RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Archive for the tag “Depression”

Larkin was right…

In the house of the depressives, the happy child is king. Or queen. Or something. It’s a crap misquote, but it’s sadly true. When the grown-ups are both under the cosh of depression and pain and hurt, the ruler of the house is the child who is the happy one. Oblivious to the pain going on inside the adult’s minds, unaware of the fact that what is going on around it ISN’T normal – hell if that’s all you’ve ever known…the madness and the crying and the arguing and the shouts and the over-reaction IS normal.

I feel sorry for my youngest daughter. Imagine growing up in a house where both your parents have depression. What message are we sending to her? What lessons are we teaching her, just ass her brain is soaking up all the messages we are giving out, consciously and subconsciously? When she is learning what and how to be herself and how to develop how she reacts and interacts with people the people who she is learning off are just the ones who shouldn’t be listening too.

And I see her reaction to things we say. I see that she is learning our bad ways. And then I blame her for sending me mental. Oh it’s the wrong way round. I am the one setting her up badly. I am the one to blame for her over-reactions and incorrect responses to things; because of the illness and the general fucked-up-ness of my brain (and god help her, my wife’s too), then my beautiful, clever, smart, fabulous, impressionable, blank slate of a daughter is being fucked-up too.

Philip Larkin was right. They fuck you up, your parents…they fill you with all their faults and add some extra just for you. God knows what the madnesses going round our brains are doing to her. But I feel for her. I feel for the way that she is learning all our mad, crazy, inappropriate responses to things and thinking that they are the right ways to deal with things, to deal with people and to deal with life.

It’s not fair what depression does to you. It’s not fair. It takes away your sense of self, your innate you-ness, and turns you into a uber-you, an alt-you, a you that you don’t even recognise, but you think is the real you when it’s not. And there is nothing you can do about it, until it’s too late…and then…and then you see all your mentalness appearing in the behaviour of one who know’s no difference…And it hurts all the more.

Not only is this fucking illness affecting you…it’s effecting the one person you want to keep it all from. Depression is not fair on the sufferer, but it’s even more unfair on the people who have to live with the sufferer. And it’s worse when that person is someone who doesn’t know, doesn’t understand, that it’s just an illness that is making you tackle the world in the wrong way. And it’s even worse when that person – a child – is thinking that your way is the right way, and is learning your madness as part of it’s sanity.

I’m sorry Lily. I am so sorry, but remember, it’s not your fault. It’s not even my fault. It’s years of misdirection, bad reaction, screwed-up bloody chemical imbalance that has left me this way, and I am sorry that you are growing up thinking that it’s right and normal. It isn’t. It isn’t. When I say I can’t cope with you; when your reaction to my directions and demands are not the ones I want – it’s not your fault. It’s my own. Who have you learnt them off? Me. And I know this. And the thing that makes it worse for me is that it’s not really you I can’t cope with.

It’s me.


Some good days, some bad days…

Days matter. Monday everyone is down and miserable the weekend has finished and the long week ahead – the drudgery of work stretches out before us, Friday the world is happy and the promise of the weekend is there tempting us on into it.

Some days we are glad to be alive; some days we dread.  But when you have depression, you face day after day of gloom and misery. And then you move on.  You get your meds sorted and maybe you get therapy or treatment of some sort and you start the long road to recovery.  

This is where I am at the moment.  It’s been a while since I have written about my depression, but today I feel the need to.  I have suffered from it for over a year now.  Been on the tablets for certainly a year and have had CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and Talking Therapy and all sorts…and I certainly feel that I am on the road to recovery.

I am getting back to being more one with myself. More relaxed with myself – on myself.  I am learning to let go a bit more, be a bit less uptight and be a bit more easy going.  It doesn’t matter if the washing up isn’t done, or the ironing isn’t done.  That sort of stuff doesn’t matter.

And I am having more good days; more easy days. More happy days.  Which must be a real bugger to read – here I am, semi-retired BY CHOICE at the ripe age of 43, working part-time, living in a rural idyl, with beautiful scenery around me, my loving family, a fabulous new home which we are starting to refurbish…I have it all. I can walk the dog down to the pub and have a pint and chat to the old men of the village and take life relatively easy.

But I still have down days.  And the real bastard is that when I do have them they are deeper and mistier than ever before.  On a graph of mood over time, it is generally rising as time goes on – but when I fall, I fall a long way.  

Things have moved on a long way though.  They had too.  You see, and this is something that is hard to admit, but hell, others have admitted to far worse (yes, I doff my metaphorical cap to YOU Mr Fry), about three months ago, I was having…thoughts…yes…those thoughts.  

Life was getting to me, it was all too much.  The pressure was produced inside me – that everything must be perfect and that I must control everything – but this was just bollocks.  I could have everything perfect; the house needs a lot of work, and my daughter and my dog make a lot of washing and mess and I had to do a lot because my wife was going through a particularly tough time with her pain, and I was… I was suffering a headache.  I was tired.  Run ragged.  Felt like I could sleep for a week and then sleep for more.  And I opened the packet of Paracetemol to get out a couple of tablets…and I just looked at the packet and wondered…what would happen if I took all of these? Would it be enough to kill me?  Would it be enough to make me ill? Would it be enough just to let me sleep…?

And straight away I knew that it was not the thing to do.  I have kids.  I have a wife. I have a family that loves me and wouldn’t want me gone.  Whilst the insurance money would get MrsF the extension that she wants out the back of the house, she’d have no-one to share it with.  It’d be a stupid thing to do…and I know stupid.

So I put the packet of tablets away and phoned the doctor and asked for an appointment as clearly I needed more help than I was getting.  And the last three or so months I have been getting it.  I even gave CBT a go – and I hate CBT with a real passion.  I know some people like it and it really works for some people and it gives them a real success and progress, but for me, well I just find it patronising and painful and simplistic.

You see, and this might sound like I am blowing my own trumpet here, but when you think back to the old fella Maslow and his hierarchy of needs – I like to think of myself fairly well up that triangle.  Pushing into the ‘self-actualisation’ area at the top.  And if you are up here it’s a fucker of a place to be if you get depression, because you know…you know…exactly what you are doing and the stupidity of it all, the futility of the depression.  That it is just a passing phase and you will be over it and one day you will be well and that it’s just a chemical imbalance and you are not the bad, stupid, thick, useless idiot that your brain makes you think you are.  You know that your brain is mussed up and that it’s not working right, and you know that all the things you say you don’t mean, but you still think them and still say them any way.

And it’s a real fucker because it means that you can see straight through the CBT stuff. I know that I need to manage my time better, to make time for me because I can’t look after other people if I don’t look after me, but still…that was the way I was.

So I sat there one day.  Outside the office of the CBT guy, who was lovely and well meaning, but I decided that when I have been talking about how I felt, and thinking about how bad I was – it made me feel that way even more.  Sort of a ‘if I think I am depressed, then I am depressed’ sort of thing.  And then the eureka moment hit me.  If this was true about when I spoke about feeling bad that I felt bad, maybe if when I thought myself bad then I felt bad…break the chain.

Yeah, just stop thinking it.  Move on. Don’t think bad things.  If bad things start then move on, jump-shift.  Reframe. Refocus. Don’t think bad thoughts.  

And it is working for me.  Most days. As I said.  Some days the cloud hits me and I find it difficult to deal with some things and find myself getting lost in that fog again.  I find myself lost in the mist, knowing there is a way out; knowing that there is sun out there but unable to find my way to it. But I now just accept it.  Write the day off, cope with it as best I can, get an early night (it seems to have some link to me being really tired) and look forward to the next day being a new day.

And it will be.  The sun will come up, life will go on and I will face the new day with a new mood.  And the down days come, but they are coming much much much less often.  The up days outnumber the down days 5-6/1.  Which are good odds that you’d lump on in the National. But in this case when the odds get longer they are more favourable to me…OK, so today I had a down day, but let’s start again tomorrow and work at getting the good days numbers up.  Because I have set a goal to get off these tablets now.  A year is long enough, I need to move on, I need to kick this depression for good.  I need to move on and actually enjoy the idyl that I know I have here.  I deserve to enjoy it.  I’m not going anywhere and it isn’t either, so I might as well get stuck into enjoying it!

Tomorrow will be a good day. Hell, it’s Friday!


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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