In one hour, my phone will ring. It will be a doctor, someone who I understand is called Laura, and she will ask me what is the matter and I will tell her I think I am depressed, and I will ask her to help me by prescribing me anti-depressants and therapy—the latter, of course, only if NHS waiting lists allow.
I spent a very long time not wanting to be depressed. For years of my life—six? Seven?—I have simply changed my circumstances whenever the black clouds began to mass. ‘Yes, I get sad sometimes,’ I would tell everybody who expressed concern, ‘but it’s circumstantial sadness, not this odd existential sadness everybody else seems to be suffering from’.
Patterns have emerged, however, and the only constant is me. I’ve travelled the world seeking happiness and adventure, but I can’t escape my own head. I carry the problem with me. Wherever I go, the black clouds are never far behind.
I didn’t want to go on medication for the same reason I don’t take paracetamol when I have a headache: I have no interest in treating symptoms. If I have a headache, it’s my body telling me something is wrong. If I numb myself and forget the headache is there, I might never feel compelled to make the lifestyle changes that clear the headache up once and for all. Similarly, medication felt like a cop-out: accepting the world as it is and numbing myself to it, rather than fighting to change it.
There’s a lot of light inside me. I know there is. I can still feel it, even now. When I watch grainy videos of myself as a child—golden-haired and blue eyed and smiling, blowing out ten candles on a birthday cake—I see that light at its brightest: a little glowing orb at the core of me filled with love and kindness and gentleness.
I don’t think that light ever goes out. It’s always there, however as I’ve grown older, the mud and oil of adulthood have spattered over it, coating it in sticky black layers, over and over, until there’s only the occasional glimmer from within to remind me there’s any gold in there at all.
I want and strive to believe in people—to believe in the world and in life. Then I get jabbed in the eye, and each successive time it’s a little harder to see the good. I was at a pedestrian crossing two days ago, and the road was clear but for a car fifty metres away. I had time to cross, yet as I was halfway across the road I heard the roar of an engine. The car was speeding up towards me. I was forced to run to the opposite side of the road, and as the car whizzed past me I saw two young men laughing in the windows.
I felt upset and angry about it. It just didn’t make any sense. If I’d tripped up, or turned back, or panicked and froze, I would have been killed. They would have smashed me over the bonnet of their car, and I’d have lain bleeding in the road until I left this world. For what?
How do you marry actions like this with an outlook that says there is good in everyone? The cognitive dissonance makes me nauseous.
I walk down the street and see detritus on the pavement: chewing gum, cigarette ends, beer cans, condoms, vomit, blood. I walk into the doctors and find it overcrowded and underfunded. The parks and underpasses are filled with drunks sleeping on benches and cardboard boxes. On the high street, chains dominate and jobs are low-paid and scarce, and every British town looks the same: Greggs, WHSmith, Dominos, Betfred, Tesco Express, Sainsburys Local, Costa, Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, Primark, Poundland. Again and again forever, our culture being eroded in order to line the pockets of a few hundred human beings. People are herded through Aldi and Lidl self-checkouts like cattle, queuing up to buy tins of tuna and avocados in single-use plastic shipped from New Zealand on gigantic freighters spilling oil into the ocean. It fills me with anger and sadness.
People recently have said to me that I seem increasingly negative. Although it’s easy to see why—har har—to me this feels like a misjudgement.
Imagine you had a sibling you loved very much, and you grew up together as best friends, having adventures together and climbing trees. Then as you enter adulthood, your sibling begins to mess with drugs. They start with boozing, then smoking, then they dabble in party drugs like MDMA and cocaine, and before long it’s speed, then crystal meth, then heroin. And you watch them—this loving sibling you once knew, with rosy cheeks and a playful smile—wither away before your eyes, becoming a shell of what they once were.
Are you an unhealthy and negative person if you point out the change you are witnessing? Are you at fault because you despair at the sight of irretrievable loss?
Sometimes depression feels like the only sane response to the trajectory of the world. I often feel distrusting of happy people, in fact. I meet them and I see their joviality, and it’s all I can do to avoid gripping them by the shoulders and yelling in their faces. “Are you blind to what’s happening around you? What on earth is there to smile about?”
I often wonder whether to be happy in 2021 is to be ignorant. It’s all gotten very Brave New World up in here. But then what? Do people worldwide have a moral obligation to live in despair as long as injustice exists? Ridiculous notion.
I suppose these are what the doctor might call unhealthy thought processes. In the end, despite my best efforts, I’ve not managed to alleviate this sorrow. I need help.
After many years of refusing help, I’m going on anti-depressants, and I’m going to therapy. It’s not the most thrilling adventure I’ve undertaken, but I’ve a feeling it might be the most important.