Despite the sunny weather, today has been overcast, dreary and dark. Not here, near the beach in Southport, nestled between the pools of Liver and Black, but inside my head. Inside the head of someone who – like millions of others is adjusting to their new normal – working at home and schooling at home, day punctuated by video calls, news bulletins, social media feeds, death tolls and press conferences. And adjusting to the new normal of living without a daily anti-depressant – now three and a half weeks since the last.
Of the daily routine of work and bad news, it would be easy to say I should follow the lead shown by many others and just switch the radio and TV off, delete Twitter from my phone and live in the moment. That is not me. It is not my life. It is not what I want. Some of this activity is necessitated by my job; the rest by me; by who I am. A news obsessive. A sensitive soul. A worrier. Someone who wants to know what is going on; who takes comfort from being in the know; who cares about how people are writing, speaking and acting about stuff that matters in the world.
I am a republican but watched the Queen’s address on Sunday four times as a study in message, presentation and influence. I did not vote for Boris Johnson’s party at the election, or have anything much but great dislike of him, but I was sickened by the news of him fighting for his life last night. Heartbroken for his family and for those who love him. I have found today moving and angering in equal measure by the support given to him and his family from unlikely sources – and the class shown by people like the First Minister of Scotland in how she spoke of him – and the lack of class of others who see everything as politics.
As well as being the Prime Minister, Mr Johnson, is a son, a dad, a brother, a fiancée, a dad to be and most of all just a person. Now, he is a person lying in a hospital bed with his life on the line. His story is not about politics or policies, it is about human beings – about people – and if some cannot bring themselves to wish him and his family well, they lack basic, decent humanity.
The Prime Minister’s health aside, today is like many other days in the last two weeks or so. But today feels a bit different to me. Different from yesterday but not so different that I don’t recognise it. I know exactly what is different and what is going on. I have entered a down; a period of darkness; an unwelcome visit from my depression.
Saying ‘visit’ makes it sound polite and sweet; like it’s popped round for a cup of tea; maybe even a nice, welcome surprise. It is not. It has barged its way in today and set up home inside my head, dimming the lights, placing a great weight on my chest and draining me of energy, joy and confidence. It is like a smack across the face, or as my father-in-law might say ‘a kick in the clinkers’.
I am lucky that as the episode has appeared I am at home with my two favourite people and was able to go for a walk with the smaller of the two at lunchtime today, getting some fresh air (trying to ignore my hay fever) and some gentle exercise – always good for my mood. We also had the bonus of walking past a member of the finest midfield in the history of Liverpool Football Club in the imposing Steve McMahon, which evoked happy memories.
As I have seen this mood movie before, I know some of the things that can help me – hence penning this blog post tonight and listening to Wachet auf un die Stimme on repeat. But no experience, preparation or handling strategy can protect me from the heart-sinking reality that a depressive episode is taking hold and whatever I try there is nothing but time that will eventually send it on its miserable way. This time I don’t have the little white tablet in my corner so it will be interesting to see what, if any, difference that makes. This feels like a test. A test of my ability to manage without it. A test of my resolve. I will let you know the outcome.
In the meantime, I walk this familiar road again with my dark companion alongside me. Trying hard to accept what is happening. Not fighting it. Going with the flow. Remembering that it will pass and that I will feel the sun on my face again soon. I look forward to that day and to the day we can see the Prime Minister again.
I want to feel well again for me and my special people. But most of all I want to say ‘Get well soon, Boris’ for you and yours.