PERSPECTIVE is a fickle bitch — make no mistake. She leaves us all at some point or another and everything seems bleak. The cereal tastes bland, there’s nothing on the telly, and jokes are just a mass of irritating sentences falling from the mouths of jovial others who clearly know something you don’t.
It’s not their fault — it’s not yours either. Perspective simply popped out for a bit, and when she arrives back, eventually, you might even get the joke too.
Perspective leaves everyone from time to time, that’s a given. But when she goes on vacation with an open return ticket, that’s when you stop even noticing there was a joke in the first place.
I put a name on my depression a little over ten years ago along with my crippling social anxieties. After a decade of researching myself with the help of GPs and counsellors, shamans, raindance enthusiasts, etc it’s become fairly clear that anxiety and depression have always taken to me like some sort of second shadow.
And I’m pretty sure I would’ve gotten away with being quietly ignorant about the whole thing and kept it buried just under the surface for a few more years if I hadn’t started smoking drugs. Not that that would have been necessarily better for me, just an observation I’ve made.
See, I’m one of those “paranoid smokers”. I started smoking some incredibly low-grade hash near the end of my first year in secondary school. (Seriously, this stuff was basically turf soaked in diesel and children’s tears.) I managed about two years of dilated eyeballs and too many biscuits before my last thread of ignorance finally snapped and I got hit with an ocean of suppressed unpleasantness.
Now, anyone who knows me even vaguely will know that I’ll do my darndest to drag some humour out of any situation. But honestly, the two years around my fifteenth and seventeenth birthdays were dark.
I had my first full-blown anxiety attack in my third year of secondary school. Nothing in particular set this off, but it had been brewing for a few weeks at that stage. I hadn’t been comfortable in my own skin for so long that this eventual eruption might have even seemed like a relief, you know, if it wasn’t a numbingly horrific experience that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
This led to a relentless onslaught of the terrible bastards and ultimately, the demise of my public education.
At this point I was fifteen years old, out of school, and because no one had explained to me what a panic attack actually was or why I might be getting them I locked myself away in my room. I remained there for what was the longest year of my life. The only outside contact I had with the world were the after-school phone calls I received with updates about who was going out with whom, and hour long conversations about “The Simpsons”. Those phone calls were the most important thing in my life at the time and to those who made them, you know who you are, and thanks for saving me. That was pretty sound.
If I’m being honest I’m really winging the timeline here because over the course of those two years I was so whacked out of it on meds it’s hard to remember what happened when. I was on a concoction of beta-blockers, Xanax, and Valium. To give you an idea of what that was like, think “Night of the Living Dead” with less enthusiasm and no real goals. I couldn’t have been less fun at parties during this period.
So, with the meds, good friends, and regular visits to a counsellor I was finally starting to, at the very least, understand my anxieties and where they were sprouting from. The only hitch was that I had been so distracted by my irrational fears that I’d left my depression go completely untreated, and honestly, I wasn’t even sure it was something to notice.
This is where perspective shows its importance. It’s pretty hard to notice something’s wrong when it’s always been there.
I was sixteen when I eventually became utterly exhausted. I was calm but I was done.
The details aren’t completely necessary here but as far as I was concerned, everything was just going to be better if I wasn’t around anymore. So, I sat in my room and wrote out a few letters trying to explain that it was nobody’s fault and that it was just a choice I had made. Those letters were the hardest things I have ever written, and probably not for the reasons you might think.
It was in these moments alone in my room while preparing to put the full stop at the end of my story when I realised just what it was to reach the absolute pit of depression.
Many people believe taking your own life is a selfish act. It’s not. It’s a tragedy, and the people left behind are certainly left to pick up the slack of someone they’ve loved and that in itself is a ripple effect of the tragedy, but it isn’t a selfish act. For it to be selfish you have to assume that your loved ones are in your thoughts while showing yourself out, and speaking for myself at least, that simply wasn’t the case. As harsh as it might sound they didn’t exist to me, not in those moments. And that is why those letters were the hardest I have ever had to write. Because in those moments it was all lies and I didn’t care. I remembered the names of people but they weren’t friends and they weren’t family.
They were just names now. I truly felt nothing, and that’s what depression really is. It’s not sadness, or some kind of lament and it has no need for tears because crying is something a human being would do, and in those hollow moments that’s not what I was.
The reason I’m still here and able to write about all of this is all down to something that I still find to be an amusing thought to this day. There I was, alone in my room, letters written, all ready to checkout when I heard my mother’s voice calling from down the Hall.
“Dinner’s ready! Don’t let it go cold!” For whatever reason, perhaps due to the guilt of seeing the lads on the Trocaire boxes as a young fella, I decided I might as well have myself a good feed first, and not to be wasting my meals when they’re starving over there in Africa — a message ingrained on the minds of most every Irish child refusing to swallow their cold brussel sprouts. And sure by the time you finish a plate of the mother’s cooking, you couldn’t be exerting yourself in any fashion, so off I went for a food nap. When I woke up, I tore up the letters and smiled knowing that I had survived the lowest point I could ever reach in my life. Not everyone has been as lucky as I was to have an appetite to distract me during that imperative moment, and that’s the perspective I try to find whenever things get particularly heavy.
A few months after that I got my first job, and music began to take over my life, for better or worse some could argue. And since then, I’ve been dealing with my anxiety and depression day by day. I tend to rely on my closer friends for counsel these days and I medicate my depression and that’s all there is to it. That’s not to say it’s all sunshine and rainbows all the time. I still plummet from time to time, but that’s okay. I’m lucky enough to have been where it goes and I know that it doesn’t last. You just have to find that perspective to remind yourself that things can actually be pretty amazing.
I’ve accumulated some of the most excellent people over the years who seem to tolerate my outlandishness with very little complaint and so I call them friends. And I’ve noticed more recently that being open with them about “heavy topics” such as this actually leaves me with a sense pride for even knowing them. Any time I’ve needed a hand I’ve been left spoiled for choice. All I have to do is ask. And the important thing to take from this is that that’s all anyone ever has to do. Talk about it. You’ll be amazed and swiftly reminded that humanity can still hold its own when it needs to. Keep this in mind when your perspective takes off again, and she will. Fickle bitch.
Trevor Moran is a 29 year old writer and musician from Crosshaven, Co. Cork. See https://soundcloud.com/trev-moran and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5ij9SmezsM
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, call the Samaritans on their free confidential 24/7 helpline on 116-123, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Pieta House National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444.