When Life Gets Too Much

The news is full of bad news. People killing each other all over the world, usually in the name of god or for greed. I try to keep up with what is going on in the world but sometimes the news is so depressing that I just want to switch off and ignore what is happening and get on with my own life and forget the suffering of others.

There was a time that everything got far too much for me. I was going through my divorce and I resorted to alcohol and chain smoking cigarettes. I knew my behaviour was a problem but I just didn’t care. I had lost all self esteem and was wallowing in self pity. I had my sons to look after so I made sure I was always home to make them a meal. At least I felt I had to do my duty as a father.

My work was suffering, but by chance a friend generously helped me when I was lucky enough to have a great business idea that allowed me to make money whilst in a barely functioning state. Ironically I made more money in the 18 months of excessive alcohol consumption than I did when I was working hard at it.

I finally decided to get some counselling. Six one hour sessions through our National Health Service were free but after that I had to start paying. I was happy to do that as I felt I was starting to take control of my life. When my psychotherapist asked me why I drank and smoked my answer made her laugh. I said that drinking and smoking gave me comfort, allowed me to escape and had the added benefit of being self-destructive.

The self-destructive element was romantic and reminiscent of the artists of the past. Growing up my heroes were people who cut off their own ears and then blew their brains out. People who suffered for their art and died young. People who lived on the edge. I too was living on the edge. In my case it was the edge of a barstool.

My doctor had prescribed me a mild anti-depressant. The dosage was low and they still allowed me to function. During a particularly bad patch I asked to have the dosage increased. This turned me into a walking vegetable. I was unable to work. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and read. The action of reading was to disconnect from the real world. I cannot remember a single book title or a single sentence written in any of those books. I was just scanning the words and not taking any of the meaning in. It was just a way of killing time whilst ignoring everything outside the four walls of my bedroom.

Luckily, years later, I am over my depression. I gave up smoking nine years ago. I still drink alcohol but not in the same quantities as before. I have moments when I get blue but it only lasts a few days. I know if I patiently wait it will go away. On the whole I am now a happy and much more content individual who can take most situations in my stride. It takes quite a lot to phase me.

One thing that surprised me is that when I opened up to people and told them what I was going through they would tell me that they were going through the same. To the point that we discuss types of medication and dosages. There are a lot more people that are suffering from stress and depression than you might think.

I was lucky that some of my friends were extremely kind to me and helped me through a very bad patch. I might have got through without them but having them there definitely did no harm. So when one of your friends is in need, be kind.

Brussels 23-7-14

P.S. I wrote these words two years ago but have only recently had the courage to publish them. I am happy to say that for the last two years I have not had a hint of depression. Changing my lifestyle has been instrumental in making me much happier.