Depression and PTSD may always be on the edges of your heart, but it’s how you deal with it that counts.
Have you ever seen The Truman Show, you know, the one with Jim Carrey? The one where it turns out he’s an experiment for TV. The one where he’s the subject of a reality show, where his every move is under constant scrutiny and nothing he ever does is private. Except he doesn’t know this. He doesn’t know his house, job and even his marriage is a sham. He eventually works out what’s going on and escapes to his new life and freedom. It’s a great film, it really is. But it’s pure Hollywood and nothing like this would ever happen, eh?
Except, I’m beginning to think my life is a “Truman” style show.
The cause of my PTSD is an unusual one but is still PTSD nonetheless. The exact reasons for it will remain with those who know for the moment, it’s not the time to write about it and I don’t know if I ever will. So, I’ll try to explain this in the best way possible. Maybe I should have a flip chart or a whiteboard with those funny smelling pens. Here goes:
A while ago, something happened. Not an ordinary something. This was a something that pulled every trigger I have in this silly old head of mine. It set off every sensor and tripped every alarm. Man, it whacked me in the face so hard, it sent me into the next week. I thought at the time that I was okay, that I dealt with it pretty smoothly and that it didn’t affect me too badly.
However, when I came to tell Karen, I crumbled. But not in the way you think. I didn’t break down or anything, I just said completely the wrong things. I had no idea what to say so I just blurted out some things that made no sense and I basically succeeded in upsetting her even more. I know that I wasn’t really myself and I know that Karen does too, but it’s one of these moments that’ll haunt me for a long time. Maybe forever. You know these times, don’t you? That moment, the one that as soon as it jumps into your head, you get that awful sinking feeling in the pit of your gut. The one that makes you flush with rage or embarrassment. The one you wish you could go back and change. I fucked it up and I made her feel worse.
We feared the worst. It turned out we didn’t need to. The incident passed as soon as it came and we shuffled on with our lives again. And that was when I decided our lives must be some form of experiment.
God knows, I understand that people are going through worse. I always admit that and use it as a reality check. But dealing with one calamity after calamity after another gets kinda hard, you know? I decided that we were part of a huge experiment, conducted by men with lab coats and beards and women with thick spectacles and their hair in a tight bun. They’re observing us in this Truman Show environment, nodding busily to one another while ticking boxes on their notepads.
“Push them more,” says the beard or bun in charge, and the minions all mutter together about which scenario their subjects will have to deal with this time.
“Well, they still haven’t killed each other!” they joke over tea and biscuits.
“I thought he would have snapped by now!” says a beard, “You know, like Michael Douglas in Falling Down!”
Everyone laughs except a bun who dropped her plain Digestive in her tea.
It feels like we’re living through an experiment. It really does. I hope all the beards and buns drop biscuits in their tea.
We’re not experiments. We’re just some people who have had a bad run of luck. It’ll change, it has to. And there are people out there far, far worse off than us. We will remain positive and we will do it together. We are getting help and it will work. We are two as one. You don’t go through what we’ve went through without becoming stronger together. For me, that’s a comfort.
All this happened a while ago and since then I’ve felt a lot better. I don’t know if it’s the medication, I don’t know if its the therapy, I don’t know if it’s that a huge cause of the problems has been sorted. It may be a mix of everything.
I’ve been better recently. I don’t feel as down, I don’t feel the darkness descending as often as I have done. This is all great but I feel somehow, I don’t know, guilty for feeling happy. Whenever I feel quite chipper a voice booms:
“NO! REMEMBER YOU’RE MEANT TO BE DEPRESSED!”
Which, I know is silly but I can’t explain it. It’s as if I feel guilty for feeling better. It’s as if I have to justify being in therapy and on strong medication.
“BUT YOU’RE NOT MEANT TO BE HAPPY.”
You know what? I understand what Luke Skywalker was going through when he was beating the hell out of his dad with a shiny radioactive stick. Never underestimate the power of the dark side. Bloody hell, it’s strong. This odd, cataclysmic vortex of darkness that continues to drag you down, no matter if you feel happy or not. It’s like a big nasty cake.
“Eat me. Eat me Scott. The gloom and doom is all sugary. It even has lovely frosting. MWAHAHA!”
Well, fuck off big nasty cake. I’m off desserts.
It’s funny isn’t it, that once depressed, always depressed? It’s there no matter what you do. But it’s how you deal with it that counts. When you’re up, savor how that feels, it’s normal. Don’t be dragged down by the vortex. Yes, the depression will always be there, like a darkness on the edge of town, but keep it there. In fact, banish it from town. Run it out of town. Chase it away, scare it, frighten it so fucking much that it only ever dares dip a toe across the county line. And when it does, then you and your posse are on it like a flash, charging like heroes to make sure it knows the message.
And the message? You are not alone. I am not alone. We are not alone. There are so many like you. You don’t have to do this yourself. We are your posse and we are plenty. And we are coming to get the darkness. And we will win.
You are not alone.
Read more by Scott McIntyre:
Scott McIntyre reflects on his diagnosis and what it’s like to live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
On my PTSD, a Bruce Springsteen concert, and how I have to learn to open up in order to heal.
Photo credit: Flickr/Schristia