About 4 months ago I made a decision for the wrong reasons. Mistiming my medication and taking two doses close together had led to some unpleasant side effects. Ultimately all it was was one uncomfortable day, but I resented having it at all and stubbornness got the better of me so I decided that day that I was done with anti-depressants. All they’d ever be to me was a sleeve of false promises and night sweats. A sleeve of taking a week and a half to ‘finish’. Side effects that induce more sadness than the huge amount you have to deal with on a daily basis anyway aren’t worth having I decided. So it was time to stop and time to figure out another way. At the time it felt right. Even my doctor bought my convincing speech about how ready I felt and was completely happy for me to go for it. It would be unpleasant initially then the reset button would have been hit and a clean slate existed. After about a year of uncertainty and discomfort. Not knowing if I’d ever made any headway with my mental health stuff ever again, I finally felt like I’d taken control. I was wrong.
Coming off Sertraline and deciding to throw myself head first in to being the best damn writer/retail employee the world had ever seen was never going to work. I done it at a time where neither of those things made me feel like I had worth so when the medication I was taking that helped with that stopped being a factor, my self worth plummeted. The doubts I had about my abilities as a writer and the chances I had of ever making it a full time career became overwhelming. It got to a point where I didn’t want to write at all. In fact, saying I didn’t ‘want’ to is inaccurate. I couldn’t. My brain would offer stiff resistance to any attempt I made and it got to a stage where even trying was such an exhausting prospect I just blocked it off completely.
Anti depressants aren’t addictive in the sense that if you stop taking them, your body doesn’t crave that substance. Instead there’s a period where you’re body I suppose re-adjusts to not having that wee top up of the chemicals your brain is missing. That for me lead to some horrendous stuff. Headaches, extreme light sensitivity, nausea, concentration problems and general erratic thought processes and feelings. Stopping taking them cold turkey may have been a reason it was all so intense but make no mistake about it, for a long long time I felt like utter shite. Worse than I did when I was on the medication. Yet I made the decision to sit tight and stick it out. Once it was finally gone then it was a fresh start. The clean slate I’ve always wanted since I was about 12-13 and I first remember really experiencing depression.
I remember quite clearly the first time I realised something might not be quite right. Having celebrated every Celtic goal I’d seen in the first 13 years of my life (well I can’t remember the first few but I’m sure as I baby I was whipping aff the nappy and swinging it above my tiny heid in celebration, shite fleeing everywhere) with reckless abandon, Celtic scored a late goal to win at Tannadice I believe. At that time I had Glandular Fever and had been bedbound for several weeks. I was just starting to feel a bit more physically normal but mentally I was a bit. I don’t know. Not myself. The goal went in and I felt….nothing. No emotion. Nothing but confusion existed. Why didn’t I care? When was the last time I really cared about anything? It stuck with me and maybe if I addressed it all back then rather than around 10-15 years later things might have been different.
The years rolled on and shite things happened. Things I wasn’t really old enough to understand or process correctly. I didn’t fully realise it then but it was all serving to break me down bit by bit. My ability to cope was non existent and slowly but surely I slipped into a very deep depression.
When I look back on it I struggle to recall of anything that I was really living for. Nothing mattered. The only thing I really wanted is to numb myself to the point that I could get through any given day without intensely hating myself for the duration for it. Even a few hours of relative calm usually induced by tanning a few vodkas represented something resembling a good day. When I really think about my life in my late teens-early 20s it surprises me that suicide wasn’t an issue really. I knew my life wasn’t happy. I knew it wasn’t sustainable. But I never had ‘suicidal thoughts’ and I never understood why. Not feeling suicidal was one of the reasons I never went to the doctors about my issues years ago because depression to me meant that suicide is very much an active concern. As long as I had a sports team to follow or a tv show to get into I had enough reason to keep breathing but truth be told, I wasn’t finding reasons to live, I was finding reasons to continue existing. It wasn’t a life.
When I started attending wrestling shows and eventually started writing things about them that was when the first real upturn in mental health happened for me as an adult. I began to feel ok about myself. Even pretty good at times. Things weren’t perfect but they were so much better. I was pursuing relationships. I was hopeful about the future. For years I had felt lost and like I had no place. I had no role on this earth.
Suddenly I found my voice and as cheesy as it sounds, it was liberating. To feel heard. To feel worthy of being heard. I went to a doctor about my mental health for the first time ever because for the first time ever I felt like I actually had something to lose. That it was vitally important to get help and get some defence mechanisms in place to deal with this shit if it gets bad again. I went on medication and after a few weeks I felt something. A shift. It provided enough calm for me to really tackle what made me think the way I do. Trying to get to the core reasons for me hating myself so sincerely. It really worked for a while. Medication plus 7 weeks of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) had me feeling better than I ever had as an adult. At the age of 25, for the first time ever I felt equipped to deal with whatever the world might throw at me.
Life continues to happen and it doesn’t really care about all the progress you’ve made. How proud you are of yourself for doing all those things you’ve been putting off. It doesn’t care if you’re waking up happy every day because of that new relationship or that new job or that new shirt you bought with all the exotic birds on it. Life will still throw stuff into the mix that threatens to fuck with all of that and maybe I just got a bit cocky. Maybe I was so convinced I had all the right defences to deal with whatever that I didn’t even fully realise when something was starting to break me down. My partner had to deal with something terrible and instead of recognising the effect the whole thing had on me, I ignored it. I put my own feelings in a wee box and volleyed it into the clyde.
A few years floated past and without fully realising I was back at my worst. My self confidence had slowly started slipping away and things that brought me nothing but joy became stressful. If I’m really honest with myself for the best past of the past 2 years I’ve been right back at my worst point except this time there was a wee difference. The overall feeling was very similar to how I’d felt for years before but this time there was a wee voice in my head urging me to end my own suffering. A wee voice that never speaks directly to you but serves to radiate this feeling of discomfort with your own existence.
At first I felt guilty about it. After all, years ago when I felt similarly bad, I had very little I could point to as reasons to keep going. Now I had a relationship with someone I love very much, a wee niece and nephew that need an uncle who regularly threatens to disown them if they don’t commit to supporting Celtic, and I also have this. It might not work out the way I want it to and that’s ok, but being a writer gave me that self worth I’d been missing for what felt like my whole life. It showed me I was good at something and more importantly, it made me really believe that was the case.
I was able to accept people’s praise and slowly but surely started to make an impression writing about pro wrestling. To me all of these things were reasons why I shouldn’t have any inkling about taking drastic action yet there I was. Every single day. Waiting for it to pop into my head. It wasn’t a question of if it was going to, it was simply a question of when. The voice grew stronger to the point that on my worst days, that’s all that was really on my mind. Rampant anxiety with lashings of ‘you should really just kill yourself big man…fuck this carry on’.
It never made sense to me so I tried ignoring it. I tried pretending it wasn’t there. I thought coming off the medication I was on at the time would serve as some kind of distraction and that would somehow lead to me snapping out of that way of thinking. To tell the truth I was desperate. I lined up a bunch of interviews as well. Maybe writing could save me. It had before after all. It was the only thing I could think of that made me feel good. Made me feel like I was making progress. None of that was the right thing but I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that I wanted to die. It was my way of guarding against that feeling. Guarding against really experiencing it. It just didn’t make sense. Why was I quite content in this wee depressive bubble for so many years when I had fuck all, yet now I have lots of reasons to live my brain is telling me to give up and end it. Why now?
I knew it was time to talk. I needed help. After 3 spells of CBT I was finally referred for proper counselling sessions and after a couple of months of not feeling any improvement, I discussed the possibility of going medication again. As convinced as I was before that I was done with it, it was a much better option than the other thing. The other thing meant it would all be over forever and the idea of that consistently sent me into panic. The idea of my niece and nephew growing up without my infinite wisdom. The idea of my mum, dad and sister having to bury the very person that brightened up the joyless existence they were suffering through before I was born. The idea of Emma going to see marvel movies with another dude. A dude who probably talks a bit more than me but I’d imagine had some kinda breath issue. Nothing dealbreaking but every now and the you get a wee waft of something unpleasant and wonder to yourself if this dude has bee brushing his teeth with soor milk. I had to somehow chase those thoughts away.
Recently the guilt I’d been feeling about those thoughts has started to subside. I think I get it. A wee bit anyway. The more I ignored those thoughts, the stronger the voice got. The more I ignored it, the worse the guilt got. When I started facing it head on and started questioning it, that was when it eventually started to quieten slightly. It started to make sense to me why I didn’t think about suicide when I truly had nothing to live for (in my mind anyway) I didn’t want to die because I didn’t give a flying fuck about myself. I didn’t care that I was suffering.
As long as I wasn’t in physical pain, I’d come up with a way to cope with the mental suffering that at least meant I could continue existing. I could quietly live out the rest of my miserable existence, hopefully getting took out by some act of god to save anyone the bother of having to blame themselves for my miserable existence coming to an end. You have to have some kind of self worth to really consider suicide. There has to be some kind of self compassion there to want your own suffering to end. You have to give a fuck about yourself and that was the difference between back then and the way I feel now. Back then I hated myself so much I felt I deserved the suffering.
Now? I quite like myself sometimes. At least for a long time I did. Long enough that when I started to hate myself more and more, I still remembered what it was like to not feel that way. It felt wrong to feel so low as opposed to it just becoming normality. I began to realise thinking about suicide and the voice getting stronger the more I ignored it meant I had to speak about it. It was clearly the only way. I had to give it a voice so I could understand where that voice was coming from and why it was there in the first place. I wouldn’t say I’m out of the woods yet, but the voice has got quieter and the new medication I’m on seems to be settling in quite well. Low on side effects and day to day improvement. There is still a long, long way to go for me, but I believe if I continued to ignore these feelings that it would have at the very least led to some kind of attempt to make it stop.
We have all been touched by suicide in some way. Everyone in Scottish wrestling has had to deal with it head on in recent months after the tragic death of Adrian ‘Lionheart’ Mccallum. It is killing people every single day. Yet some still regard it as a selfish act. Some still regard it as a shameful way to die. Something to be covered up. The only thing that stops it being such a powerful, overbearing force is to normalise speaking about it. Normalise speaking about it as early as possible because no one commits suicide the first time they think about ending their own life. Its a voice that starts off as on occasional whisper and slowly develops into a screaming nightmare. All happening behind the eyes while you attempt to keep your exterior as normal as possible. No one can know. No one can ever know.
If you’re feeling suicidal or even just feeling particularly low, please speak to someone. Anyone. You deserve to feel better. You deserve to live happily.
Numbers to call if you feel the need
Breathing Space – 0800 83 85 87
Samaritans – 116 123