Opinion: You don’t know my depression

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Dan McLeod has had his own history with depression and would hate for others to feel the same prolonged emotions he has. Photo: Alex Tea
Dan McLeod has had his own history with depression and would hate for others to feel the same prolonged emotions he has. Photo: Alex Tea

You will never understand me.

You will never understand the pain I feel when I sit there in the darkness and contemplate what my life means.

You may think you understand, because of your experiences, but in my mind, you will never know.

You think you can say to me, that it is all OK and that I will be okay. You sit there and hold my hand and tell me that “you’ve been there” and “you know”, but you don’t.

You can never know or understand how I felt as I took a piece of yellow rope that my father used for his fishing net as I tied a noose and felt the sensation of the rope around my neck.

I’ve read second-hand accounts and in some cases first-hand accounts of how these writers lives have been affected by depression. But the part that pisses me off is the part where they preach and tell me they feel what I feel.

We are different, all unique, and you can never know.

You can know your experience and try to relate it back to me, but you will never know my pain.

I can still vividly remember to this day, being an eleven-year-old boy at home on the last Sunday of the school holidays, lying in bed ready C.S. Lewis’s timeless novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Then all of sudden, a swell of emotion overcame me. I could not hold back the tears, and a fear of being around others hit me.

I had never felt emotion like this before. My parents gave me the harden up speech, as you did in the early 1990’s, and sent me on my way to school the next day.

It was at this time, for the first time I felt like I didn’t want to be alive.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, no pun intended, for an eleven-year-old boy entering puberty and big moments of change in his life.

From that moment, every comment, every side-ways glance and every sense of doubt I felt began to dictate how I lived my life for the next decade.

I can think back to when I encountered my first girlfriend heartache as a teenager and the emotional wreck I became and the anxiety which would have me in fits of near sickness.

It was an episode of stress that contributed to my inability, not just to distrust women, but humans in general.

My entire teenage life was spent self-doubting and sitting at home hiding at times from the world as I didn’t want people to see me for the sad sob I had become. When I was at school or out in social circles, I still maintained a mask of bravado, but this was merely a lie.

Although like to consider myself ‘suicidal’, the idea of suicide at times popped into my mind and I found myself in predicaments of my “mind torture” as I debated with my alter ego: “should I, or shouldn’t I”.

On two occasions, I came very close to becoming just another statistic, if only to be saved from a moment of fate on both occasions.

One time, it revolved around a rope and a tree. Lucky for me, the branch broke.

Fate had other plans for me on this occasion.

Right up until my early twenties I had no idea why this was happening to me. Why I was feeling these emotions but no one else? Why was I alone? Why could I not control the darkest of thoughts in my mind?

At the age of twenty-two, I met a girl. We loved, we discovered, and we learned. She insisted that my constant mood swings and emotional outbursts had to be controlled, if not for the relationship, but for the sake of my life.

I thought she was the one making me seem crazy, telling me I needed to “talk to someone.”  I didn’t need to speak to anyone. I was all right. This was who I had become. And it was a constant source of conflict.

After an episode that I am unable to recollect entirely, in part to the fact that I feel like my brain has tried so hard to suppress or delete that from the memory banks, I agreed to speak to someone.

I saw my GP and within hours, I was being whisked off to Manaaki House in Panmure. There, I met a counselor who initiated a series of long and honestly draining conversations that helped me come to terms with the fact, that I suffered from depression.

Over the years, I’ve had countless numbers of sleepless nights, millions of tears fallen and a multitude of anxiety ridden stomach aches. And I have also contemplated self-harm on more than a dozen occasions.

So if I could offer a piece of advice if you wish to listen, if you have ever felt any of these emotions or moments then see your GP and get a referral whenever you can.

I can never tell you how to feel, or that I can understand what you’re experiencing.

But what I can do, is tell you how I felt, and if you take the slightest anything from it to help you seek support, then I am happy.

For more information about depression and ways to help yourself or others go to depression.org, or call 0800 111 757.