Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Martin goes by the handle "Flaw" which, he tells me, could say a lot about his self-image.
He's an amateur actor at a local theatre, co-owner of the Pandemic Pirate Party Podcast, and (semi) professional video game streamer.
Martin is currently taking some time out of his 9-5 retail job as his mental health has deteriorated in the last few weeks. Today, my friend is sharing his experiences with depression in this very candid interview.
He's excited to be a part of this project, and I'm unbelievably grateful to have him on board to tell his story.
1) Hi Martin, how are you?
Yeah, not too bad. Plodding along.
2) How are you really?
In all honesty, I'm not well. I've been struggling a lot recently.
3) Why did you want to be a part of this mental health awareness project?
Haha. That's a big question.
I want people to understand and relate, like they did at the start of lockdown. It gave me hope that maybe people will see what it's like when they go through the same isolation that I've gone through since my teenage years.
4) What has been your biggest struggle mental health wise?
I guess just getting up in the morning.
To most people it's just a thing you do, you don't think about it. But for people like me, every morning is a war of internal shouting just to get out of bed.
Getting out of bed in time for work is a huge personal victory for me.
5) Can you remember how life felt before struggling with depression?
In all honesty, no... my childhood memories are clouded by this weird dark fog that makes everything seem so sinister.
6) Have you ever tried to hide your depression from those around you?
Every day since I can remember.
7) Do you have things in your life which you feel particularly positive about?
My two beautiful daughters. Words can't describe the duality of being so smitten and proud, yet having your heart break by not being near them.
8) What would you say to someone who has never experienced depression to help them to understand what it's like?
Try to imagine that you spend time with that one person you detest, that person who ridicules you and mocks everything you do. If you do something, then you're an idiot, if you don't, then you're a coward. Now imagine that person is in a mirror, looking back at you as you stare helplessly at your own reflection.
Or, if they were most people, I'd simply say "my brain doesn't like me."
9) How does it make you feel if someone says something like 'cheer up' or 'I feel sad sometimes but I pick myself up and get on with it'?
My God... this is one of the worst things that you can say... and yet every one says it!
It's offensive, demeaning and utterly soul crushing.
And yet, we (as in people like me) have to simply respond to this with an equally mundane platitude and pretend not to be as angry or hurt as we feel.
10) What can someone else do when you're feeling depressed to help you through that time?
Genuinely, I don't know. That's a personal thing I guess, everyone is different. But for me, there is so much duality. I want a cuddle but I don't wanna be close to anyone, I want someone to listen to me but I don't wanna say anything. I guess this is one of the biggest issues, we can't always tell you what we need.
11) How would you say depression is different from feeling sad?
It's difficult to quantify in terms that people who haven't experienced the difference could understand. Sad is a temporary thing, it is situational, it has a reason. A genuine emotional reason. Depression is the rat biting your ankle. The whole world could be at your beck and call, you have everything, but this damned ear won't leave. It's the raven screaming "forevermore" in your waking dreams.
Depression is just there like a chain around your neck, no matter what happens in your life, good or bad.
12) Do you have coping mechanisms you go to if you're feeling depressed, to get you through the day?
Kind of, if it's low level then I can ignore it.
Slightly higher level then I need to distract myself, whether through memes or other funny internet stuff.
When it starts getting bad, I will write poetry (terrible stuff by the way) based on what's going through my head. I'll then make almost a ritual of tearing up the paper and throwing it away.
For really bad days, I taught myself to meditate based on a few different philosophies. I'll sit with a candle in front of me, an ice cube in my fist and loud music in my headphones.
13) Does it help to have someone listening and acknowledging how you're feeling rather than trying to fix it?
I genuinely wouldn't know the difference, I've never had anyone simply acknowledge how I feel.
14) More often than not, do you find people understand what you're going through?
I was hopeful that, during the lockdown, people would come to understand the isolation. They did for a while, but now things are going back to normal and it's like they've forgotten me.
15) Do you think it's important for people to educate themselves on depression and its effects on people, even if they've never experienced it for themselves?
I whole heartedly agree! The biggest reason is that with education can come earlier recognition. I was an awful teenager and, looking back on it, I think 70-80% was not "teenage angst", it was my depression manifesting before I had any sense of what it was or how to control it. I'd hate for any kid to go through that.
16) What is your biggest goal mental health wise?
I guess my biggest goal for my own mental health is to unburden or release myself from an age old grudge.
Hate holds you back so much, I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
17) What is the main thing you hope people take away from reading this interview today?
I'd like people to realise one simple truth, either for themselves or for someone they know,
it is OK to be not OK.
18) If someone is reading this today and feels depressed but hasn't reached out for help, what would you like to say to them?
I would beg them to go to their docs and talk about how they feel, start the conversation - they are professionals and will be able to point to what might be the right way to get help for you.
If you feel you can't do that, then talk to a friend.
If you can't do that, write lyrics or poetry.
Either way, get your thoughts out in the open where they can do less damage.
19) What is one thing you've learnt about yourself over that past few years?
I've learned that I have a magical touch when it comes to cooking bacon!
I've also learned that I resort to humour to mask when things become uncomfortable.
20) How do you feel after answering these questions today?
Short answer - yeah, no problem! Piece of cake!
Real answer - I've actually lost track of how many times and days I opened the email, went to answer the questions and bottled out.
This was actually much harder to do than I had originally given credence to.
Martin, thank you so much for doing this interview today. It is absolutely exhausting to talk about your own mental health, I understand how difficult it's been to feel ready to answer so many personal questions. You are fantastic, and having you speak so openly about your own experiences will go a long way in opening up more conversation and understanding around mental health.
If you're struggling with depression, please REACH OUT. Speak to someone you trust, see your GP, or go to the 'SUPPORT' page on this website for more options. You are important.
To share your own mental health experiences in a future blog, to help to raise more awareness, understanding and acceptance around mental health issues, please contact me via the 'contact' page on this website.