I had my first Covid vaccine today. I was elated as I walked back to my car which, considering the few days before, was a strange sensation.
I think I had a small breakdown this week.
So, you need some context. Let me help.
When I had my big breakdown, in August 2018, 5 months after Des, my oldest friend, had suddenly died, I got some help.
Through NHS Talking Therapies I learned about my particular depression and how to cope with the overwhelming anxiety. Putting my hand up, and asking for help, was the best thing I’ve ever done.
Fast forward to March 2020 and, as the first Lockdown kicked in, Talking Therapies approached me and asked if I would be part of a mental health survey. For the first few months it was a weekly email, which took a few minutes to complete, before it went monthly, in October. Some of the questions varied, week to week. The ones which were always there were about self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
I completed the survey as soon as it arrived in my inbox, reflecting on the week or month I had just had, and being as truthful as I could.
Last Monday, there was an email from UCL, who are running the survey, to thank me for nearly a year’s worth of feedback, and to tell me that the results had informed advice by SAGE to the Government, Ministry of Health reports, the Press and future mental health policy. I was staggered and delighted.
On Wednesday, the March survey arrived. I completed the multiple choice answers but realised that some the questions were more in-depth than last month, and that I was scoring myself badly, when compared to February. I stopped before pressing the final button and sat for a good half an hour, examining my answers, my mental state, and the past few weeks.
I pressed ‘Send.’
That evening, I spent several, happy hours, booking hotels for gigs in October, including a double overnight to see Deep Purple and BOC, in London and Birmingham. It was bliss, and really got the musical juices flowing. I even spent a few quid online on band t-shirts, which was great fun.
I haven’t been sleeping well – actually, hardly at all, – this week. It’s something I am constantly aware off because it can be a symptom of impending problems. But I went to bed on Wednesday night tired and happy.
Hours and hours of trying to sleep. My mind racing, but with nothing in my head. I have a digital clock by my bed and I saw in midnight, 1am, 2, 3, 4, and 5. I don’t remember 6am but, when the alarm went off at 7, I was already wide awake.
I went downstairs and made tea for both of us, as usual. As Jan got ready for work, and we listened to local radio, it was like every other morning. Except it wasn’t.
It was like I wasn’t there. I was worried, and was desperately trying to rationalise what was happening, but my mind was in a thick fog, so thick that I couldn’t see anything in front of me – not literally, but in my head.
It’s difficult to explain.
Bless her, Jan suggested I go back to sleep. ‘Back? Chance would be a fine thing.’ She went into the ‘office’, our spare room, to work. I lay back down. Scared.
The next thing I knew, it was midday.
I woke up, from the deepest sleep, exhausted. I lay there for a while, desperately trying to work out what was happening, but thinking through the fog, the most tired I’ve ever been.
During the afternoon, I sat at the kitchen table, doing so many of the therapy exercises, trying to work out what had happened. I felt better, my shoulders lighter.
Here’s what I think happened.
I retired on 3rd April last year. I was 63 and had the chance to really enjoy the benefits of 43 years with the same employer, the first 30 years of which involved long hours, physical work, huge responsibility and the knowledge that a bad stock-result could mean not being able to pay the mortgage. In short, I had earned every penny I got. But I couldn’t do anything.
Nearly a year on, I think the Lockdown had closed in on me. I had got into a daily routine, broken up by long walks, which had replaced the routine of work. The pandemic had prevented me from doing all the things I yearned to do. Cricket at The Oval. Lunch with friends. Exhibitions. Art galleries. Train journeys. Gigs.
The survey had made me think so hard about my mental health that my brain had almost talked itself into a breakdown. My lack of simple exercise and simple movement had made me ridiculously tired, but my brain was stopping me sleeping, as if it was loathe to rest, in case it didn’t wake up. That scared me.
The mental exercises helped and I am so grateful that I got really good at them, during 2018’s therapy.
Tonight, I am happy. Years ago, (I have suffered from depression for nearly 47 years,) I would have had no idea of how to fix this, but would have buried my head in the sand, bluffed my way out of the crisis, and got more and more damaged, every time.
As usual, when this happens, a piece of music becomes a lynchpin, a key to the door, to see through that fog. Not for the first time, this time, it is Croz.