You don't look depressed

I have spoken to a couple of people in the last few days who have said things like “You don’t look depressed on TV” or some such other drivel.

My retort to them is “So what does a depressed person look like?” Their answer is always that they don’t know and that I don’t look depressed. The left wing use this and they even accuse me of fraud and malingering because I happen to be able to write a blog.

Well I am going to explain to you what depression looks like from out of my eyes. I know it well, it dogs me to this day. I didn’t choose this nor do I want it, I hate how I have to live and I hate how I feel. Fortunately for me my depression is “Fight” based and it is there that I will start.

My business was sold on my birthday to a supposedly good guy who came to the rescue for the deep whole we had dug. What? didn’t know at the time of agreeing to exit and sell the company was that my business partner was in league with this guy and had been playing me big time. I knew thought what was really going on and so I walked away knowing that karma will bite. Eventually it did when the my former business partner was given the shaft by his former ally. I don’t want to talk about this though it is depression I want to share.

I had spent the last 18 months trying to keep the business afloat, I was working incredibly long hours and in an environment where I couldn’t trust anyone, even my business partner. Include into that a trip in an ambulance to Middlemore with suspected meningitis which turned out to be pneumonia. The Doctor when he came around after the 5th day in hospital said I was lucky to be alive, and all I wanted was my cellphone and laptop so I could continue killing myself.

So here I was standing on my driveway after having left for the last day of work little knowing that I wouldn’t work again for nearly 6 years. Three days later it was Guy Fawkes night. We went as a family down to Howick Beach which is something of a local event. The problem was about to erupt. 8 late teens/early twenty-somethings fired a skyrocket across the beach and it landed and exploded about 6 feet from me. This was the tinder for the explosion. I went and spoke with them and asked politely for them to fire them out to sea. Then 5 minutes later another was fired and landed right in front of my son. I exploded.

Nothing was going to stop me. I tore up the beach and assaulted the biggest one first, then when the other seven started to come to his rescue I started on them. Another Dad from down the beach came up behind me and advised them not to get involved and the best thing they could was leave and take their injured fellow with them. I literally had the red mist across my eyes.

I did all this automatically, without thinking and just reacted. I did it in front of hundreds and I did it in front of my family. As the re mist cleared I was deeply horrified by what I had done and said to my wife, I need to see a doctor. This was the start of my diagnosis of depression. Of course the symptoms were there a long time before that but trying to keep the business afloat meant I lived on adrenaline and was an adrenaline junky. By not having that for the 3 days to cover over the hurt my body had flushed the adrenaline and now I was operating right at the core of my brain.

I saw the doctor the next day. My doctor is a Singaporean Army trained Doctor who has won awards for compassionate care. That day he saved my life. I was referred to see a psychiatrist who was a lovely Chinese man and he diagnosed my depression. the Following day I went to see a psychologist and started down the trail of learning exactly what this thing called depression was that was controlling my life. The very first thing I found out was that it doesn’t mean you are a bit sad and you just need to HTFU.

With depression especially severe depression your body has learned over a considerable period of time to react with only the amygdala. The core of the brain where there are only two responses. This part controls how you react to emergency situations, it is primal and it is blunt. There are just two possible things to do when your amygdala takes over control of you. Flight or Fight. This is the bodies survival instinct kicking in. Imagine if you will a burglar jumping out of the dark and frightening you. Some people immediately and without thought flee, this is flight. it doesn’t mean they are chicken or weak it is just how they are programmed at their core and when threatened the amygdala just issues orders. The opposite is fight. This is what I do. I stand and deliver, every sense incredibly heightened ready to do battle with anything that comes my way. Again with not thought. It is control deep within the core.

The amygdala kicks in and floods the body with adrenalin ready for the fight or the flight, this is like a shot of speed straight to the brain and the muscles. Your heart rate increases as the body reacts to the threat and your breathing becomes faster and shallower, pumping more oxygen into the system.

The problem with depression is that the brain works more in this way and the body is working under the control more this way and so your body remembers this position as the default. That is where you need to reset. You aren’t thinking rationally, you are literally a binary human. Yes or No, Right or Left, Up or down. Fight or Flight. The problem is you are now wearing yourself out in this constant state of being and eventually the body give in and your depression worsens.

You get to a point where even the simplest of task become impossible. i would go for a walk with my wife and get to the driveway and she would ask me a question. bad mistake. She wanted to know whether we went left or right out of the driveway. That required a decision, that required the decision right now, it forced the brain into the core again, so you get a panic attack and breathing becomes difficult? and you heart is racing. Fight or Flight. Or how about cooking dinner. you go to the freezer and stand there for 10 minutes staring at a mountain of food and being unable to make a choice. You shut the fridge door and go lie down because you are literally exhausted from having to make a decision. You shut down, you sleep even though you aren’t tired, because you brain says sleep. This is the darkest point.

Once you can get yourself up and about though you need to reset your body. Basically you have to do hard physical exercise that forces to body to react in a normal manner. Deep breathing as you exercise, setting up a new habit. training your body to relax, to breathe properly, to act properly. It took me a year to stop having major panic attacks, they still happen and are situational and triggered by a memory. I can’t spend more than an hour at Botany Town Centre for example, for shopping I have to do it in small chunks. Even then I am wrecked physically for the day after just one hour shopping. And I am fit. It just slays you though.

Then I also get hyper-vigilance. This is a heightened aware-ness of what is going on around you. You re basically constantly scanning for threats. For me this is also situational. Although physically I am afraid of no man, my brain kicks in and takes over and says “watch out, there is a potential threat”. This also becomes debilitating.

This is my life and has been my life for the past 5 and a bit years. It is shattering and it is destructive, and I haven’t even got onto the drugs. The drugs are truly awful. I have found that exercise has been far more beneficial, but the problem is once you start on the drugs it is a trap and a trap that you don’t want to be in. I know most of the anti-depressants intimately and they all affect you in differing ways. They universally suck.

But that is all fine, as you battle your way forward, and let me tell you when I started this i thought I needed just to HTFU and have a bit of a rest for 6 months and then back at it. The problem is it doesn’t work this way. I have learned that if you screwed with your body for 5 years, neglecting it, thrashing it and your mind for 5 years it will take you at least that long to crawl back. That is if everything goes swimmingly. However if you get an upset in there, back to square one you go and start again. That is my life. my business partner promptly went bankrupt leaving me holding the can for the creditors, and they came after me. Boy did they come after me and the worst by far was IRD. That battle took two years, where essentially I got to the point where even just thinking about money would spin me out. I couldn’t pay the bills, I didn’t care about spending because I wasn’t paying the bills and we were living on about half of what I was earning. We lost an investment property, fortunately at the peak of the market. Another 2 months and it wouldn’t have been the same and the money from that enabled us to settle with the creditors.

Then there was the impact of my insurance company. It was great to start with, the worry of feeding the family and paying the bills was gone. That is until 2 years into it they decided to in their own words “tune me up” to see if I was faking. What this meant was that two days before the next payment was due they wrote a letter to me telling that they were cutting my benefits in half. We were now living on half of half. At the same time fighting creditors. it is no surprise to anyone that I deepened in my depression and all because the insurance company wanted to tune me up. They said those words in a conference I made them have to explain themselves at which they also reinstated and back paid us. This however took 3 months to resolve. Three months of living on half of half and fighting creditors. I couldn’t even deal with the insurance company or the IRD, I had to get my wife to deal with them.

All this time I didn’t look depressed. I sure felt it. i sure felt like I had a shitty life and my outlook was through shit-tinted glasses.

After about 18 months of depression you find out how may friends you really have. I can tell you, that ignoring close family, and even some of them don’t get it, you end up with just one friend. A true friend who will literally do anything for you. i was also lucky that i also had a true friend it was just that she lived in a different city. She still kept in contact with me and I with her. She also had her own issues but that is her story to tell not mine. Basically though you find out that you have just one friend. my friend came around home and ordered me to get dressed and come to his office, to get out of home, to change my outlook and forced me to remove the shit-tinted glasses. I owe that friend along with my GP my life.

So where am I today? Well I don’t look depressed, except to those who “know”. I can write a blog, though my detractors say it is shit, but then they don’t have the traffic I have. Like everyone else who blogs, it is a hobby, not a fulltime thing. I have the uncanny ability to put 2000 words on screen in a fast amount of time. A lawyer today asked me how long ti took to write the Tale of Two Houses. He was astonished when I told him no more than 10 minutes. He told me that he would have taken 2 hours to write that at least, and his job is all about writing. I guess that is a plus.

Despite all that I am still depressed and of course it didn’t help that six months ago with even flimsier evidence that the IPCC they came to the conclusion that my claim was medically completed. Actually not even their on the payroll doctors said that but they just decided and again two days before the payment was due I was faced with no income, the prospect of losing my house, wondering what to just what to do. I collapsed again. I went into a hole, it took me three weeks to surface. The evidence is there for those who know me right on my blog. I get phone calls from my new blog friends when they notice the signs. i got a few calls today after they read yesterdays efforts. I am thankful that I have these friends from the Far North to the Far South, some I have never met, but send me emails of support. I am thankful that I found God again (no it isn’t a crutch), a caring loving God and again I am thankful for the two friends that kept me going and the support of my loyal wife.

But I am still depressed. I went to the Kaimanawas at Christmas for two reason. I didn’t blog at the time the real reasons, but going there helped me reconnect with happy times, it helped me clear my head and it reset me. That feeling has lasted just three weeks but it is the best three weeks I have had in nearly six years. It also coincides with all the publicity I have got. So the publicity and my appearances and my discussions in a high stress environment all occurred at the time in the past 6 years when I could best cope with it, except the tax for that kicked in on the weekend. I spent Monday in bed after three nights of less than 2 hours sleep caused by insomnia, a regular and debilitating occurrence with my depression.

I want to be well, I need to be well but I have learned it takes time. Am I still depressed, you bet I am, just ask my close friends. Cactus can recognise it, so can Barnsley and Jadis and Adolf and Bryan. All I can say is thank god for friends.

Now you can get some idea of what it is like living with the black dog. It ain’t all motherhood and apple pie. I wrote this because I needed to, not because I wanted to. Of course my detractors will use it to abuse me but what they don’t know is i simply don’t care what they say. That is partly the drugs and partly it won’t help caring, so I screw up their barbs like metaphoric paper and through it in the bin metaphorically because they can’t hurt me more than I have and feel already. I hope this helps someone and if any one has the symptoms or feelings of depression then please seek help. The only other option is one I will not take. Suicide is for cowards whose flight response has taken over. Those with Fight would never contemplate such a selfish and wasteful act.

To my friends I thank you, they know they are. To my enemies fuck you, you know who you are. For me depression isn’t described by sadness, it is described by anger. I will continue the battle and remember don’t mess with The Whale.