Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Crumple Zone

And I used to be strong
And I used to be a man
But now I fold at your feet
Like a burning letter


I'm sitting in my car, late at night, watching the blood well from the lines I've just sliced into my arm, and I'm wondering just why I did it. In hindsight I'll manufacture some kind of explanation, but in the moment all I can think of is, I've got to find a reason for someone to care.

And in the moment, I am out of my mind.

Shaking from head to toe, I grab my phone and I call my wife and ask her to remind me why I'm worth keeping around. She talks me down, but I keep shaking all the way home.

And there you have just one of the recent skirmishes fought between my brain and itself.

To say depression has only just wrapped me in its loving embrace would be wrong. I've been falling into that pit off and on for most of the last 20 years. But it was this year that everything came to a head. It was this year that, as I spun my wheels frantically trying to deal with the release of two books, the writing of two regular columns, my first-ever comedy festival show, a full-time night job and the accompanying sleep deprivation, and providing for a wife and three children, I finally cracked open, and lost my ability to keep it together. Thankfully, this also meant I stopped pretending everything was OK. The meltdown came suddenly, frighteningly and with devastating force, but it was the meltdown I had to have.

It's been a terrifying, strange, surreal, ridiculous time, suddenly finding myself buffeted by waves of panic, sweating and gasping for air and sobbing for no good reason, stricken suddenly by the all-pervading terror that everyone I love has finally become fed up with me and left, as undoubtedly they will, and as undoubtedly I deserve. Suddenly finding myself shrunken and diminished, huddling in a ball against the pain of the world. Suddenly finding myself clenching my teeth and wondering how long I have been. Suddenly finding myself completely unable to cope.

Always the fear, the fear. That an unanswered text message means a friend has cut all ties. That when I'm not around, people talk about me, saying what they REALY think. That I'm pathetic, weak, worthless, and the voice that won't stop whispering to me "Fat Loser, why don't you give up? Nobody could love a THING like you" is right. The creeping feeling that even though I know depression is just an illness for everyone else, maybe I'm that one person for whom it's justified. For whom it's no more than what I deserve.

And the guilt. Knowing what a burden this crisis is placing on the people I love. Knowing how much I must be hurting them. Knowing how hard it is for my family, and cursing myself for my selfishness. The agony of knowing you could ruin lives by leaving, and feeling that you're ruining them even more by staying.

And the mad, hysterical absurdity. The hindsight hilarity of dissolving into tears in the doctor's office, and then explaining through the choking sobs that I'm a comedian. The ludicrousness of my trying to be a rock for my friends and dispense wise advice when I have no idea how to save myself from the treachery of my own psyche. The sick joke of sitting in a room full of friends, all talking and laughing raucously, and feeling lonelier than I have in my life.

And through it I kept writing, and I kept joking, and I stepped up on stage ten times to perform that festival show, cracking jokes about my own death of all things! And I opened up to the world about my problems and let people know, and somehow I struggled through. And I kept breaking down, and gasping for air, and crying, and putting my family through hell, and scaring everyone around me, and reaching out desperately to find someone, anyone, to constantly reassure me that I'm loved, and that the world is, even slightly, a better place for my existence.

I have enough friends who've gone through, and are going through, similar things to know I'm not unique, and I'm not special. I have been struck by an illness, not a romantic genius's curse. And I still don't quite know how to handle it. I don't even know if this blog post is a good idea. I rarely write so personally about myself, and it's possible that what I've written is an awful bunch of old rubbish.

But hopefully it'll go a little way to helping me remember in the dark moments that I'm not alone, and that this too shall pass. The traitor in my head will continue to make his sorties, attacking furiously in an attempt to crush me. Maybe he will succeed, and maybe he won't. I have resolved to fight him. I will keep struggling on, trying to retain my rational mind and keep somewhere at all times that as bad as things get, it won't last forever, that things will be all right, and that most importantly, I'm not alone.

And hopefully, writing this might help others know that they're not alone. I'm so grateful for everyone who has read my work, who's come to see me on stage, who follows me on Twitter etc etc. I owe you all a debt of gratitude, and I know that problems and demons beset many of you too. You're not alone. Darkness can strike us all at any time, but I know there are people who love me - no matter how much it feels, so often, that there are none - and I have to work on remembering that. And I've learned that when you're sick, you need help. You need to seek out those who are trained to help you survive. I'm popping pills like nobody's business, and that is weird and alien to me. But it's what has to be done, and it's no big deal.

Or...perhaps that's all a colossal wank, and I'm kidding myself and this won't really help anyone. A definite possibility. But hopefully my attempt to sort out all the thoughts that have invaded me as a result of this breakdown, to get down in blog form the persistent buzzing in my head, will have a positive effect on someone, somewhere. Hopefully that'll include myself!

Because I know now the desperate flailing, the horrific suffocation that comes when those black waves come crashing over and you find yourself just about incapable of keeping your head up in the face of the merciless tides. But we're all capable. We may have to lean on others from time to time, but we don't have to fall. Tomorrow I may feel them crashing again, and become convinced that none of this is true, but now I have to affirm that it IS.

The scars on my arm are healing. I know I want to live, and even though I don't exactly know how to go about it, I think I will.

Thank you all. You're lovely.

I promise I'll start joking again soon.

I weep on your feet and reach for your hand
And beg for some sign of your love
And I used to be a man
And I used to be strong

214 comments:

1 – 200 of 214   Newer›   Newest»
Kylie L said...

There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in

Brave post. There are many, many others going through what you describe, and you have shown them and all of us that it's OK to talk about it. I wish you peace. xxx

Kristin Moore said...

Oh Ben, I'm so glad you wrote that and I'm so lucky not to suffer - although people close to me do. I know some view twitter as silly, but without being mawkish I really do feel a sense of community there at times and you are very much part of my twitter community. Always there for a chat with you, anytime!

John said...

Hey Ben - great post.

With a spouse who is dealing with depression your post helps me understand more about what she is dealing with than my previous reading of the medical publications etc ever has. Keep up the good work and just remember the world will be poorer without you.

Kitty said...

This is possibly the greatest thing you've ever written.

Apart from the time you said Julie Bishop was a cockroach.

You should be very proud of yourself for being so open.

Miranda said...

You unfurl it so much more clearly than I ever could but, oh my god, you have explained a lot of what happens to me. I have recently been thinking of getting a tattoo of an ampersand to physically remind me that today is not all there is... if I can just get through today, there will be a better day... there will be an ''&'' something better tomorrow. That simultaneous choking & loneliness - how to explain that to those that don't experience it; the urge to leave it all coupled with the desire to have others want you to stay. Well done, Ben - you are brave & strong, even if you never feel it. *applause*
Miranda

Margaret said...

That's wonderful, Ben. Thank you.

Mxx

OzAz said...

I'm glad you did write this, even it it did make me cry.

I've enjoyed your satirical writings since I stumbled upon them. I can guess it would have been difficult to write this, but I'm glad you did.

Depression is an awful illness, it's heartening to see people talking about it, and perhaps demystifying the condition.

Carol said...

What a wonderful thing to write, Ben.

I think most of us have had to deal with depression or anxiety at some point in our lives, some more so than others - but some of your words here are mine, too.

You question the value of telling this personal story.

I often do interviews with people talking about things that are extremely personal, painful, perhaps shameful things for them to reveal to the world.

Like the young mother whose husband killed their three children and then himself.

Or adult survivors of child abuse.

And every single time, I reassure them that one of the most valuable contributions they can make is to tell their story, to share it with others who may be walking in their shoes, and to remind the rest of us how very lucky we are.

Kartar said...

Kudos. Well written and damn brave. Good luck and take it one day at a time.

Captain Angry Ranty Pants said...

As always, an excellent post Sir.

A subject that we all need to talk about so we can lose this mystique that depression is something that happens rarely.

Sandra said...

The more people who write as bravely and as honestly as you when they are in the grip of this accursed illness, the better Ben.

I have battled it for twenty years as well, and for now am in remission, but it never packs it's bags and leaves entirely. Trying to explain the contents of my head when in the full-blown grip of it's maw is impossible without scarying somebody close to me. My marriage didn't survive it.

More power to you Ben and to your family. Keep going, one step at a time. Thank you for showing people lucky enough not to be so ill how insidious it is and how seductively it operates inside our heads.

And know too that you will get better. It won't always be like this. With healing comes the learning and then, blissfully, release, and thank God for that.

crazyjane13 said...

It's a scary thing when you start reading and realise that what's on the page is the same shit that bounces around in your own head.

And yeah, it does help to know that other people out there are fighting that battle.

Incredibly raw, brave post ... I wish you all the strength you'll ever need.

Tracey said...

your opening paragraph has just, for the first time ever, given me a glimpse into what was going through the mind of someone close to me, who sat in his car, slit his wrists, then called for help … for that alone, thank you. you are SO not by yourself, but that beast doesn't let you see things that way when you are in its jaws. xt

Anonymous said...

Good on you.
For some reason something that is becoming increasingly common is still really taboo to discuss...I've found from my own experiences how much you can help others by being honest about depression, because it gives others the courage to be honest too, and a feeling of solidarity in the midst of something wholly isolating. Thank you.

David Horton said...

Oh Ben! Perhaps the most unexpected thing I have read.

I know that your humour and achievement and sanity and good values don't stop you falling into depression, but when you come out of it they will still be there, waiting for you.

You are seeking professional help, right? Seriously seeking?

Jas said...

It's like you've been in my head.

I've battled depression on and off for over 20 years and when it hits, all rational thought tends to flee. Thank you for sharing your story, I never know how to put what I am feeling into words.

I thank god for twitter nowadays, as when I'm in my bad place I have a way to connect to the wider world without having to leave my cave or actually SPEAK to anyone, which gets beyond me. and being able to connect with people who understand, or who, even though not necessarily friends, actually care, makes the world not quite as lonely as it has been in the past.

It's important to be assured that we are not alone...

Anonymous said...

Awesome post Ben, and thank you, it made a difference to me!

Kerri Sackville said...

Brilliant post. You will have helped someone. I suspect you will have helped many people.
There's an amazing quote - I can't recall the exact words but along the lines of 'no pain of the body can equal the pain of an agonized mind'. It has nothing to do with how many people respect you, or need you, or adore you. It's an an agonizing pain of the mind.
I'm sending you all my most positive wishes, and much love.
xxx

jenjen said...

thanks for writing this ben. i just sent it to a friend who has been struggling with this same shit. you are totally helping!

Anonymous said...

Respect. Thank you.

9fragments - CJStrahan said...

I'm a step closer to understanding my dear friend who suffers this, along with other *stuff* - so thanks.

ladylizar2 said...

I am so sad you are going through this but so glad you you've written about it here. I have struggled with depression for many years. What you wrote describes it perfectly. You are not fooling yourself, this is not a wank. That inner traitor is a very cynical power monger intent on your destruction. Remind yourself of your own kindness. You are never alone especially when it feels that way. Keep talking about it, never give up.

reality raver said...

Thank you for your raw and honest writing and I think a lot of people will have taken something from that post. Be it from what they have been through, or are going through or will go through.

Take care.

Davina said...

bravely done and well done. Sometimes our conviction that we are worthy to live and be loved is a like deflating bouncy castle at twilight. Hard to see the colours, hard to jump.
So, I hope our admiring and grateful post-blog comments today help with the ongoing work of inflating your sense of self. I'm such a fan, and now you've written so well on such a personal topic, I'm even more of one!

squib said...

I had a terrible bout of this earlier in the year and would you believe I was going to ask my GP for some Zoloft but I was afraid I might start bawling in front of him so I asked for an iron test instead. It was that whole epistemic loneliness thing and life ('Grim, isn't it, what')and pretty much all the things you describe

What you do is very difficult, putting yourself out there and copping all that flak. I could never do that. You are very brave and very brilliant xx

Geoff said...

Yes, that's the difficulty, Ben - that it's not subject to rationality, so there's no way to rationalise it. And, I've found, there's no way to explain it to people who don't suffer it. Deep down most of them can't grasp that it isn't something you can just decide to stop. And it's not, though it is something that you can manage to some degree. When it's at its deepest point though, it's like getting dumped by a huge wave - you just tuck up, and hold your breath, and do your best to keep in mind that you'll float to the surface eventually.

Once it recedes a little, like now, it's a matter of setting up the best possible structure to help avoid it coming back, or to soften its impact. Something like this post is an important part of that. Getting the personal out there is very confronting, especially for someone who spends their time taking the piss out of others. It's anathema to that role to admit any frailties. But it's best for you, and it feels better to have done it. Now you're on record, and now the problem publicly exists, it's not a figment. I've been glad to do the same sort of thing through my own writing the last couple of years.

Carry on, my man. You're doing God's work. (Which god remains tbc.)

Lemon.

Natalie said...

Thank you for writing about this, because your writing is so great and touches so many people.

I was hospitalised for suicidal ideation and crippling anxiety the other month and I was worried about what to tell my blog readers, people on twitter and generally, the internet. I just decided to be frank. I'm sick of the shame and stigma!

As more and more sufferers come out I really hope the shame lessens but I don't know if it will. I just wish all the best for you (and for me, selfishly!)

Yvette Vignando said...

Hey Ben, the best thing you had written to date - that I have read - (in my very humble opinion) was the piece about how not to rape a woman. It's when I first formed a steadfast opinion of you (without of course knowing the first thing about you). You, and your writing and your compassion and your humour are just fabulous. But now my opinion has changed a little - this is now the best thing you have written (again in my humble opinion).

Telling people you know how you feel and how hard it can be to struggle against depression will be one of the best decisions you have made. And by generously sharing this via Headspace you'll never know how much, but I am sure you are helping others - to tell their loved ones, and to get help.

Great piece - love reading your writing - and also enjoy your ludicrous and funny tweets. Looking forward to many more and sending you some virtual hugs and strength. Every day that you are here to be loved by your kids is the best day on earth. xx

Yvette Vignando said...

PS For some reason I forgot I was on your blog and thought I was on the Headspace blog, hence the cryptic Headspace comment :-). Peace xx

Anonymous said...

You are amazing and people DO love you. That's clear just from reading the comments to your post. Your impact on people close to you must be massive.

Peter said...

I'm sorry you have to go through it, Ben. Finding the strength to hang in there can be tough, so I'm glad you were able to do it.

Mia Freedman said...

What a stunning, brave, generous post. A gift to share it with the world. Thank you.

Rachel Handley said...

Amazing post. Having struggled with depression myself I can relate entirely. This post deserves a much longer comment on it than the one I'm leaving; but I just can't find the words to do it justice.

Anonymous said...

This was like reading my inner most thoughts.
Rest assured, you have helped atleast one person - me!

Tim Miller said...

Well put. May you at the very least have the strength to make it through the darkness of the night to see the sun rise every morning.

Ashlee said...

I've had depression and anxiety creep into my life as well at various periods and it is so difficult. Sometimes, you know you are being irrational in your own head, but you are fighting against something that is even bigger than your own rationality and it is terrifying and exhausting.

I think the more we speak about this, the more people may realize that they are not the only ones when they are going through things like this and the more they may recognize the signs that they are suffering from a mental health issue rather than "failing" or falling without reason. This post is really powerful, so thank you for writing it.

Anonymous said...

I love you for this.

KW said...

Thank you for so much for writing this. As someone who suffers from acute panic and anxiety disorder with a good dose of depression on the side (nice cocktail of ingredients), it is incredibly comforting to read and relate to your experience. The debilitating paranoia, constant internal chatter, breathlessness, dissociation does often have you hurtling at break neck speed towards the edge. Sharing these experiences does make me and hopefully others feel more 'normal' which helps externalise it a bit.

One foot in front of the other...

Helen said...

What a gutsy and honest letter...absolutely amazing.. I really hope you find what you are looking for because I belive today ...you have just helped so many people...well done and good luck!!!!

Kelly said...

Thank you for writing this!! I know putting my thoughts on paper is very cathartic and it's so lovely you have chosen not to just put your thoughts on paper ... but also to share them. Because it's not a massive wank :)

Anonymous said...

Ben, you just a lit a candle in the dark for all of us. Thank you.

If anyone is feeling like this right now you can do three things as first aid:
1. make an appointment for a mental health assessment with your GP (book it in that way so they will allocate enough time) and talk to them about treatment;
2. give yourself a regular sleep pattern - ie decide what time you're going to go to sleep and when you're going to wake up and prioritise it;
3. go to the gym or go for a walk or ride on your bike or a swim - just get your body moving.

Personally I don't try to fight depression because I don't feel like I can overpower it. I try to step back from it and work out what my own misfiring brain is saying to me, and why. Counselling helps. But I think the only "cure" is to love and care for yourself the way you want others to love and care for you.

Jane Shaw said...

Thank you Ben. I have always been in awe of your writing talent, today I am even more awed by your courage and your ability to articulate the guilt, shame and pain of depression. It's such an impossible thing to put into words, you've done it so well. I will come back and read this again next time it happens to me. It will remind me that I am not alone and that will help.

I wish there was something we could all do to help you, but I know it's not that easy. Just remember that all the messages of love and support here and on twitter are heartfelt and we are always here for you.

All the best. Jane

Ben said...

Mate. It's all been said here really but just wanted to add my voice. You've been one of the most important literary discoveries for me this past 18 months. In such a bleak political haze, you make it so much enjoyable and entertaining. Take care and keep looking forward to tomorrow.

Murph said...

Thanks Ben.

FARfetched said...

Or...perhaps that's all a colossal wank, and I'm kidding myself and this won't really help anyone.

I want you to know it helped me, and I'm not clinically depressed. I'm just dealing with a lot of pressure that needs to be released somehow, but it's something I can handle. Here's hoping you can find a treatment that helps without messing up other things.

Verification word: fluouvin — is that some kind of drug?

Anonymous said...

Please, get help immediately. Professional, medical help.

As someone who lived most of their life thinking I could just somehow, magically defeat depression with my mind, here's a stone cold fact: you can't. No one can. You cannot correct chemical imbalances in your brain with meditation, or writing, or art; you need drugs.

And you need therapy. These things together will let you live a normal and happy and fulfilling life. This is a fact, I am telling you from experience. You have taken a massive step in making this all public -- a much bigger leap than the one required to make an appointment with your GP and get the right help.

You have children and a wife, a family you love a great deal and who love and need and care for you. You owe it to them to do everything in your power to get well. Again, I speak from experience. The experience of losing a parent at a young age to untreated mental illness. There are hardly words to describe the impact of this event on my life, from which I am still reeling many years later.

You have already done the hardest part: living with your illness for most of you life. The next part, getting well, is the easy part. You will look back at this time and not believe that it was real -- the time when you were sick will appear to you as a dream.

You can do it, you have to.

x

Anonymous said...

Nice article. Hope you get better soon. Your words are beautiful.

I sometimes treat depression as an old friend or the fuel of creativity and it does not seem so bad. Hey at least depression is always there :-)

When things get out of perspective I recommend;

The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder

In love.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, an awesome post but I understand completely your questioning its posting.

I read your words and think "uhuh, yep and you totally nailed the feeling"

I remember too sitting in the office of my doctor several years ago. Trying to get him to understand that something wasn't right. That I had an overwhelming urge to throw it all away. That I had emotional responses to things that didn't warrant them and most importantly, that I had no reason to have these feelings.

A good job, a good partner and a happy home. What right do I have to feel so bad at times.

So I got medicated. And I talked to my partner about it. He now knows what I mean when I turn to him out of the blue and say "I'm not having a good day."

There are good days and they are many, but then there are the inexplicable days when I cry for nothing. When I see sadness where there is none and where I feel lonely and lost amongst the goings on of my life.

I haven't talked about it with many others. I fear it 'contaminating' the relationships I have made. I applaud your sharing your story. And assure you many feel the same, but know that in the bad times that won't make a jot of difference to how you feel.

Keep the laughter going. Sounds like your family is well prepared and loves you enough to understand this isn't something you can control and it's not all there is about you.

Thanks again.

Michelle said...

*massive internet hugs*

I've been there repeatedly and expect to be there again in the future.

I don't think anyone who deals with depression can say they feel exactly how another does when they're dealing with it, but I do think we have similar experiences. I recognised much of myself in what you wrote, and I'm sure others do too, so thank you so much for sharing. You know you're not alone and so do we.

*hugs again*

Anonymous said...

This is very moving to read in this detail. I sincerely hope sharing it helps you to deal with your illness.
I confess that it was probably just around this time that I stopped following you on Twitter. I had previously offered what support fits in 140 characters, and watched the many other supportive messages, and watched how they seemed to have no good effect. I couldn't bear to watch anymore.
I knew you were seeking help from people much closer and more able to help. I hoped that they and you could help you, but I couldn't bear to watch.
I don't know you, but I know many like you, and I care about you and them. If it means anything, you can probably believe that when you can't hear what people are saying about you it is more likely to be good than bad. You have a brilliant talent that is needed.

Stevie Easton said...

Hi Ben,

Great post.

Good on you for fighting back, I've felt like that too and I think it helps to remember that it is OK to be a bit of a weirdo - especially if you're a writer/comedian/poet etc..
Stevie

Anonymous said...

As a fellow sufferer who is unable to articulate in words or speech, I thank you. This may make it easier for my husband & friends to understand.

CathieT said...

Thank you for sharing and good luck with your battle with the black dog.

I wish you and your family peace and strength - and if ever I'm there on Twitter and you need someone to talk to ... you know I'll "Discuss".

Take care of you .... xxx

Annieb25 said...

Brave post from a difficult place. You have helped so many people feel less alone by sharing this. I also know from personal experience that doing this will also help you immensely. Bravo & much admiration. xx

Fiona said...

Can't breathe reading this, it's too close to home, but that you for putting it out there, while it's too close to home, it's nice in some ways to read about someone else going through it, even though I wouldn't wish this on any one.

Not alone.

x

Anonymous said...

Wow. That was the most beautiful/heartbreaking thing I have read for a long time.

Kudos and thank you for sharing. I hope the road ahead is brighter.

Anonymous said...

thank u 4 writing this. i missed appts with my doc and psych this wk and after reading what u wrote i rang my psych 2 make an appt. she said if i keep missing appts she cant help me.

when the record is so past being broken its well and truly shattered, its time to leave

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ben. It's strangely reassuring to know that others battle the same demons as I do.
Respect.

Cameron Mann said...

Thanks Ben. Well put. Clearly the universe is better with this and you in it.

You wrote: "I've been falling into that pit off and on for most of the last 20 years."

I was offered the metaphor of life's ups and downs being hills and valleys that we traverse, and depression being a deep well at the bottom of one of those valleys.

I find this image gives the unexperienced a helpful understanding of [my] depression.

Most people recognise how easy it is to get down, and how much work is required to get up. But despite being a type of 'down' the pit of depression has a completely different nature.

The pit promotes some understanding futility of trying to pull oneself up, the lack of vision, the isolation and being stuck with yourself.

Your post promotes this understanding too.

kateforster said...

*Sleep to heal.
*Exercise to get your heart rate up and release the stress hormones.
*Ask for help.
*Tell people you are not well, as you would if you had a broken leg.
*Remember this too will pass.
*Have baths.
*Watch funny movies.
*Expect nothing but welcome the small moments of respite.
*Pat a dog.
*Hug your children.
*Hug your wife.
*Remember you don't really want to die, you just want to stop feeling like you do. Hang onto this thought.
xoxox

Lucinda Strahan said...

Good books to read when things fall apart:

Darkness Visible by William Stryon
Unholy Ghost: writers on depression edited by Nell Casey

best wishes

Anonymous said...

I find it so important to hear about other peoples experience with this.

It was brave of you to open yourself up like this and definitely helpful.

Anonymous said...

Brave. Respect!

(BTW, none of us are "special" but we are all unique.)

J. said...

As someone who has struggled with mental illness for all of my adult life (and before) - thank you. It does make a difference. Sometimes it's so hard to remember that we are not alone and as strange as it is to have my own thoughts and feelings written out by a complete stranger, knowing there is at least one person out there who feels it too is comforting. Good luck.

Kirsty said...

beautiful.

Jedi Blake's Mum said...

Written with such courage. Love you Ben. Always in your corner.xxx

Steve said...

Telling it like it is. Thanks and take care.

Svasti said...

You can thank your friend First Dog on the Moon for drawing my attention to this post (I'm @yogachicky).

I'm one of those in the "you're not alone" crowd. Five-odd years ago I was physicially assaulted, which caused me to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, panic and anxiety attacks. Freakin' lovely stuff!

Oh man, do I understand where you're at. I've been there more times than I care to count.

Writing about this is important. Not just for sharing with other people, although that is paramount. But I've found writing and blogging to be a really safe way to work it all out.

This journey you're on is so, so hard. I think facing up to something like depression is like fighting a war: people with mental health issues who are up to the challenge, are warriors. And war is never easy.

Let me just say this in case no one has told you as much - at the same time that you're taking care of your mind and emotions, find a good GP/naturopath etc (whatever works for you), and make sure that you're taking care of your physical health as well.

While it might be the last thing you give a shit about right now, while you might hate your body as a part of the loathing and pain that goes with depression... do it.

Because no one told me this, I'm now dealing with hypothyroidism. Which is a whole new world of scary, just when I was beginning to think I'd slain most of my dragons and demons.

Also, my GP put me onto this awesome amino acid called "L-Tyrosine" which is promoted as "neuro-transimitter support". This little miracle supplement has put to rest the very persistent anxiety I was carting around like dogshit on my shoe.

Basically, be supported in every which way. If you can't do it for yourself, let others help. Especially decent health care professionals who know about cutting edge and/or alternative health care options.

Finally, it is possible to get depression under control. It's not easy, but way possible. I'm living proof of that.

Hang in there, fellow warrior. You're doing a fine job on a perilous journey...

Anonymous said...

I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. My wife is dealing with depression and really struggling at times. I thank you for shedding some light on how she might feel and I want you to know that I appreciate you pouring your heart out to the world.

Keep your head up mate.

clarky

Karalee said...

Ben, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your bravery and honesty.

As a carer of a young man who struggles with mental illness, and who as the years have gone on, has realised that it has taken its toll personally, I want to climb a mountain and shout out to the world that your beautiful post, and you Ben, are not alone.

Your opening and closing prose reminds me of what I tell him every day; "I close my eyes and the world drops dead. I open my eyes and world is born again." Just in case I forgot it, I had it inked on my arm.

Thank you, Ben x

Eliza Twaddell said...

I have been following your struggles on Twitter and it's amazing to read such a personal account of what's going on in your head. Good luck with overcoming it, I have great faith (in the strictly non-religious sense of the word) that you can. In an effort to convince you that your life has great value can I just say that I think you are just an amazing writer, and one of the only people who I can recall ever making me actually laugh out loud. I have had to stop reading your articles at work because I get so many strange looks! Take care of yourself. xx

Buttons said...

I have the same things go through my brain almost word for word. I always knew people suffered from these things but I didn't know that they did it in the same way as I. I always knew I wasn't alone but maybe not quite so much as I do now.

This has been well timed also, as things are a bit tricky for me right now. I hope they get better for you as they get better for me

thanks a bunch!

Anonymous said...

Ben - also found this thanks to Crikey/First Dog.

It's so unfair, that in the depths of the abyss, even though you know there are people who care about you, people who can help you, people who got through it ok, and people right now going through exactly what you are going through - that you feel so absolutely f**king alone.

But for all the pain and dispair you feel right now, there is a corresponding love and positivity that is still there - hidden from your eyes by the blackness but still visible to others. Trust them, and have faith in yourself.

We are connected by our humanity - we are listening, and we care about you.

Charm said...

Thank you Ben. Thank you for being so honest. For being the mirror to my horror. For staying alive.

Every time I read of someone I know (either personally or through friends) going through this realisation of depression and mental illness it reminds me to keep check on my own situation.

The way that it took me three goes to read about your crumple zone strikes me a a warning that I need to pay attention and step in before i get to that point again too.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this Ben. It *is* an illness, it's awful but it's treatable and it's not your fault. Your post has helped me enormously, giving me perspective on my own past experience of depression and that of a loved friend who is going through it badly right now. Thank you. Thank you.

Leesa Watego said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Ben,

A few notes from a reader-stranger who shares your experiences with depression and for about as long:

- I’m always joyous when I see your name on the New Matilda story list
- I laugh out loud for real and re-read your posts, wishing I could write like you
- I forward your articles to a friend-foe of conservative political persuasion, just to bait him (such fun); you have even grown on him (!)
- I was stoked to see your byline in my Crikey delivery today ...

... with content so compelling and personal and profound I just had to write.

Mine started with post-natal depression and returns like a storm even 15 years later. Thankfully it passes like a storm too, these days, but the intensity can be frightening. If a friend hadn’t forced me to join what I call a “depressed mothers’ group” years ago, run by the local health services, I doubt I’d be here today.

It turns out meeting women who also spent their days in pyjamas crying alongside their gloriously non-judgmental babies was the best thing to happen to me. As painful as it is, sharing works best.

All I know is there’s no single magic cure. If you’re lucky, you learn to see the waves coming and ride them, either to the rocks or the sand. To be going through so much and share the way you did is inspiring and was very brave.

Consider me a person you have definitely helped by having the strength to make your story public. Thank you.

bigwords is... said...

Thanks for your brave writing Ben. I really hope it helps you on your journey. You are not alone. None of us are, it's reaching out for help which is the most difficult. Much respect and love x

Amanda Meade said...

Hey Ben, I loved your how not to rape a woman piece, and I love this too.

Amanda Meade said...

Hey Ben, I loved your how not to rape a woman piece, and I love this too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Me too. Fought on for so many years, being successful, often being outstanding, sometimes even a bit famous. This year, it all finally caught up with me. I'm currently covered in cuts and scars. I can't do my job, can't look after my family. I'm getting help, but getting 'better' feels distant right now.

Again, thank you, and warm, healing wishes to you.

Lizzie G said...

Hi Ben,
In those darkest of dark times, remember that throwing it in and leaving your family and friends will hurt them far, far more than you staying in their lives ever would.

Thanks for sharing something so personal and beautifully written. Get a hold of that black dog, tie it up and leave it outside where it belongs. Sending positive vibes through the cyberverse xxx

Ken said...

Thank you Ben, unfortunately I know exactly what courage it took to write. You have expressed something that many of us struggle to put into coherent words.

I hope it acts as a doorway for others to come to an understanding of what depression is and it's devastating effects.

Jenny Chapman said...

Thank you, for articulating so well a dark and frightening and very foggy time in my life. For speaking out, speaking up, naming demons. Thanks for reminding me I am not alone, and I hope all these beautiful comments remind you that YOU are not alone either. I continue to hope that words like yours reach non-sufferers and help them understand.

Gavin said...

I often feel similar to how you do but I just put it down to stress. I'm glad I've never felt as bad as you do right now, but I feel bad for feeling glad for that - if you know what I mean.
In any case I hope you get better, and everyone else.
I feel like such a prat for sometimes questioning anyone's need for support in this state of mind. When you are helpless, you are helpless after all.
You've quoted from some things I don't know. I'll finish on a quote of my own because sometime we all have shadows on our eyes:
Blue, blue windows behind the stars, Yellow moon on the rise, Big birds flying across the sky, Throwing shadows on our eyes.

liggydd said...

fucking brutal. stay strong bro.

Frankly Feisty said...

Wow...brave, brilliant and bang on.
I have nothing but admiration for you. I am so amazed that you were able to achieve so much whilst wrestling with this.
My struggle sees me unmotivated and unable. I do nothing. My nostrils just above the surface.
Days go by.
Although Strangley, uniquely? I never feel like ending it.
Thank you Ben.

Anonymous said...

Ben I'm in the same place with you and its almost ten years now. At times I feel incredibly normal but it taps me on the shoulder with a panic attack or two, extreme fatigue and nightmares. For so long I had a wonderful life, a single 24/7 workaholic, open all hours for the needy and in love with my two jobs. Then major surgery, a bullying episode on day one at work and an MP who refused my work recovery program. At the end of a five-year legal struggle I was a fractured mess. I live for those brighter days and roll with the dark ones, ever hopeful time will heal the wounds. And from what I saw and still notice in psych and medico waiting rooms, there are thousands of us. Thanks again for letting us know it happens to the best and brightest. You have youth, humour and a wealth of support. You, I know, will recover.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ben,
This was so brave to write and share. I know you don't need people to applaud your bravery, but fuck it, I do. Anyone who's faced the terror of episodes (and the wonderful cocktail of crap they often entail) knows how brave you are to face this, and share it as well. The shadows that sit over and around those of us who live with mental illness can often only be fought with help from others by bringing them out into the 'open'. I am consistently amazed that my family loves me, and that my friends still speak to me when I am on the roller-coaster. But it's simple really: love. It makes the world go round apparently! When I'm ill with the illness formerly known as manic depression, I make my world so small that only those closest to me can enter and words help me climb back from what seems like the eternal no-person land. Slowly, the scars, both literal and metaphorical, and the tears that pour onto the pages or keyboards, eventually fade and dry up. But they change us so profoundly and we need help to understand them. May your recovery be fast. Please know, you are very much not alone, and as they say, it will pass; just be kind to yourself. Solidarity, S.

Lizzyish said...

If fighting that inner guy helps you, then battle away. But for me, in the end, I had to embrace all the pieces of me and see that I needed them to work together before I could be ok. I know you, too, will one day be ok.

Anonymous said...

Ben, may the warm breeze of love and affirmation find you, find your folds as you find yourself crumpled, crippled and cut by life. May that warm breeze heal the raw abrasions of your soul and lift you once again to your feet to rejoin your life at full capacity. May it happen as quickly as possible to you and anyone else suffering a similar affliction.

WN

Anonymous said...

You're a strong man Ben.

Casey Hribar said...

Does depression help us think better? http://bit.ly/maSLUf <-- an interesting article.

George McEncroe said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Its hard to expalin to people that have no idea. I wake up in the mornings and wonder why Iam still here and yet I have no reason to feel the way I do.

I to have been battling depression but I just keep fighting and trying to hang in ther. Iam lucky in away that I have my friends and family.

I have been on meds now for over 10 years but I can still feel that black dog hanging a round.

Takecare of yourself and remember the world is a better place because of you.

Ian :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Elise x

Anonymous said...

"But hopefully it'll go a little way to helping me remember in the dark moments that I'm not alone, and that this too shall pass."

thank you, i already feel less dislocated.

David Hague said...

I have never seen this affliction described better. The admission of the WA Premier that he had depression was my catalyst to see an expert. Hopefully this letter from Ben will do the same for others. It can be defeated. It just takes a little time. But sure as hell you cannot run away from it. It's faster than you.

loplop said...

Thank you for putting this out there Ben, from a former self mutilator. Believe it or not, your humor actually does mean a lot to me and many people I know, to hear another voice out there saying "Hey, how bout we don't condone rape, bigotry and short sighted point scoring?" So I wish you luck finding the balance you need.

Heath Callaway said...

Ben,

You've long been an inspiration to me. Indeed, you're one of the reasons I continue to write (admittedly poorly). This post is testament to the fact that beyond even your unfaltering wit and insight, it is your humanity that is most to be admired.

Keep fighting the good fight, compadre. There are many more in your corner than you would realise, and I'm proud to count myself among them.

edward g murrow said...

Ben I want to add my thanks to those already listed and assure you that this post is very definitely a good thing. When i was in a dark place hiding away from the world, quite literally sitting in a cupboard with noone but the black dog with me, the discovery via the net that other people were going through similar issues was a massive boost for me. a critical step without which I am sure no recovery would have been possible.

These days i have become much more adept at what i call the Niebuhr approach to depression - i hope for the courage to manage the factors that i have control of; exercise,therapy, eating, sleeping patterns; I pray to a god i don't believe in for the serenity to accept those that i can't; the big D. I wouldn't dream of trying to tell you what works for you, but would like to share that my current state is a good one, some years down the track.

And whilst I am sure you have seen it before, the ever wonderful Stephen Fry said it magnificently in his letter 'It will be sunny one day' which can be read here http://www.lettersofnote.com/2009/10/it-will-be-sunny-one-day.html

Find your rock in the black times ben and hang on. You captured how hard this can be with the vicious cycle of self doubt and fear but i wish you all the luck in the world - you are a wonderful asset to this world and i hope the tangible evidence mounted here is impervious to the assaults of the black dog to drag it down.

Andrea Without the Bollocks said...

This is a brilliant blog and I'm sure it's not been an easy thing to put out there - especially for a man... but I know it'll help many. We all go through it, different strengths, different lengths of time, etc... and I wish you all the luck in the world getting back to you!

Emilly Orr said...

And this was randomly linked on Tumblr, from a friend of mine who's suffering some depression himself.

I know the truth of what you're going through. My wife has panic attacks, and suffers intense bouts of insecurity and depression. And I have scars on my arms from those times when the only thing that made sense was to do damage to myself, to let some of the pain out--because I literally couldn't see another way through things.

You're most definitely not alone. But keep going. That's the biggest advice I've ever had--just keep going. It may never get easier. But you'll be alive to see it, and some days, that's pretty damned good.

@d0tski said...

You helped me, Ben. Thankyou.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, great post!

Very brave of you to open up like that. Take heart in knowing that even though it feels like you're alone, you aren't.

Millions of people around the world are going through something similar, and depression unfortunately is a growing epidemic.

I am sure by now, you must be aware that there are many great support services and treatments available. There is no magic "one size fits all" solution however.

You may have to possibly try a number of different modalities/combinations before you find the right one for you.

As someone who has been on a long and dark journey myself, I can fully relate to what you have expressed in this blog post. I have since come out 'the other side' and have made what appears to be a full recovery.

Granted, I always experience a 'down' day every now and then - but I accept those days as part of my nature/personality type (part of what makes me 'who I am'). Embracing the notion that I will have 'those days', rather than fighting them, was the catalyst to getting better.

Understanding that moods come in cycles, and that I don't have to be 'perfect' in anyone's eyes - just simple self-acceptance... goes a long way.

I wish you well on your journey through life my friend, and trust that you find all the strength you need to overcome the biggest obstacles.

"Life" is about the challenges, facing up to the big issues, and ultimately learning and growing along the way.

The best part will be learning to like and accept yourself, and from there - anything is possible.

Light and peace ;0)

Caithleen said...

Dammit Ben - why is it that all the reasonable, talented, intelligent, funny people are the ones constantly trying to top themselves?

PS No, it's not tortured genius, what you do, but that doesn't mean it's not unspeakably important x

Anonymous said...

You have put into words so many things I have never seen done before so eloquently.
Allowing yourself to be happy with yourself is the hardest part.
Don't give in to the darkness: there is light everywhere if you choose to look for it.

accidie said...

I'm not a depressive. But my partner of more than 20 years is. Well, actually, he has an industrial-strength case of Bipolar A. He self-medicated: into a severe dose of alcoholism. Not a very good idea. Right up there with cutting yourself.
This is a miserable, depressing way of saying that if you have someone who loves you - and I guess Bec has put up with enough to prove that - they keep loving you. Hard though it bloody is. And, to be frank, frequently unappreciated as it bloody is by someone who is depressed.
You're loved. It doesn't seem much at the time, I know. But make it count for something: it's a very big gift. And probably one you've earned.

TheSnarfer said...

Ben, given you're a kind of pseudo celebrity, i sorta understand. Are u trying to live up to others expectations? in many areas of your life? as a good father, partner & professional? if you find you are no longer in control then your first part of therapy is...TELL THEM ALL to stop it. I had this kind of depression problem years ago & simply told everyone short of fucking off, to fuck off. yes including my family & loved ones. Some friends really are not your friends & they are not worth keeping. Time to shed the load. I felt a hell of alot better for it & moved on to new group of people in my life. Now i couldn't be happier.

Anonymous said...

thankyou

and

goodluck

accidie said...

Oh, and by the way: that kind of love keeps on, even in the worst times. Informed guess: you're worried about not being able to provide for the family, meet the bills, get a proper job, all that shit, because you have a problem with depression. And no doubt they'd be better off without you?
These things work themselves out. It can take some time, some sweet talking, even an occasional spot of embarrassment. But compared to losing my lovely clever boy? My playmate? I think not. I think very not.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, I know you have had hundreds of supportive responses to this, but I haven't read any of them before writing this. I just wanted you to know that my husband and I just bought both your books, follow you and bec on twitter, read both your blogs, listen to your podcast and play words with friends with you. I have never met you but have really enjoyed your work and being peripherally involved your life. I'm a clinical psychologist and have worked with lots of people struggling as you do, been the child of a person living with depression, and had my own struggles with anxiety where I've had to seek help. We're all out here, we like you, and we'd miss you if you weren't around. Keep getting help and remember all the love and support you have both at home from those who like what you do. Thanks for sharing with us, I hope it helps!

Lizz said...

I love it when we can get to our truth and share it with the world - you'll be an inspiration to many. I can still remember going to my parents place straight from the DR's appt which classified me a sufferer of major depression. My beautiful Dad told me that the DR was wrong - that I was just tired. My Mum gave me a hug (I was almost inconsolable) and told me I just needed to relax, have a bath and a good sleep. They were in denial and it took them many years to accept that their only daughter was suffering a mental illness. It took me years to see that life with mental illness has many colours. It's not all doom and gloom. It can ignite brilliance - just like your post.

"Coming out" is the only way our society is going to move beyond the stigma of this silent disease. I thank you for having the courage to lead the way. Major respect.

Stuart said...

I've had depression for 7 years, so I'm right there with you mate.

Keep strong mate.

Kelly said...

This is definitely important, not just for those who are suffering, but for the rest of us who want to understand. Thank you for sharing.

Really excellent writing, and not at all a load of wank.

Etienne de Briquenell said...

Beautiful post Ben. I'm forwarding a link to all my friends and family.

As a fellow lifelong sufferer I just want to say I have nothing but admiration for your honesty. It takes a lot of strength to pen a piece like this and I hope it contributes to the public awareness of this awful illness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Julie said...

Thank you for sharing this. I found your post through a link through twitter and glad I did.

What you write about it real and honest and heartbreaking all at once and no, you are definitely not alone. As someone who has struggled with similar things I can attest to that.

Once again, thanks for sharing your thoughts so beautifully. I'm sure by doing so you have managed to reach out to more people than you realise and that in itself, is worth something.

I hope you are able to come out of all this soon because nobody deserves to go through it.

Julie

Anonymous said...

I have Borderline Personality Disorder, & your post pretty much describes how i feel all the time. The thing abut suicide is, nobody wants you to do it, but also nobody wants to know you when you're feeling bad & not being "the life of the party". As a psychologist recently said to me, "Nobody like a misery guts". Her solution was to act happy all the time, even when you're dying inside. Well, if I could do that I guess I wouldn't be seeing a psych. I hope you get better - it sounds like people do love you, so that must make a difference - hang on to them. Alone it's pretty hard.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou, now I know that I'm not alone. xo

Beentheredonethat said...

Night falls fast.
Today is in the past.

Blown from the dark hill hither to my door
Three flakes, then four
Arrive, then many more.

Anonymous said...

As someone who's gone through the ups and downs of depression and anxiety, and the counselling and medication that goes along with it, I just want to thank you for writing so honestly and openly.

I'm sure someone's already linked to this wonderful letter that Stephen Fry wrote to a woman going through depression but here it is again: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2009/10/it-will-be-sunny-one-day.html

It's always good to remember that there is kindness and love and joy in the world, waiting for you somewhere, even if it's not immediately obvious. All the best with your struggles (or should that be adventures?) with depression.

Lily said...

Hi Ben, you don't know me from a bar of soap, nor I you, but... anyone who wears their heart on their sleeve like this, to talk about the secret too many hold in, about the 'thing' no-one really wants to hear about, has my greatest respect. My estranged father just passed away last week, and once again I am under the spell of the mad black dog. Thanks for the leg up that reading this brings. The saying 'this too will pass' helps to a point, but strangely what helps most is that other people are in this boat with me. Thanks Ben.

Anonymous said...

I don't even know you and I think you're awesome. To write such thoughts, and so beautifully. Talent, and honesty - a lovely combination. Keep being you, for all those who do know you, and for all those who don't.

kim at allconsuming said...

How many times have I been in that place? Unable to draw breath, convinced everyone can see me for the complete and utter fraud I am, that this isn't depression, that this is just what I deserve. The feeling of being completely and utterly alone when surrounded by my 5,000 children and friends and family. Of utter hopelessness, complete self hatred, uncontrollable sobbing versus blind vicious rage.

I can track my depression back to around age 8. It took me until 26 and a friend expressing their concern for me before I did anything to really address it.

And here I stand, at 38. I'm still here! I'm standing! I'm laughing and loved and loving and ... happy?

My lowest ebb was a breakdown panic attack which had me wanting to strip naked (horrifying enough) and go swimming in the ocean, bugs crawling under my skin and demonic beatrix potter rabbits jumping off the bathroom wall at me.

That was only three years ago. But you know what, I used to fall into that big black pit in a matter of hours and it would take weeks, MONTHS even to claw my way out.

Now, I can see it coming - the teeth clenching, the poor quality sleep, the listlessness - and sometimes I can head it off. Sometimes I can't but now it never lasts that long and I can scale the wall outta there with dexterity I wish I could replicate in my physical world.

This will pass.
You are loved.
You are worthy.
Just keep swimming.

Onward.

susie said...

thank you Ben

Anonymous said...

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Ben, U R a talented writer.
I came back from terminal illness.
Only through prayer and faith after a life of debauchery.
It was retrospective.
Cardinal Newman the great 20c convert and theologian describes it as "luminous awareness".
When my father was ailing in hospital, it was only the local priest who was there for him. Father was penniless and doubting. Speak with your local priest, maybe pray.
There's no instant guiding light; only over time.
Faith, Best
God Bless
Pax Vobiscum
JC 6-40
David Thomson

LLA_Princess said...

Thank yo for your bravery and honesty. I work in the mental helath profession and sometimes I find that there are days my patients seem stronger than me and I should be on the other side of the nurse's station. How can i like you dispense so much support and knowledge when my own personal life and brain is so chaotic. You feel like a fraud but you keep going on, keep moving forward

It's a constant battle, but you are a fighter. You haven't allowed depression to take you. keep fighting

Anonymous said...

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired Ben, like you I have suffered Depression on and off now for over 15 years. I could never articulate with such eloquence the circumstances and experience of Depression. I have three young children as well I am just waiting til the youngest is finished high school and old enough to understand why his father could no longer take it in this world. Every morning I wake up I curse the world and me for being in it. My children are the only things that keep me here. I look forward to the day I can end it without having to worry about their well fare. I have a few more years left of pain and anguish, then I'll be free.

Adam said...

Thank you.

Bec said...

Anonymous that posted the following: I'm tired Ben, like you I have suffered Depression on and off now for over 15 years. I could never articulate with such eloquence the circumstances and experience of Depression. I have three young children as well I am just waiting til the youngest is finished high school and old enough to understand why his father could no longer take it in this world. Every morning I wake up I curse the world and me for being in it. My children are the only things that keep me here. I look forward to the day I can end it without having to worry about their well fare. I have a few more years left of pain and anguish, then I'll be free.


I am Ben's wife and I couldn't let your comment pass without saying anything and I really hope you read this. Please, please, please take the next step of getting the help that you so desperately need. It doesn't matter how old your children are their world would still be compltely devastated were you to not be in it. Please gather even the tiniest bit of strength that you may have, or can muster from Ben's post to seek help. Hold onto the fact that your children are here and that they love you, if they're what keeps you going, hold onto that because they are here. You are loved and are worthy of help, please seek it.

Bec Pobjie

Anonymous said...

On ya

Morganos said...

Ben, it is a fucking hard thing to go through, I've had 2 severe cases of the fear and both times I could not see a way out.
But I got out.
The clenched teeth line got me man, because I find that I notice that and see the need to reevaluate my circumstances.

You will get through it, you have to. As hard as it is to recognise now, it will pass, and you can tweak it bit by bit and get rid of that evil fucking black dog.
Take it easy man, look around and enjoy the love that your wife and kids have for you.
Life is short, enjoy the simple things....
Keep well Bro

Anonymous said...

Hey Ben, great and brave piece here today. Look after yourself. I mean it. Get good help.
As a psychologist I can tell you that sharing your story will help a lot of others; so often I see people who are compelled to get help after seeing/hearing someone they admire speaking openly and breaking down the barriers of stigma and denial or fear before seeking help.

Streetowl said...

Very brave blog.and you are not alone. Much of this could be me and my head!keep on keeping on and remember this too shall pass x

Zoe said...

Ben, thankyou.Thanksfor your honesty, your insight, and for allowing us to be privvy to something that is so deep inside, that you're scared to let it out. As many others have mentioned, you are so brave, even if you don't feel it.
I have a mother with bipolar, and a husband-to-be with anxiety depression. Whilst they may mention how the feel from time to time, it is never as articulate as you have described it. maybe they don't have the words, maybe they are to scared to say how they feel out loud. maybe they fear that monster inside will attack them , if they tell their secret.
it is so hard, to sit by and see someone suffering, without really knowing what is going on inside. Now i have a truer idea. i have often wondered if something was wrong with me, perhaps i haven't been understanding enough, or perhaps not supportive enough, but i know i have. those doubts arise when you can't take away the pain from the ones you love.
You brought tears to my eyes, and a sense of relief also. i see clearer, and maybe oneday, it may also happen for my family. xx

The Chicken said...

Hi Ben, I'm @irrellievancy - I talk to you on Twitter sometimes. Thank you for writing this. I have depression and an anxiety disorder. You're bang on the money in this entire post and I'm so glad you could put all those complex and terrifying feelings into your wise and wonderful words. Keep up the good work, and I wish you all the happiness, puppies and rainbows in the world.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this, it expresses so many things that I also feel and can't put into words. It's been about 8 years for me now and I'm yet to fall, and I'm sure from your writing your a much stronger person than me. It will always get better.

Christine Skeels said...

Ben. For a moment there I thought you had stolen those words or many of them from my own head. You said it all, expressed those thoughts I would have struggled to put into words. Fight it Ben, it's not you it really is just an illness, one that can be cured. Sertraline and time and now I am away from those scary dangerous places my mind took me.
Good luck, you are not alone

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, I had a mini meltdown a few weeks ago, not as bad as yours but it's telling me that I need help, after reading this I will seek that help

Lyss said...

Wow. You have put into perfect words what I have never been able to. As heartbreaking as your words are, they have brought some sunshine & hope into my day.

You are amazing! x.

punksocks said...

This post reminds me a little of not wearing a helmet on a bicycle so you can feel the wind in your hair. A little bit dangerous, but a lot freeing.

A little bit like putting Dr Seuss' advice into action: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."

Nice :)

standpointau said...

An incredibly brave post. Slightly disconcerting how many of the things you thought about re: the irrational paranoia, the fear of abandonment- reading every little action that someone else takes, like not replying to a text or an IM means they've finally hit their limit, that they can no longer stand you, speak to thoughts I have had before and i'm sure I'll have again.

Nice to see that i'm not alone in those thoughts. Feeling "unique" in those regards is almost as bad as the content of the thoughts.

Marieke said...

Awesome post. The bit about the feeling of knowing that for others depression is an illness but for yourself maybe justified.. Powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing, this will help people, and I hope it helped you to write it.

Deer Baby said...

What a moving and honest post. There are so many us us going through the same. I wish you all the best. You have so many people rooting for you, you have the wonderful support of your wife and children. So thankful you shared this.

AliaK said...

thank you for sharing your thoughts and words. I hope writing them down has been a little help to you. try to remember you're not alone

Anonymous said...

Get better.
Also, bought the Superchef book -- it's great.
Hang in there!

Susie said...

Great post.
We need to teach teenagers how to survive in this generation. This is not an easy road to walk. I know i have walked it for nearly 20 years.

Mark Muller said...

Peace be with you, Ben.

Anonymous said...

Please please please get yourself tested for gluten intolerance. Food intolerances have been medically proven to cause mental illness but it is not widely known about. It happened to me, so I'm speaking from experience!

Gemma said...

Ben, you are so brave and you will get though this. You have a beautiful wife and kids who love you more than anything. Take some time out, go away somewhere even if it's only a few days. The world, your friends and followers can wait. It's time to focus on you and your family. You all have the most amazing life ahead of you. I just know it.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say thank-you Ben, and thanks to the other commentators here for sharing your stories.

Jeremy said...

Well said, and again, you're awesome, even when you're not cracking jokes.

Well done for being strong enough to share it.

Good luck, and you're not alone.

Anonymous said...

Ben,

I've been reading your stuff for ages and I've always enjoyed it. Recently I found myself in hospital experiencing what I've no doubt is the beginning (but not the end) of a bout of post-natal depression.

There is nothing more debilitating than the feeling there is nothing that you can do, that you can't make a decision, that your lot will never improve. As much as anyone else, I'm surprised to learn that in fact it does.

While I was in hospital, in between the snatches of sleep, I would read my "friend stream" which included your twitter feed. It made me smile. Thank you.

zoot said...

Very honest and brave words Ben. Remember, if you are depressed or have thoughts of suicide, you can call LIFELINE on 13 11 14 and talk with someone who will listen without judgement and walk along side you in that dark place.You are not alone.

Tam said...

Thanks Ben. A very valuable post. You've created a piece of writing that people can share across their networks.

Toowacka said...

I always get confused when thinking about depression because it doesn’t make much sense to me.

I have nothing to back this up, but I have a vibe that most people with ‘depression’ don’t have a medical condition (i.e. chemical imbalance in the brain), rather a psychological condition. Which in turn makes me think it is not really a condition at all, but rather general suffering in life. Loneliness, hopelessness, lack of meaning, bad diet, lack of sleep and exercise, hectic lifestyles, isolation, lack of real friendships, confusion and general feeling of being overwhelmed ongoing will make anyone feel like shit.

I get the feeling that article’s like this tend to make the matter worse by mythologising the condition as some strange, external, dark and untouchable force. It undermines people taking responsibility for their emotional wellbeing, and in a way almost romanticises it.

I know saying this to someone with depression would likely make things worse as it sounds like blame. And obviously there are people with medical conditions who require medication. I just don’t think its right that so many people feel beholden to this feeling that seemingly can’t be overcome.

Love your work Ben, all the very best.

Jude said...

Thank you for writing this post. I have had every single one of those thoughts in my head, and to see them written by someone else always makes them feel less real, and less personal, and that helps me to ignore them.

Keep fighting, Ben. The good days are worth hanging around for. Even the good moments in a bad day can be.

Nicole Murphy said...

Thanks so much for this, Ben. I too am a writer and I too recently fell into the abyss. By speaking out, I've gained a whole network of support and understanding that I never knew was there and I hope the same happens for you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I didn't realise how much I needed to read some honesty like that.

gary said...

I just clicked on this link from Will Anderson on Twitter. I'm speechless. I have been battling depression for 5 years now and this is the first thing I've read that has explained exactly how I feel. Even the cutting. What a wonderfully honest, heart-breaking thing to write, and to read. High five to you! Keep fighting xxx

CRAFTY BROADS said...

Ben, I just discovered you today through a Clare Bowditch tweet, and I will be following you from now on.

Thank you for your honesty. I struggle with this to, and you have expressed the layers of suffering so eloquently.

I am having a 'good patch' at the moment, you know, a couple of weeks where you feel human and 'normal' - but this too shall pass, just like the bouts of depression pass too. My little black dog is always there by my side or metres away it is not a creature I can outrun.

The only things I know in how I help myself are:

- walk everyday
- talk about it (so many people you know are feeling it to)
- find an amazing psychologist
- try antidepressants - they are not a solution and you can't be on them forever, but they can help you remember how to live.

Thank you so much Ben,
Cate

Moo Monkey said...

Wow, and I thought that I had an ego. You know what you need and I understand the message, but get over yourself.

Bec said...

Thanks for that Moo Monkey, it's people like you that don't help people like Ben. What a cruel and heartless person you are.

Brett said...

It's all been said above, but thank you for posting this.
True, honest, brave and heartfelt. And a great help to many.

Nicholosophy said...

Brave. Darn brave.

I'm glad you could write this. More people need to write about this sort of stuff. I've had depression for years now and it is still a daily struggle.

Zoe said...

Moo monkey, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't bother saying it. It takes an enormous amount of guts and courage to be able to post what Ben has posted. It's his lack of ego that plays a part in his condition. You obviously have never witnessed or experienced the deterioration of someone before your very eyes. But you don't need to have had that experience, to show a little empathy.
Perhaps one of yours friends is going through something's similar, because mental illness is common, but rarely admitted or spoken about. Hopefully you'll be there for them.

kath_67 said...

I know.
Depression is totally fucked.
Thanks for posting this. Every word resonated. Get better soon, please.
Kath

theflightyzeus said...

I recently finished reading your book. All the way through I had to stop, compose myself and then read huge slabs of it out to my fiance and brother as we all shook with laughter.

One of our favourite things about Masterchef is following your twitter stream and reading out your comments to each other. They're always what we think but so much funnier than what we could say.

This is by way of saying you're so well loved in our household as a source of happiness and hilarity. It's a real shock to read what you are going through.

It's also a powerful reminder to me, as someone who also struggles with depression, that the perception people have of you is nothing like the dark, twisted vision you have of yourself.

I've often thoguht your wife and kids would be proud to have such a funny, clever husband/dad and now I think they'd be proud that he is brave too.

Good on you for writing such a raw and honest thing and good on you for trying so hard to beat your own thoughts.

I hope you'll accept help because it's a very hard battle to fight alone.

lilylive said...

dayum! i don't know what's worse, 'get over yourself', or 'chin up, you'll be right mate.' both come from a place of no imagining and little light.

Kitty said...

Moo Monkey -I fail to see any evidence of ego other than your own. What's the problem? Annoyed that someone else is the centre of attention for once? Ben has gained the admiration of these people because he made a very open, honest and brave post about his struggle with his own dark thought processes -something a vacuous individual like yourself isn't possibly capable of.

Go troll somewhere else, you imbecile. Leave the serious talk to the grown ups.

CathieT said...

Dear Moo Monkey,

You are absolutely correct.

Both you and Ben have egos. We all do. It is our sense of self. If you, as a writer are going to disrespect someone else's story and personal feelings, you should at least do it with the correct words.

May the obvious, sunshine, lollipops and rainbows that are your life continue to rain down upon you.

Regards,
Cathie

Kim Goodwin said...

Ben you are incredibly brave. As a sufferer of depression I can only applaud you for your courage. This is one powerful piece of writing.

virginia said...

you've certainly got more courage than I do Ben, to write as honestly as you have done. I've shared it with friends who have bite marks all over them from the Black Dog who never quite leaves - virtual connections are often of more comfort than some of the harder real life exchanges where every look or flicker of an eye can be misunderstood. Take care sounds inadequate but is heartfelt. look forward to enjoying another #annesparty with you along the way.

Lily said...

Rarely do I read anything that resonates with me as this does...
Thank you.

My husband, who is a great admirer of yours and constantly tells me the funny things you say on twitter (therevmountain) told me to read this blog entry.

I've been struggling with clinical depression for 5 years and have never been able to express what's going on inside like you just have.
I can promise you that you have let ME know that I am not alone, which is easy to forget.

The feeling of crushing guilt we get is something that seems to be overlooked in favour of examining the melancholy of our illness. The self pity rather than the self loathing.

How much worse the hate for yourself is whenever you think about the people who have to deal with you when you're like this. Feeling so selfish."The agony of knowing you could ruin lives by leaving, and feeling that you're ruining them even more by staying."

The guilt you have when you have a good week/night/moment/second. The doubt you start to experience, am I even feeling this or am I just being dramatic? Shouldn't I just pull my socks up and get on with it? Then the suffocating black clouds roll in again.

You're not alone. But it's so easy to forget. I want you to live. But that doesn't matter so much when you feel as if you're drowning in yourself.

You should know this has helped me more than you can imagine. Not a word of this was a colossal wank. What's more, I think it will help people who don't know what's going on in our heads (especially our incredible spouses) to understand. To see that it has nothing to do with them and that in fact, they are the ones that keep us going.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is so brave.

Sam said...

from personal experience i how hard posts like this are (and i did mine from relative anonymity!). power to ya!

opening up is tough - it doesnt always help certain people understand you better, but its its important for yourself, those that matter most (who will at least try to get it, and will be proud) and with all your following you'll no doubt reach a few people who need it and help someone.

better out than in.

Greybeard said...

Been there so many times and never put it so eloquently. I tried to deal with this on my own for 20 years because (a) there was a stigma & (b) 'real men' can cope with things on their own. Then went to a great shrink who asked if I thought I could deal with, say, diabetes by 'coping' or 'toughing it out'. Tried three anti-deps before finding one that just did the job with minimal side effects. Since then I've been approx 732% happier, ditto the family. If you have a chemical imbalance, there is no shame in taking a pill for it. Respect to you & may you be as lucky as I have.

Al said...

It's crazy isn't it? How some of the sweetest people and deepest thinkers are the ones who so often fall foul of this horrendous mind virus? Your piece, your honesty, your sharing, is evidence that the world needs you around. The mind virus will try to talk you out of it again and again, to tell you "even though I know depression is just an illness for everyone else, maybe I'm that one person for whom it's justified", but I hope you'll be able to remember all the love and support this post has brought out, and tell that stupid, poisonous voice to fuck.right.off.

Carly Findlay said...

What a brave, honest and eloquent piece of writing. I think your words would have helped many.
Thanks for giving us an insight into how difficult this illness is.

Carly Findlay said...

Sorry - forgot to wish you the best for your recovery - I hope you're getting some professional help in addition to the wonderful support you have found online.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I love following your tweets. Always so hilarious!

Depression runs in my family and so I have always talked pretty openly about my own anxiety and self-harm for a long time it never ceases to amaze me how many people suffer that you just don't know about. A great reminder to reach out to all the people you love. Thanks Ben for your thoughtful insight!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Ben - I'm yet another person your post has helped enormously. Just having 'those feelings' so perfectly described makes me feel less alone and more hopeful.

Bec said...

Amazing blog, it is such a raw and personal blog, but it is wonderful that you can put your depression, something conplex into something so simple like a blog and share it with people who need to know that there is someone out there just like them and they are not alone and that they should talk about it. I suffer from minor depression and it really helped me to read about someone else in a similar position. Thankyou.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post... I've been feeling a lot of these things for a long time. It has helped so much knowing I'm not the only one xoxo

accidie said...

Dear David Thomson, Moo Monkey, Toowacka and the anonymous berk who thought it was about gluten intolerance: you snivelling, supercilious bastards. I'd wish clinical depression on you. Except I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Anonymous said...

I am very good at pretending everything is OK. Having wept at your post and again at the responses, I feel more at ease than I have in a long time. Thank you for not pretending. You are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I just had to leave another comment after reading all the beautiful comments that have been added. And, I wanted to respond to Toowacka's comment.

I understand what I think you are trying to say, but I think it shows ignorance about this illness. Unless you have experienced this suffering you cannot know - just as unless I have experienced asthma or heart disease I cannot know the difficulties of these conditions.

I have done a lot of research into depression and anxiety, and it has always been there in all the great historic novels 'Pride and Predjudice, Jane Eyre etc' you find references to it, historically it would be called 'nerves' or 'melancholy'. Unfortunately we still don't fully understand this condition, but that doesn't mean it is not real, it is.

I remember going to the doctor about 10 years ago to ask for help and she said to me 'that's just life' and I walked away ready to slit my wrists because if this was the way I was to feel for the rest of my life, I was ready to end it at 19. I am so grateful I spoke to a friend and she told me it wasn't normal to feel like you are a hopeless, horrific human being all day, everyday, and help was available.

Please please please never question the truth of depression and anxiety disorders again, just because they cannot be seen does not mean they are not real. They are more than real, they are searingly deep and painful.

Oh, and Moo Monkey you're a goose, please keep your ignorant, offensive comments to yourself. It was truly cruel of you to leave that comment.

Moo Monkey said...

Brutal honesty can be an act of compassion. Coddling someone you do not know and further condemning someone else that you do not know is dishonest and cruel. I stand by my original comment. Thank you for “caring” enough to respond to it.

Moo Monkey said...

@ toowacka - Kudos. I appreciate your thoughtful explanation behind your comment.

Moo Monkey said...

@ accidie – I disagree with your judgment of my being among those listed as “…snivelling, supercilious bastards.” These are labels I do not accept as they’re behaviors I do not always engage in. I didn’t realize I was in the presence of an infallible being. And I still don’t.

Bron said...

Writing and sharing is great therapy. It helped me, no matter how embarrassed I felt at the time, no matter how many self-doubts I had, those similar thoughts of "What a load of wank". In hindsight, sharing and expressing how I felt in words helped me immensely. And I'm confident that sharing this will have a knock-on effect of helping you, too.

Great stuff, Ben. Thank you for sharing so brutally and honestly.

All the best.

edenland said...

Wow, Ben.

I always find that admitting I am not strong ... somehow gives me strength.

Power to you, mate.

nerines said...

Hi Ben,
I wanted to comment earlier but blogger was down...I just didn't feel okay about not letting you know I heard you the day you posted.
Depression runs in our family and I think it's so important to discuss it openly as you would any other illness or hurt. For so many it doesn't happen like that. I hope it's helped you and helped others to not hide it or deny it. It's so hard on everyone when things like that aren't shared or barely even acknowledged at times. So thank you:)

Joanna said...

Thank you for this wonderful, honest about depression, Ben. I know how you feel. I've suffered from chronic depressive disorder (although one psychiatrist labelled me a bipolar disorder Type 2 case) since my early 20s. I'm now almost 48. Hang in there, and thanks again for your touching account of depression. See you on FB and Twitter. Joanna :))

Anonymous said...

I love you Ben.

Maxine said...

I love you Ben. But not like that. But I love you.

Maxine.

Anonymous said...

Your post was descriptive, potent and resonated with me on all sorts of levels. I have been where you have been and regardless of my remission, I know that my life may take me there again. And though my brain tells me I can't cope with it again, I will. I will remember this post and I will remember what I have come through.

Keep living brother. The world needs your gift with words. And if that's not reason enough, there are those who love you exactly as you are. They are here in the comments and I'm bettin' they're there behinds the scenes as well.

Love & peace,
Trish

Anonymous said...

My wife has been sufferring depression for over 20 years and its taken me nearly that long to understand it and live with it. It will always be a struggle for both of us but with love and patience it can be contained and ur life can be made bearable during the hard times as its a illness that needs help with not attacked as a failure of the person ....cheers mate most of us know and see it all too often in our society now

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