I meant for this to be short but I kept rambling sorry. Over a thousand words – ‘kin ell. Longstoryshort what helped me - seeking professional medical help, restricting drink/drugs, adequately preparing myself for when triggers happen and how to better control destructive behaviour, accept that I'm not as bad as I think I am, not be as hard on myself.
Back in 2014 I was working a job that I hated and was incredibly stressful. I did shift work of three days on, three days off. Pretty much from the moment I started the three days off till I rolled back into work I was drinking non stop, along with frequent drug taking. At the time I lived with my ex and it had become a really horrible relationship where after five/six years we just fucking hated eachother. My mental health was at rock bottom, intense depression and frequent self-harm. I couldn't sleep because of suicidal ideation and when my depression gets seriously bad I get very short and infrequent audio/visual hallucinations. Shit like (content warning) voices in my head telling me to kill myself, suddenly hearing screaming when almost falling to sleep, being sat at the pub and "seeing" my body hanging from the ceiling, having waking nightmares in the middle of the night that I genuinely thought were real e.g. my friends breaking bones infront of me, etc. I pushed most of my friends away and felt completely alone. Financially I was in a lot of debt too because I was spending money thinking I wouldn't be alive to pay it back in the future. That was a bit daft because I've only just managed to pay it all off now!
The catalyst for the next stuff is pretty shameful. I met someone else and we only kissed but I'd never done anything like that before (or since) and the guilt was unbearable. Spent a week not eating and only sleeping for max of one hour a night. So at the end of this week I snapped, packed a rucksack, and told my ex I was off. That was actually a massive relief, because after telling her all the reasons our relationship wasn’t working, she said that she agreed and it was for the best. We're friends now if quite distant. Still left me without a place to live but thankfully a couple of friends let me stay at theirs, so I lived on their sofa for six months and gradually built things back up. Living with friends helped a lot here, I'm lucky that was an option.
In terms of turning it around that was a really slow process that probably took me most of two years though the first six months is where the most change happened. Obviously the break up was rough at first even though we both wanted it over, but the relationship ending did cause me to feel loads more positive. I started a new job, where I temporarily took a significant pay cut just to be out of my previous one. Made lots of effort to reduce my drink and drugs intake, which was really difficult and initially made me worse but after the first couple months I felt so much better physically I couldn't believe it. It's so hard to go cold turkey with that stuff and I think it's actually a bit of an unreasonable aim in a lot of cases, but that doesn't mean it's right to still be going full tilt all the time. I also focused a lot more on the things I enjoy, making music, going to gigs, football, videogames, doing arty cultural bullshit, cinema, writing. I’d gradually stopped doing all of that stuff without realising it.
But the biggest thing I did to help myself was see a GP. I did this after a particularly bad hallucination, and I didn't really want to seek help because my previous experiences with mental healthcare had all been terrible. Thankfully, this GP listened to me and referred me onto mental health services. It was two-three months before I started getting CBT but that made a huge difference to me, I hadn't received any kind of therapy before even when I was 15 and the depression caused my first breakdown. I'm not going to say CBT is the answer, because it's not a cure. But having weekly CBT gave me structure to my life that I could work around. Even though some of the sessions weren't all that productive, it started giving me stuff to aim for. I was able to make plans and expect when something would trigger me, and if that triggering event did occur I was better able to deal with it.
It's easy to think when you're depressed that you are an awful person, and a really tough thing was me realising that I am not awful, and there's a lot of good I can do. I know that sounds cheesy, reducing it to good and bad, but it's a hard thing to articulate. It’s not like this was all on an upward curve either, I had setbacks but that’s okay. When those blips happen it’s important to accept that they happened and could happen again, but what can be learned from them to help avoid them in the future? Above all else it was vital for me to not beat myself up about it, because that thinking makes the setback a full blown reversal to before.
Ultimately, I think to get out of these situations you’ve got to look at what you can change. I’d spent years and years being in denial about the severity of my depression and being ashamed of it, thinking that my tactics for dealing with it worked fine. They obviously didn’t. Change is something that needs to happen in these circumstances, even if that change is seemingly really minor e.g. walking to work instead of getting the bus. When depression is all consuming you’ve got to break out of your routines, because those routines get warped into such a way that they feed into the depression, that work for it without you even realising that’s happening.
Don’t know how to end this without just saying – mental illness is a dickhead and there’s no easy treatment, and no treatment that works for everyone. You’ve just got to keep muddling on and doing what you can to help yourself, with what support you can get. Also don’t turn down a hug.