The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 14 Jul 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Depression and lost independence

One of the hardest things to come to terms with when you’re recovering from depression is that you’ve lost control over your life. This is especially true for me, as I’m that most awful of things, the only child, and not used to taking collegiate decisions. I used to decide things unilaterally. If I wanted to do something, I found a way to do it and then did it. Sometimes I was stopped by money or time but, generally, I pushed through and got to where I had told myself I wanted to be. That was the case from the period of time since I left for university at 19 until a few years ago.

What happens is that your income probably ceases altogether. You’re signed off sick, then that ends and then you’re up shit creek. I depended on the kindness of my family and the people around me, without which I’d have been homeless. But the consequence is that other people are responsible for your care and wellbeing. You find yourself passed around, often wrapped up in a duvet or wearing clothes that haven’t been washed, like a parcel that everyone views as a liability. Even when I did start earning again, I was in debt because of the period of time that I’d been ill.

Then when I lost my job because I was still ill and had pushed myself too far, too soon, I started getting into debt, again, got more ill, again, and control once again passed from me. I don’t mean that people stopped me from going out or followed me to the shops. It’s not that obvious. But every purchase has to argue for itself or at least be justified to a jury of people in your head and your spending power dwindles to nothing. Even though I’ve been working and sending out emails, it’s been about two years since I was anywhere near the £10,000 tax threshold. What I earn, the Government graciously allows me to keep, but the cost is huge.

I wrestle with an eBay addiction, which means I have more useless shit lying around the place than any human being needs to sustain life, and that, I suppose is me trying to prove that I still exist. In a capitalist society, you’re judged by what you buy and, even in what I buy is moth-eaten old tat, I therefore must have an existence. Or so the rationale goes. My work capacity is such that my partner, who comes out of this looking like the hero she is, is having to subsidise me. The effect is, of course, that I feel as though I’ve not only been neutered, but reduced to the status of an unperson.

Today, I wanted to drive the car to one of the nearby villages where we had lunch. Why? Because it felt like that was something I could do. Truth be told, I’m not that good a driver, but I felt like I wanted to be present in the day in some way. I’ve spent weeks stripping back the fireplace in the spare bedroom because it feels like I have something I can do and make my mark on. Each time I get close to actually decorating the bloody room, I find some new part of if that needs stripping back or plastering or patching, so that a room which was originally fairly serviceable has actually gone backwards and is now a ruin. Everything I touch at the moment ends up in some way diminished or more rubbish than it was before.

When we came home, I gamely decided that I wanted to reverse this trend. I applied for a weighty job with a company based in Sweden with a suitably weighty salary. Make no mistake, I can do the job, but my problem is, first of all, that I’m still half mad and wouldn’t trust myself anywhere near scissors, let alone a full time role, and secondly that it’s in another country. Brexit means that I’m desperate to move, to get away, but there’s nobody less likely to succeed at the complex task of living overseas than me. Right now, I’m stalling about going downstairs and getting some Shreddies. Reckon I could get myself to Sweden for the job interview? Fat chance. I couldn’t even turn on Skype.

More than this, I couldn’t even afford the air ticket. In the parlance of grumpy old men, I don’t have a pot to piss in, so my partner would have to pay the airfare. I’ve applied for e-residency of Estonia, which would mean that, post-Brexit, I could keep my few European contacts and business, but that would mean flying to Tallinn to sign contracts and various pieces of paper with an Estonian bank. Here again, I’d have to ask her for the airfare. So my humiliation is complete.

I have an awful, dread vision, that I’ll never earn money again, least of all for writing, which is something I love, and that holidays will mean spending a week each year in Mabletherpe with a tartan travel rug tucked over my knees staring emptily at the North Sea and vaguely wishing things were different. This feels so real at times that I can almost taste the salt in the spray and the desperation feels like one of Philip Larkin’s toads, squatting immovably on my chest and staring at me with sullen certainty.

So there, in a very real sense, we are. My ability to act independently is, for the time being, gone. I love my partner with a deep and abiding passion which I feel will last for the rest of my life and, without her, I’d truly be in shit street, reduced to dependency on my parents and even more lost than I am now. But I have to live and accommodate myself to this changed reality, firstly of Brexit and secondly of my lost independence and, for the time being I have no idea how to do either. At the risk of sounding like an epic mimsy, I’m going to end with the last stanza of ‘Dover Beach,’ one of my favourite poems:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

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