Depression…

Late last night, I read that Chester Bennington had killed himself, aged 41. I feel utterly saddened by this. I’m not a fan of mass outpourings of grief for famous people we never even knew, but Bennington’s death has got to me. I’m a fan of Linkin Park. In fact, only yesterday I was driving home from a meeting listening to Sharp Edges and singing at the top of my lungs, totally understanding the lyrics, feeling them, having them become a part of me in that special way only music can.

Musicians, who write from the heart, the ones who have felt extreme emotional anguish and can translate that for the benefit of the rest of us, have always been my heroes, my only heroes really. I genuinely possess such love for these people, who can stir in me feelings of desire and fighting spirit and joy and deep sorrow, just through their voices and the messages contained in their songs.

Bennington was a big drinker and substance misuser, a depression sufferer. Scroll through Twitter and you’ll see a river of love and appreciation for this man who, during his lifetime, has helped so many to feel validated and less alone, to know they too count as human beings.

As I write this, I’m trying to compute how someone with such vitality is, today, suddenly no more. How depression can blacken the mind so dramatically that all sense of hope is extinguished and it seems as though there are no more open roads to choose. Thoughts, black and desperate, can be sufficient all by themselves to snuff out a life.

I am still given to the odd depressive episode. They creep up out of nowhere and softly drop a dark veil over my world. Temporarily, I feel unable to ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’ and ‘appreciate all the good stuff’. I go under. Lots of people don’t truly get it and it can feel lonely and isolating. But the thing that always gets me through is reminding myself that these periods eventually do come to an end. Life picks up again and I do feel happiness again. This too shall pass.

Self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs is a route lots of us opt for when struggling to cope with depression. I’m better without alcohol as my go-to medicine: I’m not completely depression-free, but without the booze it’s only the periodic dark thoughts and moods I have to manage, and not the merry-go-round of drunken consequences on top of that; the alcohol-induced chemical imbalance in my head, or the overall unsatisfactory lifestyle that came about as a direct result of me always thinking about drinking, and drinking, and recovering from drinking.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I do suffer with depression. I’ve started to see it as an illness, just like any other condition, and while it’s not with me constantly I know it’s only somewhere round the corner and I’ll more than likely have to deal with it rearing its head again at some point in the future. This acceptance has helped me enormously, instead of burying my head in the sand and always wondering what the hell was the matter with me whenever I felt that way. I’ve talked about it, and shared how it feels with the people who love me. They know a bit better now what happens when the gloom descends.

So, in memory of Chester Bennington, an amazingly talented man who I sincerely hope has found eternal peace, share how you feel. Open up. Don’t be ashamed of feeling this way. You’re not alone. And it will pass, given time.

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Quitting Drinking Isn’t Just About No More Hangovers.

You might think quitting drinking is all about just letting go of the drink: swapping wine for water, enjoying fresh mornings instead of horrible hangovers hiding under the bedclothes, and honing a svelte physique to replace the muffin top you’ve been nurturing as a result of all those booze calories. Quitting drinking is all of those things. But it’s a lot more besides…

  • Drinking put me in really dangerous situations with very dangerous people. It masked my innate fear radar, making me bold and reckless, taking silly risks that only by a series of miracles didn’t result in major catastrophe – at least, not very often.
  • Drinking made me run away from my emotions instead of working through them and growing as a human being.
  • Drinking kept me locked inside a teenager’s immature state of mind – all melodrama and narcissism and misplaced priorities.
  • Drinking kept me from my responsibilities to the people I loved. It came before them and prevented me from seeing what really matters, from doing the right thing by all those who loved me.
  • Drinking made me stare into the mirror and hate the person who looked back out. It made me want to crawl out of my skin and escape the very fibre of who I was.
  • Drinking stopped me from aspiring to reach goals and fulfil my potential. It ensured that I always aimed low and persistently knocked me back every time I ever dared to want more for myself.

And what happened to me when I quit alcohol? All of this…

Peace of mind, inner contentment and a sense of emotional balance.

I started putting other people before myself for the first time in my whole adult life.

I began to work hard and believe in myself, knowing that I could achieve anything I wanted.

My ability to be a consistent and reliable parent increased massively.

I could look at my reflection and not hate the person I saw there.

I got really fit and began to enjoy properly hard physical challenges.

I opened up a big desire to learn more, explore more and know as much as possible about the world before I die.

I noticed a million tiny things all around me that I’d never previously paid attention to – a passer-by smiling, a flower, clouds in the sky, a lofty tree, a beautiful sunset…

I didn’t panic at the onset of feeling my emotions.

I learnt to love other human beings fully and with all my heart.

I recognised the power of creativity and fell in love with the buzz of making something that didn’t exist before.

I started to understand my place in the universe and to obtain a deep sense of calm from acknowledging both our significance and insignificance as human beings.

Planning for the future became manageable as opposed to something guaranteed to send me into a tailspin.

I got to know who I really am.

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