‘Cheer up!’ These two seemingly benign and benevolent words can be the two most destructive and repugnant words to hear if you’re a sufferer of depression. ‘Cheer up’ to my mind is an insult almost to someone with depression. Now, I’m aware that media and society, in general, has taken to discussing mental health issues a great deal more in recent years and there has been a concerted effort to alleviate some of the stigma surrounding it, however, there still seems to be some misunderstanding as to how different people experience it and what you should do if someone you know has depression.
The important thing to know is that everyone at some point gets depressed. You can have what’s called situational depression where maybe something bad happens such as a relative or loved one dies or Robin Thicke releases more music. Then there are types of depression that may be chronic, ones that vary between moods and which can leave you one minute like a wired Lee Evans defecating tinsel onto a rainbow made of orgasms and the next minute like a Morrisey: pallid and motionless with no love of life. This was historically called manic depression but it today goes by the cooler Hollywood moniker of ‘bipolar’.
I’m going to describe my experience of depression and how it affects me with this slightly terrifying little analogy. Imagine you live with Simon Cowell. No, not just that you live with him, you are conjoined twins with him. Simon Cowell’s head is located on the pit of your stomach like that mutant in ‘Total Recall’ (anyone born in the nineties reading this, go now immediately and watch Total Recall. The original though, not the remake).
Every day you have to go about your work, your relationships, with Simon constantly berating and belittling you about everything you do, the way you look, the clothes you’re wearing, how you do your job, how you talk to women (or men depending on preference), how you have sex. Yeah, imagine that! Simon Cowell, commenting on you bumping uglies with your partner; ‘Call that a willy?! Oh my, God, put it away! I’m sorry dear, but you just don’t have what it takes’. Do yourself a favour and read that sentence aloud in his voice. Even in things which you KNOW you are demonstrably good at you still second guess yourself.
I am a multi-instrumentalist. I know that I must be a competent musician because I have played countless gigs and people quite often comment on the fact that I sound like Neil Young with Jimi Hendrix’s fingers (no one’s really ever said that) but I still think I’m crap. Now, part of that is true of anyone who has perfected a skill for several years and wishes to keep progressing. You will always find fault more than others. However, in my mind I think I’m no better than the drunk guy strumming the three-stringed guitar and shouting abuse at traffic (although he might have invented a new genre of angry pissed-up jazz).
So why am I unclothing my fragile mind to the internet-land? I’m writing this because there are too many people taking their own lives needlessly. A huge proportion of them are young men, a phenomenon which people don’t seem to comprehend entirely. Boys are taught that to be a man means to be strong, secure and confident, not weak, neurotic or insecure. Men are also much less likely to talk. They are more likely to bottle things up and assume that no one else feels how they do and that there’s something wrong with them, whereas women are far more inclined to communicate, not that women don’t have very many other issues surrounding mental health to deal with.
Everyone is some place on the scale. So if you’re reading this and you feel like crap, remember; you’re not the only one and your life is worth living. And if you suspect someone you care about might be in the doldrums of misery, just talk to them. You can talk about anything, just let them express themselves. They need the pressure to be released and the kindest thing you can do for someone in that position is to let them feel like they’ve been heard and that they matter and aren’t being judged.
Here are some links to some websites which may be of use if you are suffering from depression at the moment as well as some contact details for organisations which can help.
Oh, and of course, some Morrisey.