I WISH I HAD CANCER!*

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 00.25.08

I am sad. I don’t mean in the sense that I make scorecards for Eurovision and mark each act as the show goes along, nor do I mean it in the sense that I go to the cinema alone or because I know all the words to every song in Grease and Grease 2. I mean I am sad. I am unhappy. I am miserable. I AM SAD. I am tired too; of life and of being sad and of my brain and my thoughts and my feelings and the ever worsening realisation that I might be sad forever.

Even as I type the first paragraph I have this crippling anxiety sitting on my chest which is really hard to describe. On one hand I want to write this and tell you a true story about me because I want it on record somewhere to say ‘this is who you think I am’ and ‘here’s a true thing about me that you’d never know if I didn’t tell you’.  On the other hand I know that people I care about are going to read it and worry that I’m about to hang myself from the nearest tree and be sad themselves. It is an uncomfortable vicious circle worrying that your sadness may make other people sad. So to get it out the way early for them, I won’t kill myself. I understand that suicide doesn’t end the sadness it just passes it on to someone else. I have though, over the years, changed my stance on the matter and I can empathise with anybody who feels that to end their life is the only road which will end the pain. It’s not selfish. It’s everything but.

It’s difficult to know how you’re perceived by others. How family, friends, work colleagues etc perceive you is ultimately who you are. You can look in the mirror and feel you’re a certain person, but if those traits you believe you have aren’t seen by others, then really, it’s only you who thinks you are the person you see in the mirror. Personally, I’d like to think I am easy-going, fun, good company and of course the wittiest best looking man on earth. I have though, over the years become more aware that some of the traits I think I possess are traits I used to have or would like to have if I were the best version of myself. The problem here is, I haven’t been the best version of myself for a very long time, therefore I’m not the man I think I am, I’m the man you see.

This is not going to be an X-Factor sob story, I’m not going bore you with copious amounts of life tales about me. We all have our battles, we all have our secrets and we all have something that we hide from the world because it’s too painful to share it with them. I’m sharing this little bit of me with you because my head is full of fear, anger, misery, paranoia and truth. I’m putting the thoughts down here to empty my head of them so there’s more space for something better.  And yes, I did say truth, it’s an ache in my every second of life and it has become debilitating and infuriating and it is a tumour in my soul that is making me weak.

I was diagnosed with depression in 2015. I remember for a long long time I wanted to go and tell somebody I was unhappy and then one day, I just did. I look back now and there is a whole part of my life which I don’t remember. There’s just a huge blank space of nothingness. I look at old photos from my late teens and early 20’s and I just don’t even know that boy. I can’t remember what I was thinking or what was happening in my life. It’s almost as if because I was doing nothing, there’s no memories. I was 19 sitting at bars with old divorced alcoholic men, bemoaning life and talking about our failures. I was 19. I was 21 and as all my friends were going on holidays and growing and living life creating memories I’d wake up and move to the sofa and lie there all day for years. I was 21. People would say I was a bum and a loser and lazy. I started to believe that was just me, I started to believe the anti James brigade but now, in this space that I’m now in I know myself. I’ve known myself for quite a few years now and I know I’m not a bum, or a loser or lazy. I was never that. I’ve always been driven, passionate, ambitious and then one day I woke up and I looked back at my life and realised somewhere along the way I lost who I was. Or maybe lost is the wrong word. I think the best way to describe it is to say that ‘I was taken from myself’. Because the guy who dedicated himself to playing football and wanting to make that his life doesn’t just let go of his dreams easily. It was a slow gradual decline of my ideals and my morals. I became lethargic & my goals for life just disappeared. I had depression then, I’ve had it for over 10 years. I can see that now because I know the signs. When I was younger depression wasn’t a thing. I was brought up to be a man from early, to be hard, to be strong. If I knew then that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain which could be treated then maybe I would have saved a whole portion of my life. Maybe I wouldn’t even be sitting here right now writing this.

The doctor was really nice. My biggest fear of telling somebody I was sad was knowing that they’d try and pin point a reason. My Dad leaving when I was younger, a relationship with my ex girlfriend, not becoming a footballer, my Nan dying. Whilst being lovely and comforting the doctor played into my scepticism when it came to depression. She did mention all of those things and I had to try and explain that whilst I don’t doubt that these events subconsciously played a part, I felt that it was something bigger than  just my reactions and feelings to life events. I explained to her that I could have a great day out with somebody and I’d get home and out of nowhere I would just sit down and cry. This is from a man who stood over his Nan’s grave as they lowered the coffin in and never cried because he didn’t want anybody to see him crying. I was 13. I never cried about anything. I liked to think of myself as strong and brave yet I was now crying for no reason about nothing. The only way I can describe it to you and how I described it to the Doctor on the day was to say you know when someone’s cooking food and you walk past and there’s a gust of wind and you can smell the food in the air as the breeze passes you. It feels like there’s a gust of wind and I can just sense sadness. This horrible feeling just consumes me and I can’t help it.

To take a break from me for a second (has the narcissism made you vomit yet?). I remember sitting at home and seeing the breaking news on television when Robin Williams died. I think his death in particular was eye-opening for me to a certain extent because of how he came across to the wider public. Whether or not he was severely depressed or not I’m not sure but at the time it was widely reported that he was. So to see a man who was so funny and apparently so full of life and laughs etc feel so unhappy with life behind closed doors touched a nerve. Anybody who has me on Facebook or any social media knows that over the years I’ve flooded your timelines with stupid stories and funny stuff from nights out and things I’ve made etc and I can imagine alot of people have a perception of me from just seeing what I post. It’s not a true reflection of me, and clearly my perception of Robin Williams was wrong too. So to see a hero of mine, being one person to an audience and another when he’s alone, well… I think that ironically his death may have saved a lot of people’s lives. I applied for a job not longer after he died on August 11th 2014 and on September 21st 2014 I started that job. On the morning of my interview however I woke up in bed, and I had this apathetic melancholia fill my head and body. It was irritating and it makes you so tired and I just wanted to go back to sleep.  I’m not sure how I found the strength to get up and get dressed and leave the house, but I did and it was the best decision I ever made.  Yes, I said strength. People reading this will know that sometimes you need tremendous strength to just get up, get dressed and leave the house. In September the majority of us will leave my job and we’ll go our separate ways.  I will have been there for 3 years. I truly believe that if it wasn’t for this job I would be dead by now. The distraction of being in an office with so many people, of all different cultures and backgrounds etc and getting to know them and saying hello every day and having discussions and being helped and helping others is a relief. I thank all those people, even the ones I hate (Tredgett).

Over the course of 2015 I developed a cough which wouldn’t go away. At first I got diagnosed with a chest infection and then months later I was told my asthma from when I was younger may be coming back. So I was puffing away on inhalers like they were going out of fashion. I had a mini break down in Talin Airport after a weekend away with my mates because I thought I was having a heart attack and was scared I’d collapse on the plane. I also convinced myself the plane was going to crash. I also ruined Christmas that same year because I couldn’t sit at the table and I went outside for a walk and vomited all outside my Aunties house through pure nerves because I thought I was dying.  After a year of not being able to breath properly, a feeling that something was sitting on my chest constantly and the overwhelming feeling that something bad was going to happen; one evening I was rushed to hospital because I thought I was having another heart attack. I had an ECG, I had chest scans, lung scans, all the scans you can think of, to be told by the doctor there’s nothing wrong with me and it was all in my head. I’m not melodramatic by any stretch of the imagination. I hate going to the doctor, I hate hospitals, yet over the last 2 years I’ve spent more time in the GP and hospital then I have the previous 20+ years combined. I would leave work because I thought I was having a heart attack, to the point I was texting my family members that I loved them because I thought I was going to die. I convinced myself numerous times that I was about to have a stroke or a heart attack or I had a tumour and progressively my mental health just deteriorated rapidly. Now this is from a person who used to be scared of nothing, and then out of nowhere I was unable to stay in the queue at a Supermarket I’ve been to hundreds of times. I got out of cars and walked because I felt claustrophobic.  Some of you will remember at school when we got stuck in a lift in Germany and you lot were all crying like babies because we all thought we were going to die and I just casually stood there accepting that I was about die and there’s nothing we could do about it. Yet this same guy now cannot sit in a car with his Mum, he can not stand and talk to people face to face because he has the urge to walk away because he doesn’t want to have a heart attack in front of them. I remember a girl at work kept trying to talk to me one day  in the tea room mid-melt down and she was being nice and I wanted to talk to her and I just couldn’t because I didn’t want to die in front of her because it’d be embarrassing. I went out that same night to a restaurant with my friend and I spent most of the night in the bathroom trying not to die and she thought I was just being a weirdo. I couldn’t speak because all I could feel was shooting pains in my chest and numbness down my arm. I completely zoned out of my surroundings and could only concentrate on what I could feel and my anxiety in my head telling me to escape the environment.

It was during these days, that I said to myself “I wish I had Cancer”. Now we’ve all probably lost someone to Cancer and it is the worst. I don’t say it lightly. What I mean when I say it is that when you have Cancer you know what’s wrong, you know your options and you can try and fight it.  When you don’t know what’s wrong it is the worst experience because to others you look fine and your behaviour is crazy to them because they can’t feel what you feel. It turned out I was having Panic Attacks, I was diagnosed with this and a severe Anxiety Disorder. When you have Depression, Anxiety and suffer with Panic Attacks people can’t see your pain. They can’t see how exhausting it is having to get to sleep at night after a day of worrying about everything and everyone but you can’t sleep because you’re still worrying about everything and everyone. People thought I was being ridiculous. I didn’t leave the house for over a month, I took 3 months off work and I was back doing what I did in my early twenties. At home, not leaving the house, doing nothing. But this was worse. Depressed me would sit there with no thoughts in my head just not caring about anything or anyone. Panic Attack/Anxiety me is at home sitting there worrying about everything and everyone. Panic to me was always people breathing heavily and over-reacting to things that didn’t really matter. It’s not the case. I got a true education in what it really means when I was sent to CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) Treatment Centre in conjunction with the charity Mind. At first I had to have 10 sessions which were basically teaching me what Panic is and why it happens. It’s quite interesting if you want to have a look for yourself and you can see the comparisons with the feeling of having a Heart Attack. (Panic Attacks) . I experienced pretty much all of the feelings on the list which I’m sure many of you can also admit is f*cking scary! After the 10 sessions because I was progressively getting worse I had to go up to the next level of treatment which was giving me techniques for breathing and discussing certain thoughts that I may have and how I can control them better. The main topic I was getting help with was in regards to death. I won’t bore you with my thoughts because I’ll make you depressed and that was one of my fears when going to Therapy. I was worried I’d make the therapist want to kill himself. One of the things I’ve had recurring issues with since being young is the inevitability that either I will die or someone I love is going to die next. So it’s like a deep realisation that this will happen, and it could be today or tomorrow. It’s an anxiety that makes me think about how I will react or others in my family will react when that inevitable death happens. I also note that I feel like no matter how happy I am or anybody is the fact remains their saddest day is still to come because someone they care about will die. I think about it every day and it is very tiresome but I can’t seem to help it. Again, it’s that vicious cycle of anxiety where I want to tell you this about myself but at the same time I don’t want to because I’m thinking as I type that if I die or someone I love dies people are going to read this and say “oh look what he wrote and it happened”.  People say that my thoughts are disproportionate to reality but I don’t think so. I’ve always felt like I see the world and how truly sad it is very clearly and everybody is happy in their delusional state. Ignorance is bliss and all that. I’m jealous of the delusional now.

Anyway, I had to stop doing the CBT because I couldn’t stick to the same appointment every week due to work. This was a mistake, I’ve got the forms sitting on my table downstairs to reapply. Along side my 3 months worth of Sertraline Anti-Depressants. I’ve been on these for about 6 months and whilst I was very Anti Anti-Depressants my whole life I can honestly say I don’t think I’d have been able to go back to work without them. Please never listen to ignorant idiots who believe Medicine is shit and the only way to cure yourself is to go and do some Yoga in a field full of Unicorns. Science keeps people alive, people much worse off than me.

I don’t want you to think I’m a misery guts by the way, that’s not the case. Those who see me day in day out know if I’m cracking jokes and laughing with you I mean the laugh. I’m not faking my relationships with people. This is just a personal battle that nobody gets to see. It may be the reason sometimes I might be sitting alone quietly and then 30 minutes later agitated and can’t sit down and I’m up wanting to talk to everybody about anything.

I don’t know if anybody else has experienced similar, but I feel like Depression, Anxiety and Panic are huge disabilities. I do feel disabled sometimes. I know that sounds stupid but the mind is so brilliant yet clearly so fragile at the same time. It allows me to comprehend that my fears/thoughts are making me ill and therefore the intelligent thing to do would be to stop thinking about them yet the mind doesn’t allow you to let go of your nightmares and your doubts.

I would say when this first started happening and I had to tell my work it was pretty embarrassing. I made sure only a few people knew and told them not to tell anyone else. It all comes back to perception. I didn’t feel like I was the kind of person who would be affected by this. I also didn’t want people to have an opinion on me based on something I can’t control. I don’t want pity, I don’t want people to think I’m weak and I don’t want people to know my private business to be honest. (Yeah yeah, so I wrote a blog about it). I think especially as a man also, to say you’re sad is seen as pretty pathetic. I see myself as a man, who can deal with anything or anybody and can help you with anything you need help with, yet this doesn’t feel manly. What girl is going to fancy the bloke who is sitting there in tears because he can’t hack his shit life?  Man up right? Sadness is not attractive. Luckily, people are talking, and Men and Women in the public eye are coming out with their stories and experiences which is always a good thing. I’m not embarrassed of it anymore and that’s why I’m happy to share a little part it. I’m a grown man, I can accept my flaws and try to fix them or work with them. Things will change. Progression is key.

I think there’s a kind of new thing in popular culture as well where having depression is kind of trendy and I don’t want to be part of that stupidity. It’s not trendy, it’s annoying and I don’t like it. I’m sad. It’s not great.  I’m sad. It’s not a fashion statement. I can’t walk my sadness down the runway at New York Fashion Week. It’s crap. But more people are talking, which is good, and this is me talking. Mainly to myself. First sign of madness right?

I’m going to put some links below for you to click if you’re feeling things. They might help you if you need help. As Blue and Bob Marley once said. One Love.

*i don’t

Samaritans

Mind Charity  

NHS 

6 comments

  1. I can completely empathise with this. I went from travelling all over the world, taking part in all sports and having absolutely no fear. Now I find myself worrying about if I’m gonna die in a crash, a freak accident, a robbery gone wrong etc. I was diagnosed with GAD a few years ago and after an out of the blue panic attack where I went to hospital thinking I was having a heart attack, I now suffer from health anxiety. I now regularly see my doctor as he can talk me through why he knows I don’t have X,Y and Z. Some days are easier than others. Keep going and you’re not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Top class blog James. I turned 60 this year and have had 50 years of mental health problems largely from a genital mutilation inflicted on me in infancy (fortunately now corrected), an emotionally abusive family environment, a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive secondary school (which couldn’t be criticised. because it was a grammar school, although in reality it was, at least in the 70s, a semi-comprehensive) and to top it all off, a university that wasn’t fit for purpose. It’s rarely, if ever, possible to get over such experiences completely, especially when pressure is put upon you to forget that it ever happened. I’ve had that pressure for 50 years and it’s actually worse than the original abuse.

    Like

    1. Thanks David.

      Sorry to hear about your experiences.
      Goes to show that you never really know what people are and have been going through.

      Hope you find some peace at some point. Stay strong. 💪🏻

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s