I have been planning on writing something for some time but in true me style have been putting it off and putting off and simply not committing. This is not the start of the story but that’s something we will get to. The truth is that I am worried that no-one cares or will care about what I have to say. I am probably right but at some point you just have to get it out.
This is that point.
Today, my wife, quite rightly, told me she doesn’t love me how she used to. And that’s my fault.
I have been expecting it for quite some time and to be frank I am surprised it has taken her so long. It has after all, been almost two years since she found out. Found out that, after almost 7 years of marriage and 13 years together, that I had been living a double life. Been unfaithful and that the man she is married to is, in fact, not a good person.
I had just taken the plunge, leaving a career that I hated but was ok at and earning decent money to chase the only dream I have ever had. I started up my own business. And, it was going ok. I had clients, was just about keeping my head above water and was enjoying it.
Then, more good news (and I genuinely mean that), we found out we were expecting our second child.
But then, almost immediately the clouds closed in again. The grey, foggy days of worrying and stress. I changed into a person I hadn’t been for many years. She had seen glimpses of that person but they were fleeting and only brought out by moments of extreme stress.
Pregnancy hormones raging and the stress of running a new business began to take its toll on us both and the arguments started. With hindsight they were nothing serious. Silly arguments over not emptying the dishwasher or not wanting to do DIY but to me they were the most serious things ever and I began to lose my way even more.
The worries increased. Did she love me still? Was the business going to fail? How would I feed my family including a new baby?
Then I met someone who I thought understood me. Said all the things I needed to hear. Told me that she was broken like me and understood what I was going through. And then one day it happened.
Now this is not the place for the sordid details, that’s not what this is about. But it went on for 6 months and is without a doubt the worst mistake I have ever made. Not only has it ruined the only relationship I have ever truly cared about but it let the monster in. Opened the door to the worst parts of who I am. A selfish, cold, liar, lacking a moral compass and generally not a good person.
When she found out all of our world’s fell apart. It led to months of collecting my belongings from the street, shouting, arguing, tears, MORE LIES and nights spent sleeping in the car.
And then came the coping mechanisms that far too many men use in times of turmoil. I started to drink A LOT. I started smoking again intermittently, something I hadn’t done in 15 years. I even started using recreational drugs. I also stopped caring about my business and stopped looking after myself, something that was key to my business.
Then I stopped sleeping and this is when it all started to get serious. I was lucky to be getting an hour a night. On some occasions, I wouldn’t sleep for more than two days. It was a living hell created by my past and then recreated in my present as the consequences of my actions.
It came to a head following a huge argument that lead to the worst anxiety attack I have ever had. It was so bad that to this day almost two years on I still don’t remember what happened. I have no idea what I said or what I did for almost two hours.
The first thing I remember is walking into the doctor’s surgery having booked an emergency appointment in tears asking for help. And that’s what I got, sort of.
After a calming chat with the doctor, it became clear that I was suffering from depression, something I had known for over 20 years but had never admitted and in fact had never even said out loud. Up until very recently it wasn’t even something that I heard men of my age, in fact any age, talk about. It’s just not something you do as a ‘bloke’.
I was referred to a counselling service and prescribed some sleeping pills and some medication for the anxiety. The pills helped. I am a great believer in modern medicine and they genuinely helped me to maintain a level of control over something that otherwise, I was unequipped to handle.
The other thing was that for the first time in a long time I started to be honest. I HAD to be. I NEEDED to be and my family needed me to be.
Let’s be clear. I am not putting my bad decisions down to the depression. I am an adult who made them by himself. BUT, they do provide context, something that muddies the waters of the decisions we make.
My past has had a profound effect on who I am today. Bullying, failure but most of all, disappointment. Disappointing the people I love with my behaviour and disappointing myself by not achieving or, more to the point, not letting myself achieve what I am capable of.
Back to the story.
I started the counselling and the medication. It all helped.
But it couldn’t help my business. By then it was too late and the only dream I had left for myself died forever. Killed by a mix of bad choices and poor mental health that no new business could survive. Luckily I managed to go back to my old career but I am not the same person. And that first job soon failed.
Amazingly, my wife decided that, despite it all, she still wanted us to be together. Not just for the sake of our boys, but for us. That was genuinely one of the happiest days of my life.
But depression never goes away.
There are good days and lots of bad days. But she puts up with it, god knows how. She puts up with the moaning, put ups with the self pity. Puts up with the selfishness. And everything else that goes with living with a person with depression.
And then there’s the really dark thoughts. You know what I mean.
I’d be lying (again) if I didn’t say I hadn’t thought about it. I thought about it every day for a long time. I should say that I never acted on those thoughts. Instead I punish myself by deliberately drinking and eating all the things that make me miserable. Hoping that maybe it would cause me to no longer be a burden on the world. Hoping that something might happen to stop me being a disappointment to the world.
But it hasn’t yet and maybe it won’t
And so to the point.
Depression is a killer. It kills joy, it kills hope, it kills dreams and most scarily it kills people.
And that is what this is all about and something I want to talk about more. Even if nobody ever reads this I need to get it out of me and saved somewhere so that even if one person comes across it by mistake they will know what this horrible illness can do to people.
But that’s enough for today.