After the sad news about Robin Williams this week, I thought now was probably the right time to come out and talk about my own experiences of depression.
I was diagnosed a couple of years ago, but it became clear to me that I’ve been suffering – in denial – for a very long time, in fact as long as I can remember back to my childhood – what I now knew as depression were feelings that I don’t really remember ever NOT having.
For me the depression manifests itself in a complete lack of self-worth – I have never been a particularly confident person, apart from when I am. Which sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not really. Whenever I’m doing something for work, like broadcasting to tens of thousands of people – or standing on stage in front of a huge crowd, I’m fine. But try and make me walk through the door of an unfamiliar pub first and I turn to jelly. Just writing that out here now is making me feel anxious, nervous, I can feel the physical knotting of my stomach at the thought of having to do that.
Having that lack of confidence has affected me over the years at work though. I’ve never pushed myself forward in my career particularly, I stayed in the first place I felt comfortable for (in hindsight) way too long. I *am* a very good news reader, but I never tried to take that talent to somewhere bigger and better. Why? Because I don’t believe that I’m anything special, I’m just lucky to have achieved what I’ve achieved, anyone could do it. Even though I know I’m good, I don’t believe it. Still now. This isn’t some sort of humblebrag. I don’t and can’t appreciate my own talent. Even if people grab me by the shoulders and shake me and tell me how good I am.
I find motivating myself to do ANYTHING extremely difficult at times. I just feel like I am anchored to the sofa or bed. There’s no point in me trying to get up. I’m stuck here, no shifting me, no budging. I have to summon up superhuman strength – often involving verbally chastising myself for being a twat – to get myself going.
Other days there’s no problem at all.
When I was seeing a counsellor I had to fill in one of the forms each week, so they knew if I was about to cause myself or someone else harm. I certainly had thoughts that I wished I didn’t exist, but I couldn’t motivate myself to kill myself. And there was no box on the forms for that. In fact there were very few boxes on the forms that really fit how I was feeling at all.
The lack of motivation and missing self-esteem cause big difficulties for me: inside I am all hugs and boundless Tigger-esque energy, the very epitome of throwing caution to the wind and being Mr Spontaneous – but only deep on the inside. Outwardly I can be grumpy, curmudgeonly, inflexible and insular. I’m working on all that. But it’s not easy when your depression is constantly saying “what’s the point in doing any of that? You’re not worth it.”
Also if you ask me if I’m okay, I’ll say “yes, just a bit tired” or similar. When what I actually mean is “no, I’m really lonely and fed up, I’ve got nobody to talk to and I feel trapped in some sort of limbo, I’m confused as hell about pretty much everything that’s going on.” Or something like that.
This from elysian-dreams.tumblr.com sums it up nicely:
Hearing all the talk about depression this week after Robin Williams’ death has made me think about my situation. I’m clearly not as badly off as he was, but I am still depressed and I keep hearing that it’s good to get these things in the open. Which is not something I’ve done much of previously. So there you go, that’s me and depression in a nutshell. Talk to me about it, if you want!