As Cleopatra wisely said, life ain’t easy
I do like Facebook’s “On This Day” feature. It reminds me of key events, such as the many, many epic 0-0 draws I’ve sat through at Molineux in the last two years (it’s hard to pick a favourite. Maybe MK Dons when I took a picture of us having nine men in our own half when they had the ball on halfway, with five minutes left). It even reminds me that I can be semi-amusing at times (either that, or I’m easily amused at my own half-jokes on Facebook). However, I don’t need it today. I know exactly where I was four years ago today. Literally in the gutter. Three quarters of a litre of vodka and half a dozen anti-depressants down. Not with any aim to do myself in as such, that was just what was what at hand, and I took it. Then I went out, presumably to get more booze (details are a bit sketchy) but made it about a third of the way before collapsing and lying down on the side of the road. Getting put in an ambulance would be no big deal, I’d already had that treat four or five times in the previous two years. Drunk, and getting myself in a tizz, basically. I’d been sent to hospital independently of that another four times in the last four years. A danger to myself and others.
This wasn’t that, though. I wasn’t out to hurt anyone else, I wasn’t flailing around wildly looking for a scrap. I didn’t want to die, exactly, but I’d kind of given up. Everything revolved around where the next drink was coming from, I took advantage of people’s good nature and betrayed them. And I hated myself for it. Properly hated myself. You know how I hate Matt Doherty, which to an extent is for comedy effect (I’m sure he’s not that bad a person, just a comically awful defender)? Well, multiply that by a million. Somehow I managed to avoid an ambulance (this time), or being run over, or being arrested, or sectioned, and dragged myself home. A day survived. A couple of weeks later everything came to a head when I presented myself at 9am on a Saturday morning, hammered, refusing to take off my shades when I was supposed to be going to see my Dad to watch the Lions game. An examination of my room when everyone wondered what the fuck was going on revealed dozens of empty voddy bottles (and I’d cleared a fucking load out a handful of weeks before that). It had to change. That was the line. Necessary. But I’d known on this day, the 8th of June, that I’d gone too far. That everything was spiralling out of control.
The thing is that although I’ve had my issues with alcohol, that’s a side effect really of my condition. I just used it as a crutch when I was horribly struggling for years and years. Years and years where I wouldn’t let on about how I was feeling, that there was a problem in the first place, what it was that was making me drink to excess. By 2013 it was time to open up, get myself properly sorted, admit there was an issue (or indeed, multiple issues) and get help. So I did. I went to the doctor – who was actually helpful, unlike my previous GP – got some proper medication, cut the vodka (clean from that ever since, can’t see that ever changing), re-assessed everything, decided to properly clean my act up, no faking it like I had in the past. And to be fair, despite a lot of external factors which I won’t go into, I like to think I’ve made a pretty decent fist of the last four years. I’ve repaired friendships and bonds which should, by rights, have been broken for good because I behaved like an absolute dick. I’ve got myself into a position where I can mostly control my condition (more on that in a minute), or at least the effects of it. I’ve put myself back in a position where I can be the real me again, rather than a drunken shell of me. Sounds alright, doesn’t it.
The problem is – and why I’m telling you this – is that it still isn’t plain sailing. The problem is that depression is a stubborn bugger. It doesn’t just go away. The medication helps. My own mindset really helps. The massive, incredible support I get helps to an enormous degree. Doesn’t mean I can avoid bad days altogether. I don’t mind admitting that for parts of the last fortnight or so, it’s been a real struggle to get myself together. Now, to my credit, this hasn’t meant me sitting around in my pyjamas feeling sorry for myself. I’m quite regimented these days. Up before 8am, exercise every day, eating properly, easy on the drink, no extras, bed at a reasonable time. But it does mean that I spend fair amounts of time contemplating where it is I’m actually going, what the point of it all is, ruminating on mistakes I’ve made, where my failings are…it’s a bit of a minefield. It’s quite a complex network of problems that I have. I suffer from depression, sure. That doesn’t just mean that I sit around like a bit of an emo kid and listen to The Smiths (to be fair, I do both of those things quite a lot. And I do sulky very well. In that respect, I can be 13 forever).
No, a lot of my problems are rooted in self-esteem and self-confidence. Essentially, I have none of either. It’s not so much image because I’m well aware that I can’t be that cool; no-one who listens to Deacon Blue as much as I do, gets upset at Love Actually as much as I do or who retains as much pointless information about football as I do can really be that cool. No-one who still clings to the dream that Charlotte Hatherley or Martine McCutcheon might come knocking one day can be that cool (and they have to be two of the lamest crushes ever in any case). And I’m down with that.
It’s that I constantly feel useless, or a burden, or that I have no purpose, or that I compare myself deeply unfavourably with others…and I know full well that it has no basis in logic or reason, which makes it worse. I’m a big logic fan. I base all my normal football, politics and general purpose arguments in logic. So I know what the response will be from my incredible friends when I say I’m feeling bad about myself. They’ll tell me that I’m fine. That I’ve got nothing to worry about. That I’m really intelligent (I dispute this, it’s all relative for a start and how do you measure intelligence beyond crude measures such as IQ scores. I’ll accept I have a degree of articulacy). That I’m a really good writer (I also dispute this). I’m not a bad person and I have plenty going for me (maybe). That I shouldn’t worry myself to death about all this (probably). That’s all perfectly logical. Doesn’t mean that it applies because I do think all that bad stuff about myself. I really do hate myself sometimes. Despite the progress I’ve made, which even I can see (and which people remind me, has been a decent job). Despite my logical side telling me these people are right. I can’t help that. Honestly, I can’t. It’s why those who know me personally will know I can be difficult sometimes, for no apparent reason. I am sorry, really. I don’t mean to be that way. I just have bad days at times. Or even just bad spells in overall ok days. It’s not you, it’s me. And for once, that’s actually true.
This isn’t meant to be a negative piece at all, that’s just an insight into what a cock I used to be and why I can be a bit of a pain in the arse now (even though I do try, really hard, not to be). So where are we now? Well, I’m mostly ok. There are tough times, there’s no point denying it. One of the keys I find is being open about it. I don’t find it especially easy to talk about, but the alternative is bottling it up forever and I can’t see that going especially well. So while I don’t flood my site with this stuff, letting it out every now and then, doing a bit of a mini open review is a good thing. And let’s be honest here – we’re probably talking about 40-50 authentically bad days a year now. Everything else is mostly alright, sometimes it’s even good. It used to be 300+ bad days. So that’s progress. I do feel it’s under control now, I can accept that it’s simply not an illness that you get rid of. It’s not like breaking your leg and the bone heals; what I have doesn’t go away. Never will. It’s just all about reducing the impact it has on your life. I definitely feel that it doesn’t define me, although I will always speak out about mental health conditions whenever a conversation goes down that direction; I am, at least, qualified to speak. I’m still on medication which I suppose I could try coming off, but I’m not quite ready to take that risk. Maybe in 2018. We’ll see.
The big news really is my decision over the last month or so to have a proper go at my writing. Everything else I do is going to take a back seat and I’m really going to try to see where I can get with it. Might be absolutely nowhere. Might end up being arguably a waste of a year (which is the timeframe I’ve set to try to make some kind of a success of it all, how we define that…we’ll see). I know it won’t be easy. I know it’s a pretty big step. I know I might get nowhere. In fact, in some ways it terrifies me because I have absolutely no faith in my work at all. Which again, I know is silly. I’ve gone with this because the reaction to what I’ve written in the last 11 months and the discussions I’ve had have been such that really, I owe it to myself to have a proper go. If it doesn’t work out, then that’s because of myriad factors; it shouldn’t really be down to talent as objectively, I’m fairly reasonable. I think. Sort of. Sometimes. Shut up Dan, you’re talking yourself down again. It’s not a good look.
Sorry this has been a bit of a ramble. Self-indulgent in some ways I suppose. It’s just I think I needed to commit the words to digital paper to tell myself how far I’ve come, even if it doesn’t seem that way. More importantly than that though, I needed to thank each and every one of you that’s helped me along the way. A lot of you could and possibly should have given up on me, and you didn’t. The support I’ve received over the last four years has been truly humbling. I can’t think why people think I’m worth it but evidently they do. So I will do my best with this direction of mine to repay you. And to those of you relatively new to me and my work; thanks for getting on board. There’s a load more to come. Don’t worry, I don’t write about me very often. We’ll be back to crap footballers very soon. Promise.