More than a month ago I wrote an entry for October. It was raw and unedited, but it existed. I then put off editing it for a day, then for another day, and another, and another, until eventually I realised it is December and I hadn’t posted anything in November at all! I wish it was purely down to laziness, but sadly over the course of October through November I experienced my worst bout of depression 4 years.
To explain this, or rather to help you understand, I’m going to start at the beginning.
Frequent readers will be well versed in my battle with loneliness this year, which for the sake of narrative, had begun in March. I say this because for a variety of reasons I was already feeling alone in the world, but still felt as though I had friends or at least some connection to the outside world.
In March I discovered that one of my last remaining closest friends had been sentenced to more than a year in prison (originally believed to have been 3 years) for committing a serious crime. This completely shocked and caught me off guard. I had no idea this was going on, and as it turns out this was something that ‘W’ himself had kept hidden, partially through fear of judgement, partly through shame. However, this was the beginning of the slump for me. I now felt as though I had no truly close friends left back home.
It was also around this time I had an argument with my ex-girlfriend, “Starbuck”, about how I felt I was still trapped in her orbit and couldn’t let go because she wouldn’t let go. I had up to this point been trying my best to distance myself to “get over” her even though we were still trying to be friends. I lashed out in my argument because of what had happened with ‘W’, perhaps feeling that I didn’t deserve to have any friendships because I didn’t see what he had done. The point is, we still remained in contact but now we communicate together even less than we ever have.
Then over the summer I moved into my new student house where I thought some of the friends I had made would be around. I was sorely mistaken. On top of this I became ill with a chronic cough that wouldn’t shift, and within a few months after moving in and starting a part-time job I managed to trap my sciatic nerve, which caused incredible pain in my left leg.
By the time my housemates returned from their summer break boasting stories of conquests and adventures, I was understandably miserable and facing down my 30th birthday. By this point I was dealing with my physical problems proactively, and had resolved to quit smoking after my birthday and the stag-do of a friend the following week, whilst the sciatic nerve problem was being dealt with by pain killers. I also decided that since I hadn’t drank alcohol much over the summer and that I wasn’t really missing it that I would give that up too, for good.
Setting these goals made me feel better, but I still felt sad about hitting my 30th essentially alone. I spent the weekend before feeling pretty miserable, and ended up staying in bed on my actual birthday until my phone rang around midday. On the other end was my mother, who was calling to tell me that a delivery driver had rang her to say that he was outside my house but there was no answer and that I needed to get to the door. You see, she had arranged for something to be delivered to me for my birthday the week before and the driver had her as a contact, not me.
Anyway, I rush to the front door, still in my bed clothes, and lo’ & behold, there is no delivery driver, it’s my parents, Nan, and my mum’s eldest brother who lives in the same county as me! They had travelled down from Coventry, stayed at his home the night before, and traveled across the county that morning to take me out for my birthday. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I didn’t care about the gifts or the cards they had brought with them, I was just so happy to have family to spend the day with (or at least an afternoon).
Understandably they had to travel home later that day, and so they left before rush hour to make it home at a reasonable time. Regardless of this I was so incredibly appreciative that they had made this effort for me. I was also incredibly appreciative of my housemates throwing together an impromptu surprise party at our house. It was just us, and we eventually ended up going out for drinks, but it was still nice.
It was during this night that I noticed again how I wasn’t getting any enjoyment out of alcohol. This was followed up again that weekend at my friend’s stag. I knew that when I quit smoking on the Monday that quitting drinking was going to be the best thing for me – I was no longer getting any enjoyment out of it, it affected my weight, and the hangovers were the worst because of my depression.
Before I go down the line any further chronologically I just want to talk about this a little more. The benefits of quitting drinking and smoking are extremely evident, however what I had also done was disarm myself of tools I had used to be social and meet people. Not that I was going out much anyway, I was now not going out at all. Coupled with the fact I wasn’t active with any of the university’s societies meant I was literally only interacting with my housemates, classmates, and workmates on a regular basis – but not interacting as you will now read.
No one really tells you just how difficult it is to quit smoking. They kind of allude to it being hard, as if it’s just all about breaking the habit and addiction, but they never tell you about how difficult it is mentally. The first week wasn’t so bad, but part way into the second week I found myself starting to feel very shitty. I was feeling very negative, I hated everyone around me (to a level I’ve never hated anyone in my life before), and was starting to feel very low. This was really compounded by trying to drop my dosage of meds too. What happened was I had created a maelstrom of shit and unleashed it upon myself.
So let’s recap. Depression has been brought on due to the following:
- Loneliness – perceived through incarceration of friend and lack of new friendships at university in addition to minimal contact with remaining friends from home.
- Loneliness brought on by self-isolation
- Quitting smoking
- Lowering medication
- Chronic nerve pain
- Chronic undiagnosed cough
Of the items listed above I knew I could only really control one of those things, which was the medication, so I immediately reverted to the original dosage I was on before. I also got in contact with student support and arranged for counselling, although I was put on a short waiting list. I was actually now at the lowest point I had been in 4 years and knew I was in a dangerous situation. I needed someone to be aware of what I was going through and to make sure that I was supported. I was also finally appointed a mentor as part of my disability support, who in himself was a godsend. A trained counsellor in his day job, his support and encouragement since being assigned to me has really helped to improve my outlook.
After week 4 of quitting smoking my mood began to improve. I found that my chronic cough was subsiding gradually – although not entirely. At the time of writing this post it is still present, yet coughing is not a regular occurrence and it has now been reduced to an irritation that dries out my throat more often than anything.
Currently I am 8 weeks into being an ex-smoker in addition to being an ex-drinker. I feel better in myself both physically and mentally – but perhaps more mentally than anything. Due to the depression and isolation I’ve eaten complete shit, surviving off take away pizzas and frozen supermarket pizzas. Anything that really means I have the least amount of time in which I have to physically present myself in the presence of another human being. As such my negative mind is beginning to focus on my weight more and more.
This type of negative thinking can be unproductive, but to be honest weight and diet was the next step in the health recovery I began in October. This is not me saying it’s a New Years resolution, but I am looking into ways of getting through a month on a healthy diet. My thought process here is that if I set a goal then it doesn’t feel like an indefinite process. It was a similar thought process that got me through quitting smoking by focusing on getting through the first 4 weeks smoke free, and then being smoke free permanently after that. However this is getting off topic and is probably more suited for a discussion next time.
I feel better now, but I still feel somewhat fragile. This paragraph was started nearly a week after finishing the first draft. I had lost my focus again, and was finding it difficult to concentrate. This has been a reoccurring problem for months now and has really hindered my work, although not my part-time job in which I typically can just zone out and almost meditate. It is as if that job has become my happy place where (as much as it seems to be partly the cause of my physical pain of late) it has been a place where my mind quietens down. Maybe. I don’t know. My train of thought is wandering again.
The point is tomorrow I’m going home for the Christmas break. I’ve got a wedding I am attending a few days after that before returning home again before Christmas itself that I am looking forward to, and I am looking to arrange meeting up with friends over the course of the break. However, the only thing I’ve been thinking about is how much I just want to hug my Mum and never let go.
Much Love ❤
P.S. So I normally do a New Year review/look ahead post around this time of year, which is something I still intend to do. What I don’t want to do is make a promise that I could end up breaking. I’m pretty much using the Christmas break as an excuse to step away from all of my responsibilities and shut down temporarily. So hopefully I will see you all again before the New Year, but if I don’t I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. xoxo