Depression- Fifteen Minutes and The Crumple Zone by benpobjie

One of my favorite writers today posted this heartfelt and brutal post. I also wrote a piece called ‘Fifteen Minutes’ several years ago about how I experienced depression.

——————————————————————

15 MINUTES

The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one minute to the next Mignon McLaughlin
—————————————————-
“Jules – it’s Annie” My friend Jenny sounded distraught. I’ve heard her sound
distressed, dispossessed, ecstatic, almost every other emotion imaginable. But
distraught, no.
“What’s happened?” Her beloved older sister had died. Unexpectedly. Sadly.
Alone. Suicide, the loneliest word in our vocabulary. Is it selfish, sad, a release, generous? What drives someone to take their own life? It varies. Always a release from pain: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, financial… Like a virus- ‘emotional SARS/Ebola’ perhaps. It strikes relentlessly with no thought for those left behind.

Kids are not immune.

Suicide is a seductive lover. He is taking more and more young people. He’s too strong for them. He woos you into believing that you are doing the best for
everyone, that no-one will miss you, that you’re better off in his arms than anyone else’s. He can surprise you. He is a master of wrong footing those who know you. He leads you to believe that he is the least selfish option and the best for everyone. He carries pheromones so powerful they are almost impossible to resist. He penetrates every aspect of your being. He leads you to places you would never normally consider in your wildest dreams. A human black widower spider. Doctor Death.

He offers an easy escape from terrible thoughts, awful situations, or just
frightening perceptions.
He offers moments of blinding clarity through the impenetrable black fog.
He turns the treacle of life into clear air that you believe you can finally move
through.
He quiets the black dogs of real depression.
He is gently quiet, not ‘look at me’ noisy.
He teases you with peace.
He offers you choices. Often at a time when you feel you have none.
He is persistent.
He won’t go away easily.

Talking to him is not enough. Asking others to talk to him might work, but he
often refuses to listen. Feeding him on antidepressants sometimes just makes
him sleepy for a while. Dormant. Hibernation. Then he unexpectedly wakes and comes out fighting when you least expect it.

Fifteen minutes is all he needs. Resisting him is possible temporarily, but during that fifteen minutes he becomes totally enticing, absolutely irresistible. A siren calling you relentlessly. The strength to call for help, No. The strength to keep fighting, no. The strength not to capitulate. No. The strength to say I need to stay alive for my kids, my partner, my family…whoever. No.

He will have coached you in how to prepare. Which method is the most effective to use. How best to arrange yourself. Which location is most appropriate. I used to mentally rehearse options: guns- too messy, hanging- too shocking, pills probably easiest.

During that 15 minutes nothing combats his power. I was lucky enough to have friends I could call who would love me or bully me through that 15 minutes. Just. Many others don’t.

Once I called Lifeline. Thank goodness for the young counsellor who made me laugh so much that night as I coached her with the questions she should have been asking me, for fifteen mins. Fifteen minutes of fame never even crosses your mind.

If you’ve never met him, you’re fortunate. Be grateful. If you have, and have
resisted his charms. All power to you. You’ll never be the same again.
Don’t criticise those who have and didn’t make it.
He was too strong for them.

note- http://tinyurl.com/63kneu6

——————————————————————

The Crumple Zone

 

And I used to be strong
And I used to be a man
But now I fold at your feet
Like a burning letter
 

I’m sitting in my car, late at night, watching the blood well from the lines I’ve just sliced into my arm, and I’m wondering just why I did it. In hindsight I’ll manufacture some kind of explanation, but in the moment all I can think of is, I’ve got to find a reason for someone to care.

And in the moment, I am out of my mind.

Shaking from head to toe, I grab my phone and I call my wife and ask her to remind me why I’m worth keeping around. She talks me down, but I keep shaking all the way home.

And there you have just one of the recent skirmishes fought between my brain and itself.

To say depression has only just wrapped me in its loving embrace would be wrong. I’ve been falling into that pit off and on for most of the last 20 years. But it was this year that everything came to a head. It was this year that, as I spun my wheels frantically trying to deal with the release of two books, the writing of two regular columns, my first-ever comedy festival show, a full-time night job and the accompanying sleep deprivation, and providing for a wife and three children, I finally cracked open, and lost my ability to keep it together. Thankfully, this also meant I stopped pretending everything was OK. The meltdown came suddenly, frighteningly and with devastating force, but it was the meltdown I had to have.

It’s been a terrifying, strange, surreal, ridiculous time, suddenly finding myself buffeted by waves of panic, sweating and gasping for air and sobbing for no good reason, stricken suddenly by the all-pervading terror that everyone I love has finally become fed up with me and left, as undoubtedly they will, and as undoubtedly I deserve. Suddenly finding myself shrunken and diminished, huddling in a ball against the pain of the world. Suddenly finding myself clenching my teeth and wondering how long I have been. Suddenly finding myself completely unable to cope.

Always the fear, the fear. That an unanswered text message means a friend has cut all ties. That when I’m not around, people talk about me, saying what they REALY think. That I’m pathetic, weak, worthless, and the voice that won’t stop whispering to me “Fat Loser, why don’t you give up? Nobody could love a THING like you” is right. The creeping feeling that even though I know depression is just an illness for everyone else, maybe I’m that one person for whom it’s justified. For whom it’s no more than what I deserve.

And the guilt. Knowing what a burden this crisis is placing on the people I love. Knowing how much I must be hurting them. Knowing how hard it is for my family, and cursing myself for my selfishness. The agony of knowing you could ruin lives by leaving, and feeling that you’re ruining them even more by staying.

And the mad, hysterical absurdity. The hindsight hilarity of dissolving into tears in the doctor’s office, and then explaining through the choking sobs that I’m a comedian. The ludicrousness of my trying to be a rock for my friends and dispense wise advice when I have no idea how to save myself from the treachery of my own psyche. The sick joke of sitting in a room full of friends, all talking and laughing raucously, and feeling lonelier than I have in my life.

And through it I kept writing, and I kept joking, and I stepped up on stage ten times to perform that festival show, cracking jokes about my own death of all things! And I opened up to the world about my problems and let people know, and somehow I struggled through. And I kept breaking down, and gasping for air, and crying, and putting my family through hell, and scaring everyone around me, and reaching out desperately to find someone, anyone, to constantly reassure me that I’m loved, and that the world is, even slightly, a better place for my existence.

I have enough friends who’ve gone through, and are going through, similar things to know I’m not unique, and I’m not special. I have been struck by an illness, not a romantic genius’s curse. And I still don’t quite know how to handle it. I don’t even know if this blog post is a good idea. I rarely write so personally about myself, and it’s possible that what I’ve written is an awful bunch of old rubbish.

But hopefully it’ll go a little way to helping me remember in the dark moments that I’m not alone, and that this too shall pass. The traitor in my head will continue to make his sorties, attacking furiously in an attempt to crush me. Maybe he will succeed, and maybe he won’t. I have resolved to fight him. I will keep struggling on, trying to retain my rational mind and keep somewhere at all times that as bad as things get, it won’t last forever, that things will be all right, and that most importantly, I’m not alone.

And hopefully, writing this might help others know that they’re not alone. I’m so grateful for everyone who has read my work, who’s come to see me on stage, who follows me on Twitter etc etc. I owe you all a debt of gratitude, and I know that problems and demons beset many of you too. You’re not alone. Darkness can strike us all at any time, but I know there are people who love me – no matter how much it feels, so often, that there are none – and I have to work on remembering that. And I’ve learned that when you’re sick, you need help. You need to seek out those who are trained to help you survive. I’m popping pills like nobody’s business, and that is weird and alien to me. But it’s what has to be done, and it’s no big deal.

Or…perhaps that’s all a colossal wank, and I’m kidding myself and this won’t really help anyone. A definite possibility. But hopefully my attempt to sort out all the thoughts that have invaded me as a result of this breakdown, to get down in blog form the persistent buzzing in my head, will have a positive effect on someone, somewhere. Hopefully that’ll include myself!

Because I know now the desperate flailing, the horrific suffocation that comes when those black waves come crashing over and you find yourself just about incapable of keeping your head up in the face of the merciless tides. But we’re all capable. We may have to lean on others from time to time, but we don’t have to fall. Tomorrow I may feel them crashing again, and become convinced that none of this is true, but now I have to affirm that it IS.

The scars on my arm are healing. I know I want to live, and even though I don’t exactly know how to go about it, I think I will.

Thank you all. You’re lovely.

I promise I’ll start joking again soon.

I weep on your feet and reach for your hand
And beg for some sign of your love
And I used to be a man
And I used to be strong

Posted by Ben Pobjie at 4:34 PM

 

Comments re Ben’s post

88 comments:

 

Kylie L said…

There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in 

Brave post. There are many, many others going through what you describe, and you have shown them and all of us that it’s OK to talk about it. I wish you peace. xxx

May 10, 2011 5:29 PM
 

Kristin Moore said…

Oh Ben, I’m so glad you wrote that and I’m so lucky not to suffer – although people close to me do. I know some view twitter as silly, but without being mawkish I really do feel a sense of community there at times and you are very much part of my twitter community. Always there for a chat with you, anytime! 

May 10, 2011 5:36 PM
 

John said…

Hey Ben – great post. 

With a spouse who is dealing with depression your post helps me understand more about what she is dealing with than my previous reading of the medical publications etc ever has. Keep up the good work and just remember the world will be poorer without you.

May 10, 2011 5:37 PM
 

Kitty said…

This is possibly the greatest thing you’ve ever written. 

Apart from the time you said Julie Bishop was a cockroach.

You should be very proud of yourself for being so open.

May 10, 2011 5:39 PM
 

Miranda said…

You unfurl it so much more clearly than I ever could but, oh my god, you have explained a lot of what happens to me. I have recently been thinking of getting a tattoo of an ampersand to physically remind me that today is not all there is… if I can just get through today, there will be a better day… there will be an ”&” something better tomorrow. That simultaneous choking & loneliness – how to explain that to those that don’t experience it; the urge to leave it all coupled with the desire to have others want you to stay. Well done, Ben – you are brave & strong, even if you never feel it. *applause*
Miranda 

May 10, 2011 5:42 PM
 

Margaret said…

That’s wonderful, Ben. Thank you. 

Mxx

May 10, 2011 5:46 PM
 

OzAz said…

I’m glad you did write this, even it it did make me cry. 

I’ve enjoyed your satirical writings since I stumbled upon them. I can guess it would have been difficult to write this, but I’m glad you did.

Depression is an awful illness, it’s heartening to see people talking about it, and perhaps demystifying the condition.

May 10, 2011 5:50 PM
 

Carol said…

What a wonderful thing to write, Ben. 

I think most of us have had to deal with depression or anxiety at some point in our lives, some more so than others – but some of your words here are mine, too.

You question the value of telling this personal story.

I often do interviews with people talking about things that are extremely personal, painful, perhaps shameful things for them to reveal to the world.

Like the young mother whose husband killed their three children and then himself.

Or adult survivors of child abuse.

And every single time, I reassure them that one of the most valuable contributions they can make is to tell their story, to share it with others who may be walking in their shoes, and to remind the rest of us how very lucky we are.

May 10, 2011 5:56 PM
 

Kartar said…

Kudos. Well written and damn brave. Good luck and take it one day at a time. 

May 10, 2011 5:57 PM
 

Captain Angry Ranty Pants said…

As always, an excellent post Sir. 

A subject that we all need to talk about so we can lose this mystique that depression is something that happens rarely.

May 10, 2011 5:57 PM
 

Sandra said…

The more people who write as bravely and as honestly as you when they are in the grip of this accursed illness, the better Ben. 

I have battled it for twenty years as well, and for now am in remission, but it never packs it’s bags and leaves entirely. Trying to explain the contents of my head when in the full-blown grip of it’s maw is impossible without scarying somebody close to me. My marriage didn’t survive it.

More power to you Ben and to your family. Keep going, one step at a time. Thank you for showing people lucky enough not to be so ill how insidious it is and how seductively it operates inside our heads.

And know too that you will get better. It won’t always be like this. With healing comes the learning and then, blissfully, release, and thank God for that.

May 10, 2011 6:01 PM
 

crazyjane13 said…

It’s a scary thing when you start reading and realise that what’s on the page is the same shit that bounces around in your own head. 

And yeah, it does help to know that other people out there are fighting that battle.

Incredibly raw, brave post … I wish you all the strength you’ll ever need.

May 10, 2011 6:06 PM
 

Tracey said…

your opening paragraph has just, for the first time ever, given me a glimpse into what was going through the mind of someone close to me, who sat in his car, slit his wrists, then called for help … for that alone, thank you. you are SO not by yourself, but that beast doesn’t let you see things that way when you are in its jaws. xt 

May 10, 2011 6:09 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Good on you.
For some reason something that is becoming increasingly common is still really taboo to discuss…I’ve found from my own experiences how much you can help others by being honest about depression, because it gives others the courage to be honest too, and a feeling of solidarity in the midst of something wholly isolating. Thank you. 

May 10, 2011 6:24 PM
 

David Horton said…

Oh Ben! Perhaps the most unexpected thing I have read. 

I know that your humour and achievement and sanity and good values don’t stop you falling into depression, but when you come out of it they will still be there, waiting for you.

You are seeking professional help, right? Seriously seeking?

May 10, 2011 6:24 PM
 

Jas said…

It’s like you’ve been in my head. 

I’ve battled depression on and off for over 20 years and when it hits, all rational thought tends to flee. Thank you for sharing your story, I never know how to put what I am feeling into words.

I thank god for twitter nowadays, as when I’m in my bad place I have a way to connect to the wider world without having to leave my cave or actually SPEAK to anyone, which gets beyond me. and being able to connect with people who understand, or who, even though not necessarily friends, actually care, makes the world not quite as lonely as it has been in the past.

It’s important to be assured that we are not alone…

May 10, 2011 6:28 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Awesome post Ben, and thank you, it made a difference to me! 

May 10, 2011 6:28 PM
 

Kerri Sackville said…

Brilliant post. You will have helped someone. I suspect you will have helped many people.
There’s an amazing quote – I can’t recall the exact words but along the lines of ‘no pain of the body can equal the pain of an agonized mind’. It has nothing to do with how many people respect you, or need you, or adore you. It’s an an agonizing pain of the mind.
I’m sending you all my most positive wishes, and much love.
xxx 

May 10, 2011 6:35 PM
 

jenjen said…

thanks for writing this ben. i just sent it to a friend who has been struggling with this same shit. you are totally helping! 

May 10, 2011 6:37 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Respect. Thank you. 

May 10, 2011 6:39 PM
 

9fragments – CJStrahan said…

I’m a step closer to understanding my dear friend who suffers this, along with other *stuff* – so thanks. 

May 10, 2011 6:41 PM
 

ladylizar2 said…

I am so sad you are going through this but so glad you you’ve written about it here. I have struggled with depression for many years. What you wrote describes it perfectly. You are not fooling yourself, this is not a wank. That inner traitor is a very cynical power monger intent on your destruction. Remind yourself of your own kindness. You are never alone especially when it feels that way. Keep talking about it, never give up. 

May 10, 2011 6:42 PM
 

reality raver said…

Thank you for your raw and honest writing and I think a lot of people will have taken something from that post. Be it from what they have been through, or are going through or will go through. 

Take care.

May 10, 2011 6:45 PM
 

Davina said…

bravely done and well done. Sometimes our conviction that we are worthy to live and be loved is a like deflating bouncy castle at twilight. Hard to see the colours, hard to jump.
So, I hope our admiring and grateful post-blog comments today help with the ongoing work of inflating your sense of self. I’m such a fan, and now you’ve written so well on such a personal topic, I’m even more of one! 

May 10, 2011 6:45 PM
 

squib said…

I had a terrible bout of this earlier in the year and would you believe I was going to ask my GP for some Zoloft but I was afraid I might start bawling in front of him so I asked for an iron test instead. It was that whole epistemic loneliness thing and life (‘Grim, isn’t it, what’)and pretty much all the things you describe 

What you do is very difficult, putting yourself out there and copping all that flak. I could never do that. You are very brave and very brilliant xx

May 10, 2011 6:47 PM
 

Geoff said…

Yes, that’s the difficulty, Ben – that it’s not subject to rationality, so there’s no way to rationalise it. And, I’ve found, there’s no way to explain it to people who don’t suffer it. Deep down most of them can’t grasp that it isn’t something you can just decide to stop. And it’s not, though it is something that you can manage to some degree. When it’s at its deepest point though, it’s like getting dumped by a huge wave – you just tuck up, and hold your breath, and do your best to keep in mind that you’ll float to the surface eventually. 

Once it recedes a little, like now, it’s a matter of setting up the best possible structure to help avoid it coming back, or to soften its impact. Something like this post is an important part of that. Getting the personal out there is very confronting, especially for someone who spends their time taking the piss out of others. It’s anathema to that role to admit any frailties. But it’s best for you, and it feels better to have done it. Now you’re on record, and now the problem publicly exists, it’s not a figment. I’ve been glad to do the same sort of thing through my own writing the last couple of years.

Carry on, my man. You’re doing God’s work. (Which god remains tbc.)

Lemon.

May 10, 2011 6:48 PM
 

Natalie said…

Thank you for writing about this, because your writing is so great and touches so many people. 

I was hospitalised for suicidal ideation and crippling anxiety the other month and I was worried about what to tell my blog readers, people on twitter and generally, the internet. I just decided to be frank. I’m sick of the shame and stigma!

As more and more sufferers come out I really hope the shame lessens but I don’t know if it will. I just wish all the best for you (and for me, selfishly!)

May 10, 2011 6:51 PM
 

Yvette Vignando said…

Hey Ben, the best thing you had written to date – that I have read – (in my very humble opinion) was the piece about how not to rape a woman. It’s when I first formed a steadfast opinion of you (without of course knowing the first thing about you). You, and your writing and your compassion and your humour are just fabulous. But now my opinion has changed a little – this is now the best thing you have written (again in my humble opinion). 

Telling people you know how you feel and how hard it can be to struggle against depression will be one of the best decisions you have made. And by generously sharing this via Headspace you’ll never know how much, but I am sure you are helping others – to tell their loved ones, and to get help.

Great piece – love reading your writing – and also enjoy your ludicrous and funny tweets. Looking forward to many more and sending you some virtual hugs and strength. Every day that you are here to be loved by your kids is the best day on earth. xx

May 10, 2011 6:51 PM
 

Yvette Vignando said…

PS For some reason I forgot I was on your blog and thought I was on the Headspace blog, hence the cryptic Headspace comment :-). Peace xx 

May 10, 2011 6:57 PM
 

Anonymous said…

You are amazing and people DO love you. That’s clear just from reading the comments to your post. Your impact on people close to you must be massive. 

May 10, 2011 6:59 PM
 

Peter said…

I’m sorry you have to go through it, Ben. Finding the strength to hang in there can be tough, so I’m glad you were able to do it. 

May 10, 2011 7:02 PM
 

Mia Freedman said…

What a stunning, brave, generous post. A gift to share it with the world. Thank you. 

May 10, 2011 7:13 PM
 

Rachel Handley said…

Amazing post. Having struggled with depression myself I can relate entirely. This post deserves a much longer comment on it than the one I’m leaving; but I just can’t find the words to do it justice. 

May 10, 2011 7:16 PM
 

Anonymous said…

This was like reading my inner most thoughts.
Rest assured, you have helped atleast one person – me! 

May 10, 2011 7:16 PM
 

Tim Miller said…

Well put. May you at the very least have the strength to make it through the darkness of the night to see the sun rise every morning. 

May 10, 2011 7:18 PM
 

Ashlee said…

I’ve had depression and anxiety creep into my life as well at various periods and it is so difficult. Sometimes, you know you are being irrational in your own head, but you are fighting against something that is even bigger than your own rationality and it is terrifying and exhausting. 

I think the more we speak about this, the more people may realize that they are not the only ones when they are going through things like this and the more they may recognize the signs that they are suffering from a mental health issue rather than “failing” or falling without reason. This post is really powerful, so thank you for writing it.

May 10, 2011 7:19 PM
 

Anonymous said…

I love you for this. 

May 10, 2011 7:19 PM
 

KW said…

Thank you for so much for writing this. As someone who suffers from acute panic and anxiety disorder with a good dose of depression on the side (nice cocktail of ingredients), it is incredibly comforting to read and relate to your experience. The debilitating paranoia, constant internal chatter, breathlessness, dissociation does often have you hurtling at break neck speed towards the edge. Sharing these experiences does make me and hopefully others feel more ‘normal’ which helps externalise it a bit. 

One foot in front of the other…

May 10, 2011 7:21 PM
 

Helen said…

What a gutsy and honest letter…absolutely amazing.. I really hope you find what you are looking for because I belive today …you have just helped so many people…well done and good luck!!!! 

May 10, 2011 7:24 PM
 

Kelly said…

Thank you for writing this!! I know putting my thoughts on paper is very cathartic and it’s so lovely you have chosen not to just put your thoughts on paper … but also to share them. Because it’s not a massive wank 🙂 

May 10, 2011 7:25 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Ben, you just a lit a candle in the dark for all of us. Thank you. 

If anyone is feeling like this right now you can do three things as first aid:
1. make an appointment for a mental health assessment with your GP (book it in that way so they will allocate enough time) and talk to them about treatment;
2. give yourself a regular sleep pattern – ie decide what time you’re going to go to sleep and when you’re going to wake up and prioritise it;
3. go to the gym or go for a walk or ride on your bike or a swim – just get your body moving.

Personally I don’t try to fight depression because I don’t feel like I can overpower it. I try to step back from it and work out what my own misfiring brain is saying to me, and why. Counselling helps. But I think the only “cure” is to love and care for yourself the way you want others to love and care for you.

May 10, 2011 7:26 PM
 

Jane Shaw said…

Thank you Ben. I have always been in awe of your writing talent, today I am even more awed by your courage and your ability to articulate the guilt, shame and pain of depression. It’s such an impossible thing to put into words, you’ve done it so well. I will come back and read this again next time it happens to me. It will remind me that I am not alone and that will help. 

I wish there was something we could all do to help you, but I know it’s not that easy. Just remember that all the messages of love and support here and on twitter are heartfelt and we are always here for you.

All the best. Jane

May 10, 2011 7:27 PM
 

Ben said…

Mate. It’s all been said here really but just wanted to add my voice. You’ve been one of the most important literary discoveries for me this past 18 months. In such a bleak political haze, you make it so much enjoyable and entertaining. Take care and keep looking forward to tomorrow. 

May 10, 2011 7:28 PM
 

Murph said…

Thanks Ben. 

May 10, 2011 7:35 PM
 

FARfetched said…

Or…perhaps that’s all a colossal wank, and I’m kidding myself and this won’t really help anyone. 

I want you to know it helped me, and I’m not clinically depressed. I’m just dealing with a lot of pressure that needs to be released somehow, but it’s something I can handle. Here’s hoping you can find a treatment that helps without messing up other things.

Verification word: fluouvin — is that some kind of drug?

May 10, 2011 7:37 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Please, get help immediately. Professional, medical help. 

As someone who lived most of their life thinking I could just somehow, magically defeat depression with my mind, here’s a stone cold fact: you can’t. No one can. You cannot correct chemical imbalances in your brain with meditation, or writing, or art; you need drugs.

And you need therapy. These things together will let you live a normal and happy and fulfilling life. This is a fact, I am telling you from experience. You have taken a massive step in making this all public — a much bigger leap than the one required to make an appointment with your GP and get the right help.

You have children and a wife, a family you love a great deal and who love and need and care for you. You owe it to them to do everything in your power to get well. Again, I speak from experience. The experience of losing a parent at a young age to untreated mental illness. There are hardly words to describe the impact of this event on my life, from which I am still reeling many years later.

You have already done the hardest part: living with your illness for most of you life. The next part, getting well, is the easy part. You will look back at this time and not believe that it was real — the time when you were sick will appear to you as a dream.

You can do it, you have to.

x

May 10, 2011 7:39 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Nice article. Hope you get better soon. Your words are beautiful. 

I sometimes treat depression as an old friend or the fuel of creativity and it does not seem so bad. Hey at least depression is always there 🙂

When things get out of perspective I recommend;

The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder

In love.

May 10, 2011 7:41 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Oh man, an awesome post but I understand completely your questioning its posting. 

I read your words and think “uhuh, yep and you totally nailed the feeling”

I remember too sitting in the office of my doctor several years ago. Trying to get him to understand that something wasn’t right. That I had an overwhelming urge to throw it all away. That I had emotional responses to things that didn’t warrant them and most importantly, that I had no reason to have these feelings.

A good job, a good partner and a happy home. What right do I have to feel so bad at times.

So I got medicated. And I talked to my partner about it. He now knows what I mean when I turn to him out of the blue and say “I’m not having a good day.”

There are good days and they are many, but then there are the inexplicable days when I cry for nothing. When I see sadness where there is none and where I feel lonely and lost amongst the goings on of my life.

I haven’t talked about it with many others. I fear it ‘contaminating’ the relationships I have made. I applaud your sharing your story. And assure you many feel the same, but know that in the bad times that won’t make a jot of difference to how you feel.

Keep the laughter going. Sounds like your family is well prepared and loves you enough to understand this isn’t something you can control and it’s not all there is about you.

Thanks again.

May 10, 2011 7:46 PM
 

Michelle said…

*massive internet hugs* 

I’ve been there repeatedly and expect to be there again in the future.

I don’t think anyone who deals with depression can say they feel exactly how another does when they’re dealing with it, but I do think we have similar experiences. I recognised much of myself in what you wrote, and I’m sure others do too, so thank you so much for sharing. You know you’re not alone and so do we.

*hugs again*

May 10, 2011 7:46 PM
 

Anonymous said…

This is very moving to read in this detail. I sincerely hope sharing it helps you to deal with your illness.
I confess that it was probably just around this time that I stopped following you on Twitter. I had previously offered what support fits in 140 characters, and watched the many other supportive messages, and watched how they seemed to have no good effect. I couldn’t bear to watch anymore.
I knew you were seeking help from people much closer and more able to help. I hoped that they and you could help you, but I couldn’t bear to watch.
I don’t know you, but I know many like you, and I care about you and them. If it means anything, you can probably believe that when you can’t hear what people are saying about you it is more likely to be good than bad. You have a brilliant talent that is needed. 

May 10, 2011 7:47 PM
 

Stevie Easton said…

Hi Ben, 

Great post.

Good on you for fighting back, I’ve felt like that too and I think it helps to remember that it is OK to be a bit of a weirdo – especially if you’re a writer/comedian/poet etc..
Stevie

May 10, 2011 7:49 PM
 

Anonymous said…

As a fellow sufferer who is unable to articulate in words or speech, I thank you. This may make it easier for my husband & friends to understand. 

May 10, 2011 7:54 PM
 

CathieT said…

Thank you for sharing and good luck with your battle with the black dog. 

I wish you and your family peace and strength – and if ever I’m there on Twitter and you need someone to talk to … you know I’ll “Discuss”.

Take care of you …. xxx

May 10, 2011 7:54 PM
 

Annieb25 said…

Brave post from a difficult place. You have helped so many people feel less alone by sharing this. I also know from personal experience that doing this will also help you immensely. Bravo & much admiration. xx 

May 10, 2011 7:55 PM
 

Fiona said…

Can’t breathe reading this, it’s too close to home, but that you for putting it out there, while it’s too close to home, it’s nice in some ways to read about someone else going through it, even though I wouldn’t wish this on any one. 

Not alone.

x

May 10, 2011 8:01 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Wow. That was the most beautiful/heartbreaking thing I have read for a long time. 

Kudos and thank you for sharing. I hope the road ahead is brighter.

May 10, 2011 8:02 PM
 

Anonymous said…

thank u 4 writing this. i missed appts with my doc and psych this wk and after reading what u wrote i rang my psych 2 make an appt. she said if i keep missing appts she cant help me. 

when the record is so past being broken its well and truly shattered, its time to leave

May 10, 2011 8:06 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Thanks Ben. It’s strangely reassuring to know that others battle the same demons as I do.
Respect. 

May 10, 2011 8:09 PM
 

Cameron Mann said…

Thanks Ben. Well put. Clearly the universe is better with this and you in it. 

You wrote: “I’ve been falling into that pit off and on for most of the last 20 years.”

I was offered the metaphor of life’s ups and downs being hills and valleys that we traverse, and depression being a deep well at the bottom of one of those valleys.

I find this image gives the unexperienced a helpful understanding of [my] depression.

Most people recognise how easy it is to get down, and how much work is required to get up. But despite being a type of ‘down’ the pit of depression has a completely different nature.

The pit promotes some understanding futility of trying to pull oneself up, the lack of vision, the isolation and being stuck with yourself.

Your post promotes this understanding too.

May 10, 2011 8:10 PM
 

kateforster said…

*Sleep to heal.
*Exercise to get your heart rate up and release the stress hormones.
*Ask for help.
*Tell people you are not well, as you would if you had a broken leg.
*Remember this too will pass.
*Have baths.
*Watch funny movies.
*Expect nothing but welcome the small moments of respite.
*Pat a dog.
*Hug your children.
*Hug your wife.
*Remember you don’t really want to die, you just want to stop feeling like you do. Hang onto this thought.
xoxox 

May 10, 2011 8:16 PM
 

Lucinda Strahan said…

Good books to read when things fall apart: 

Darkness Visible by William Stryon
Unholy Ghost: writers on depression edited by Nell Casey

best wishes

May 10, 2011 8:18 PM
 

Anonymous said…

I find it so important to hear about other peoples experience with this. 

It was brave of you to open yourself up like this and definitely helpful.

May 10, 2011 8:22 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Brave. Respect! 

(BTW, none of us are “special” but we are all unique.)

May 10, 2011 8:25 PM
 

J. said…

As someone who has struggled with mental illness for all of my adult life (and before) – thank you. It does make a difference. Sometimes it’s so hard to remember that we are not alone and as strange as it is to have my own thoughts and feelings written out by a complete stranger, knowing there is at least one person out there who feels it too is comforting. Good luck. 

May 10, 2011 8:25 PM
 

Kirsty said…

beautiful. 

May 10, 2011 8:27 PM
 

Jedi Blake’s Mum said…

Written with such courage. Love you Ben. Always in your corner.xxx 

May 10, 2011 8:27 PM
 

Steve said…

Telling it like it is. Thanks and take care. 

May 10, 2011 8:28 PM
 

Svasti said…

You can thank your friend First Dog on the Moon for drawing my attention to this post (I’m @yogachicky). 

I’m one of those in the “you’re not alone” crowd. Five-odd years ago I was physicially assaulted, which caused me to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, panic and anxiety attacks. Freakin’ lovely stuff!

Oh man, do I understand where you’re at. I’ve been there more times than I care to count.

Writing about this is important. Not just for sharing with other people, although that is paramount. But I’ve found writing and blogging to be a really safe way to work it all out.

This journey you’re on is so, so hard. I think facing up to something like depression is like fighting a war: people with mental health issues who are up to the challenge, are warriors. And war is never easy.

Let me just say this in case no one has told you as much – at the same time that you’re taking care of your mind and emotions, find a good GP/naturopath etc (whatever works for you), and make sure that you’re taking care of your physical health as well.

While it might be the last thing you give a shit about right now, while you might hate your body as a part of the loathing and pain that goes with depression… do it.

Because no one told me this, I’m now dealing with hypothyroidism. Which is a whole new world of scary, just when I was beginning to think I’d slain most of my dragons and demons.

Also, my GP put me onto this awesome amino acid called “L-Tyrosine” which is promoted as “neuro-transimitter support”. This little miracle supplement has put to rest the very persistent anxiety I was carting around like dogshit on my shoe.

Basically, be supported in every which way. If you can’t do it for yourself, let others help. Especially decent health care professionals who know about cutting edge and/or alternative health care options.

Finally, it is possible to get depression under control. It’s not easy, but way possible. I’m living proof of that.

Hang in there, fellow warrior. You’re doing a fine job on a perilous journey…

May 10, 2011 8:37 PM
 

Anonymous said…

I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. My wife is dealing with depression and really struggling at times. I thank you for shedding some light on how she might feel and I want you to know that I appreciate you pouring your heart out to the world. 

Keep your head up mate.

clarky

May 10, 2011 8:38 PM
 

Karalee said…

Ben, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your bravery and honesty. 

As a carer of a young man who struggles with mental illness, and who as the years have gone on, has realised that it has taken its toll personally, I want to climb a mountain and shout out to the world that your beautiful post, and you Ben, are not alone.

Your opening and closing prose reminds me of what I tell him every day; “I close my eyes and the world drops dead. I open my eyes and world is born again.” Just in case I forgot it, I had it inked on my arm.

Thank you, Ben x

May 10, 2011 8:51 PM
 

Eliza Twaddell said…

I have been following your struggles on Twitter and it’s amazing to read such a personal account of what’s going on in your head. Good luck with overcoming it, I have great faith (in the strictly non-religious sense of the word) that you can. In an effort to convince you that your life has great value can I just say that I think you are just an amazing writer, and one of the only people who I can recall ever making me actually laugh out loud. I have had to stop reading your articles at work because I get so many strange looks! Take care of yourself. xx 

May 10, 2011 8:55 PM
 

Buttons said…

I have the same things go through my brain almost word for word. I always knew people suffered from these things but I didn’t know that they did it in the same way as I. I always knew I wasn’t alone but maybe not quite so much as I do now. 

This has been well timed also, as things are a bit tricky for me right now. I hope they get better for you as they get better for me

thanks a bunch!

May 10, 2011 8:59 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Ben – also found this thanks to Crikey/First Dog. 

It’s so unfair, that in the depths of the abyss, even though you know there are people who care about you, people who can help you, people who got through it ok, and people right now going through exactly what you are going through – that you feel so absolutely f**king alone.

But for all the pain and dispair you feel right now, there is a corresponding love and positivity that is still there – hidden from your eyes by the blackness but still visible to others. Trust them, and have faith in yourself.

We are connected by our humanity – we are listening, and we care about you.

May 10, 2011 9:02 PM
 

Charm said…

Thank you Ben. Thank you for being so honest. For being the mirror to my horror. For staying alive. 

Every time I read of someone I know (either personally or through friends) going through this realisation of depression and mental illness it reminds me to keep check on my own situation.

The way that it took me three goes to read about your crumple zone strikes me a a warning that I need to pay attention and step in before i get to that point again too.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

May 10, 2011 9:21 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Thank you so much for this Ben. It *is* an illness, it’s awful but it’s treatable and it’s not your fault. Your post has helped me enormously, giving me perspective on my own past experience of depression and that of a loved friend who is going through it badly right now. Thank you. Thank you. 

May 10, 2011 9:30 PM
 

Leesa Watego said…

Thank you. 

May 10, 2011 9:52 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Ben, 

A few notes from a reader-stranger who shares your experiences with depression and for about as long:

– I’m always joyous when I see your name on the New Matilda story list
– I laugh out loud for real and re-read your posts, wishing I could write like you
– I forward your articles to a friend-foe of conservative political persuasion, just to bait him (such fun); you have even grown on him (!)
– I was stoked to see your byline in my Crikey delivery today …

… with content so compelling and personal and profound I just had to write.

Mine started with post-natal depression and returns like a storm even 15 years later. Thankfully it passes like a storm too, these days, but the intensity can be frightening. If a friend hadn’t forced me to join what I call a “depressed mothers’ group” years ago, run by the local health services, I doubt I’d be here today.

It turns out meeting women who also spent their days in pyjamas crying alongside their gloriously non-judgmental babies was the best thing to happen to me. As painful as it is, sharing works best.

All I know is there’s no single magic cure. If you’re lucky, you learn to see the waves coming and ride them, either to the rocks or the sand. To be going through so much and share the way you did is inspiring and was very brave.

Consider me a person you have definitely helped by having the strength to make your story public. Thank you.

May 10, 2011 10:03 PM
 

bigwords is… said…

Thanks for your brave writing Ben. I really hope it helps you on your journey. You are not alone. None of us are, it’s reaching out for help which is the most difficult. Much respect and love x 

May 10, 2011 10:16 PM
 

Amanda Meade said…

Hey Ben, I loved your how not to rape a woman piece, and I love this too. 

May 10, 2011 10:25 PM
 

Amanda Meade said…

Hey Ben, I loved your how not to rape a woman piece, and I love this too. 

May 10, 2011 10:29 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Thank you. 

Me too. Fought on for so many years, being successful, often being outstanding, sometimes even a bit famous. This year, it all finally caught up with me. I’m currently covered in cuts and scars. I can’t do my job, can’t look after my family. I’m getting help, but getting ‘better’ feels distant right now.

Again, thank you, and warm, healing wishes to you.

May 10, 2011 10:58 PM
 

Lizzie G said…

Hi Ben,
In those darkest of dark times, remember that throwing it in and leaving your family and friends will hurt them far, far more than you staying in their lives ever would. 

Thanks for sharing something so personal and beautifully written. Get a hold of that black dog, tie it up and leave it outside where it belongs. Sending positive vibes through the cyberverse xxx

May 10, 2011 11:32 PM
 

Ken said…

Thank you Ben, unfortunately I know exactly what courage it took to write. You have expressed something that many of us struggle to put into coherent words. 

I hope it acts as a doorway for others to come to an understanding of what depression is and it’s devastating effects.

May 10, 2011 11:45 PM
 

Jenny Chapman said…

Thank you, for articulating so well a dark and frightening and very foggy time in my life. For speaking out, speaking up, naming demons. Thanks for reminding me I am not alone, and I hope all these beautiful comments remind you that YOU are not alone either. I continue to hope that words like yours reach non-sufferers and help them understand. 

May 10, 2011 11:47 PM
 

Gavin said…

I often feel similar to how you do but I just put it down to stress. I’m glad I’ve never felt as bad as you do right now, but I feel bad for feeling glad for that – if you know what I mean.
In any case I hope you get better, and everyone else.
I feel like such a prat for sometimes questioning anyone’s need for support in this state of mind. When you are helpless, you are helpless after all.
You’ve quoted from some things I don’t know. I’ll finish on a quote of my own because sometime we all have shadows on our eyes:
Blue, blue windows behind the stars, Yellow moon on the rise, Big birds flying across the sky, Throwing shadows on our eyes. 

May 10, 2011 11:49 PM
 

liggydd said…

fucking brutal. stay strong bro. 

May 10, 2011 11:54 PM
 

Frankly Feisty said…

Wow…brave, brilliant and bang on.
I have nothing but admiration for you. I am so amazed that you were able to achieve so much whilst wrestling with this.
My struggle sees me unmotivated and unable. I do nothing. My nostrils just above the surface.
Days go by.
Although Strangley, uniquely? I never feel like ending it.
Thank you Ben. 

May 10, 2011 11:56 PM
 

Anonymous said…

Ben I’m in the same place with you and its almost ten years now. At times I feel incredibly normal but it taps me on the shoulder with a panic attack or two, extreme fatigue and nightmares. For so long I had a wonderful life, a single 24/7 workaholic, open all hours for the needy and in love with my two jobs. Then major surgery, a bullying episode on day one at work and an MP who refused my work recovery program. At the end of a five-year legal struggle I was a fractured mess. I live for those brighter days and roll with the dark ones, ever hopeful time will heal the wounds. And from what I saw and still notice in psych and medico waiting rooms, there are thousands of us. Thanks again for letting us know it happens to the best and brightest. You have youth, humour and a wealth of support. You, I know, will recover