Depression Isn’t A Fucking Joke

When I read some people’s reaction to Robin William’s death all I can think is ‘you really don’t get it, do you?’ The smug dismissal of someone’s private torment makes it pretty clear some people don’t have much time for compassion and empathy.

Why on earth would anyone belittle another’s suffering - does it make them feel tougher, stronger, better able to cope. To me it seems they’re boasting that they can manage the shit life throws at them, so why can’t others. But if that’s true then why are they so weak that they need to mock an individual’s moment of utmost despair to feel good about themselves?

What exactly is the point of labelling the actions of someone, who has been brought so low that their reason for living snapped, as selfish? Perhaps they really think depression is just someone being a bit sad, that all they need is a hug and they’ll snap out of it. I’m pretty sure that’s about as effective as patting someone’s back when they have cancer, more a gesture to make the unsick and uncaring justify to themselves that they made an effort.

I’ve had moderate to severe depression on and off over the years, and mostly I’ve managed to manage it. I’ve heard more than enough shit about what others think depression is, and watched how some people act around those with depression, to understand that there is an ignorance about mental illness - which is sometimes wilful. I understand full well that there are those who would seize on any individual’s depression as an opportunity to take an advantage for their own personal gain. These days I expect it as a matter of course, there’s always some cunt who’ll look to benefit from the flaws he can expose in others.

I’m guessing, but like most people with severe depression I’ve had a instance or two where I was just a momentary decision away from giving my head some lasting peace. The sheer relentlessness of internal negativity is spirit crushing, and it’s often compounded by the actions, and inactions, of others. Seen through a maelstrom of overly self-critical thoughts everything carries extra weight and meaning, which drags you further into a downwards spiral. It’s remarkably easy to create a hellish internal logic based on skewed perceptions of external events, especially if you’ve been abused, excluded and/or lied to. All of which can create an absolute belief in one’s lack of worth, which can mean that every decision will lead to a biased choice designed to reinforce whatever fucked up version of yourself you believe you’re stuck with. 

I can’t imagine anyone who’s genuinely contemplating suicide is doing so for entirely selfish motives - I don’t believe people in a healthy frame of mind would contemplate such drastic actions. Yet, there is dark place filled with grasping irrational thoughts that suffocate every good thing, where, as much as you scream and rage at their blindness you can’t make the ones you love and hold dear most understand the simple fact that you’re a danger to their well being. You want to save them, spare them an ongoing situation and an interminable future that you believe won’t ever improve because you don’t have the strength left to fight to be the person you used to want to be; the promises and hopes you held out to them seem to have slipped through your fingers and you have nothing left to offer. You believe you have failed yourself and, more importantly, them.

That’s hard, man. To see yourself as a threat to the well-being of the ones you’re supposed to be there to protect. It’s not about being rational, it’s about being desperate and scared and lost.

The only way out of this mess is for something radical to happen. For me, I took a long walk to a high place where I flipped stones and counted the seconds a pebble took to fall and hit bottom - I figured anything over three ought to be enough. I watched birds circle beneath me above the rocks and waves and , ha!, wished I could fly. And I got wrapped up in watching those bastard birds, circling and weaving about in the cold wet winds. I’m not sure how long passed, but enough time for me to start shivering. Watching the birds do their crazy thing shone a light in my head: I can do this any time I want, it doesn’t have to be now. I gave myself 24 hours. For a long time after there were many days where I just told myself to wait until the next day.

After that I made some more decisions, the most important was to take my wife’s advice and seek help. I can’t honestly say that the next two years were easy, they were as tough as fuck, but at least i was trying. Not saying anyone I went to see made things snap back to a normality I could quickly adjust to, I’m equally sure some of them had their heads someplace else. But there were a few who made a lasting impression, others people I met who were in far worse situations than I was, and others less so, and most everyone just trying to figure out a way to get by from day to day and hoping the next day would be a good one.

It takes time.

You stumble and fall along the way.

You get back up.

You grind it out.

You keep on keeping on.

And you have one good day.

And another.

And soon there are more good ones than bad.

It’s never perfect, and it’s never going to be.

I’ve learned to accept that.

Two years or more later I still tell myself the same things, that I can choose and I choose to wait another day. With help i’ve made a new life for myself, begun again from scratch as a farm hand and wedding photographer. I doubt I’ll ever make the money I was on before, but I leave it to others to place a true value on a coin’s worth. I have gained something far more precious: time. If at one point I thought I was at the end of it I can now look back and be thankful that in those looking down moments something happened to distract me and pull me out of that dark pit. I know where that darkness is now and I’m wary of it, though not anywhere nearly as frightened. It’s easier when you know what the dangerous triggers are that set you off, you learn to recognise your own mental landscape and become all the stronger because of it.

I’m still mindful of my thoughts and those who I choose to spend time with. In the evenings, when the weather permits, I sit outside and I watch the birds circle and play about this house under a setting sun. I listen to the ones I love rattle about inside my home and I’m glad to be here, at peace.

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A few links to places and people that listen respectfully listen to troubled souls without judgement.

http://www.aware.ie/

http://www.billtormey.ie/2014/05/06/psychiatric-unit-beaumont-hospital/

http://www.hse.ie/portal/eng/services/list/4/Mental_Health_Services/

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depression suicide prevention mentalhealth wellness writing

Probably my favourite Robin Williams film, one of them anyway. Love the way Robin Williams’ character wins the girl with his compassion and humour; even after all the shit he’s been through he can still empathise with other people being outside their comfort zone.

robin williams comedian actor depression

Depression 4/4 : Building New Bridges

The thing I’ve found with depression is that it’s easier to manage when you don’t give yourself time to dwell on the things that suck you down towards negativity, rehashing all the coulda shoulda woulda shit is just a waste of time and no one benefits. All the over-thinking in the world can’t change the past. What’s happened is gone and can’t ever be brought back or changed in any way. 

So I had to change, adapt to these altered circumstances. The company I set up was out of my control, shut down and started up again under a new name without me. Business partners I trusted turned out to not have my best interests at heart. People I had once thought of as dependable turned out to be less so. Any confidence I had, and you need a certain amount to set up a business during a recession, as we did during the dot bomb crash of the early 2000s, was shot to shit. Try as I might I had lost all interest in design; I still like design, but I have no interest in pursuing it as a career. Ditto for technology, any interest I have now is fleeting and hundreds of bookmarked sites rarely get a look in these days. I even stopped doing my Masters in Cyberpsychology, which I had been enjoying and doing well at, because it felt I was doing it for someone I had been and not who I am now.

I applied for a number of design jobs around Dublin in early-mid 2013, but a big problem seemed to be my age (50). Apparently i was too senior (which is a handy euphemism, I suppose) for some of the jobs I’d applied for; I don’t understand why a company would not want to hire someone with plenty of experience if that person is happy to work in the role on offer. When I eventually did get one interview I ended up having a panic attack and cancelling, and not long after that I came to the conclusion that I had lost all interest in design. It was something i had done and enjoyed for 30 years, it had always been fun for me but I just felt nothing for it any more. That led to another bout of depression; what do you do when what you have done for 30 years or so isn’t an option any more? 

You reassess everything. That can take time, and can bring you face to face with some uncomfortable truths. If I find myself thinking about such things then I try to occupy myself. Do something, anything to get me moving out of the rut. It doesn’t even have to be anything special or earth shattering, just something I know I can do and requires me to concentrate - at even the lowest level.

Once you’ve learned to accept things the way they are you can look at where you want to get to, and try to figure out how to build a bridge to get there. I know, I’m labouring the bridge thing, but it’s handy and we’re almost done with it. If design, and working with other people in a creative capacity, especially if they put themselves between me and the client. Second-rate salespeople are pretty cuntish about taking the glory for themselves, and dishing the blame on everyone else, depending on if things go better or worser with a client. The ones who talk a lot are the worst offenders, they don’t have the confidence or sense to shut the fuck up. The options get narrowed down. Can I see myself working in an office? no. Again, the options narrow further still. So, I have to be self-employed and/or work outside offices. 

The Summer of 2013 I worked in a packing house on a nearby farm, packing vegetables. It was easy work in the sense that there was no mental pressure, it’s the kind of job that’s just repetitive and mind-numbingly boring. But that’s exactly what I needed, to be productive and occupied with a white noise job that filled in the hours.

After three months on one farm I worked over the Winter on another farm, this time with sheep and cattle. Far more physical. Far more varied. I found myself working with a 77 year old shepherd who swears instead of using punctuation. Every day was tough enough, tiring, but nothing that I wasn’t capable of doing with a little bit of learning. being outside working is still one of my favourite things, and there’s nothing like it to give you the feeling that you’ve done a good day’s work. The most satisfying time is during lambing season, when it really does get hands on and the decisions you make can be the difference between a living thing and a dead thing.

That, for me, was the key. Not that I was especially good at those jobs, but that others thought I was at least competent. That I had some worth. Each of those things is a bridge to a future, and the more of them I can build the clearer that future becomes.

After those small steps, confidence began to seep back. I had tinkered with the idea of getting back into photography, what I started out as a long time ago before getting into design and advertising. As a test I set up a website, dublinweddingphotography.com, to see if anything would happen and, if it did, would it be in any way viable.

Over the years myself and my wife have done wedding photography for family, friends, colleagues and various clients. Not as a full-time thing, but because if people know you’re a photographer you tend to get asked and it works for us because it’s what we tend to do as a wedding gift. Everyone wins. 

I started getting enquiries almost straight away, so I decided to push this venture as a business for one year. I figured a year should be enough to give me a decent indication of whether I could handle it business-wise, whether it would retain my interest, and whether i was good enough for any clients I managed to get - and, as importantly, good enough to believe in myself again.

Well, it’s a year on since then and quite a bit has changed for the better. I still work on the farms, packing vegetables and working with sheep and cattle. I enjoy the physical aspect of the work and the chatter, which is always good fun. 

But it’s the wedding photography that has made the biggest difference to my life, to us as a family. I get to meet people from all walks of life, chat to them about what makes them tick and enjoy the way they interact as a couple looking forward to committing themselves to each other’s happiness. There is such a good vibe to this job that it always rubs off and gives me a lift seeing people having a great time on their wedding day, and that, in return, drives me to give everything to make sure our photography reflects this. One of the most anxious times is showing our final product to clients, even though we’ve had so many brilliant emails and testimonials it’s not until we see clients’ expressions and hear their chatter when they’re viewing their wedding photos that I can in any way relax.

The wedding photography business is the bridge I’m on that I hope will be the longest lasting, it’s certainly the most fun. I’ll continue doing the farm work because there’s a different kind of reward doing that kind of work which I find valuable; a simplicity that is demanding. The farm work lets me know there’s always work I’m capable of doing if I want to, the weddings are a creative outlet that are joyful experiences. 

I’m still not a ‘people’ person, and I don’t think that will ever change. I’m interested in people, especially in photographing them, but I think I’ll always be uneasy in company I’m not entirely familiar with. Thankfully, i’m married to a wonderful partner who’s far more charming and much more socially adept, which leaves me free to look for those moments that I think capture something about the people in my viewfinder. We work as a team: I give her some confidence and reassurance, and she keeps me one step removed so I can get on with what i want to do.

I like to think we bring out the best in each other, pick each other up and help carry each other’s burdens until we’re strong enough to stand on our own again. We’ve been together since the mid 1980s, married since 2001, and had plenty of ups and a few downs. Between 2011 and 2013 I’ve no doubt I’ve been far too much hard work, rubble that must have at times felt like too much effort to put back together again. But she’s always been the stronger of the two of us, the more determined, the harder working. If she won’t give up on me after all that’s happened then I’d be a fool not to believe in myself.

A bit, at least.

I think that’s enough about bridges and depression for now. I just want to get on with my life and leave the fuckers behind. Even at 50 it seems like you can start again, despite others, and build a bridge to a future worth striving for. If you can enjoy some good company along the way then why the hell not, having a good time might just rub off.

writing depression starting over

Depression 3/4 : Getting Over Broken Bridges

The worst place to be is to be caught in the middle of a burning bridge that pusillanimous sneaks have doused with gasoline. Wretched cripple-minded fuckers who plot behind closed doors, holding each others’ sweaty hard-ons, giggling and soiling themselves wet with the kind of childish over-excitement only the mediocre could possibly find thrilling.

Conniving little cowardssess, conspiring and cowering about in the creeping shadows. Wicked wee willied worm-tongues, wilfully whispering wantonly destructive half-truths. Pasty faced pandering poltroons, unprincipled procurers of paltry profits. You get the point.

If you’re caught on a burning bridge like that then there’s only a few options, and it’s best not to waste time fucking about over what to do:

1.
Turn back to the past where you came from and hope something of the future you were building towards can be salvaged. Unfortunately that’s where you’ll most likely find the craven ne’er-do-wells who wanted to burn the bridge down, to their own advantage, once you were stood at its middle. How blindly desperate for companionship do you have to be to turn to hollow men who would trade your soul for a Judas coin, that traitor’s ill-gotten gain that tarnishes all those who benefit from it. Far better and less mentally draining to cut such soulless shallow people out of your life; let the greedy self-serving fuckers live with the consequences of their actions, and start afresh without them. Which leaves two options:

2.
Stand still while everything around you goes up in flames. It’s understandable that you’d be unwilling to go back because that’s the place where you don’t know who to trust - after all, no treacherous fucker gets to be empowered without being enabled by others’ sly complicity or cowardly wilful ignorance. Going forward doesn’t seem to offer much to cheer about either because, engulfed in a swirling dark cloud of shifting betrayals, you can’t see what lies about you; every step if fraught with potential threat. You’re scared because you see everything you worked towards collapsing all about, and what the fuck do you do?

WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU FUCKING DO!

You want it to end, sooner than later. And you work out a plan, and you wait. And you put things in place, and you wait. And when it’s time you go there, and you wait. And you watch, and you wait. And you count the seconds, and you wait. And you think, and you wait. And you make peace with yourself, and you wait. And watch. And watch. And watch the birds flying beneath you. And time flies. The rain comes and you don’t mind getting wet as long as you can keep watching the birds. After a while you get cold, start to shiver, make your way back to where you should be. You’re no longer trapped in the middle of the collapsing bridge. It’s gone. Its time has passed. You’re still standing there, with nothing to hold you up except the belief that someone else has in you. You’re like a fucking bird, man. You’re flying. Tears streaming down your face and laughing at the madness of still being here. Birds: they’re all fucking crazy. Crazy amazing. They don’t know how not to fly so they do, making it up as they go along. As it should be.

AS IT FUCKING SHOULD BE.

3.
Move forward, inch by inch until you put some distance between yourself and anything or anyone who is poisonous to your well being. The only way foward is take a leap of faith and trust in the hands of those who would reach out to you so you can give yourself over to them; which is pretty fucking terrifying. 

And when someone tells you that you need help, that’s what you do. It’s part of a process. Nothing more that putting time between days on a calendar. Moving on. Moving away. Putting as much distance as you can between you and the burned down bridge. It’s not easy. There’s good days and bad. There’s ups and downs. You lose ground and gain it back. It’s slow. 

And after all the screaming and tears and pain and aches and the pills and the doctors and their fucking relentless questions you learn to tell them whatever the fuck they want to hear so they’ll fuck the fuck off. You learn to get on with getting on - it’s not perfect, and it’s not much fun, but it’s something.

You start small. Do something you know you can do. Anything. You start your life over. It’s a new life with new rules and you have to get used to it. You learn to cope and get by. A minute at a time. An hour at a time. A day at a time. And after a while each day is like a new start. And you grind it out. You learn to carry on. Nothing will ever be the same again. You will never be the same again. But you will be.

Everyone else is carrying on, and pretty much no one really gives a damn what happens to you; once you accept that rather disappointing fact of life it does get easier, and you survive by learning to care far less than you had been used to. The further away you get from bleak situations the more clearly you can distinguish what options are available, what possibilities may exist, and what purpose you might discover for yourself. Chances are, given enough time, you’ll find yourself on solid ground once again and not entirely as alone as you once thought. The alternatives are too simply fucked up to contemplate.

The sad truth is most people are lazy, too lazy to get involved in anything that might require significant effort: to take some action; to make a choice; to examine what is fact, what is fiction; to even ask a dumb fucking question, because merely asking questions has great dangers associated with it - especially if the answers might lead to examining a conscience already subject to doubts. Such unbiased thinking could lead to laying bare such faults with one’s choices, beliefs, and rationale; there’s not much that can withstand the consequences of a lie that has been determinedly picked away at until it’s corruption has been fully exposed. Critical thinking is anathema to those who prefer to be led - that they can willingly abrogate individual responsibility and claim ignorance for any position is a much more comforting proposition.

In general, from experience, people are quite happy to believe the first thing they hear especially if it reinforces any perceptions and prejudices they may have. This is what makes the wilfully ignorant so gullible to gossip and rumour, so easy to manipulate and, ultimately, so fucking weak.

It’s not really a question of ‘if’ people will let you down, it’s more a question of how often and by how much. 

depression writing

Depression 2/4 : Dealing With A Certain Type Of Cowardly Bastard

The thing I’ve learned with depression is to carry on, to keep going, and not to let the bastarding thing grind you down. I’m sure there are different types of depression, different triggers that set it off, but ultimately they all seem to have to do with a messed up sense of self-worth - having a purpose, a reason to look to a future and keep moving forward every fucking day.

Mostly I get by and manage to have a good enough time, be content with where things are at any given moment. It helps to have people I can count on, even if it did take me time to figure out who they were and how much I could trust them; there’s not as many as there were, fewer as the years go on, but all you need is one or two.

Of course, there are certain people who thrive on manipulating any such personal doubts and weaknesses for their own gain, especially when they get caught up in their own lies and ineptitudes.

Most of my depression comes on when I have little or nothing to do, so I’ve learned to keep busy, occupy my mind, and I try not like to let myself be idle for long. It’s too easy to fool yourself into a seemingly comfortable place where you don’t have much to do, and easier still to be lulled into such a position if you have an absolute trust in others who are supposedly looking out for your well-being.

You won’t even see it coming until it’s too late. You’re find yourself stood there out of the loop, on the sidelines, with everything is moving onward except you. You won’t be in a position to ask searching questions, much less heard, and soon enough you’re not even entirely sure how that happened; how could the whole world slip out of your grasp like that.

And no matter who you try stop and talk to they’ll tell you you’re imagining it all or just shake you off irritably. They’ll walk on past like you have the plague, a ghost of the way things were that they don’t want to acknowledge - perhaps they’re afraid the same thing might happen to them if they reach out. They scurry along, not wanting to be delayed. Not wanting to be contaminated. Simply wanting to get on with their own lives. Too busy being scared of their own shit to help you.

Fuck ‘em.

You get down that low there’s not many places to go, is there. 

You either find a way back up or you don’t, and I can understand both. Thankfully I made a choice I can live with (ha!). I’m on my fourth therapist now. Or fifth. I’ve lost count. They’re all very nice, and some of them pretend to care better than others. Ultimately though, they just want to be sure you’re not going to do anything that’ll have them filling out unnecessary forms on their watch.

They listen.

They nod.

They watch the clock behind your left shoulder.

They’ll take notes.

Write another happy script.

Next.

Solicitors are better, they cut to the meat of it.

Fact: pretty much no one gives a shit. The world moves on. It doesn’t give a fuck if you stumble and fall. It’ll crush you to a stain if you lay there long enough. Which suits a certain type of self serving lily-livered bastard just fine. Get over your shit and get the fuck on your way. Or don’t.

Really, you can’t argue with that.

The world is full of talentless cunts who can only feel good about themselves because they are willing to trample on others, oppress them to gain an advantage, and bully their way to a greater share of the pie. That kind are two a penny, cheaper than the words they spew and more brittle than the promises they break. They have nothing to sell of consequence but an exaggerated sense of their own compromised abilities, all fluff and no substance other than a thuggish streak of self-serving bullshit and an unearned arrogance that thrives off of dictating fear.

Such dirt-bellied ground slitherers prefer to put some distance, and/or half-witted hirelings, between themselves and their deeds: they use kids as weapons to fight their battles; threaten to kill you when they think you can’t hear; hide behind the skirts of women when they know you can. They’ll sacrifice everything about them as long as they can survive - the difference between selfless ruthlessness and cowardly selfishness is utterly lost on them.

Cunts.

writing depression

Thought I might post some images from recent weddings we’ve photographed to show the kind of work we do, starting with Erika & Eoghan. Church was in Killiney, Co Dublin, and the reception was in The Seafield Hotel, Wexford. We had a brilliant day and the Bride and Groom were utterly charming and brimming with good nature, an absolute pleasure to work with. I’ll post more over on the Dublin Wedding Photography website when I get a bit more free time.

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Took off over to Wales for a few days with these two lovely nutters. Powis castle has terrific grounds, especially the terraced gardens and orangery - be ideal for a fashion/wedding shoot. Definitely worth a visit, even if it is just to whack each other senseless with mallets.

Took off over to Wales for a few days with these two lovely nutters. Powis castle has terrific grounds, especially the terraced gardens and orangery - be ideal for a fashion/wedding shoot. Definitely worth a visit, even if it is just to whack each other senseless with mallets.

powis castle wales notwhales uk dayslikethese photography

Depression 1/4 : Building New Bridges

The past is a foreign country, as  L. P. Hartley wrote - you can’t go back to it, hold onto it or change a single damned thing about it. Sometimes you and others have shared connections to the past, bridges that tie you there - which can be a good thing, a bad thing, or a bit of both.

In 2011 my life started going to shit because I gave up control of my situation to people I shouldn’t have. At the time, and for many years previous, I had considered certain people friends to be trusted. They turned out to be anything but; I’m sure there are others who think highly of Niall Curran (Trinsic Software)and Jason Jarvis (Virtualsense), but I do not.

Am I bitter about what happened because of Niall Curran and Jason Jarvis during my last couple of years at Nexus451? Not nearly as much as I have been in the past. I’ve been through too much, lost too much to give too much of a damn about people like these.

There’s not an awful lot left that I have to lose, which, oddly enough, brings a certain amount of freedom. When you’re standing on a burning bridge you better figure out pretty damned quick exactly what and who is important. After that, fuck all else really matters.

writing depression

Back Into Photography

I’ve never been a big fan of the traditional posed studio portrait, unless it’s to do with fashion - which has a certain sense of fantasy and artificiality about it in any case. I much prefer more natural looking portraits where people are doing something that would not be out of the ordinary for them, and kids are brilliant at letting loose and having fun with ideas.

One of the things I’ll be looking to explore more of over the next year or so will be the idea of Lifestyle Photography, spending time with people in order to take portraits of them doing something they love doing - either as individuals, a family, a couple or a group of friends or work colleagues.

While the wedding photography side of things is growing steadily, it has also opened our eyes to the diversity of people’s character and how they communicate their individuality - from how they speak and use language, to how they dress and compose themselves. 

photography portrait natural ireland dublin photographer color

"They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned. they were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features. they do not bear arms, and do not know them, for i showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. They would make fine servants. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."
-

Christopher Columbus, 1492, on the Arawaks of the Bahama Islands.

A People’s History of the United States | Howard Zinn

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"when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle"
- Edmund Burke
1770

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