There was a brown windowed letter sitting on the side in the kitchen. I had seen it when my youngest child called me in for dinner but I decided to wait to I opened it until after eating my plate of pasta, pesto and sweetcorn (optional cheese on top). My partner had bought two newspapers at our local supermarket during the return trip from the west coast. I was reading a magazine interview with Harriet Harmen which I assume was written because she has just published her memoirs, my wife was reading something from the main section I think. Normally we have a no-reading-at-the-table rule for meals but I think because we had spent a few hours chatting with friends today and during the couple of hours driving to and throw, it was deemed okay to flirt with not speaking.
We listened to BBC Radio 4 for some of the journey. It was the News Quiz and Question Time on the foutward leg of our journey and Weekend Woman’s Hour on the way back. Politics dominated the programming westwards with particular attention paid to Teresa May sitting in on the House of Lords whilst they debate Brexit (a comparison was made with Game of Throne and the evil queen Cersei) and the Labour Party’s defeat in the Copeland by-election (arguably the first time a governing party has made a by-election gain since 1878 in such a dramatic fashion) and how the Labour Party leadership should react to this. The News Quiz is pretty funny whist Question Time was the usual party politic point scoring with the added frisson of pro- and anti- Labour leader supporters.
The return journey was much more varied with various segments from this week’s Woman’s Hour programming. The one that stood out for me was the interview with Fearne Cotton who recently revealed she suffered from bouts of depression. I don’t think there was much talk about depression per say but I remember a discussion on the expectations of social and public media. Fearne mentioned presenting her Radio One programme when she was depressed but nobody knowing her state of mind and pretending all was fabulous this compared with Jane Garvey’s experience on Radio Four where it was okay to have up and down days. The expectations of the listeners of Radio One programmes and Radio Four programmes are very different and so the presenters behave differently; at least I assume that is the perceive expectations, does anybody ask?
I keep coming across the difficulty of mentioning my depressive episodes. People I meet who I haven’t seen for a while will ask me how I am, and the nearest I will get to mentioning depression is saying that I have had some difficult times and have been on anti-depressants but that I am doing okay at the moment. The conversation may go on but it will usually be about coming on and off the pills rather than exploring what depression means for me. It has taken a while, but I can do the talking about these things, pills and difficult times, without too much difficulty though I am always reluctant. How do I discuss depression itself? Quite simply I don’t.
Fearne talked about three of her close friends admitting they had had depression too (much to her surprise) and how they were able to talk it through and share (I think, though unfortunately I can’t check this at the moment). When I was in Malta, early on my friend said that I had been having a tough time this last year (she knew because she reads my blog); I said, “yes I had but that I don’t like talking about it” because I really don’t know what to say. Talking about depression feels raw and overwhelmingly full of sorrow and madness, and I don’t have the words to describe it. Perhaps there is fear too; fear of where that discussion might go. I guess I could mention my loss of the paternal role to my children but the additional underlying issue are more complex and muddy.
After I had finished my meal, I went to put my bowl in the dishwasher and spied the envelop again. I got rid of the bowl and then opened the envelop. I was shocked to see an appointment with the community mental health team inside. I was aware that potentially I had an appointment coming up since I recently recalled being told I on the phone many months ago that one has been pencilled in for March but since no paperwork had come through I assumed it had been lost or postponed. I hadn’t decided whether I was going to chase it. Seeing the appointment for real completely unnerved me, so much so that I couldn’t face looking through the papers and put them back in the envelop and left them on the side.
Why the trauma? Well it means having to face my demons in a sense, but also facing my beliefs. There are aspects of me that I will write about but have difficulty talking about. Depression is the first layer but below that is communication and social skills, sensory overload, and demand avoidance. Seeing a mental health professional means stripping away my constructed persona and being judged and that scares me. What happens if they disagree with me? I want to be validated not belittled; I want to be accepted for who I am, not disbelieved. I want people to take me seriously because I have a label given to me by a professional to explain my behaviour, not put my behaviour down to my experience of a liver transplant.
I don’t think it should matter whether I am labelled with ASD or some other acronym or none at all but somehow it does. I don’t know where that will leave me; perhaps I can have a look at those bit of paper now, now that I am bit better prepared to accept them.