Ganesh: Journey to acceptance
I think the biggest thing, maybe, is the feeling of no control.
I think I probably had them [experiences of depression] for a lot longer than I realised. I guess the first time I would have been really conscious of it would have been my mid-teens and quite often it would have been feeling really moody and not knowing why. There were like the generic bad moods and there was something more than that. It was how it made me feel, the things it would make me contemplate wanting to do. Bad moods were like, ‘I hate today and I want it to be over’ depression was more, along the lines of, ‘I hate my life and I want that to be over. I don’t know if I can confirm what it is that separates the two but I think the biggest thing maybe is the feeling of no control. I was probably around 17 or 18, when I could differentiate. If I’m just in a bad mood I can usually get myself out of it. When I’m feeling depressed I know I’m not in a good mood but I can’t do anything to change it.
It happens throughout the year. I definitely get more episodes of it in the winter than I do in the summer. If you were to split the year in half, with the six colder months and six warmer months, I would say maybe once in the warmer months and maybe two or three times in the colder months. Partly, I think it’s because it is a seasonal thing to some extent and I think there is something around how active I am in the summer compared to the winter. In the summer it’s easier to deal with. I have more coping mechanisms. I’m convinced there is a link between my fitness and my activity levels and my mental health.
Quite often it’s easier in hindsight to realise that you may have been depressed but at the time you can’t always distinguish. I’m a lot more conscious of it now because I know I’ve experienced it quite a lot. Sometimes it is anger, sometimes I just go quiet and withdrawn and not want to communicate with people. Sometimes it’s fear. So there’s not necessarily a pattern. It can take a while to work out what’s actually going on. Generally, it just shows itself as being either moody or withdrawn from society. Other times, I think a lot about stuff and end up hating every part of my life but I think it’s probably something that’s become more manageable with time.
I’d had fleeting thoughts previously [of committing suicide] but I don’t think I’d ever had times where I was actually prepared to do anything about it. When I seriously considered it there were lots of worries, I guess. I’d had a really sudden onset of illness. It happened so suddenly and unexpectedly. I’d spent Sunday doing all the things I normally do- played football, went to the pub, went home, went to bed. Woke up on Monday morning and my legs were just completely paralysed and I ended up spending a few weeks in hospital. I thought I was never going to walk again. Bed ridden at first then in a wheelchair, zimmer frame, crutches for 4 or 5 months, then eventually was able to get my mobility back. Over a year of not properly being able to do stuff. There were still issues afterwards around lack of sensation in my legs. It’s a disorder, Transverse Myelitis, linked to a viral condition- not any particular one. At the time they did various tests and they couldn’t find anything. They have no idea, the cause of it for me.
It’s not until you have something like that that you realise the simple things that you can’t do any more. I played lots of sport – badminton 2 or 3 times a week, cricket, used to play football. On top of sports stuff I enjoyed running, walking doing things that I think people would take for granted. Even things like, when I eventually got out of hospital and had to try and do housework, you know getting in and out of the bath? Those things became difficult. There’s something really horrible about having to think of those things as a challenge. That kind of all added to the depression and sense of worthlessness, I guess.
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to live the kind of life that I wanted and mobility for me is really important because of my love of sports. I also found it really hard to concentrate. There was a feeling of not being able to live the way I’ve become accustomed to. That was a big deal and also the feeling of being less of a person because of a disability. There was some kind of attachment to that around not being able to have a relationship. Or if I did then I’d not be as much of… or I’d not be the person I wanted to be in that relationship. Overall, I think that leads to a feeling of, ‘Well if I can’t do any of the stuff that most people want to do in their life then what’s the point really?’
Mainly the people around me [stopped me from committing suicide]. Certainly my family and close friends. I think my little nephew was a real driving factor because I’m very close to him and the thought of not seeing him grow to an adult and go through school and all the things he is going to achieve was a horrible thought. He saw me in hospital a few times and every time he came and saw me and left, I was just in tears. I knew I couldn’t do it for that reason. I think that was the main thing, there was very little else that would have stopped me.
They wanted to put me on antidepressants at one point, after my illness. I didn’t take them but I did see a counsellor for a while. I don’t think I particularly benefited from that. Partly because I’m not sure how open I was to trying to make it work. So that’s as much as I had in terms of professional assistance with it. I never took any of the pills that they tried to give me. You hear things about people becoming dependent on them and not being able to get off them once they start. And also I guess there’s a stigma attached to being on antidepressants and in some ways it says, there will be some sort of sense of admitting that you have a problem. Which maybe I didn’t want to do.
Those people who do know, know because of the fact, well I’ve told them because, they’ve gone through similar things in terms of depression. So I knew they’d be more able to understand it and less judgemental.
I do think there is more of a stigma for men and I’m not sure why that is. I think that maybe its just about the kind of macho-ness that’s attached to being a male and I guess being depressed is a real kind of emotional vulnerability that you wouldn’t normally associate with a macho-type person, it’s probably deemed more in keeping with a feminine persona. I struggled for ages and I’d never admit anything. One of the reasons I didn’t get anything out of counselling was because I refused to accept that there was an issue. You’re not going to benefit from support because you’re going to have to be open to it. I don’t know how it is for women, in terms of how they feel about asking for help but, I think, as a man it certainly feels uncomfortable. I’m just used to being totally independent and doing stuff for myself, and, in every relationship I’ve ever had, I’ve always been more of a provider rather than the person who may be seeking help. So going to a situation where I’m then having to say ‘Can I have some help please?’ is a little bit abnormal and just not something I’m comfortable with.
I’m much better about talking about stuff when I know it’s happening. I’m also more open to forms of help, and while it’s never going to be something I’m totally happy or comfortable doing it has become easier. There’s definitely something about accepting that there’s an issue and as I’ve gotten older I’ve understood how to deal with it. I think that if someone asked me, if I’d suffered I’d say ‘Yes.’ Previously, I would always have denied it.
I think that one thing that was really important for me when I was younger going through it was that there was someone else who was going through similar stuff in terms of depression in some ways it helped me realise that I wasn’t a freak and that actually it’s normal and that was pretty important to me.