When the darkness descends

I’ve had a hard weekend health wise. Nothing drastic, just low mood and feeling bad about myself. When like this, I try to keep busy, stick to light topics and avoid toxicity. There can be a lot of that on social media.

On waking, there is an emptiness, a chasm where feelings and drive were previously. It leaves me numb, cold and remote from others, knowing that I will not react well to negatives today. Pull the covers over my head, take the phone off the hook, lock the door.
Even the Scotland rugby result couldn’t shake it and that was momentous.

Two friends had 50ths this weekend and I couldn’t go, couldn’t commit to go when invited and it’s just as well as illness would have benched me. It’s the life of someone who suffers from mental health issues, avoiding planning events as you don’t know how well you will be.

Nothing much triggered it and although I had a moment with Lady Mackay, something all couples do, which I’ll keep personal for fear of reprisals – don’t want a good smack….again. It put me back a bit and no-one’s fault, just the way I react at times to certain triggers. Then we have the current news climate, which is unfathomable at the way some are reacting in the world and this leads to toxicity on social media, which looks more like all out cyber war at times. Some can’t stay rational, polite and debate their point at the same time, can’t take a challenge or opposite view. As a friend said recently, cognitive dissonance is on the rise, in a big way, and it is causing people to become more illogical, unreasonable, toxic.

Maybe it’s all these factors combined or maybe it’s just the way I woke up, something in my chemistry said ‘Nuh-uh. No way. You’re mine for a while.’ Who knows for sure? It’s how you deal with these moments that is important and I’m still learning. I may be a bit of an eejit but I never stop learning, viewing every day as a school day. It’s the way I’m wired and enjoy researching, learning, discovering.

There is a positive side to social media though and that’s when you see people at their best. I am in a fortunate position to have people online who are very supportive, some old and dear friends, some newly met, all being people who make themselves available to talk. I am always humbled and very grateful for kind offers from others, reaching out just to say hi, that they are there if needed. That’s part of this condition in that you don’t think you are worth it, no-one cares and why the hell should they? This applies even to those closest to you and against all reason, you just feel you don’t deserve the care and affection of others.

It’s the little things that help though. Lady Mackay quietly hugging me, not a word said just a hug in passing. My kids are also great at small kind acts which make me smile, simple things like stopping playing on X-Box and saying ‘there you go, Dad’ and the teen (we call her Kevin, as in Harry Enfield character) gives a high five in passing.

Small things, but mean so much.

There was a lovely exchange this morning on Twitter with people going through the same issues as me just reaching out and showing kindness. These acts of humanity and understanding are welcome and I do feel so much better for knowing that there is positive intention for others out there.

If you have a friend or loved on going through a hard time, be there. That’s all they ask. You can’t fix it for them, it just has to run its course and all you can do is be there, with the small things, the offer of talking.

Be kind, be human. That’s all anyone can do in this chaotic world as all we really have is each other.

And remember to be kind to yourself.


8 thoughts on “When the darkness descends

  1. I’ve rarely known such eloquent while undramatic writing on mental health. That’s not to criticise other accounts as people are writing from their hearts and often from depths of despair. The difference in your writing Richard is that (while I truly hate that you’re suffering and I do understand the realism of your pain) your blogs feel comforting rather than heightening my negative emotions. That’s some trick you managed there 🙂 Thank you x

    I’ve read a lot about depression and anxiety over many years – books, internet, academic journals. In all parts of my life and from childhood I’ve been a reader. I like to research, seek out information, make sense of things within that context. There are three items which stick out as particularly impacting on me. Everyone is different but perhaps they are worth a look. They don’t give answers. Reactive depression is easier to intellectualise but as you say sometimes it’s just how you wake up. That’s what makes it such a sneaky bastard of an illness.

    The first is ‘Overcoming Depression’ by Paul Gilbert. A CBT based book. It instilled in me that depression isn’t my fault, that there are coping mechanisms which can help if learned and practised over a period of time, and it also helped me explain to my partner what was happening to me when he was scared shitless by how low my mood could go.

    The second was the first newspaper article I read by Sally Brampton. I’ll try to find the link. I actually gave it to a psychologist and asked him to read it because it was so tuned to how I felt but couldn’t describe at the time. I then read her book ‘Shoot the Damn Dog’ which also resonated, though on occassion it absurdly irritated me because she had such a materially privileged life with access to support many people could only dream about. Absurd because it didn’t prevent her depression or her sad suicide last year. Depression = anybody.

    The third is ‘Darkness Visible – a Memoir of Madness’ by William Styron. A strong description of being in a very dark place.

    I should have said four items. A special mention for the illustrated books by Matthew Johnstone – ‘I Had a Black Dog’ and ‘Living With a Black Dog’. Also available as wee videos on the internet. Amazing books. So simple but with a huge impact when you’re not up to any depth of reading or if you want those around you to understand more.

    People – professionals, personal, my work colleagues in a mental health setting – often say I have great insight to my condition. They’re right. Unfortunately treatment resistant chronic depression has plagued me for years. Mostly I’ve lived around it but on several occasions it has crushed me for months at a time. I describe it as losing great chunks of my life. I can’t work and I don’t function at any level. So yes I have insight and I have coping skills ….. but those don’t make me immune sadly.

    Day to day I try to promote awareness of mental health issues. I work in mental health services so it’s my bread and butter. Even in that environment I’ve needed to speak up about the debilitation of depression. It’s not an ‘exciting’ mental health condition like a psychosis. In the past I’ve heard comments (mainly from young male staff!) like ‘not another middle aged depressed woman’. You can believe I’ve not been quiet with my blasting about that one and hopefully that’s in the past.

    On a personal level I’m very good at speaking about depression when I’m relatively well. If I’m very depressed I battle all the usual guilt, shame and unworthiness. I am currently off work. It’s been a horrible few months where getting out of bed has regularly been my Kiliminjaro. I’ve been quiet about it. Richard you’ve kick started my voice again!



    1. A fantastic post, brawburd! Thank you so much for sharing your experience.
      I’m delighted you are finding something in my writing that is helping you and sorry in equal measure that you are in a bad place right now.
      I think your description ‘a sneaky bastard of an illness’ is about the best I’ve heard and that includes the Black Dog.
      Some great suggestions of reading material there and will definitely have a look. I hope others have taken something from your experience here too and motivates them to talk to someone about their issues.
      Always good to talk!
      Wishing you best of health at all times – you deserve it, remember.


  2. Big guy,I’m not the most eloquent with words,in fact ‘eloquent’ is a word alien to me but reading your blog makes me feel helpless to help in any small way.Sending you a big hug of the man variety,stay positive and look after yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just cannot express how much I relate to all the stuff you speak about in these blogs mate. I consider myself fortunate in that when “the black dog” first came to visit me I found the correct medication for me relatively quickly, that, combined with various relaxation techniques to overcome my anxiety meant that the worst period for me only lasted a few months rather than the years some suffer. I still have my moments and I am still on my meds but I have learned to recognise the signs and the importance of speaking to people about how I am feeling. These blogs are great to read and actually help with my understanding of my condition.
    Fantastic reply from Brawburd as well btw


    1. Aye, she’s a cracker, Allan.
      Thanks for your words too. I really do appreciate your story and hope we can help each other.
      It’s hard but we will get through it and in some way, it helps us sort out our lives, remove the toxic crap that just causes problems.That’s a great challenge but a necessary one that I am facing at the moment.


  4. Yip, I can relate to all of it, except that I only had my kids, but they weren’t about so I missed that ‘high five’ or the silent hug! Maybe that would’ve pulled me out of it quicker, who knows! I DID have my living, breathing black dog to lie at my feet and give me the occasional (ok lots of nudges) nudge & this helped as it forced me to crawl out of bed at least once a day to go to the Cathkin Braes with him. The fresh air, the birdsong, the cloudy or sunny skies all helped. It made me feel the loneliness but it also made me feel alive. Ok rambling on now, I’ll shut up. Just go out and breath in the fresh air at least once a day, Rich! (@)(@) Boobies x


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