My mind can slip into negativity. The futility of life is often dissected in my thoughts. The awareness of the human condition and mortality can leave me with a burning desire to achieve… something. This bleakness of outlook is almost annual. It comes along like a possession. My thinking turns dark and I am left with nothing but to ponder the purpose of life. Like a giant clock hanging in my mind demonstrating the passing of opportunity. I cry sometimes. I despair at my own misgivings. I pull apart my frailties and laugh at my own strengths. I become my worst enemy and then it vanishes. It’s almost like a remnant of a previous life. The hangover of years of addiction that teases me for a couple of days before I find my sanctuary in sobriety and am restored.
This time it was much worse than normal. The isolation made it more intense.
Usually, it happens during the winter and the realisation that winter will pass brings me around. It only lasts a few days but each time I am fearful of returning to a state of full-on depression. It has been more than ten years since I was turned into a statue of myself by a savage onslaught of depression. And thankfully, the help I received at the time has kept me on a, nearly, even keel but the cloud, albeit small, still hangs in the bluest of skies. A dark reminder of the worst year of my life.
September 2008, I had lost my job due to the economic downturn and couldn’t afford to pay my bills let alone afford to drink alcohol. For years, I had been using alcohol to self medicate life. Without the medicine, reality began to take hold and coupled with the bleakness of my future, my mental health began to rapidly decline. It was an incredibly difficult time but also, an invaluable learning resource. I can see the warning signs that the things are taking a turn for the worst. I can put the things into place that can bring me around. I still fear that one day those things may not work but so far they have helped. Exercise, talking to people, meditation, gratitude, writing and trying to eat well (a bit of chocolate. It is easter, after all, lol) have been the keys to turning it around.
I think the dip last week was due to feeling trapped. After travelling the world I feel like I have walked into a prison. My freedom has been snatched away and I am an innocent man. But in the long run, it is for peoples protection. It doesn’t stop the black dog pulling at me though. It circles looking for a weakness. The realisation that no matter what I do, where I see or who am with is enough to push this feeling away for good. I always seem to end up back in the darkness. My main concern is one day, not this time, I will no longer have the will to fight. That is what scares me.
In the darker moments of the thinking, the realisation that isolation is only a matter of thought is great support. The knowledge that there are people out there not only willing to listen but to unite and support each other is what I now believe to be the crux of humanity. I had to throw out a metaphorical hand to people I know, in the hope that we can share an interaction. That my concern for them will alleviate the concern for myself. That through connectivity albeit digitally I can escape isolation for a second. BUT as I browsed through my contacts I struggle to find a name who I can be truly honest with. Who I can share my concerns about my wavering mental health with. As I scroll through the names they all lose their meaning. The trivialities that united us seem insignificant against the need for true connectivity.
Thankfully, there are one or two people I am lucky to have that I can reach out to. I don’t like to burden them with my current plight but I have to to stay safe. The greatest gift beyond these people is the gift that the work through sobriety has given me; honesty. I have the ability now to be open. But even after therapy, sobriety, 12 step programs it still takes me a lot of effort to reach out to people. From feeling low to making the call was probably a week. I tried to struggle on. After a week I knew I needed a helping hand.
I phoned one of the people I could trust and we chatted. The question arose “Are you okay?” I have a choice I can lie or I can be honest. I was honest. I said “Not really…” I told them about my feelings and how I couldn’t reach out to people because they either didn’t respond or I lacked that level of connection and how it made the isolation all the more real. We talked about it and it changed my day. It changed my outlook. In the old days, I would have bottled it up and poured a bottle on it. It would have festered and rotted me from the inside out. I have to be honest to be safe.
What I have realised is; good people let alone good friends are hard to come by. But they do exist. I have to be there for them when they need and I am fine with that. But this lockdown has reminded me that without people who understand it is easy to get lost. To make connections I had to be vulnerable and honest. Without honesty, there is no connection with myself or others. Thus there is no sobriety. Delusion and denial are opposite sides of the same coin. The greatest example is the words “I’ll just have one…”
There were some fits and starts in the beginning. Incidents of emotional vomiting on my behalf. Overloading people with information that they didn’t want to hear or didn’t have an interest of. I persevered and learned to control the outburst. And with baby steps came great rewards. I stopped scaring people away.
So to all the people in similar positions or in positions of loneliness or isolation, I would like to say you are not alone. The world is resplendent with good people willing to help and listen if you want it. Don’t be deterred and don’t give up. Sometimes it is hard to see the light when the world is dark but it is there you just have to keep looking. If I could come around and give you a hug I would, as I would also like a hug but unfortunately I cannot. So this is the best I can do.
There are many things I am grateful for, many of which I take for granted like electricity, clean running water and access to food but there is one thing I don’t take for granted my sobriety. At no point do I even consider alcohol a solution to my dip(s) in my mental health? If anything I hold alcohol responsible for my lack of ability to deal with problems previously. And knowing that not dealing with things nearly cost me my life all those years ago then I will never see the cause of many of my problems previously as the solution to my problems currently. I would rather have a couple of dark days in the winter and 360 days of freedom than 365 days of running from myself.
I wrote this both selfishly and selflessly. I needed to get out what was on my mind and to process what had happened. I hope by doing so that it may help someone. If not then sorry for wasting your time lol. But either way, I just want to thank you for taking the time to read what I’ve written and I wish you well wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
Remember you are not alone.