Controlling The Narrative: What Purpose Does Depression Serve?

My entire life is centred around the justification of presence. By this, I mean that everything serves a purpose to some extent. The clothes I put on in the morning, the pictures that I take, the programs I watch, the things I write. 

Everything serves a purpose.

The clothes are bought, hoarded and worn because they convey what I believe to be my personal sense of style. It’s the cover of my book; it's the first impression. The pictures I take, I take to capture time, to make a fleeting moment somewhat permanent. I watch House of Cards religiously because it’s the closest thing to Mad Men—a program I watch with my fiancée, therefore I will only watch with my fiancée. I write this because recently I’ve been in a funk I can’t seem to shake. I write this with a hope that it will provide me with a little release, or at the very least, provide proof that I was moderately productive this evening.

This ‘funk’ brings me to the question that forms this blog post. What purpose does depression serve? What good does it do? Why does it have this particular effect? Why does it exist? And what, ultimately, is depression anyway? Is it a personal experience that only you and you alone can truly understand? Or is it a blanket term for anyone going through a difficult time?

My worst bouts of depression have always come in moments of downtime. Moments where I don’t have much interaction with people. These are my favourite, and worst, moments. Sometimes all I crave for is to have a moment’s respite where I can sit in silence and enjoy how wonderful life is. At other times, I desperately yearn for attention. I yearn to be in the presence of others. Not even for conversation, but just to be acknowledged.

One of my biggest fears is of being forgotten. And during my dips in mood, that is usually the most prominent feeling I get. Of loneliness. Of being forgotten. Of being lost.

I have a tendency of absorbing everything around me - whether it’s conversations, or narratives. During the middle of my Peaky Blinders binge, for instance, I became a recluse following an episode where Arthur was quite clearly tormented by his own demons, only to be discarded by Tommy. The sadness, the destruction of self, lingered in me for a few days. I couldn’t watch the next episode until I knew I felt stronger; back to my normal self. 

Other times, there are no triggers. And these are the difficult moments. By being unable to place the source, I’m left in a state of confusion and worry. Worry, because I become a stranger in my own temple. I don’t have a safety net. In essence, I’m vulnerable, and closer to becoming lost.

Vulnerability is a hard pill to swallow. Being a man, it’s hell. I have always considered myself quite open with my feelings; usually in control of them. But speak to me in person during a dip and the conversation seldom goes beyond, “I’m alright, just a little dip but generally good man. How’s all with you, anyway?” I want to talk. I would give anything for you to reassure me that I’m going to be okay. But I’ll never ask you that. I don’t know how to. I’m not good in person. I’m better here, because I have time to put my thoughts together. I can revise them. I can edit them. I can control the narrative so I only say what I think you will be okay in hearing. I can post this and step away. And by the time you speak to me in person next, I’ll be in a good mood and subsequently have no need to discuss this any further.

I don’t like talking about depression. I feel like a broken record. I don’t like to feel broken. But I need to talk about it. I need to address it because so many of us deal with demons we can’t control. We’re fighting for our lives without ever stepping on a battlefield. We channel ourselves to focus on routine, on monotony, on empty conversations, on team sports, on video games, on the internet, on anything that feels like a momentary escape.

Our minds are beautiful, but our minds are dangerous. Now think about that statement for a second. Think about the headspace you have to be in to consider the taking of your life being the best option. People are so tormented they bring themselves to the point of no return. They throw themselves in front of trains. And their actions feel justified because the reaction from people isn’t of sadness, but of frustration as they’re now going to be late to get to their routine, to their monotony.

84 men take their lives in the UK every day. Eighty-four. That’s just over two thousand five hundred men per month. Just under eleven thousand men per year. We need to find a way to talk. It doesn’t matter what the vehicle of the conversation is. It is just important that the conversation happens. Whether it’s you reading this and discussing it with your partner. Whether it’s you speaking to a friend on WhatsApp. Whether it’s you speaking to your parents face-to-face. Whether it’s you talking to a helpline or counsellor. Whatever it is, we need to do it in order to keep ourselves from destroying ourselves. And this isn't just directed to men, but everyone. We don’t need to be our own enemy, but by refusing to acknowledge our struggle, we ultimately become victims of our own demons. We become part of the struggle. We become statistics.

I don’t know what works best for you. I don’t know what works best for me half the time. But when I feel like this, I have to find a way to let it out of my system for a want of calm. Sometimes I will drink a glass of whisky before I sleep. Sometimes I’ll write. Sometimes I’ll cry. I’ll do whatever I think will help.

Our minds wander on flecks of dust. They’re carried in ways we can’t possibly map out. Our emotions are triggered by situations beyond control. Which is why conversation is important. It’s support. It’s a shoulder to lean on when you’re unable to stand. It’s a marker that helps you stay on track. It’s familiarity. It’s home.