I’m getting there, slowly
Of recent times I’ve been plaguing social media with updates on my ongoing mental health status. I tend to abbreviate it as talking about “mental health” is still taboo to an extent, MH just looks nicer. Makes it seem more approachable. I only thought it fair to give you all – some will be more familiar with the story than others, so feel free to skim-read as you wish – a bit more of an insight into why I am how I am.
Yeah, this is the bit I’m not proud of. I was born with a lot of advantages. I had a reasonably affluent upbringing, went to a grammar school, was lucky enough to have a skillset which meant I could spend a formative year abroad, some would say I was born with a degree of intelligence (I would dispute the nature of intelligence, but that’s probably not for now). Went to university. Basically had everything handed to me on a plate. Yet I fucked it. I’ve spent so much time over the last couple of years agonising over the terrible things I’ve done. How I’ve taken friendship and threw it back in the faces of those people (and yet they came back for more). How I threw away opportunities. How I messed up relationships through sheer idiocy. How I always knew best and everyone else was wrong. How I’ve chucked away three separate careers, as well as not made the best out of university. Because I really didn’t there, a First was on a plate and I muffed it (my own fault, I make no excuses for it).
But this is the thing – while I undoubtedly can be an idiot, I can pinpoint elements of my depression back to the mid 90s, when I was at school. I always had times where I was insular and doubted myself. I believe that I’ve always had this lurking within me, it is an illness after all, but the systems were not in place 20 years ago to deal with it. That’s not a criticism of anyone or anything, that’s just the way it was. Suffice to say that self-loathing has been a feature of my mindset for a long, long time. I’ve hidden behind a mask on so many occasions. Back when I could play football to a reasonable level, I stylised myself as a bit of a hard bastard – I mean I’m not exactly a physically imposing specimen, but I stood up and made it clear that I could look after myself (a few filthy Paul Scholes-style challenges and a bit of Roy Keane-style chat will do that). I positioned myself as a bit of an intellectual in discussions, that I knew enough to bluff my way through any kind of debate and form it in the manner of someone who sounded like he knew what he was on about. I mean I actually do know stupid amounts about football, but that’s by the by. But did I believe any of it? Did I genuinely think I won any of those battles? Did I fuck. I was plagued by self-doubt. It was all bluster.
Something was very badly wrong and for a long, long time – to my own detriment – it was affecting me. I drifted through life making bad choice after bad choice, putting friendships at risk and making reckless decisions, until around 2013 after a particularly bad episode I had to take stock. Basically – you can carry on as you are and you’ll die in five years. At this point I was 32 and hitting the bottle to a stupid extent. Because booze solves everything, and in your 20s, who doesn’t like a bit of a hero who can demolish a dozen pints and a ton of shots? Everything revolved around drink. I’d habitually buy litre bottles of vodka and polish them off in a night. It was a shambles. Or I could sort myself out. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last three years.
So this is where we are now. I accepted in 2013 that I had multiple problems and went to the doctors. I had alcohol issues, I had to deal with them by myself (I have). I have acute depression and major anxiety issues (this bit you need help with). Yippee. But ultimately you can’t run away from your problems, you have to deal with them. The last three years have been a constant battle to improve. It’s all small steps. I appreciate that I can be an immensely frustrating person to follow on social media, because I flit from euphoria to despondency in a heartbeat. I really am sorry for that. But it’s hard to get through sometimes about how you feel without being maudlin. There are many analogies about depression; the most fitting to my particular variant is that it’s like living behind a triple glazed pane of glass. You can see everything that’s going on, but you can’t do anything and no-one can hear you. Oh, and everyone tells you you’re shit. Because that’s the biggest thing with me. It doesn’t matter what I do, that internal voice is always there:
“You’re hopeless, Lavelle”
“You’ve let everyone down, you know”
“You’re bluffing this. You haven’t got a fucking clue what you’re doing, have you”
“Why does anyone like you? You’re rubbish pal. A joker”
“Imagine you died tomorrow, what would they put on your gravestone. Nothing. Because you’ve done nothing. You’re a fucking mug and I don’t know why anyone likes you”
“I hope you die, you cunt”
So yeah, imagine that going through your head all the time. It’s not nice. Some of it is probably justified but still. I am ridiculously self-critical. And it’s true, I haven’t achieved anything.
I try extremely hard to make people proud these days and I feel immensely frustrated when I can’t. I suppose I have expectations somewhere in my subconscious that are way too high and I can’t get rid of them. I constantly fret that my friends will ditch me when they find out what a fraud I am, that everything I have right now is holding by a thread. When you’re a big fat nobody with a big fat unstable employment status, it’s like walking a tightrope every day.
We’ve established how I am, how do we move forwards? Well, the positive thing is that I have done so much good in the last three years. I’ve rebuilt friendships and relationships that should by all means have been broken due to my fuckwittery. I’ve kicked the addiction to booze, I can have a drink socially but I’m no longer knocking back industrial quantities. I’m on medication which needs reviewing but it seems to suit me.
That’s all fine but it only really puts you back to a default state of “normal”. That’s why I started my blog really, because I thought it would propel me beyond the state of “normal”, that it would showcase something I can actually do and give me a bit of an outlet. Now this brings its own problems, I’ve written 25+ blogs but there are another 25 that I’ve thrown away because my mind says they’re “crap”. I absolutely love people telling me what I write is good because at least then I’ve brought something positive to the world, but I really don’t do this for validation, I am not some kind of social media whore who needs the world to tell me that I’m loved – God, I’d feel awkward with that kind of attention if anything. I write because it’s a good process for me and I think the Wolves community deserves better than anything the local media can serve up. I suppose for now it gives me a bit of purpose, there’s a tiny, tiny, tiny section of people who like reading my stuff. And that’ll do. I like to think I’m a decent writer, that what I put out is worth reading, that maybe one day I could make something of this, as pie in the sky as that might be.
Going forward, I know I need to grow some self-belief. It’s not an attractive attitude to be so downbeat all the time and there’s a line between self-deprecating and just being a morbid dickhead. I do have elements to my character and ability that are ok, it’s how we employ them from here. I said to a good friend of mine last week that I obviously can write, because not that many people independently of themselves can just be humouring themselves to say they like it (I’m now through 5,000 unique visitors to my blog, and the comments on Facebook and the forums just blow my mind). Like the unbelievably good friend that she is, she reassured me that I’ve always been good enough, I just need to believe it a bit more.
For now though I’ll just say thanks for listening and for being there. Because really, it means the world. I’m trying my best.