LOOKING FURTHER INTO MY PAST TO FIND WARNING SIGNS…
On their own, I don’t believe there’s any way I could be expected to interpret these signs and figure out what was on the way. In my mind, I had a logical explanation for what was happening. But there’s more, it’s just that I have to go back further. About fourteen years further into my past.
Cue blurry vision and a flashback sequence…
I was 27 years old. I’d been in a stable, common-law relationship for 8 years. In the last eighteen months of it, I had started to have second thoughts about the relationship. I had started drinking heavily. Binge drinking, mostly on the weekends. Not exactly unusual for a Brit, but somewhat unusual for me. Though I had gone through other phases of heavy drinking during my life too, this one was somehow different. I’d started going out without my girlfriend and drinking until I was sick. I relished the excitement of going dancing, talking to strangers, and losing control. I developed a narcissistic confidence during these nights and acted in ways that I would not normally act. It was a unique unit of time in my life. I lived for these nights out. The rest of my life felt ‘blah’ and empty in comparison.
“The rest of my life felt ‘blah’ and empty…”
I remember some specific conversations with my then girlfriend in which I expressed my frustrations with the relationship. I remember saying that I was feeling ‘flat’ and that nothing in the relationship (and consequently my day-to-day life) was interesting me anymore… sounds familiar. I blamed this feeling on the relationship and I left her. She was confused and so were our friends and family (who I suddenly wanted absolutely nothing to do with). Nobody else seemed to see it coming and I couldn’t understand why not. I distanced myself from everyone. I didn’t even call my parents, sister, or brother to tell them what I’d done. I had a few more weeks, maybe months, of craziness and then I crashed. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to work. I didn’t want to go out drinking. I woke up crying in the morning. I cried in my car on my way to work. I cried in the washroom at work. I felt guilty for ending the relationship and believed whole-heartedly that I was a horrible, despicable person. I felt intense self-loathing. I began thinking passive thoughts. Close friends suggested depression. I was convinced that this was not depression. In my mind, depression was a deeper sadness that came for no reason. I believed that my sadness had a reason and that reason was the poor excuse for a human that was me (of course, I now realize that this itself is often a symptom of depression… it’s a cruel illness). At least that’s what I believed. Whether or not I was right is another matter entirely and not one I’m even sure I can answer. I remember that my girlfriend’s mother wrote me a very sensitive and caring letter in which she proposed that I might be depressed. Again, I dismissed this as her mistake.
“I never truly accepted that I was depressed.”
I’ll cut a long story short(ish) and say that I eventually ended up taking an antidepressant and going to counselling for depression. I never truly accepted that I was depressed. I always attributed the experience to breaking-up the relationship. While I don’t regret ending the relationship, I do look back now and believe that I had become depressed before the end. I see a cycle here in which this event closely mirrors what I found myself going through in the closing months of 2015 and the opening months of 2016. A cycle that may well have repeated itself between then and now, only with less extreme levels of melancholy.
Again, I’m not saying I should have seen this coming, or that anyone else should be able to see their own clues. I am saying that I now see these as signs as something that I can look for in the future. I’ve learned. I hope that these hints may now help me see this should it start to happen again. I know of them. My wife, doctor, family, and close friends know of them. Everyone will help look out for the cycle happening again and ensure early, maybe even preemptive, treatment.