RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

The Fog of…Life…

I’ve hinted at this in a couple of blogs in the past, but I need to just say this…because, well I don’t know, I just need to Say it I guess.

For the past year, in fact longer really, I have suffered with depression. Not sad. Not a bit down. Not upset. But proper, clinical depression, diagnosed and treated by doctors, mental health workers and medicines.

It kind of all started when I came back from Afghanistan. Where I didn’t particularly see anything that upsetting, or got traumatised or anything, but rather got to see myself for who and what I was. (More on that later…) But I came back and I was angry. Angry and everything, everybody, the whole world. The crapness of it, the materialism of it, the emptiness of it. The fact that people moan about the quality of the coffee they buy in a cafe (and yes I do that too), when there is so much MORE going on in the world. I was angry at myself for not being in control of my anger, angry at my wife for, well, being my wife (‘how could she possibly want to be married to me, a grumpy, miserable, moaning fool?’). Angry at my three year old daughter for being three, angry at my eldest son and daughter for having a life built up without me in it.

Anger turned to general grumpiness and a feeling of being low ALL THE TIME and there being no respite from it. I felt out of control at work, where, to be honest not a lot was going on and I had a lot of time to spare. I was very negative and very closed off. I would be judgemental, closed off and…miserable. Just miserable.

And as I said, I would take it all out on my family. Waves of anger would explode out of me. Followed quickly by anger at myself for exploding and being unable to control myself. And after that followed a wave of self loathing and miserableness and yes, sitting at the top of the stairs sobbing into my hands covering my face. This became a regular habit of mine…hands in front of my face, almost trying to hide from the shame I felt at myself. That and rubbing my hand across my forehead…and this became my poker ‘tell’.

I, my wife and my even my three year old daughter would know when I was getting stressed because I would do just that. My right hand would rub over my forehead; fingers and thumb moving together almost like the mouth of a vice closing. And it felt like a vice was closing on me…Stress, pressure which could be brought on by anything.

It was, to be honest a fucking nightmare. A waking nightmare which never seemed to end. Sleep was a slight relief, when I could get it. I was tired, dog tired, permanently tired, tired beyond all understanding of tiredness, and I would get to sleep fairly quickly, but oh! the early mornings. Awake at 5-5:30 everyday. Every day.

Life for me, and everyone who knew me, who interacted with me, who crossed my path, was horrible. I was horrible. And after a particularly bad weekend where I picked on everyone, I decided that enough was enough. I had to go to get help.

And I went to see a lovely RAF doctor who was just the nicest person. I talked, she listened, she spoke a little and listened more. I must have been in there for 40 minutes (sorry to whoever was behind me in the appointments) but I came out feeling better. Better because I had told someone.

I left there and went back to work where I said to my boss, I went to the docs this morning and it turns out I am mental. And he was wonderful. ‘Well, there’s nothing going on today, go home, spend some time just trying to think and sort your head out a little,’ he said. And I did.

And I then wasted a lot of time trying to think. Think about why I was depressed. Why it was happening to me. Why I felt the way I did. And it was a waste of time. There was no one reason. With the help of that doctor, a CPN and eventually some Citalopram, I’ve come to realise that it was just a combination of everything that had made me feel so irrational for so long. I’d come to feel that I wasn’t good enough, and my actions were those of someone who wasn’t a good husband and good father, and so my thoughts reinforced my feelings of not being good enough. My experience of being in Afghanistan made me see that I was nothing special. I was just another guy out there, who was, to be frank out of his depth for a lot of the time.

I felt almost embarrassed by my blogging out there, that they made me seem to be some sort of hero, that I was better than others, when I just wasn’t. They were stronger than me, fitter, braver, more heroic…normal people, but just better than me. And my embarrassment was demonstrated by that habit of putting my hands in front of my face…of trying to hide. If I can’t see the world, then the world can’t see me…or so my failed logic would go.

All through my depression, it’s never felt the same way as others when I read about their experiences. I do feel down and sad, but when they describe it as a veil of darkness over them, of it being a cave they are forced in, that is much different to me. I feel like it is a fog. A fog enveloping me, closing around me. I know the normal world is out there, somewhere, just out of reach and out of sight, but I can’t see it. I can’t find it. A thick pea soup of depression is hiding me from it and it from me. I know that the way I feel is temporary and that I can fight it and I can, and will eventually blow the fog away, but it’s so bloody hard to do so. Even after nearly 9 months of taking the medication, it’s still, sometimes just as hard as it was.

Too much has been going on recently for me to stop taking the Citalopram yet, and that’s a bugger, because the major side-effects of the tablets (google them!) are a fucker. I’ve taken voluntary redundancy, moved house, got a disabled wife to care for, a three year old who is lovely, but who is hard work, no real job, a mortgage to get and pay for…money issues going on…lots and lots to try to deal with, lots that could plunge me downward again so I can’t deal with life without them just yet.

I am one in three. Because one in three of us will have a mental health issue at sometime in our lifetime. But I still feel alone and often unable to cope, and that I want to hide from the world by just walking my dog in the Shropshire countryside. I want to get better, and be ‘normal’ again, if I could ever figure out what normal is, but it still feels so very far off.

The fog is still about me, some days it’s thicker than others, some days it’s almost a sunny day, but it’s always a bit misty. But in all my thinking about my depression, I’ve come to a conclusion. It’s pointless trying to ask ‘Why?’ There are lots of reasons, but the main one is that there is a chemical imbalance in my brain. Brain chemicals that I don’t understand are not going to the right places and it has the result of making me feel angry, out of control, worthless, useless, inferior…depressed.

But it’s pointless and a simple waste of my time to ask why. I just have to get on with making myself…allowing myself…to feel better, that eventually I will come out of this…that it is actually even more pointless to feel angry, inferior and depressed. But simply stopping feeling that way is not so easy, but I know that with the help, love and support of my family, I will do it. I might have been angry at them outwardly…but in reality I was really angry at myself. And that’s not fair on them, and worse, its not fair on me.

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30 thoughts on “The Fog of…Life…

  1. Mike Carlyle on said:

    Takes a brave man to realise his shortcomings and an even braver man to conquer them . Your well on your way, I salute you

  2. Gondtengwen on said:

    Good post, brave, honest, and looking at yourself and others. I’ve been on citalopram for a year with a daughter who is 4½ and a wife who is driving me to despair with her wish to be perfect, and a perfect clone of her mum, and 4 years of criticism for being the one who could stay at home to bring the lass up. Depression hits all sorts of people in all sorts of ways and in cases like yours the tears are a sign of someone who has been strong for a long time but now can’t be; there’s no shame in that. I can recommend talking therapies, if you can get them, with the likes of Black Country Healthy Minds for your area, or getting a log-in through your GP or local MH team for Big White Wall where you can post stuff and get support from fellow sufferes and expert staff.

  3. Stephen Webber on said:

    It takes a lot of courage to admit that publicly, with the stigma mental illness sadly holds, although really it should be seen as no different to having the flu or an upset stomach.

    I’ve been in a similar place and luckily found my own “cure,” namely getting out for a good walk in the countryside with friends. Perhaps being away from the stresses of city life and finding peace with nature is what helps me, although every now and then I recognise the signs of what could be a slippery slope back down to a place I don’t want to be.

    Anyway, thank you for writing what you did, it’s one small step towards getting something that affects so many people accepted by those that aren’t affected and don’t understand.

  4. Great blog. I am also on Citalopram and spent 12 years in the Army. I can relate to many aspects of your blog.

  5. Good blog, there is no shame in having a mental illness. I was on citalopram for over a year. I was lucky i think I spotted the depression coming on early. Like you sleep was no problem but to many times I was lying there at 5.00 am having a million and one throughts going in and out of my head. As i said to my doctor I would have given a months wages to have a peaceful nights sleep. Sleeping tablets worked but you wouldn’t want to take them for to long. Oh yes there was times of tears. The depression hasn’t gone away some lifestyle changes relaxation exercises and a daily dose of St. John wort help. You are certainly not alone mate

  6. Well done, you’re out! It’s nothing to be ashamed of…in fact you’ve been very brave. Don’t beat yourself up about it…as you say 1 in 3 people suffer with depression and I suspect that figure is climbing. Don’t try to come off your meds without your doctors support cos the withdrawal is worse than the drug if done wrong. Don’t give yourself targets for the day that are unachievable…set yourself smaller targets that you can manage to accomplish and congratulate yourself each time you do. Walking Mahsa is good for you…mentally and physically so allow yourself to enjoy that. Take time for the simple things…enjoy listening to the birdsong and smile, look at the bulbs starting to poke through and remind yourself that a new cycle of life is starting. Try to take pleasure wherever you can over simple things…your daughter giggling, your time in Cornwall etc. You’re allowed to be happy 🙂 and although it won’t make you feel better this week or next, it will all help in the long run.
    Stay strong. Little by little. Simple pleasures and slowly but surely you’ll feel the benefit. Remember, you’re not alone 🙂

  7. Sorry you’ve been going through this Alex,and well done for being brave enough to talk about it. You’re right…. everyone knows someone… but there is help out there. I hope the good and precious people and things around you will stay in sharp focus to help you cope with the bad stuff. Shropshire’s a lovely place to be. I hope being here helps you too. Best wishes x

  8. Sue Huzzey on said:

    to the rest of us..you are brave…to the rest of us, you are a hero…..be strong, you are heading in the right direction. I am sure that by sharing with us your thoughts and feelings must be some kind of therapy too, ” a problem shared is a problem halved” as the saying goes. And by doing that, you are helping others who may be experiencing life in the same way. As Jane says above..you are not alone. Best wishes…

  9. Well done …fantastic description of how it feels. You are a very worthy man…never forget that, and your writing proves this. I wish you lots of luck, love and happiness for the future…You deserve it

  10. ex Met in NZ on said:

    I’ve had depression on and off since 1996, for me it feels like a black cloud descending. It’s a hard road and there are times that I bitterly resent waking up. Good luck on your road.

  11. Hubby has suffered with depression for several years now. So I am well acquainted with it, his mood swings, the way he cries at the drop of a hat or the news, and the side effects of the drugs. Doesn’t matter which drug he changes too, each has the same Major side effect. Try talking therapies. He’s finally been referred to them – but you can refer yourself. It seems to be helping.

  12. A brave and honest post, hang in there you’ve taken a huge step right here.

  13. Russell Samuel on said:

    I am so sorry to read that.I have been there,also beat it.Take care,love and best wishes to you and yours.

  14. Michelle Richard on said:

    I’m glad I read this. Thank you. M.

  15. Just another civvie on said:

    Fantastic article Alex, it takes guts to talk about this and your description will help a lot of people . I’ve havent suffered with this (yet, never say never) so I have nothing to add, but I do want to mention one thing. Your Afghan blogs described the reality of life on all sides out there in a way I’ve never seen before. You used your skill as a writer to convey what you saw to the world with crystal clarity. To win peace first you have to understand the other guy and I am sure your blogs did more to help that process than you realise. Other guys might have been stronger or braver or whatever but you are an exceptional writer and you used your talent well. You brought the best of yourself to that situation and you should be very proud

  16. Moving and well written piece. Thank you for sharing. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter every day. Small steps and acheivable goals. Am pleased that the Army seemed ‘on the ball’ as have heard and read that not all serving personnel are lucky enough to find that the medics and their colleagues so understanding.

  17. David Brierley on said:

    Dear Man, for that is what you are. You have identified your problem, now its time to find support group and find out they manage. Ask the practise nurse for details, the more you can share your case the better with others and listen
    to their experiences the more you will gain. I wish you God’s speed.

  18. welshwallace on said:

    moving, honest and by god you have nothing to be ashamed of. I took the same tablet as you and know exactly what your going through. the anger, the questioning, the fog. Anger I know you witnessed when i used to be online before you went out. don’t be hard on yourself and don’t beat yourself up. You have guts and honour. nothing to be ashamed of. I offer my hand to you with honest intentions. if you feel I can help at all just shout. You will get through it but I also know it is not worth much me saying that right now while your in the fog. stay strong. here if i can help or be someone to talk to.

  19. Lisa Mc on said:

    1 in 3 … Your never alone. How I would love to have the guts to write a blog and have the effect you have. One day, when I can contain my own demons and share them in a manner that will not come across as bitterness but fact (as I know for a fact there are many others, like me, who will benefit just from reading the words)
    I wish you well.. You have to #keeponkeepingon and keep that #chinupchestout

    MrsMC xx

  20. I read this post and I noticed myself nodding quite often as I agreed with things you said in the blog, agreed in the sense that I knew what you were talking about. Stay strong bud, it takes a lot to come out with something like that on the internet and I hope lots of people who feel the same way read this, and know its not just them who have problems of this nature.

  21. EDL Buck on said:

    Alex, i haved lived with manic depression (Bipolar affective disorder) since my teens back in the 80s . The depression is as a shrink once told me, anger turned towards the self that cannot be resolved so the sufferer beats themseleves up, which just makes things worse mate.
    This one sentence has helped me through the dark times more than any other; “This too will pass”.

  22. I wish you all the best on your journey – this was a very touching post. You know you are not alone 🙂

  23. Alison Fawdrey on said:

    Such a relief to read – you begin to feel that you are the only one, that somehow you don’t fit the stereotypes of depression. It was the hardest thing that I did, writing it down, but if my experiences, like yours, help those around us and maybe others understand a bit more – then for me at least, job done. Thank you.

  24. As others have said, it takes a brave and strong man to admit this at all, let alone publicly.

    From what I have seen while following your blogs you have a good circle of friends and family so you have a good base to help you on the road to feeling ‘normal’.

    I am not a MH doctor but if you need to find things that you are good at to stop yourself feeling inferior then look no further than your blog. Funny, personal, insightful and lots of other things that make it a can’t miss read.

    Hope the recovery is a quick and permanent one.

  25. Dianne on said:

    I know how you feel. I also suffer with depression and have done for many years. You are not alone. Thank you for posting, I am not brave enough. Will be thinking of you.

  26. The Outdoor Times on said:

    Hang in there mate. It DOES get better.

  27. “if I could ever figure out what normal is” When you do, please let us all know! You have people who love you and care about you. You will surely find your way forward.

  28. Hi Alex.

    Just wanted to let you know how sorry I am about your illness and shocked by your ex-RAFairman status!

    As you can see by all the lovely comments, we all care about you and your family. I’m not surprised you feel the way you do, you have an awful lot of responsibility to cope with and the loss of a long term career is a form of bereavement. I worked for 25 years in the same job, since the age of 20, 10 typists including me were bullied out of our jobs. I lost all my confidence, had similar feelings to you and haven’t worked since 2005 and know what you mean about living on a pension! My dad became very ill and died on 22 July 2012, the same feelings have returned so I understand how you feel.

    My advice, get all the help you can, read self-help books, try yoga, meditation, talking therapies, keep a diary of all the positive things in your day and walk in the beautiful countryside or visit the seaside with your family if you can, well in the Spring!

    Hope it helps you to know we’re thinking of you, take care and all the very best.

    Carol (ex-Twitter)

  29. Andrew on said:

    An excellent post Alex. I agree with what others have said about walking – it certainly helps me. Have you tried, or had access to, CBT? I’m sure it’s been mentioned but I know that getting help can be difficult. As is clear, lots of us out here are thinking about you and your family. You have a great ability to express your thoughts in writing: many have trouble with that, I hope it helps.

  30. Pingback: Big Hole | siwhi's Blog

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