Post No.: 0100
Time for another personal post again. This one follows on from Post No.: 0058 and should complete the very broad overview of my own 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 after my father died) and we grieved this loss together, and better for it. But then only about two months later, before really all the emotions had properly settled for my niece, I found out that a friend whom I was very fond of died from the result of a car accident. What I did wrong then was that I tried to personally mourn this one completely mentally on my own.
So I slipped into another episode of depression. Now I didn’t 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 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 a few 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 at exactly the same time as after learning that my friend had died – 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. I basically can’t easily sweat so can overheat. It’s bad (occasionally brutally debilitating) in winter but pretty much fine in summer (which is the best time I can exercise) so the only solution that 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 ingredient also includes (the worsening of pre-existing) depression and suicidality. I occasionally suffer from insomnia and am a severe night owl too.
My right eye also needed surgery after developing a retinal tear and that obviously wasn’t nice either. I still haven’t really driven a car since my friend’s death. I had just passed my motorcycle test not long before too, and haven’t motorcycled since either. But I work from home and I’m not worried about those sorts of things if and when I really need or want to do those things I used to enjoy again. Well it’s also better for the environment I say!
I got by doing various freelance and odd jobs via mostly old word-of-mouth connections, which barely covered the bills; and discovered MOOCs, or online courses – many of which were/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 a lot 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 I study for the intrinsic curiosity, and I also had 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 look inwards. Whether it was just the passage of time that heals or this quest for knowledge, or both, 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 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 and 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 outwardly 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 tiny 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 (e.g. 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 an inspiration. I hope you can see that, compared to many other blogs, it’s not about the money – if this blog engages, entertains and touches enough people then that will eventually naturally come so that I can make a living continuing with this. I currently live with not much more than to eat, wash, sleep, learn and do this at the moment (my gym is just my garage too) – but 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.
I still have relatively good days and bad days. This blog is a part of my own path to my full recovery from depression so I may talk about how I’m progressing if/when 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 my fresh start – my life rebooted, and I hope to make lots of new friends. And I hope I’m helping others with any type of mental health condition to open up about your experiences too, and have given you a belief in your own futures no matter how low you may ever feel.
I was lucky because I learnt about depression via another route and eventually found a way to get out of 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 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.
Remember that you can follow me and get or keep in touch with me via my Twitter handle @furrywisepuppy, and if you want to comment on this specific post then please use the Twitter comment button below.
Woof and meow!
(If you’ve not found out yet, my real name is Simon and I’m from Liverpool, 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!)