The moment you realise that you have this thing to deal with, it feels like everything changes. Do I have to take medicine for the rest of my life? Does it mean I am not normal? What would people think? What would my friends and family say and will they be supportive? What stigma will try to make me fall prey to it?
Depression. The good, the bad and the ugly. Is it the end though? Fuck no! This is just the beginning.
So to fully understand the emotions that follow with all of this, I will need to start in the past and explain a bit more about me. Don’t worry, I will try to keep this short. This is not about me, really, but more about you. Maybe you can relate, maybe you can resonate? I hope so.
I am a typical farm boy. Grew up in grape land in the Western Cape. Yes, sounds idyllic, but it has its pros and cons. Small town vibes mean that everyone knows your private matters and that everyone knows your private matters. This of course almost places you in a fishbowl. As a family, we were always taught to ensure that the surface does not show any cracks. What does that mean? Pretend your ass off!! No one must know when there is anything wrong.
Turns out I was one of the smart kids at school and also not the richest of the rich kids, which means I was bullied. Damn, that was actually quite hectic in hindsight. Called names, pranks and really just nasty to as kids can be. I feel sorry for my parents. It must be tough looking at this and not being able to do anything. Remember, we don’t show weakness.
Being the smart one and not the rugby star, it was evident from a young age – based on my perception – that I was not the son my dad wanted. This caused years of an unhappy relationship with good old dad.
I made a success of it. It is so true that you don’t have to fall prey to your circumstances and use that as an excuse for everything. That does not make me perfect because of I sure as hell did that at times.
It was in Varsity where things got really interesting. Did a 3-year degree in 5 years. Cheers to that! I also came out as a gay man. Young, insecure, scared and very confused. For an Afrikaans boy, this is quite frowned upon. At this stage, my “fuck all y’all” attitude started. And then the heartaches started. Now you should know that nothing triggers you like a breakup.
This leads me to a suicide attempt and ending up in the hospital. When the hurt is so much that you just do not know how to make it better anymore. That you just want it all to end. Make it stop, make it go away. It turns out that having your stomach pumped is not fun. Not even to deal with the aftermath.
You do not only hurt yourself, but you hurt your friends and family so much more around you. It only took one call to get my mom to Johannesburg from Cape Town and she was there when I woke up. Sad, guys, super sad. The worst part is that I attempted this on my sister’s 30th birthday. Talk about selfish.
Two years have passed after the incident and there was a rocky road ahead. Psychologists, psychiatrists, life coaches. I tried everything to help me. But the question really was whether I was open to change and ready to take responsibility for me. No matter what other people say, you are the one responsible for your own happiness and well-being. And only you know what’s best for you.
That brings me to where I am writing from today. Six days ago I had myself admitted to an institute that deals with depression, stress and anxiety. Yes, even though I am very fortunate and blessed, even the combination of small situations can cause you to have a major relapse. I am however thankful that I saw that I needed help and that it did not lead to another charcoal situation.
Turns out that I was misdiagnosed and on the wrong meds. This is to no one’s fault though. I am just happy that it has been identified.
Why am I telling you this? There is so much hurt in life and so many of us suffer through the same thing. We try our best to show no cracks in the surface and we hide and swallow our feelings. It is good to ask for help. It is good to set boundaries. It is good to look after yourself first. And it is perfectly fine to show and talk when you are drowning.
Depression and Bipolar disease is not something to be ashamed of. To get the required help is nothing to be ashamed of. The easiest way to explain this is to use an analogy. Think of how many people wear glasses. The brain is so much more complex than the eyes. So to get treatment is like getting glasses for your brain. Don’t you think it is time we take care of our brains better?
Be kind to yourself. There is always help and there is always hope.