Back up, back up.
Even my own glasses can be rose tinted, at times. Human nature, self-preservation, mental masochism – whatever the reason, I’m just as prone as anyone else to imagining a past more perfect than the present. It probably does me no good.
Life wasn’t sunny and spring before I fell and fell deep in late 2008; my Prozac prescription at 16 was my first taste of antidepressants but it certainly wasn’t the only one and the intervening years were far from plain sailing.
Most of 2008 was good, I think – a bit of stress, work pissing me off every now and then. But I had a good home life and a good bunch of mates and a social life that was bad in all the right ways. But the year prior was when I’d first knocked on the door of my employer’s counselling service and first sat down with Nicola – mainly useful as a once a week lunchtime catharsis from a gloomy depression which stalked me through office hours for a bad few months in 2007.
I never quite got on with my job; I was bored and underutilised but never considering I had the power to move onward. This is the inertia of a chronic depressive, learned helplessness ties you up and ties you down.
And how did I even get that job? Accident, mostly. I’d moved to London a few years prior with no degree and no employer and no idea what I wanted, other than I wanted to live in London (which I’ll grant is the best reason to move there).I signed up with an agency, got a placement, and never thought to leave. Inertia.
And why didn’t I have a degree after 4 years at uni? Why had I found myself aimlessly drifting down south while most of my mates moved comfortably into graduate positions and into the happy hangover lives of most young professionals?
My fucking head, that’s why.
Even my own glasses can be rose tinted, and if I don’t think to focus on my uni days then they’re a glow of freedom and new friends and late nights, and the heavy bitter smoke of weed. But the fact is I was regularly unstable there and dangerously unaware of how unstable I was, or even what was going on. It’d be simple to say the stress of uni toppled me but it would be more accurate to say that I was already unsteady on my feet; having the emotional and cognitive stabilisers of home pulled away, I tumbled.
I couch surfed for a while until getting a decent house on an OK terrace next to a terrifying housing block in Peckham – before it was the place it was before it was cool, when rent in London was only high rather than criminally high. My room filled up with the smell of the chippie next door and there was an off-licence over to road which kept illegal hours and untouched stock. Between then and 2007 I moved about a couple of places, started evening study, put roots down, reached out to old friends and found new.
I had moments – the stress of the move could have me whimpering in a corner, and there were periods of black and bitter and bile, and no I’m not talking about good days and bad days I’m talking about spitting hatred at myself and the world and knots of self recrimination and guilt and banging, banging my head against walls. I had moments, I had days, weeks, months of more dark than light. Sometimes I went to the doctor and got an antidepressant script but mostly I ignored it, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t ill, was just being a wimp. But hey, welcome to the world of the chronically depressed male. That’s just life.
2008 was different. 2008 was deep. Deep. I’d never experienced anything like it before then and – despite my suicide attempts all happening in later episodes – I’ve never experienced anything like it since.
So don’t get the wrong impression, as I sometimes do. Don’t go thinking that this is the story of someone hit by depression like a senseless curse from a bitter god. I had form, I had scars. It’s true that I’d been good – relatively – for a few years, and that late 2007-2008 was especially smooth. But when the tremors came I knew what they were, I’d felt them before. And I thought I knew what I was in for.