At the times in my life where suicide has become a real and valid option, it seemed the best thing to do for everyone. When my mind reached this completely irrational conclusion, I was convinced that while my family might grieve for a while, they would ultimately get over it, move on, and be the better for no longer having to watch over or worry about me.
It's the only illness where you get - absolutely free with the package - a real sense of shame. I've heard people say, "I know people with real diseases, show me lumps show me X-Rays", and of course you can't so you begin to feel bombarded with self-disgust thinking," I'm not being carpet-bombed, I'm not living in a Township, how dare I, who has everything, be depressed?"
In September 1994 Elizabeth Wurtzel's first book Prozac Nation was published and a new era of confessional-style memoir was born. Further than that, Elizabeth's frank and unsympathetic portrayal of her battles with depression was revolutionary in a way that now, even 20 years later, we're still getting used to...
I can still recall those early days when our second daughter was born in June 2012, endless tears; long periods of inactivity, terrified to leave the house caused by an unbearable anxiety and despite being surrounded by loved ones a feeling I can only describe as utter emptiness and isolation. This is how I remember seeing my wife in the summer of 2012. My heart still sinks when I think that at the moment our little treasure was born a part of my beloved wife died.
Hubby is a patient man. Strong, loving, considerate too, but mostly patient (in the extreme). He has a tough job sometimes - he has me. Granted, I have my good points (too many to list, obviously) but then there's also that nasty cloud/dog/bubble aspect just waiting in the wings, ready to pounce as soon as I let my guard down. And when it pounces on me, it pounces on him too.
Why is it such an 'out of the blue' experience for everyone that Robin Williams killed himself? Is it because we think if someone's funny they must spend their lives, head thrown back, wheezing away? I know very few comedians who in their real lives have their heads thrown back, it's not funny being funny; it's a killer.
Our mental health system is failing at a time when it should be being made a greater priority... We must change the status of mental health, not just in our National Health Service, but just as importantly, in our wider society... This is why mental health will be a top priority for the next Labour government.
Once we are more readily in touch with or conscious of the thoughts and feelings that trigger an anxious response, it may be that we are in a better position to start voicing them to someone we can trust. Often even just the verbal acknowledgement that we are feeling a negative emotion can have a hugely healing effect.
I have been wanting to write this article for an extremely long time. I have stumbled and tormented myself so many times with this piece as to how I could even begin to voice my boulders of darkness. I wanted to translate to you, the reader, the horrific pain mental illness can bring, and to put the raw emotions into words which you will understand
Hubby pointed out once that there may be people reading this who are trying to understand what someone who is depressed is going through, why they are acting the way they are, and I hope I've been able to give you some insight into that. I'm sure it's different for everyone, but for me, this is how it manifests.
We all have mental health, so equally we can all have mental ill health. From time to time, we may struggle more than we'd like, and so need to look for help to see us through. The problem is, it often isn't clear at what point we need to need to speak up and look for that help. So, here's where the traffic lights come in.
I had a dinner party last week where I invited a few famous people I knew from when I did my interview shows. Many of them suffer from something I call 'movie star disease.' They live in their own time zone so when invited to dinner at seven they either come in at eleven with no apology or not at all.
In certain London bars I reckon the bare monastic cell look is considered quite cutting edge. By contrast, ADX Florence is beyond cutting edge (unless it's prisoners cutting their wrists in despair). ADX Florence's ambience is an altogether bleaker affair, one which seems designed to crush people and push them right over the edge.
Mental health is something that's increasingly appearing in conversation these days. This is a huge, huge step in the right direction, because historically it's the stigma around mental illness that has been one of the biggest obstacles for people in seeking help, or in fact, in even acknowledging that there's a problem in the first place. I'm impatient though