It horrifies me to think that I once considered “mental health difficulties” to be attention-seeking bullshit. That changed a few years ago, but the reality of my naivety only truly sank in this year when a single negative occurrence could smack me with waves of darkness punishing enough to leave me bed-stricken for the day. In such periods, the only thing you don’t become numb to is the surprise that matters can get even worse – for me, that happened when I ordered a pizza.
I can’t even remember what pizza it was, but it would have been a very nice pizza. Well, if I could have stomached more than two or three slices without wanting to churn my guts up. Christ, this was bad. I love food – as long as it’s not green. How could I not eat a pizza? How could I not eat anything? Not long after I was in Bristol poking and prodding at a Five Guys burger – usually my favourite – for 15 minutes. But I couldn’t get it all down. Barely touched the fries.
This vicious sickness that was toying and tormenting my brain had started to show itself physically. I felt bony, having shed two stone in about a month. Upon mentioning this struggle to my friends, one noted that I had slimmed down. I hadn’t a clue, so trapped in my own head that reality had ceased to exist. And at that point, what did I care? It was fucking shit anyway.
I tried an experiment a week or so earlier at one of my lowest points. University had ended, three great years with several great mates who pulled me along even if they didn’t realise it at the time.
India and Pakistan were set to duel in the Champions Trophy final at the Oval, about an hour and a half up the road. I didn’t have a ticket, so I paid an obscene amount of money for a ticket. Money was no object, not because I had a lot of it, but because it had ceased to mean anything – a personal economic crash, if you will.
I am a sports nut. I would get up in the middle of the night during school time to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat, Lleyton Hewitt scuttle on the baseline and Ana Ivanovic lose. It was madness but I never cared – I loved it. To watch India v Pakistan live in a match of such importance should have filled me with unmatched adrenaline and joy – but it didn’t.
It was merely okay. Fakhar Zaman’s unexpected, punchy hundred to set the tone was just alright. Mohammad Amir’s unprecedented dismantling of Virat Kohli left me no more than appreciative. Being on the guest list at Pakistan’s date with destiny as they downed their greatest foe should have felt magical, instead, I was numb. Thoughts on other matters. Dark matters. I had a similar experience in Bangalore earlier this year. It was a wonderful trip and I met some wonderful people but one night, at an Indian Premier League match of all places, I felt dead inside. Couldn’t even get hyped for MS Dhoni launching a six out of the stadium.
I was physically and mentally drained by the time I got home from that Champions Trophy final. It was, admittedly, an extremely hot day. I felt my legs going by the time I arrived back at London Victoria. I was knackered, but it was more than the heat. As far as everybody else was concerned, I’d had an amazing day. And while at the time it was indeed my best in weeks, in the grander picture, it was just another blob of misery. And I’m sad for that, because somebody else could have been in my seat to drink in the action and enjoy the atmosphere between the Indian and Pakistani fans – frenemies, always.
Back to my weight. The first stone I lost was unnecessary chub, the second I decided I could bargain away providing there was no more. But I couldn’t eat. I just couldn’t fucking eat. It was unexplainable. I feared losing three, four, maybe even five stone and wasting away entirely. Sometimes that even felt for the best. Depression is a nasty illness. Anxiety stops you from doing the things you love. Depression stops you from even wanting to try.
If you have ever known me personally, you will know I am something of an eccentric. I have grappled with whether that’s a fake persona or not many times. I have concluded it isn’t. Sure, it’s served as a coping mechanism at times, but my quirks are who I am. But the depression demons first want to kill who you are, before deciding whether to kill you. I’ve never felt suicidal, but I’ve understood why people would. And unless you find a way off that road, I don’t doubt that suicide is likely if not inevitable. Today’s world may well be drugged on hyperbole and exaggeration, but trust me, I’m speaking sober.
Things aren’t so bad at the moment. I’m afraid there’s no monologue as to why – I don’t really know why, and frankly, right now, I don’t care. Certain areas of my life are better, others are worse. But I am encouraged. My anxiety is more under control than it has been for four years. I am laughing again. I am loving sport again. I care about those two things as much as I care about anything.
If you’re struggling, I’m afraid I have no advice. Only you know your situation. The advice given in this area is the most well-meaning in the world, but that doesn’t mean it will help. Nearly everybody recommended I tell my closest family. It was natural advice, the best advice for pretty much anyone I’m sure, but not for me. Because that’s what I did, and it provided additional, needless stress.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate it. More than you’ll ever know.