Let’s rewind to the noughties
For many it was a time to enjoy copious amounts of pop music, relish in the chaos of Big Brother and waste hours playing snake on your parents Nokia 3310. A simpler time...
Unfortunately, I remember the days being a little less simple than that.
When I was growing up, I used to fake being ill a lot to avoid having to go to school. I don’t think I’m alone in doing that, school is an awful time for a lot of people as children are generally terrible tiny people. Simply put, kids are mean and I didn’t want to be around them.
Ermm in their defence Dave, you were rocking this tragic bowl cut for most of those years. Can you blame them really?
Okay okay, I guess not...
So I deliberately avoided kids my age and in turn they avoided me creating this ever growing chasm. Because I spent so much time away from school and other kids, I thought that everybody took classes on how to socialise and I’d missed it. Obviously that’s not true, but we all believe weird things when we’re young. I also believed that they filmed the actual deaths of people in the film Titanic, the idea that it was fake and that they were actors was beyond my child brain. Come on, it looks so real right?!
Anyway… I stayed at the same school from the age of 4 until I was 16 and once you’ve been branded as the outcast, there’s no coming back from it. Being the outcast makes you the bottom rung of the social ladder that everybody is trying to climb. The bullying because of this was relentless and so the faking of illnesses continued. When I had to go in, I’d spend my breaks either in the corner of the changing rooms looking out the window or sitting in the classroom of my next class so I’d be away from people.
It was during those years I developed social anxiety, trust issues, commitment issues, insomnia, eating problems, self hatred and a serious case of the big sad.
If this was all life had to entail, I didn’t want to live it much longer.
A fresh start
Thankfully, my time at that hell home eventually came to an end and at 16, I was finally able to move schools to a place where I only knew a handful of people. While I was still anxious that I would run into them or that they would tell everybody what a loser I was, I was over the moon at the prospect of reinventing myself and making some real friends.
But I still believed that I was the only one to not have any social skills and that everybody else socialising figured out, because from the outside it certainly looked that way. My tactic to finally make friends was just to ask loads of questions about people and also make fun of myself as much as I could. I didn’t know anything about anybody and everybody else had made fun of me for years so I knew all the right jokes to make. My plan was foolproof.
To my credit, I committed to it and it worked. I made quite a lot of friends during those years at college, some to this day are still my closest friends. But below the surface, all the issues I'd developed from school were simply being pushed as deep down as I could push them. If I didn’t think about them, they couldn’t hurt me right?
For all the things I hated about school and college, it provided a structure I didn’t know that I desperately needed. Turns out that the stability school gave me was the glue holding me together and once it’d gone the dam burst and all those issues came flooding back.
Now that I had no commitments, I had no accountability. Which meant that I had no reason to piece my life back together when I fell apart.
So I didn’t.
When the depression hit, I shut down and let life pass me by as I locked myself away from the world. I hated myself because I had been given every opportunity to succeed and live a good life yet I couldn’t muster the strength to even get out of bed for weeks on end. Over the next 10 years, I let depression take the wheel and impacted every facet of my life. During that time, my mental health was a huge determining factor in the following things that happened (no particular order):
Dropped out of uni
Lived in eleven places (including moving back in with my dad once and my mum twice, where I fell out with them on every occasion and was eventually kicked out)
Had eight different jobs
Had the flu around four times a year on average
Three failed relationships
Didn't leave the house for months on multiple occasions
Made close to zero new friends
During this time, not a single person knew how badly I was struggling. When I say not a single person, I mean not a single person. I was so far in denial about the fact that there was something wrong with me that even I didn’t know how bad it was.
So where am I now?
That summary is a gross oversimplification of how that decade in my life went. There were a lot of moments of true joy and happiness that I’ll cherish forever along with some points so low, I didn’t think I’d see the next day. But those are for another blog post, the rest of this post should be dedicated to the person I owe for helping me get to the point I am today.
Over the last three years, I’ve been able to be open with my mental health all thanks to my amazing girlfriend Lauren. My previous decade proved that I seriously couldn’t do this without her. Her openness, understanding and support is what has allowed me to start my journey of recovery. It’s allowed me to truly appreciate life and the people in my life who have been overwhelmingly supportive and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude I’ll forever be trying to repay.
I’m not cured by any stretch of the imagination, but the lows aren’t nearly as low anymore.
As Mark Twain said “the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why” (or at least the internet says that he said that and that’s enough for me!) Because of her, I've found the reason why. I’m now in a position where I can talk about what I’ve gone through and will continue to go through in the hopes of helping others not experience what I did and that’s my reason for being alive.
Until we speak again, keep hanging in there.