• Author:Ben Jones
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The signs that I know myself – I know when I’m in a moment

I know the signs.

I pick the skin around my thumbs with my index fingers – occasionally biting the newly created scab or hard skin. Sometimes until they bleed when the digging has gone pretty deep.

I scratch my lower legs. Sometimes until the red spots get very red and start to bleed a little.

I gently shake my left foot to a designated beat. Sometimes until someone else could notice.

I seek out solitude. Sometimes wanting to avoid all human contact, except with my wife and daughter, with whom I need more contact at such times. I know my signs. I hide in plain sight – ask the staff of Cuthbert’s!

I know that when these behaviours and feelings creep into my daily life, I am having a moment. An episode. I am joined by my darker other side. My depressive companion. By the rest of me. 

I know these things well because I experience them fairly regularly. In fact, they would be almost reassuring when they arrive – so nearly used to them I have become – until I remember how they can make me feel. How much they can unsettle and upset me.

I am in the middle of a mini moment now. It’s not a heavy one so far or one that looks like it will hang around – not too much picking; scratching; shaking or hiding from others. This is a mid-range moment and I know what is behind it. Tiredness. Busyness. And just me-ness.

The tiredness is a result of not sleeping enough. Go figure! I have been waking three or four times a night for the last three weeks. Bad dreams. Unsettling thoughts. All with the same themes. My themes. The scenarios I fear the most – and have for as long as I can remember. Those I love leaving me. Those I care about being out of reach. The images of those I love being harmed or worse. The attachment and abandonment dreams are part of me – part of what unsettles me – part of my story. They reflect who I am and what has happened to me in life. They are part of that part of me that struggles if others I care about or respect seem unhappy with me or me unhappy with myself and how I have been with them. 

I am also a little tired because I am busy. Busy in my work – which remains hugely rewarding and enjoyable – and busy out of work as I am back to my schools runs and my lack of runs with my exercise time being squeezed out around Miss J’s daily routines and my desire to cook dinners and be organised and in control of things at home. I have learnt – after many years – to cut myself some slack and not get anxious about having to compromise on getting all the exercise I need or doing some of things I think I should be doing to stay well.

I know that I can’t do everything and I am doing a lot of good stuff – things to be pleased about – including my new-found emerging ability to take on the Telegraph cryptic crossword. Take on – not tackle! Not yet.

I am taking great pleasure in buying the newspaper each day – the paper edition – and enjoying the old familiarity of holding and folding the paper – it reminds me of being a young (slightly precarious) fella and Mary going from shop to shop in Dovecot to find me a copy of the Independent. My first media love.

I am a few weeks into a new dairy-free diet – I discovered I have a pretty big diary intolerance – which has helped me address some (ahem) digestion issues and is itself giving me a little more energy. Sadly this energy burst seems to be kicking in at 5am when I wake alert and ready for the day. I haven’t conceded to it yet and started getting up that early but given that my current alternative is trying – and failing – to get back to sleep, perhaps I should climb out of bed and enjoy the peace and quiet of the early morning with last night’s half attempted crossword for company. 

But I know that overall the reason for this mini-moment is just because I am me. Nothing terrible has happened. No great trigger. No setback. No extraordinary stress. Nothing out of ordinary. Just the life of someone who has depression. This is just me. My life. My head. Me.

I have a reasonable perspective on that now and know that this will pass. I will stop picking the skin around my thumb and will feel settled enough to be able to be in the company of others waiting at the school gate without wanting to be left alone or pretending to be engrossed in an email. I know my signs. I know this is just how it is. If I spent time wishing it away I know it won’t make any difference so I don’t bother.

The scabs will heal. The foot will be at rest. The signs will change.