Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Badly Drawn Man part 2 - Isolation

If I told John I've titled a blog 'Badly Drawn Man' he'd think I was having a relapse back in to Body Dismorphic mirror dodging hell. Thankfully this is not the case.

However, it is how I see myself and have done as far back as I can remember. But these days I can just accept it and laugh it off.

I live in relative isolation. I have one genuine friend and soul mate who remains one of the only people I trust on this earth. But I still spend 95% of my time solo. Don't get the violins out. That's not the purpose of this blog. This is more about the long term effects a lifetime of depression can reap on you and how difficult it is to shed.

For five and a half of the past 10 years I lived alone and spoke to no one apart from when I was at work. I wonder how many people you know who know no one ? I ended up living like an elderly person who had lost everyone. It wasn't a choice. It was a fear. You fear people when you are depressed. You fear rejection, not of your physical self, but of your depressed self.

I'm trying to use this space as a confessional. It might be uncomfortable to read and I can promise you it is uncomfortable to write. I've not had a physical relationship in over a decade. I was never popular with the girls when I was a boy growing up - the teenage sweetheart passed me by. This continued into adulthood and would explain some of my disasters in the relationship department.

When I first met John, my therapist, 5 and a half years ago, I was, in his words, one of the most complex cases he had come across. You don't get 5 years therapy on the NHS for nothing. My diagnosis sheet was long. He couldn't box me. All the other therapy I had had in the previous 15 years was barking up the wrong tree. According to John I should never have had the ECT treatment.

John had to teach me how to do simple things like going out shopping - I couldn't function as an adult anymore - I avoided any social occasion for years. The idea of being in a room with a group of people was horrific.

Even now I have to build myself up sometimes to do what most folk would consider easy and everyday. I'm ashamed to write this stuff but it is important because I know that some who will read it will be able to relate and, I hope, not feel so fucking alone with it.

I can write this and face people I now know because for the main part I don't give a fuck what folk think of me and that's a massive sea change.

It has cost me jobs - relationships - fun - laughter - but it hasn't beaten me and these days I'm much stronger and want to be able to hammer the point home that if you know someone with a depressive illness then please don't shun them. You can't catch it. They won't do anything horrible to you.

They just belong in the family of badly drawn humans. Something doesn't click. Something was broken many years ago and it's not a quick fix.

We live in a very shallow country so image rules. Of course this is utter bollocks. Just one look on Facebook or Instagram and you'll see a very modern mental illness - narcissism!!

I don't have or want a social circle - I don't give a damn if someone finds me unattractive - boring - geeky - or a cunt even. I like being an outsider now - with John I've managed to turn this into an art form. He would much rather I had a massive social life and a band of friends but I always told him this was a battle with me he'd never win.

As I stated - I don't want violins - this is not a woe is me exercise. It's an account of a depressive. A mainly former depressive but a depressive all the same.

Isolation is not always a prison sentence. It can be a very welcome break from the vacuousness and vapidity of modern life.

Tim - London - 2015

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Badly Drawn Man

I took a telephone call on a ward of The Maudsley Hospital where I was an inpatient for chronic depression in the spring of 1999 to be told, by a stranger, that I would not see my son again until I proved I was not a risk to him. This stranger happened to be my ex wife's new husband.

Between Aug 1998 and Aug 1999 I was an inpatient at The Maudsley on 4 occasions. This culminated in my receiving what you will know as Electric Shock Treatment, or to give it its proper name, ECT. I was given 12 courses of this in Aug 1999 and this was the last time I spent time at The Maudsley.

Now I will be careful here not to use this blog to attack anyone or use it as some form of revenge. Ignorance toward depression is rife in the UK. It is normal and sadly accepted that people with depression will face and suffer discrimination.

This is because we live in a pig ignorant country where it is perfectly ok to binge drink, cause violence and puke in gutters every weekend and folk think you're hip and cool.

I will, however, use this blog to have my say and put the record straight.

During my 19 years in the "depressive community" I've met all sorts of folk. Maybe the most refreshing aspect of this awful illness is the fact it doesn't discriminate. You can be rich, poor, black, white and suffer depression.

But I've never met a violent depressive. The very nature of depression is that it makes you a very passive person. The energy is simply not present for you to rage against anyone - only yourself. Because you self harm doesn't mean you will harm others. A depressed person is not psychotic.

My depression didn't just arrive. It was a seed planted in me as a young boy. During my 5 years work with John, my (psychotherapist) from 2010 to present, we have investigated the root and cause. This has been achieved using Schema Threapy. I won't go into details. Look it up.

John was able to pinpoint exact events which, as a child, planted this seed in my thought processes and grew as I became an adult. I didn't decide to become depressed. I'm not part of some trend. It grew inside me via life events - things I saw - things that were said to me - an appalling attitude to my education from inept teachers - many many things helped plant this seed.

I've lost many of my quality years to depression. I'm much better these days but I can never take it for granted. I have to manage myself correctly. But I haven't had a bad episode for well over 2 years. Not even a mildly bad one.

I'm angry that this illness was used against me in terms of my being able to see my son. I was eventually given access at an access centre where I shared a room with ex convicts and wife beaters. I've never hurt a fly but as a depressive I was considered to be in the same bracket as the aforementioned scum.

The reason why I can't single out anyone for this attitude to me at the time is because it is an attitude which many still have toward all forms of mental illness. You must be a bad person.

The reality is I left my wife for another woman. This was in no way connected with my state of mind.   I didn't cover myself in glory 20 years ago but I didn't commit a crime. I was unhappy with my entire life and circumstances. But when I say unhappy I mean normal unhappy. Nothing to do with my depression.

I felt controlled and manipulated during my marriage but if I'm to be honest, much of this I allowed to happen. I went with it. I was far too young to have got married. I can link my then "needy" self to my depressive illness but that's about it. And John will tell me that the choices I made back then were driven by my depression even though it had not manifested itself quite yet. But I don't use this as an excuse. All I know is that the days I lived away from London, my married days, are the darkest days I can remember in my life. Darker than being in The Maudsley.

Most of that life is now a mist. I've never been able to hold a relationship down - not in that way. Not in a sexual loving way. I'm a car crash of contradictions when it comes to women. I've a friendship now that money can't buy. You know who you are. It's the most important relationship I've ever had. I'm useless at love in terms of in the bedroom. I'm useless at relationships with anyone.

My work with John has been largely about putting this right. To teach me how to be. How to relate to other humans. I still don't socialise with strangers much. I didn't develop correctly and this was because of the Schema's which dictated my life and grew into full blown chronic depression.

Spend a bit of time with me and these traits come out. I'm socially the most awkward cunt you'll ever meet though I'm a bit better these days.

I have my best friend. My Theatre. My cinema. My books. I like my life now. I like living. I like life.

I hope by writing these blogs that at least one person will read them and relate.

Tim (London, 2015)

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Melancholia and Art as Therapy

I've been inspired to write this blog after reading the piece by Mark Lawson concerning the power of heavy 'high end' Theatre used as a tool to help lift the darkest depression. It just so happens that I'm going to see the same play this week - 4 hours of Greek tragedy at The Almeida.

I can concur with this piece. During my deepest moments of Chronic Depression I found myself engaging with a particular type of Cinema. Films with a message and a soul. Most of them come under a term I hate - Art House - World Cinema - my particular passion is French New Wave.

I feel drawn to the images. Most folk go to the cinema to escape reality but I'm a big fan of realist cinema, books, theatre. After all, we're all looking for answers. I just find mine in unlikely places.

I took on a project in 2010 to read novels that I had previously been genuinely terrified of. These books were out of bounds to me at school. I challenged myself and felt a great sense of achievement at the end of that year.

I once feared a certain kind of play at the Theatre. It was an irrational fear which I can now laugh at. I feared I wouldn't understand the piece - but then I discovered that I could come to my own conclusions.

My Pinter Quotes account on Twitter has 28,000 followers. I enjoy Pinter. I enjoy the menace. The complexities. The fact that you leave the Theatre with more questions. It's s gym for the mind.

On the surface it doesn't make sense. It is assumed that a depressive, during a bad episode, can not concentrate. This is not always the case. In fact I've found my ability to engage with the heaviest, deepest art is far more likely when I'm in the pit of melancholia. It can be a book, a piece of Theatre, a film.

From my own personal experience I've found that my mind opens up during a depressive episode. It becomes more concentrated. The images that I'm presented with become clearer and I think it's because this kind of more intelligent art is really reflecting life - realism.

Comedy was the last thing I wanted when I was depressed. I craved the darker art.

There's much research already in to the benefits of performance art for the depressive mind and I'd like to see the NHS look into this more - ok so it would cost a lot to send patients to the Cinema or Theatre but what about the long term benefit and possible savings ?

The NHS has embraced Mindfulness as a genuine treatment for depression and the results have been staggering. I believe there's a connection between Mindfulness and what is awfully known as High End Theatre / Cinema.

Your mind is massaged by great work. You enter a world which doesn't reject you allows you in - it doesn't throw you out. It existed before you were born.

Part of me has always believed that melancholia is a twisted gift. I'll pursue this thought process

Tim - London 2015