Monday, 17 February 2014


The most startling aspect of my depression is my ability to deny it. When I’m not depressed, which thankfully is the vast majority of the time, I joke about how invariably the first symptom of my depression is my denial of it.

I work hard at my own personal development. I know I can be a prize prick, a raging bull and at times of writing fiction, a serial solipsist. If there are bad patterns in my life, I try to identify them, break them up and create better ones.

So when I realised that the majority of heinous social crimes I’d committed in the past could be filed under ‘Dumping my stress on an innocent friend’, I worked hard to change. If my family is my life blood, my friends (despite being scattered all over the world) are my home. I cannot afford to piss them off, so I worked on it and changed my behaviour. Now, instead of lashing out at people, I withdraw, try to let my heated emotions cool down, so that I can understand whether anyone is in fact guilty of anything.

I’m constantly trying to become all self-aware of myself and my mind, a little bit of CBT, a dash of mindfulness, a pinch of meditation and a whole dollop of peaceful space cadet staring out the window at the clouds. I’m on the case.

Unfortunately though, the ‘case’ in this case is the case of a man with temporary mental difficulties, (which, dear colyoomistas, you are at present experiencing vicariously, as you try to reap threads of sense from my scattered mental process) and even though I know well my habit of denying depression, when it comes along, it’s just so bloody inconvenient, I go into denial about it all over again.

This one was quite easy to deny, because life was offering a mosaic of scenarios which individually would make anyone feel a little blue and collectively prove too much. Hence my denial. Depression is a very rude guest. It moves in just when it wants to, with no consideration for the timing of its arrival.

In the past I would be floored, alienated, lost altogether to depression. In 1993 I was walking up Lenaboy Avenue when I doubled over, as if hit in the belly by Mike Tyson. To this day I have no idea what kind of physical chemical imbalance could cause that reaction, but the moment I straightened up, I had my Black Dog walking by my side. 

Whether it’s just the passing of time, the result of eating bananas or fish oil, my depressions of the last decade have been far less debilitating. Although in many ways this is a good thing, in several others it has proved far more of a challenge than the older darker immobilising bouts.

As a self-employed writer/teacher/editor, if I don’t go out there, create the business, do the job and then get paid, life becomes hard. If I caught the flu, I’d accept being laid up in bed, nursing my fever, willing to let my body do what it must. Yet sometimes those same symptoms come one at a time, One day I’ll have a cough, another a sore throat, the next I’ll be a snot machine and the next I’ll ache all over. During those periods it’s easy to fool myself that I’m fit enough to go out and work. 
More, I’ll order myself to keep going, because I have to work and fortunately, I love every aspect of my work.

However, to do my work well I have to have all my faculties up and running. So when depression presents itself to me like those scattered cold symptoms, it’s fairly easy to ignore each individual one.
I simply don’t have the time for it, so I pretend it’s not happening. Inside my head, it sounds a little like this:

Ahh, has lickle Booboo got tears lurking behind his eyes? 
Tough poopers Batman! You’ve a meeting to go to!

Spiralling helixes of fearful thought wake me at 4am, as they battle for Prime Time viewing in my brainbox with the pain in my foot. 
Pah, get over yourself Adley! It’ll all feel better at sunrise.

Never mind the endless pummelling of Atlantic storms, those winds and the sideways rain, hail and sleet. Who wouldn’t be feeling beaten up?
Of course I’m not depressed. It’s just that time of year. 

Keep going you fool, keep going. You have a life to support, three mouths to feed (only 2 human!) but oh. 
Oh I feel so tired. 
Dizzy on the feet tired.
What of that ache in the pit of my soul that wonders the point of it all?
Ah, it’d be the same for anyone going through this winter, wouldn’t it?

Finally this ridiculous period of denial comes to an end. I’m sitting in my armchair. The dog is walked and fast asleep on the hearth rug, in front of a blazing fire. There is live Premiership football showing on my TV. The wind and rain are lashing outside, but the room is cosy and lovely. In a few hours my delightful wife will return from work, the dog will go mental with joy ... and there’s whiskey in the jar-o.

Nobody could paint a finer picture of my dreams, yet I am lost, wondering how on earth I’m going to get through the day.

In that instant the denial is gone. How could I be so stubbornly unaware? Why, once again, has it taken weeks to admit I'm depressed?

My head screams in response:
‘Because it’s such a bloody inconvenient time!’

Yet there is no good time for a bad thing. 
When I first wrote about depression in this colyoom in 1993, the outpouring of desperate response revealed how deep was this country's ignorance of mental health.

Thankfully, the nation’s awareness of depression has since vastly improved.
Now I just need to work on taking responsibility for my own mental health.

©Charlie Adley


Anonymous said...

Great piece Charlie. As individual people speak out about their particular experiences of depression - and their denial of initial symptoms, the easier it becomes for friends and loved ones to understand what's happening and be supportive. Well done, and remember we are here for you xx

Charlie Adley said...

Many thanks Una - as well as helping friends and close ones to understand, the end of denial is the start of recovery.

However the denial can last way beyond the initial stages, as even after writing all that, it still took me until yesterday to realise that despite my head and mood being well on the way to ‘normality’, the exhaustion I was feeling was also depression-related. There I was scribbling about how it doesn't sap my energy any more, while simultaneously experiencing the need to sleep for 12 hours, which is most un-Charlie like!

Thanks for your love and support, and for reading the piece.