#dontcallmecrazy, My name is Michael

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To be honest, I didn’t see it coming.

It crept up on me, sneaking in the shadows and hit me around the head with a big fucking bat.

You never really think much of or about depression unless - or in my case, until - it gets a little swing-happy with your psyche. It’s something that you hear about but a lot of people seem to have differing descriptions of the symptoms and what the experience is actually like. Let me tell you, if the toxic hands of depression have pressed down on your shoulders you will definitely know what I’m talking about, irrespective of how it manifests itself throughout your day-to-day. The following will be a recount of my personal experience, though please note that it is a monster of many faces and not everyone endures in an identical fashion.

The first time I flirted with the idea that this noxious affliction had nestled itself in my head was in my late teens. I confess that up to that point I had led quite the charmed life. I didn’t struggle in school, made good friends that have lasted years, and aside from my parents separating at a young age, had little in the way of what you would call trauma to speak of. So why would anyone – including myself – think I could be depressed?

In the beginning, I didn’t quite understand what was happening to me. I started sleeping less and distracting myself more. Rather than acknowledge the dark thoughts knocking at my door, I would stay awake until 5am every night with my laptop or a book as company to keep myself occupied. On reflection this decision to ignore my symptoms was an obvious one to take, but had I had access to more information, I like to believe things would have been different. Sadly this was not the case. I stopped attending school, would go days – sometimes weeks – without contacting any of my friends or girlfriends, and began to spiral into a cocktail of pseudo-insomnia, depression, and lethargy.

The central sensation that I can draw from depression is an odd one. Articulating it is difficult but the most appropriate way I can frame the feeling is a poison – a toxin that sweeps the body and mind, permeating everything enjoyable and amplifying anything negative. Sometimes it will grip me for a few hours, others I will be lost for weeks.

To leapfrog the timeline a little bit, I decided to seek medical assistance for my problem. It became apparent that I am a high-functioning depressive. I mentioned earlier in this testimony that depression manifests itself in a variety of forms. Some people are so crippled by this affliction that they can barely get themselves out of bed in the morning; it can be difficult to maintain steady employment, a clean living space, or even basic hygiene. For people with high-functioning depression (clinically known as dysthymia), the signs are a little harder to spot. Most sufferers can go about their day-to-day responsibilities without any obvious symptoms that would indicate they were struggling. I don’t say this lightly, but to me the prospect of not being alive is far more attractive than struggling under the cloud of perpetual melancholy. Had I not witnessed first-hand the devastation that swept through my family when we were confronted by the ugly face of suicide, it’s entirely possible that I wouldn’t be sat here typing today.

There is a distinct disregard for depression from the public at large. For most people, if there is no tangible evidence of an issue it can be disregarded as nonsense. This stigma needs to end. Spreading awareness of the mental health movement is not enough. Don’t suffer in silence. Throw it in their face with no shame for the scars you continue to bear.

The breakdown in my ability to communicate on some days has left my romantic relationships cracked and dysfunctional. My days swing in and out of focus that sometimes it’s difficult to recall why I bother breathing at all.  Existential crises, low mood, and fatigue are constant reminders of this curse, but not all is lost. There are many accessible outlets to break free; art and creativity allow me to rise above the water and carry on breathing. I found my solace in writing, and for anyone reading that can relate and are yet to find their peace, I promise that it is but a chance encounter away. Make yourself available to as much as you can; it’s your only ticket out of hell, even if it’s just for a time.

i have come to learn

i might only get one turn

a return is never guaranteed

i think i’ll stick around

not much use in leaving now

there’s so much more for me to see

There are good days and bad days. I’m in the throes of a bad one as I type this – and although it’s difficult to endure, the weight keeping my head down will lessen and I will soon smile up at the sun again. Light to you and yours.

#dontcallmecrazy. My name is Michael and I have #depression, but it does not have me.

- Michael Lewis, 2018