HTRE – Part 1: The Collapse of Mental Stability Never Felt so Funny.

You know when you’re walking along, enjoying the sun, and you see a little bee buzz by before it delicately lands on a flourishing flower and you think, ‘yeah, little buddy. That’s exactly where you’re meant to be!’ Well, that’s how God feels when He sees me crying in the bathroom of Taco La Bamba.

One of the most fascinating sights you’ll ever witness is my uninterrupted ability to piss on a good mood – my own, specifically. Every time I feel happy I find myself waiting on a heavy flu-like sensation to descend upon my mood, thus making the world right again. So, I flippantly put the middle finger up to any feel-good vibes that wash over me, because I know something, or someone, is going to come along and smash my chipper disposition into a billion little pieces. My grave stone will read ‘Here lies Topher. Horribly disappointed, perpetually underwhelmed. Wrapped up, and hoarded by misery.’

Fuck climbing the happy tree, I’m cheering on the bulldozers.

This is a state of mind I’ve practiced so much that if it was an Olympic sport I’d be guaranteed a gold – and after winning I’d later sulk and whine about how heavy the gold was or that it didn’t shine as bright as I thought it would. You may think this is just a comic exaggeration of my inherent Britishness, but it isn’t. On paper, I have a list of reasons to be happy that spans the length of my arm that I could rattle off to you, but try telling my brain that. No. Seriously. Someone send it a memo. A day in my head feels like a fifty-year stint in baboon prison.

I should be happy, but there’s this sultry looking cloud that’s locked itself into position above my head and it just rains and rains and rains on my mood. My idiot brain just standing there, hood down, accepting this. I go to a mirror, open my eyes wide, and peer at my reflection – trying desperately to get a glimpse at my mood. I see nothing but my own disappointed looking reflection and imagine to myself that, if I could see my mood, it would likely resemble a sandpapered foetus or a zoomed-in picture of a diseased bowel. Meanwhile, my mental state throbs like a beaten ginger step-child. It’s not even my brain anymore, it’s a tormenting sponge dripping shitty water drops into my soul. I hate this, I really do. I know I make my misery sound funny, but that’s because as a writer I need to write about what I know – and all I seem to know is perpetual misery, crippling disappointment and the lyrics to every JoJo song ever recorded (there is no correlation.)

Here’s a real-life nightmare for you: It’s Wednesday and you’re awake. That’s the nightmare.

I’m sitting, trying to talk myself into happiness whilst systemically luring myself away from the same good mood I’m trying to run toward. I’m on my fifth cup of tea, which because of this misery tastes like boiled metallic cigarette butts. I am writing a list of reasons to be happy; things I am grateful for – and I am so truly grateful for them – but I still don’t feel happy or even content. This is depression at its most insidious.

People often think the days when you feel suicidal or weeks when you can’t leave your room because of anxiety, are the worse. Those days suck, yes. But a weird side-effect of depression is that pretty much every other day is just a sequence of scenes full of mundanity and macabre. You wander around armed with nothing but the certainty that something terrible is about to happen – and it could be anything. A bus is about to plummet into you, Hitchcock’s The Birds suddenly becomes a reality; Sam Smith idly walks by and, upon mistaking you for a fan, launches into an appallingly violent and unprovoked acapella rendition of all his singles. You are just waiting for something to fuck up your day and by association your mood. Every positive vibe, compliment or bit of good news is nothing but a grinning, lurking death-trap for your mood. At least on the days where I feel suicidal I know it’s a chemical imbalance and I know it’s a storm I have to weather. I know it’ll pass. This though? This ‘normality’ that imbues me with nothing a nervous frisson? This is what I cannot stand.

Another weird side effect of this dubious mindset is that you see everything as a very low budget, gruesome fictional horror. A horror where you’re convinced nobody wants to speak to you and frightened when they do, because you don’t trust their intentions. When you wake up next to your boyfriend, rather than snuggling up to that warm, fuzzy feeling of contentment, you find yourself lying there pondering all the ways this could go wrong, the full time waiting for him to brutally murder you for being such a miserable bastard.

This is living with depression: Having to witness life’s changing atrocities first hand but being increasingly nonchalant about them. Feeling nothing when you hold the hand of the person you’re falling in love with. Waiting for them to leave you. Waiting for your friends to get fed up with you. Being hopelessly morbid. Craving disappointment because it’s the equivalent of a security blanket for you. Moaning for months that if you had X,Y and Z your life would be better and you’d be happy, only to find that when you put the work in and finally get what you wanted, you’re still miserable. Your mood is always flat and everybody thinks you’re just being ungrateful. Depression is trying to force your size nine feet into a pair of your boyfriend’s size seven shoes only to realise your mistake five minutes later. Depression is mentioning that someone loves you constantly because you honestly don’t believe it. Depression is trying to out-run a vast cloud of blah every day. Depression doesn’t take sick days, but rather makes you sick every day.

To those people that don’t get it, you try concentrating on being happy and enjoying life when you have the Les Mes soundtrack stuck in your brain and you’re bursting with an ominous foreboding.

A therapist once told me that this is all a mindset; one where everything is a disaster waiting to happen; every step you take, every plug socket you pass, every message you send – every one of these opening moments is just more misery waiting to happen. I am trying to change that mindset, but alas it’s not the simple to alter your brain’s chemistry.


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