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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“Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.” – John Wooden, born October 14th 1910

Aged 17 – October 14, 1992

Living in the moment, never looking further than the next weekend, drifting further in to the nightclub scene. You are a raver, dressed in your cat suit and trainers; hair sleek, in a bob, lips red, aware of your femininity. Music is everything, the underground scene is hypnotic; its naughtiness and illegality is like a drug, club fliers adorn your bedroom wall replacing your posters of The Smiths and Depeche Mode. First year of ‘A’ levels, but you’ve outgrown it now, it’s a burden on your time. Life flows eternally before you, there are no worries and no cares other than a strange persuasion you have developed to almost enjoy the dark side, to wallow in your suffering and to emulate your heroine, Laura Palmer – a strange one to pick given her untimely death, preceded by a life afflicted by drug addiction and abuse.

Aged 22 – October 14, 1997

Oh, you emulated Laura alright, other than her murder – and that isn’t such an unlikely possibility these days. A recreational enjoyment of clubs and their associated pleasures has strayed in to the murky waters of grim addiction; the only friends you have are in the same boat. Thrown out of a nightclub on this, your birthday, for being so out of it; you aren’t demonstrating an ounce of care for your safety, and you don’t eat much at all. Your hair is short, your body is thin; you virtually live in a pub exclusively frequented by abusers of alcohol and drugs. You’re going down, down, down…

Aged 27 – October 14, 2002

Dragged out of the sinking sand by the arrival of your gorgeous baby girl, she is now three years old and the apple of your eye. Her Dad, your husband, is busy working all the hours God sends – mostly you spend time with your friends. When your baby is in bed, you drink; it’s not so much, a few bottles of beer or a bottle of wine with a meal, and at the weekend it’s more. There are parties and nights out with girlfriends, where drinking is the thing to do, drinking enough to occasionally act in a way you regret. But the regrets are few and far between, life is for the living, mortality is a concept that, so far, you don’t acknowledge. One year left of your degree – studying is time well spent, an effort to establish a foundation on which to some day build a career. That day might come sooner than you think; your marriage is almost done.

Aged 32 – October 14, 2007

Ooh, happy birthday you! Four years since the breakdown of your marriage, things are no longer so pretty. Wine is a staple of your existence – it tends to your every emotion; happy, sad, bored, depressed, lonely…drinking in company is getting harder – the necessary control over the amount you consume is a struggle. Your self esteem has taken a battering, over and over again there’s an action that you regret or words you wished had been left unsaid. Your office job bores you to tears, there should be more to life than this – drinking is an aid to forgetting. Relationships are hard to sustain, difficult to work out. Being a mother keeps your head out of the water, but the current is strong and it’s dragging you down.

Aged 37 – October 14, 2012

Just under four weeks from now, I will turn 37. On numerous occasions during my life, I have wondered whether I would live as long as this. Many times my thoughts turned to suicide; I never fully grasped the notion as a plan of action, but the tendency to ponder whether life should ever be this arduous, this painful, was ever present for a long time. My little girl consistently provided the reason why life is always worth it, no matter how tough things become, and for that, as well as for a myriad of other reasons, I am eternally grateful that I have her in my world. She saved me.

As every five year interval in my life passed, things did not seem to change direction much. I was sitting in a boat, adrift in an ocean of depression and misunderstanding of what life is about, carried along on a current of self-destruction and pity, never looking far enough in to the distance to seek out another way. Until a couple of years ago.

This last five year interval represents a series of events that have gently prodded and pulled me, this way and that, tugging me in to a place that is warm and happy and safe. It’s a place  I never thought I would find myself in – where the walls of depression and self-hatred have crumbled away to leave an open space, full of endless possibilities. It’s the place where I have found my soul mate, had my second daughter, and truly arrived at the realisation of what my life should be. I never want to leave this place behind.

Things are on the up – my eldest daughter and me in Newquay last summer, showing off my recently bought engagement ring.