• Author:Ben Jones
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School holidays are full of great times but also a helping hand for depression

The most predictable thing about having depression is its unpredictability. You can be going along serenely for weeks, sometimes months (although it’s not normally months for me unfortunately) with no dramas, no red flags, no black clouds. Life is manageable. Not always easy, but then not too difficult. It takes a lot of effort each day and lots of techniques and tools but it can be done. Most of the time.

Then one day, bam. It hits you. It’s there. It’s back. Not invited. Not expected. Not welcome. 

I woke two days ago feeling rotten. My whole body felt heavy. Tired. Low levels of motivation. Constant nausea and discomfort. Wind-like pains in my stomach. Need an afternoon nap or rest. Longing, no craving, quietness and being alone. Increased toilet frequency. Restless sleep. Bad dreams. Exhausted by 9pm. So annoying. So fucking annoying. 

As so often before, there wasn’t any real warning this time. No obvious build-up. Nothing tangible I feel I could have done to stop it from appearing. That makes it more annoying. More frustrating. It just happens. It’s just there one day. All over you. In your face. In your bones. 

I have been able to function – mostly – for the last two days but have felt pretty down. At times, pretty worthless. It is a passing feeling but it comes and goes often enough to feel real. 

I am often asked how it feels to be in the midst of an episode. It doesn’t differ much for me – it’s always the same sorts of symptoms and a nagging, overwhelming feeling like you’re getting pushed down upon by a great weight or your every step is blocked by a darkness: a wall that keeping moving in front of you or a rope that is tugging on your belt from behind to stop you breaking free and moving exactly how you would like. 

I have spent time on a postmortem. Trying to piece together those few days or hours before this episode to see if I missed something. Is this my fault? Did I take my eye off the ball? Was I complacent?

I think about this for a few minutes and reflect that I wasn’t. Not really. I have continued to look after myself and tried to keep my good habits going each day. Running. Walking. Meaningful work. Time with my girls. Reading. Music. Podcasts. LFC. Golf. Red Sox. Fresh air. Tea. No alcohol. No late nights. Not spending time with people who bring me down. 

But then this is the school summer holidays and some of my normal routines are off limits. I am not getting as much me-time as normal (I am someone who needs lots of quiet, alone time) and spending all day with a seven and a half year old is a source of wonder but very little quiet. And this realisation brings with it guilt. Heavy, choking guilt. I want to be with her – my life is given purpose and love because of her and her wonderful mum – and yet I know that this daddy-daughter time is sometimes squeezing the time I need for myself to stay on top of my depression. Even writing that makes my feel guilty but it is my reality and I think the reality for others too. 

I spend every day working incredibly hard to stay ahead of my depression and it takes a lot of effort and I only just manage it in normal times. The school holidays just put pressure on this effort and sometimes I fall over. Two days ago I hit the ground.  

I am not writing this looking for solutions or suggestions. I am not looking for sympathy and not seeking to be judged. I am just putting words to the thoughts and accepting that winning the battle against depression isn’t possible all year round. For me, no matter how hard I try it never goes away and it also comes back.

Having depression is shit. It really is. But I know that writing this post will help me and that in the same way that the dark clouds arrived, they will soon just be gone.

The really good news is that when the clouds part and the darkness disappears, I will have my little sidekick with me to enjoy the better weather. And I have no guilt about that.