Post No.: 0100
Time for another personal post. This one follows on from Post No.: 0058 and should complete the very broad overview of my personal experiences with depression to date…
After university and that trip around the world, I was settling into a new business venture with an old college friend, as well as planning to create an animated children’s television series that encouraged more participation in sports and physical activities. My brother and his wife then had their first child, my niece, but she tragically passed away just a month before her first birthday, from spinal muscular atrophy. This was obviously a very bad time, again.
I was physically close to my family this time (instead of individually away at university when my father died) and we grieved this loss together, and better for it. But then only about two months later, before all the emotions had properly settled for my niece, I learnt that the person whom I was growing ever deeply in love with had died after the result of a car accident. My mistake then was that I tried to personally mourn this one completely mentally alone.
So I slipped into another episode of depression. Now I didn’t really properly learn about depression until only the last few years so I didn’t identify that period as an episode of depression, nor that period after my father died, nor those periods when I was just a young child – so it’s only with the benefit of hindsight right now, after far more education regarding mental health, can I absolutely recognise and identify these periods as episodes of depression. We can assume that everyone else feels or has felt the same way as we do or did – until we explicitly learn that they don’t and didn’t. And this is why it’s vital for everyone to learn about mental health issues now because we won’t seek help unless we think there’s a diagnosable problem (as I didn’t), or we might not help somebody else unless we think they have a diagnosable problem.
This episode was actually the worst for me overall. I did contemplate suicide many times during this episode and drafted suicide notes. I’ll spare the details, but I gradually and purposely lost contact with many friends as I made preparations to leave this world with as few people noticing as possible – to hurt as few people as possible. And I deleted, as best as I could, any remnant of any existence of my life online and offline, ready to exit this life without a trace.
I also developed a strange condition after the time of those deaths – a kind of ‘prickly heat’ condition, mainly around the torso, that means that I feel a thousand needles whenever I get from cold to hotter. It’s akin to being inside an iron maiden torture device but the spikes are finer but more numerous. I basically cannot easily sweat so can overheat. It’s bad (occasionally mercilessly debilitating) during the colder months of the year but pretty much disappears during summers (which is the best time I can exercise) so the only solution I can think of is to move to a place in the world that’s hot all-year-round. My best hypothesis for the cause of this problem is a delayed and lasting effect of a topical acne medication that I used just before and around that corresponding time. This medication contained the active ingredients erythromycin and isotretinoin. A stated rare side-effect of the latter also includes (the worsening of pre-existing) depression and suicidality.
My right eye also needed surgery after developing a retinal tear. That obviously wasn’t nice either. As of posting, I still haven’t really driven a car or motorcycled again since the above deaths. I just suddenly gave these things up. I used to enjoy being on the road. But I work from home and I’m not presently worried about those sorts of things. When I’ll truly need to do those things again, I’ll do so. I’ve since learned to care a lot more about the environment anyway.
I got by doing various freelance and odd jobs via mostly old word-of-mouth connections. And I discovered MOOCs, or online courses – many of which were and are free so I took these opportunities. I’ve always had an aptitude for learning and these allowed me to explore the world from home, as well as connect with other learners from across the globe in largely friendly and erudite discussions on various topics via the course discussion forums (so these became kind of my social media channels I suppose). Many of the posts in this blog are as a result of some of the things I’ve learnt via these courses and which personally fascinate me, and I hope fascinate you too. I’ve also always watched plenty of documentaries and read non-fiction books too, and generally like to think (for better and worse). So all the things I’ve absorbed from all these various sources and my own contemplations have contributed to the contents of this blog in total.
These online course platforms became like sweetshops to me! I ended up studying 104 courses within 4 years (so about a course every 2 weeks on average; although a couple of times I had about 12 or 13 courses concurrently on the go!) I’m not going to claim that I’ve technically ‘completed’ over 127 courses and counting so far because I’ve kept to the free options, hence not all tests have been available to me. But for me, I don’t study for pieces of paper to put on the wall or to show to others but study for the intrinsic curiosity. I’ve also tried to stick to my personal budget of zero.
I think it was important for my mental health to study and learn more about this world, this universe, about humans, and indirectly about myself – to explore and look outwards rather than inwards. Whether it was the passage of time that heals or this quest for knowledge, or something else, I did start to feel better – good enough to consider a real future for myself again and ultimately start this blog. So, although it’ll be impractical to thank everyone personally – I thank all my teachers, teaching assistants, fellow students, the institutions, the course platforms (Coursera, edX, Udacity, FutureLearn, Novoed and Skillshare, who aren’t paying me to mention them, and don’t even know about this blog as of writing this post at least) and everyone else involved in enlightening and teaching me; and I suppose not just through these courses but throughout my life from any source. I’m not the smart one – I’m merely the one who stands on the shoulders of giants.
I’m also glad that I like to exercise whenever I can. I’m also glad I’ve never been a big drinker of alcohol and have never taken hard recreational drugs. Whether all that’s down to having a strong willpower and self-discipline (i.e. having a mental health problem doesn’t mean being mentally weak) and/or being raised well regarding these things plus not being immediately surrounded by an environment of drugs – I don’t know, but I’m glad I’ve never tried to self-medicate my problems away. I’ve encountered many stories of others where such strategies haven’t ended up well.
As of posting, this blog is only half a year old and I don’t expect many readers, or possibly any because I haven’t actually gone and told anyone about it yet; not even my family. I haven’t been doing the things I’m supposed to do to promote this blog yet. I’m just getting my story out into the public domain and taking it one step at a time. I’ve written the posts in a way that I hope this blog might one day catch on though. I most probably just need help because the workload is already quite high for one person alone. But I’ve only a limited budget, and it’s also difficult to optimise this blog to be found organically via search because there isn’t only one focused topic. And it’s not really about the furry, fluffy and fuzzy creatures… or is it?!
I’m a big champion of education. When young, I didn’t know any differently. I didn’t know that most other children didn’t consider suicide or stick knives to their chests ready to die. Not knowing any differently applies to all of us really, when we experience things we assume other people do or did too, like people who were born privileged not knowing how lucky they are or were. I only learnt that my private feelings as a young person weren’t typical when I was an adult – through education.
If this blog one day reaches out and resonates with lots of people across the world then I hope my journey to recovery will become inspiring. I hope you can see that this blog is not about the money – if I can engage, entertain and touch enough people then that should eventually naturally come, in this project or the next. I currently mainly live off my savings, but I don’t ask for much more in life than to eat, wash, sleep, learn and do this at the moment. My gym is just a garage too. This I feel is a higher calling and is something much bigger than myself. I’m also possibly only one of a relatively few people in this world who can authentically write a blog quite like this as one individual.
I still have relatively good days and bad days. I’ll never be cured but this blog is along my own path to a sufficient recovery from depression so I might talk about how I’m progressing if I think there’s something new and interesting to say about me. And I may still write some further personal posts about my past if I think it’s worth delving into some of the details. But for now, I think I’ve opened up enough about my own experiences with depression. I want to concentrate on the present and my aspirations for the future. This is working towards my fresh start – my life rebooted – and I hope to make some new friends. Hopefully I’m helping others with any type of mental health condition to open up about your experiences too, and hopefully I’ve given you a belief in your own futures no matter how low you may ever feel.
I was lucky because I learned about depression via another route and eventually found a way to escape my own deepest mires, but please learn from my mistakes and go see a doctor if you’re not quite feeling right. I likely would’ve started recovering far sooner if I was braver sooner and had talked to someone about my hidden problems sooner. Since opening up to one or two people, and now, after starting this blog and (tentatively) opening up to the world, I’ve been feeling much more positive because I do see a bright future and a renewed purpose to my life – a life and future I now know is worth living for. This blog is still young, and in many respects I still feel young too!
I want to thank any readers out there. You (Furrywisepuppy and Fluffystealthkitten’s furlosofurs, or a better collective name if you can think of one!) are the reason this blog exists. Please share this blog with anyone whom you think might enjoy or benefit from it too.
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Woof and Meow!
(If you’ve not found out yet, my real name is Simon and I’m from the UK. But regarding anything related to any non-personal blog posts or matters, Furrywisepuppy or Fluffystealthkitten will respond. It’s all admittedly a bit quirky but it’s all just for fun!)