the wood for the trees


This is a difficult post for me to write. However I feel it is important and both cathartic for me and may be of help to some reader out there who might be feeling the same.

The saying can't see the wood for the trees means that you are oblivious to what is directly in front of you, concentrating on the small details, lost in a situation looking for something that is already there.

I have been struggling with depression for a few years now. It was something that was always squatting at the back of my mind, that little voice questioning every thing I did, reminding me of my failures and my shortcomings. 

Depression is a horribly selfish condition; it literally is all about you.

I hoped that bottling it up and putting on a smile would be the cure. I have always used humour, both wit and self deprecation, as a defence mechanism; there is no harsher critic of myself than myself.
But in truth, this is an exhausting and fruitless effort. By internalising my feelings, it only concentrated them, allowing them to build into something more destructive.

Around a year ago, I sought help from my doctor. This took some persuasion from my better half, I didn't feel like I had a problem  but if it was clear to him, why was it not clear to me? I didn't feel the doctor's recommendations were for me so took my usual course of action and buried my head in the sand and tried to forget it all again.
You know the saying a problem shared is a problem halved? Well, a problem ignored is a problem doubled.

I returned to my GP earlier this year and sought further help. My depression was manifesting physically. I was comfort eating; putting on almost 2 stone in the past year. I even developed alopecia during the summer. I was becoming withdrawn and maudlin, I had given up. This was putting a lot of unfair stress and strain on my relationship as I was allowing myself to wallow, losing sight of what was good around me. I was prescribed Citalopram, to help with feelings of anxiety and depression. I have never been in poor health, never broken a bone, never been hospitalised outside of eye operations as a child. Being put on a recurring prescription was alien to me.

I thought taking tablets would be the end of it. It was a chemical imbalance, this would sort it; level me out. And it did level me out but to the point of plateau. I was numbed, I didn't feel as low, but I didn't feel happy. It affected me in other ways too; my concentration and memory (which was pretty poor before) was awful, I had no motivation to do anything. Even my blog held no appeal to me; I was forcing myself to sit down and write. I lost sight of the reason I started my blog and feel I turned it into a press release forum.
I looked at my blog as fraudulent and fake. When I spoke of it lately, I have likened it to a photo with a filter on it; an altered and unreal reflection of my life. 

I hid in a digital world, one that was not real, one I could change to my needs and make it look how I wanted. But at the end of the day, I all the perceived value I have in my digital self pales in comparison to the real things I have offline.  I am proud of my blog, but I let it, and other social media channels, dictate my life and I allowed myself to make decisions which were wrong and hurtful. Decisions that had ramifications in the real world but to me, were not real as it was all online. 

My mood and feelings led me to do things I am hugely ashamed of and regretful for. Things which could have destroyed EVERYTHING I cherish. Things that seemed so out of character but seemed to come so easily. This is the wood I could not see, I lost sight of what was around me, looking for something that I already had. 

I hit the lowest I have ever felt around the end of September. I had hurt my family and the person I care about most in the world. I questioned my worth and my reason for even existing. The hurt I had caused, the guilt and shame I was feeling; all by my own hand was overwhelming. I have nobody to blame but myself for what I did. 

I needed help. My better half had no reason to help me but he did and I am eternally grateful that he did. 
I am a very stubborn man who doesn't like to admit he is wrong or to ask for help. I don't like emotions, I avoid them where I can. 
I remember when the better half and I started dating and he forced me to watch The Notebook. I don't like schmaltzy, weepy movies and this seemed like a prime example. He countered that crying was healthy and released pent up emotions; I replied it just released moisture from your face, you get the same result from spitting. This flippancy and sarcasm is my usual response to any emotional engagement.
I will admit, I have cried more in the past 8 weeks than I think I have since I was a baby.

Around a month ago, I started counselling. While this is not a fun experience; it is a necessary tool. I don't want to confront feelings, thoughts and emotions I've spent the best part of 30 years bottling up and burying.

I want to get better, if that's the right word. I want to be a better person, a better partner, a better friend. 

I also returned to my GP who has changed my medication to Fluoxetine (commonly known as Prozac) and so far, my levels of concentration have been improved.

However, I am not cured, my feelings have not just disappeared. My anxiety levels are high, I could easily stay at home and hide away. I have cancelled several engagements and opportunities which could have been fun or beneficial to my blog but I couldn't face them. I am thankful for the opportunities that have been offered to me and hope to be able to repay the generosity in the future.

This is not a woe-is-me post, I'm not looking pity. However, what I am hoping is that by sharing this, other men reading this who in a similar situation, can man-up and ask for help.

It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Getting help is a fundamental part of learning. Did you learn to walk without help? Tie your shoes? Learn to spell? Men are supposedly interested in knowing how things work and fixing things, why can this not also include your mental and emotional well being? Why is a health regime limited to diet and exercise?

What I am taking from my experience (I won't use past tense as it is ongoing, this is not a 24hr bug) is the need for communication. This is an odd concept to me, despite having a blog and living much of my life through social media. I cannot communicate on a personal level. I was not honest or open. I lied and hid the truth. I was selfish and obtuse and stubborn. I am still selfish, obtuse and stubborn but I am determined to work on this.

I am consciously attempting to step away from living my life through my phone. It was a literal block between myself and the real world. You might have noticed my reduced presence on social media or the longer breaks between posts on my blog. I apologise to any companies who I have let down but I am not going to apologise for my feelings.

My blog will continue. I am hugely grateful to the friends, family and companies who have supported me, but I need to return it to something I am proud of, something that is a real reflection of me and my likes and my life. 

If you are experiencing any of these feelings, I urge you to talk to someone. Talk to your friends, your partner, your doctor. Talk to a stranger by calling Crisis or the Samaritans. There is no judgement or weakness in seeking help. 

Don't get lost in the woods.

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