lights changed. So did his outlook.

The room was quiet. Quickly, he assures me that it wasn’t a thought he planned on acting upon, but still. That thought made the reality of his life at that specific low point come into focus.

‘’I had shut myself off. I wasn’t eating right, sleeping well, or really doing anything. It was definitely a turning point and even though it was scary, it got me to deal with things.’’

He knows he’s nowhere near being a perfect person. He holds himself to high standards, and regularly doesn’t meet them. He’s hypocritical and self-righteous at times. He’s a work in progress, and he believes no matter how bad things seem, if you keep going, trying to do right, things pick up.

‘’What really counts is how you react to the bad things that happen. You can go a few ways. Be bitter. Blame others for it, and let your past define you. You can skirt around the problems. Do everything you can think of to ignore them, whether it be a relationship, drugs. Anything.

‘’You can bury your head in the sand, repress your feelings and it might work for a while. You can function, get by through ignoring it but I just don’t buy that. I feel at some stage, everyone will end up needing to talk things out. It’s perfectly okay – normal even. It’s painstaking, and I don’t wish it on anyone, but it is the best way to heal.

‘’I used to suffer from depression, but now I live with it, and that’s very different. I can look forward to so much and have already done a lot that I wouldn’t have been able, or confident enough to do if I hadn’t gotten help.

‘’There are hard days, but there are lot of good days and so many places to get help. I’ve told other people that before I needed the services. Then I doubted it myself, but it’s true. If you have the courage to help yourself, others will row in behind you. It’s been hard, I’ve made it hard, but I’m sure it will be worth it.’’

By John Ivory

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