Tricks of the Trade

Monday was a good day. I enjoyed Monday. Tuesday was an awful day. The reason? I have no idea.

I did nothing different on either day. Yet I could have took the world on one day, but wanted to jump off and let it go around without me a few times the next. This has been a pattern I have followed for a number of years now.

Most people have seen the story about the black dog? Well before I saw it, I had my story about a black cloud. It lived in the corner. Some days it came out and dragged me in the corner and I stayed there until it let me go. Somedays it tried and, over time, I learnt to say no and could distract myself. This took a long long time to learn.

Somedays, even now, I go over to the cloud and sit with it in the corner. Why? I have no idea. Every time is different, but the same in many ways.

I have many issues in my life, from my brother dying which was over 40 years ago, but still affects me. Even as I write this it brings a lump to my throat. All the way to issues my wife and I have had in recent years.

She found it very, very rough at first. I think it was because it just appeared I was a miserable so-and-so because I didn’t want to talk. Her ignoring it was the worst, because I was screaming inside for her to come and cuddle me, but of course, she couldn’t hear it. No-one could except me.

My wife is the most amazing person I have ever met and I’m fairly sure without her I wouldn’t be here today. Yes, I have thought about what it would be like if I wasn’t here. Honestly? That said, never once did I actually considered doing it, but I was very lucky that I had enough around me that I never fell that far.

The biggest trick my wife and I learned was this. If she suspected something was wrong with me, she had to ask. If she asked, then I had to answer. I wasn’t allowed to say “I’m fine” unless I actually was. My answer most of the time was “I don’t know what’s wrong, but something is”. This was what she needed, because it reassured her that the problem wasn’t actually her. Simply put, that squeaky sentence I produced was the result of all the screaming inside. That’s all that came out.

All of this didn’t happen overnight. It took about 4 years for us to get to that stage. So why am I like this? What major trauma has happened to cause this? Well who can say.

I have 5 incredible children whom I love more than I thought possible. I have a fantastic job which gives me everything I could wish for. My parents have supported me financially and emotionally as much as I could have asked for. My wife is the most beautiful woman I have ever met and truly an outstanding person. So all of that makes it more difficult to tell you why I’m like this. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. But then again, if I can control it, you can too!

I have seen many many things in my career as a Paramedic that people should not see. I always felt as though I just brushed it off and dealt with it because “it’s my job”. Maybe each incident left a little scar that collectively just built up over time. I don’t know. Maybe I have dealt with it all. I don’t know.

Of course being a paramedic has had its benefits. I have helped patients, because I have seen similar symptoms in them and been able to relate to them. Kind of like a group therapy for us both. Albeit one that has often ended with both of us in tears. Not always sad ones though.

I’m the type of person who finds humour in strange places (paramedics have this ability). Laughter may not be the best medicine, but in some situations it can be a very useful one. Helping somebody with a mental health issue (I hate that phrase; too broad) is as good a feeling as helping somebody having a heart attack or broken bones.

I have spoken with many people and have found similarities in all of them. Some know why it happens, but most don’t. I will say this. Learning your own trick to deal, cope or distract yourself may be the key to helping you through. Try my way. See if it helps.

I think we could all learn something from the way Andy has learned to accept and manage his depression and also found that beautiful way of sharing his feelings with his wife. Have you found your own way to distract or cope when depression comes calling? Do you think you can take a leaf from Andy's book? Let us know in the comments below.

You can keep up-to-date with Andy on Twitter, where he's @DowsonAndy