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“All this talk of getting old It's getting me down, my love”
Getting old has never really scared me – in fact in recent years I’ve realised that it is a gift that not all of us are lucky enough to receive. Sure, the bones may become a bit brittle and the joints a bit stiff but in an already short lifetime living it to its maximum is an opportunity that most would seize. My problem was never getting old or growing up but merely the grey area between childhood and adult life. When you’re young it almost feels like once you ‘officially’ become an adult at 18 you’re just another grown up; and people in their 20s are sooo old. What actually happens is that between 16, and for me it unfortunately seems to be stretching to 25 and beyond, you are stuck in some sort of purgatory. At 16 you feel like a grown up, you know everything and you’re old enough to make decisions but in reality,your biggest worries are your zits and whether any girls actually fancy you or not. 18 is much the same except you can drive now, and you may have even cast a thought to the future; thinking about careers, university or what you actually want to do with your life. The student years are a stranger still hybrid of independence, advanced study and immaturity and after Uni some of us find ourselves in the weird place of having jobs, bills and stressful lives but ultimately coming home to have our mums cook us tea. Whilst there isn’t much competition this grey area has been the hardest part of my life. I feel like all I’ve done since I turn 16 is worry. What will I do with my life, will I be happy, what will be the consequences of every minor decision?
"Like a cat in a bag, waiting to drown This time I'm coming down"
One of the hardest things for me was going to University. I still look back on it as a great time in my life; great people, fascinating studies and freedom, but with all the good for me unfortunately came plenty of bad. Maybe it’s my stroked male ego, but in school I’d always been the music guy. I wasn’t necessarily the most talented musician but I was involved in nearly everything the music department could offer and performed multiple times at the school. It was my thing, I was known for it, and I loved it. Like the big fish leaping naively from the small pond into the vast ocean I soon realised at University that I was not the guy at all. I was just a guy. All of a sudden everyone was more talented, everyone was more successful and everyone was just better. I’m sure that’s not entirely true but that is how it had felt. After years of becoming comfortable in the security of my small pond I suddenly felt so insignificant in an ocean full of giant fish. Ultimately my self confidence was in tatters. The harsh realities of the real world, stress and fears for the future rendered me helpless. I’d dreamed of becoming a musician but had convinced myself that if I wasn’t even that good in this one university, imagine how I’d fare against students all over the country, or the world. I’d say I didn’t cope well, but using cope in that sentence at all is giving me too much credit. I avoided social events and developed an unhealthy relationship with food. I’d always been larger and had a big appetite but I’d gone from the slightly too occasional guilty pleasure to eating until I made myself throw up, then hating myself for it. I stopped trying with my appearance, wearing baggy outfits I knew looked awful to hide my self-consciousness under a perception of not caring. I’d occasionally try to make an effort; I remember once getting ready for a Christmas social for my band, catching a glimpse in the mirror and looking away in disgust. I didn’t go, and no one asked why.
"And I hope you're thinking of me As you lay down on your side"
That’s what hurt the most, it felt like no one cared that I didn’t attend, or worse, didn’t notice. Realistically, and looking back now, I realise that I may have been a bit far up my own backside. I am - and was then - a grown man and it isn’t the responsibility of anyone to chase me around. Maybe no one did notice, but it’s not like I wanted them too. I wasn’t staring at my phone waiting for messages so I could tell people I just hated myself too much to make it out of the door. To be honest, slipping under the radar suited me down to the ground. After unanswered invitations and ignored messages eventually saw me drop off of people’s invite lists, I’d gotten what I wanted, I had myself forced the confirmation of most of the things I’d been worried about. I wasn’t good enough and no one liked me. Of course, this was all my own doing. My friends didn’t care that I’d piled on the pounds, hell they didn’t care whether I was as talented as them or not; I’d just created a world where that’s what mattered, made them characters in it and used it to distance myself from them. What I am thankful for in these times is my girlfriend, whom I lived with, and my family. My family knew I was having issues thanks to a small breakdown I’d had over Christmas, but my girlfriend was living with them everyday. I don’t envy the position I put her in and I’m forever grateful that she stuck with me through it. I know in the past she has questioned why she didn’t do more to help; maybe encourage me to stop eating so much or force me out of the flat – but the fact is that I’m an adult. It’s not her responsibility to look after me, and if I wasn’t willing to help myself, I certainly wasn’t going to listen to her.
"Now the drugs don't work They just make you worse but I know I'll see your face again"
The majority of the issues I have discussed came to a head in my third year, but thanks to homesickness I wasn’t feeling so hot in the first year either. The second year was a strange one – I wasn’t really homesick anymore, and I wasn’t at the highs (or lows) of my confidence issues – but I was still depressed. So much so in fact that I chose to go to the doctors. It’s something I’m proud of to be honest, admitting I needed help. I’d always linked depression with trauma for some reason – I’d known friends who were depressed but they’d had other difficulties; problems at home or things in the past. I was a middle-class white kid with a loving family and girlfriend, at University to play my saxophone. I almost felt ashamed to be struggling. What right have I got to feel depressed when there are people with real problems in the world? It did take me a while to convince myself that I did need to see the doctor, and when I finally did he prescribed with sertraline at 50mg. It was like night and day. The doctor told me it may take a few weeks to start to work but after a few days I felt terrific, it was like the world had colour again and suddenly I made a partial return to being the outgoing guy I had been before. I was socialising with my friends, enjoying my life and not really caring. Unfortunately, and what I didn’t realise until after, is the reason that this felt so high is because I’d been so low. The jump up to a somewhat normal level had felt huge just because of how bad I was. What this also meant is that as I got used to this ‘normal’ level the high started to feel as if it was wearing off. Realistically I was just sort of levelling out, but I went back to the doctor convinced the pills weren’t working for me anymore. I blame myself for this more than him, but I do think he could have taken more due diligence before doubling my dosage. It felt like all I’d really done is told him it didn’t feel so great anymore and he was scribbling down the prescription; but it was my naivety that led me there and I certainly wasn’t going to ask questions. Well, one thing I can say is that the double dosage did stop me feeling sad, in fact they stopped me feeling anything. I turned into some sort of zombie devoid of basic human emotions. I was unable to hold onto things in my head, suddenly I was missing rehearsals, forgetting important meetings and even handing in assignments late. My brain was a sieve, but with the mesh cut out. Once again, my girlfriend suffered worse. A total lack of empathy turned me into a foul boyfriend. I ignored how she felt and I didn’t listen. I continued to act in ways that I knew hurt her and what makes it worse is that I didn’t care. I was so in my own head that I disregarded her feelings. I remember going home and telling my friends I thought she was probably going to leave me; frankly I couldn’t believe that she had remained so patient. What made it worse was that people liked the ‘new’ me. I was care-free, cracking jokes and having a good time, so at a distance I was fun to be around. My girlfriend was the only one that saw through it – it wasn’t a ‘new me’, it wasn’t ‘me’ at all, and having spent more time with me than anyone else she saw the full extent of what I was becoming. Of course, continuing my hot streak of being the worst boyfriend ever, I turned this around on her. I told her that she just didn’t like seeing me happy, maybe she only liked me when I was depressed. After all she put up with, all she did for me and all the love and support she gave me my skin still crawls at the thought of that. How could I be so cruel, so thoughtless and so disgusting?
"Now the drugs don't work They just make you worse But I know I'll see your face again"
The takeaway here is not some sweeping statement that anti-depressants are bad or that they make you a horrible person. I made mistakes that led to that, and everyone reacts differently. I just wanted to spill the beans on my journey to where I am today. I ultimately gave up on the pills. An epiphany of sorts woke me up to what I was doing to those close to me, and to myself. I still have them somewhere, I wanted to throw them away but part of me likes the reminder. I still have my low moments to this day, and I’m far from being over my depression, but it’s nice to feel in control again. I look at the pills and remember the lowest times and it reminds me that I picked myself up once, and that I can do it all over again. It also reminds me that I had help. My girlfriend stuck by me through thick and thin (quite literally, especially the thick part) and does so to this day. It reassures me knowing that her love still got through to me even when I deserved it the least. I like the last line of this chorus ‘but I know I’ll see your face again’, it means a few things to me. One of them is my depression – I know it hasn’t gone away and there are times when it will come to ruin my day, but at least I know I can handle it now. It also reminds me of getting through those hard times, and ultimately getting back to myself again. I want to encourage anyone reading to learn from my mistakes. I alienated my friends and my loved ones and ultimately fell even deeper into my depression because of it. Allow those around you to support you, talk to those who can help and offer the same in return.
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