Depression and the Desperate Desire for Change

Forgive me if this is self-indulgent, mopey nonsense, but I needed to get some stuff out of my head where it has been swirling around causing damage.

As I’ve admitted in the past, I’ve suffered from depression for a long time. My sense of self-worth drops pretty damn low on a regular basis, and feelings of self-loathing and hatred are long-time companions of mine. Like so many with depression, I’ve struggled with whether to talk about it with friends and family, whether to seek professional help, or whether to just shut the f**k up and stop my damn whining! I could say my depression started in 2003 when my best friend died…but honestly, I’d suffered for years before that terrible day. So much of it stems from my self-image and my loathing of who I am, how I look and my consistent failure to find love and friendship. As with so many, I realise that much of this is utter bull-crap…internalised circular thinking…pain building on negativity in an eternal miasma of black dog soupiness. I can see myself and my life objectively and, barring some horrible moments, it has been blessed and fantastic and thrilling and successful. But when I look subjectively at my adult life, often all I see is consistent failure, cowardice and loneliness. It’s a right old conundrum!

So why talk about this now? Well, it is August 24th and that means I’ve been single for 6 months, after my fiance and partner of 7 years walked out on me and moved back to Germany. Oh, and the same day I learned I was diabetic (type II) and needed to make some major life changes, or else! We humans do love our anniversaries! We love to judge our successes and failures by time periods. The longer or shorter something is, the relative success or failure. We can’t help it. We are linear beings inhabiting what we perceive as a linear existence (cue a lecture from Dr Brian Cox on the non-linear nature of the sub-atomic universe!) So as that big 6 month anniversary loomed, I found myself dropping in and out of a depressed state more and more. Usually I can hold my head above the waterline through my work…but of late that’s been getting more and more difficult to do.

Now, I don’t intend to go into detail about the end of that relationship…it was what it was and I know only too well one has to move forwards. But one of its impacts was to get me back into deep dark thoughts about failure and self-loathing. Lots of WHY? questions race through my head. They race around, zooming in and out of my consciousness, blaring their horns and make a hell of a racket. Damn those thoughts! Before this relationship, I’d never managed to get in to any serious relationships, I found such things to be ephemeral and ethereal…magical things that others found so easy to fall in and out of, but forever at a distance beyond my grasp. All my old fears of being too ugly, too boring, too dull, too uninspiring, too un-loveable all came screaming back. The darkness fell and I’ve been in its grip ever since.

I really don’t like myself…I don’t think I ever have. I don’t really know why this is. But in doing so, I project these feelings on others. I wonder why I have no contact with old school companions, or old work colleagues. Why is it the only time people seek me out is when they want me to do a job for them? Why do weeks and months go by and nobody calls or texts or emails just to say ‘Hey Neil, fancy a pint?’ – don’t get me wrong, I’m not fishing here…these are the negative thoughts my depression forces on me. I know they are not a real reflection of the world (unless they are?!) I am aware that when, as adults, we lose those closest to us (through death or relationship failure) it is almost impossible to cover those holes with new people…as adults we all have our busy lives, families and existing friendships…no-one wants you trying to force your way into their lives, no matter how kind or caring they are. Our best friends are exactly that because of our shared experiences and time spent together. Our closest relationships and friendships are strong because of the length of time we’ve enjoyed in each others company.

Anyway…this isn’t a pity party, it is an exorcism, of sorts.

Back to now. So, over the past 6 months I have devoted myself to making 2017 a YEAR OF CHANGE. Some has been forced on me (relationship failure, diabetes) and some I have chosen. Why not use the bad to increase the good, eh? If I have to face up to being single, why not use the time to improve myself, redecorate my home, rediscover things I truly enjoy? If I have to deal with diabetes and take medicine and go to the hospital a lot, why not dive in to exercise and healthier living, getting out more and making my self-image a little less hateful? And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. CHANGE IS GOOD. It is scary and tough and tiring, and yes, it is depressing…doing it all on my own, just for me, is something I get depressed about. I can’t help it…I’ve always preferred to define myself by what I can do for others. Such a definition is, of course, very self-destructive…when those you want to help throw it back in your face, or treat you with disdain…well, it hurts and instead of blaming them, you blame yourself. But all that said, who else am I going to do this for, eh? If I don’t improve my health it is me who will suffer, no-one else. If I don’t improve my environment, increase enjoyable activities, the only person who will feel like crap is me…so I might as well get on with them.

But let’s look at this CHANGE thing a bit more. I’ll admit I’ve made some good progress with my year of change, all of the above things have meant that if I were to compare today to 12 months ago I would have to admit to being in a better place, albeit a lonelier one. But I’ve taken another REALLY BIG STEP. As you probably know, I’ve been running my own business for almost a decade now, and the audiobook studio/production side for 5+ years. This month I have decided to take a big step, and expand the business. I have leased a second office space in Croydon and am building a second studio facility. This has meant taking on a large loan, and working hard to persuade my clients to put more work our way. It will mean being responsible for double the titles, double the workload, double the accounting. I have to bring in a second producer, more check listeners and a 2nd editor. All this…and it is still just little old me running and owning the business. It could all go terribly wrong. The clients may not send us the work or at least not on a regular enough basis. I may burn out and screw everything up. It is a massive gamble. But I am doing it because CHANGE MUST HAPPEN. I simply cannot just sit here, safe, never moving forwards. Even with all those other changes I am making…I fear being here in years to come, never having moved forwards. A major part of my self-loathing is from looking back on my career and seeing just how much I’ve achieved but how static it has become over the past 5 years, This is a very negative way of looking at it, I know, and I am very proud of my career and of where I find myself and the esteem I think I am held in by colleagues and the audio industry. But I find that I am not progressing any more, and that’s destroying me. I am failing my creative side, and failing the younger me who hoped for bigger better things.

And this brings me to the biggest cause of my depression and self-hatred…I AM STUCK IN THIS DAMN FLAT! I bought my flat in 1999 with a 5 year plan to meet someone, get married, sell up and move on to a nice house, career progression, etc… When my friend died just 3 years into that plan I fell into the deepest, darkest hole imaginable…I hadn’t met anyone, and now found myself unable to do anything but my job. I threw myself into the radio production work, creating and running the Radio Independents Group, being a trustee of an education charity and the Radio Academy, renegotiating the BBC/Indies terms of trade, lobbying Parliament, etc… I was amazingly creative and found solace in working with as many people as I could offer myself to. I did ANYTHING to avoid coming home to an empty flat, in a town where I had no friends and no family. But come home to this flat I did, every evening and every weekend..alone and in pain. Don’t get me wrong, I love my flat. It has housed me, kept me warm, given me a home to offer to my beloved cats. But I HATE IT SO F**KING MUCH. I live beneath a family of 6 who, for 17 years, have made my life here utter hell. They never stop making noise, arguing, slamming doors, screaming and creaking floorboards at all hours. They grow drugs and sell them outside the flat. The father is a junkie paranoiac with violent tendencies who abuses his kids and wife. The mother is not much better! It is a twice-annual routine for the police to bust them for drugs, or because the father has been caught taking pics of kids in public spaces. All I want is to ESCAPE FROM THEM, and go somewhere peaceful and quiet at night…somewhere my cats can feel safe…somewhere I can enjoy music without wondering if the records will skip because of them crashing something onto the ceiling above. I’ve had four separate floods because of them (3 overflowing baths and 1 slowly leaking washing machine that destroyed my bedroom ceiling at Xmas!) With everything else I loathe about myself, what I hate the most is my complete and utter failure to earn enough money to get away from this hell. The flat is also riddled with memories…my nest friend died here, my only long-term relationship died here, and 6 cats have died here…it is all a little too upsetting at times. I wouldn’t care if all I could afford was some decrepit doer-upper a few miles out of Croydon…I’d happily spend a few years DIYing it…but I can’t even manage that! I am stuck…I am stuck…I am stuck….and I completely and utterly hate it. I can’t change this, and it is the one thing I desperately want to change.  I don’t have a partner to share the cost or help with getting a bigger mortgage. By the time I repaid the mortgage and 2nd mortgage and other debts I would be left with enough to buy a caravan! Right now, I’ve never felt lower, more of a failure. At 43 years old, with all this ‘esteemed’ experienced, I shouldn’t be where I am. But it isn’t anyone’s fault but my own…as I say, this isn’t a pity party, I know exactly where the blames should fall.

So here I am, at the end of this rant, with no idea what more I can change. I find myself in near-constant neck-pain and needing to take more pain-killers than I feel comfortable with (apparently it is caused by having Schuermann’s disease as a teenager and my spine becoming slightly deformed,,,nothing they can do, just learn to live with it, I am told…sigh!) I am proud of what I’ve managed over these past 6 months, and I promise I will not be giving those up. I am focused on fighting the diabetes and getting fitter and healthier. I am determined to brow my business and make it a success…I hope in doing so I can help others with sharing the work, and just maybe they will reciprocate by not just taking the paid work but taking just a little of the strain from my shoulders. BUT…I simply don’t know how to cope with my low self-image and living arrangements…my self-loathing and feelings of failure. I keep falling into melancholia and nostalgia. But this doesn’t help, all it does is make me feel worse. But I hope, by talking about it, I can fight back the worst of the negative feelings. By sharing it with you (and I thank you for getting this far and hopefully not thinking ‘what a tosser!’) I am shining a light into the dark and at some point maybe solutions will reveal themselves. I live in hope of a story Leo McGarry told in West Wing about a man in a hole, and a friend jumping in and the man says ‘But now we are both stuck in this hole’ and his friend says ‘Yes, but I’ve been here before and I know the way out.’

To those of you who know me (friends and family) please don’t take anything I’ve said here as a criticism of you. This is all internalised perception and insular circular thinking (well, unless you all actually DO think I’m a twat, of course – now THAT would make sense to me!) I just needed to make this public, take it out of my head and show the beast that there is some light in the world.

Any solutions gratefully received…please send them in on the back of a sealed-down envelope or postcard 🙂

Oh, any anyone fancy buying me a nice house in the countryside, perfect for 1 chap and 3 cats, I promise to be a diligent and reliable mortgage re-payer (just ask NatWest!)

here’s some kitties to cheer us all up…

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