Crying, cutting myself, and writing depressing poetry

Published in Featured - 4 mins to read

Looking back, I’ve probably displayed symptoms of depression in some way for the last ten years, since I was 12. And for the first five years of that, I didn’t talk to anyone about how I felt. Why? Because even at ages 12–17, I already knew that men didn’t talk about their feelings. They were brave and strong and climbed mountains and fought bears, with perpetually stiff upper lips. They did not tell others that they felt worthless, hopeless or ready to kill themselves, and if they had those feelings, they dealt with them by themselves. Like men.

Fortunately, we are slowly realising how fucking stupid this is. But it is still just that; a dangerously slow collective realisation. I eventually told one of my friends I was going to kill myself and she told someone else who basically dragged me to the children’s health and social services centre. I had to answer a bunch of horrible questions from a stranger about things I never wanted to talk about with anyone, and had no idea how to talk about in the first place. It sucked, I cried, and I resented everyone involved for a while. It lead to years of therapy, a stay in an (adult) psychiatric ward age 17, more cutting, more crying, and multiple suicide attempts. Along the way, I have run out of fingers and toes with which to count the people that have saved my life. So shout-out to them.

But why am I telling you this, mysterious person on the internet? Have I not heard of oversharing? Am I not uncomfortable to have this information about me published in a public forum?

The answers to two and three are yes, of course. But that’s the point. As for why I’m telling you this, it’s because either you’re a man, you know men, or you need to get out more. We have a cultural problem with men not talking about their feelings, and it’s not just a quality of life issue — 13 men committed suicide PER DAY in the UK during 2013. I am hoping that by writing this, for all the discomfort it’s caused me, one person will change their attitude slightly — and that’s all I want. Big changes start small.

I chose the picture of the top because it looks like a lot like my world does when I’m depressed. Everything feels grey, like a cloud in my mind that doesn’t seem to ever leave. If you feel like this, PLEASE don’t keep it to yourself. I know it seems difficult to tell someone, and it’s easy to rationalise why you shouldn’t — but if I can write this and put it on the internet, I know you can at least tell one person you don’t feel great today. Your friends would rather know than not. If you’d rather not tell a loved one because you don’t want to worry or burden them, then you can tell a stranger willing to help, or a professional, or even me (a stranger willing to help, not a professional). I’ve put some links to websites in the UK/US I think are great resources, and my Twitter too, if that floats your boat.

If you’re worried about someone, ask them how’re they’re feeling, and be sincere. If they give a generic “I’m fine” response, ask if they’re sure, say you’re worried about them, and be patient. Telling someone you’re not OK is so difficult for some of us that we’d rather kill ourselves than do it. But even you asking, and genuinely caring, will make a huge difference. Educate yourself on the warning signs, and visit some of the links below. If you are really worried that someone may hurt themselves, tell them that, and say you may have to tell their friends/family/loved ones, or even call an ambulance. From personal experience, they won’t want the last one — they’ll tell you what’s up.

If you fall into the category of “you need to get out more” then go outside! The sunlight is good for you, vitamin D will make you happier and the world is beautiful. Join a gym, go to a pottery class, sing in a choir…

Oh, and don’t forget to laugh at my jokes! It’s not just for my ego, it helps normalise talking about these issues.