Hello, my name is Ginger Wildheart. Real name that. Changed by deed poll, but still kosher. In December 2015 I had an extreme episode where acute depression landed me in The Priory, Altrincham. It had been a long time coming, there’s only so long you can white knuckle your way through the brambles of mental illness before someone smells a sick rat. This time the nose belonged to my wife, Jane. She pulled a tour I had booked, plus my annual birthday show, something I’d never have done in a billion years.
Pull a gig? But I’m a bloody Geordie.
That’s it, isn’t it? Putting other people first is our curse. Denying yourself the time to repair your brittle mind and pushing yourself onwards until you’re a spent husk – useful to no-one.
Oh the irony.
I’d seen the irony in my situation many times. In hospital, however, I found myself surrounded by people (mostly males) who had never suffered from depression a day in their lives. Men who didn’t even believe it was a real illness. Some that had even scoffed at the thought. Now THAT is ironic.
Aside from the symptoms, the one thing we all shared was the lead up to our last episode. We had good lives, caring partners, a job that we’d pretty much designed for ourselves and subsequently succeeded in.
To many, we appeared to lead ideal lives. Truth is we did, it’s just that the joy had somehow morphed into stress, and stress drove us all together here in hospital.
It didn’t matter who had the most miles, we attended the same meetings together, and we were educated about our illness. The curse of the kind, they call it.
When asked, “name the top three people in your life” not one of us included ourselves in the list. It seemed that caring for others masked a need to disappear ourselves.
I’m thankful I could afford treatment at this not inexpensive facility, a luxury unavailable for many.
We learned about Venlaflexine (or the more ebulliently named Effexor), a drug that worked perfectly for all of us – weight gain and inability to ejaculate notwithstanding.
We learned about the physical side of the illness and the type of personality it likes to bother.
I knew none of this, but then NHS don’t much go in for educating the public on the nature of their illness. Underfunding see’s patients sent packing with a strong sedative and the sense of being a social leper. Nothing could be further from the reality of the situation.
One in four people suffer from depression in their lives.
Some, like myself, will form an unlikely alliance with the condition while others will be struck down while stressfully unaware.
Some will educate themselves on the nature of the beast through expensive treatments while others will suffer in silence, such is the stigma attached to this curious arrangement.
And others, like the two fans that I lost just last week, will be killed by it.
This is a serious matter. This illness wants you dead.
The good news is that there is good news. This condition can be treated, controlled and understood. There are people, like myself, that you can talk to, who will insist that you talk. And talk. There is no greater treatment than talking, and no greater reward than listening.
The main thing is to keep going, don’t give in and wait for the punchline.
It’s a recurring illness and it’s an unfair illness. Opening up and talking about it can help remove the stigma that is both cruel and debilitating. And life threatening.
Please talk to me. I’m easy to get hold of. And I believe in talking.
Please Google Ginger Wildheart and get me on Twitter, or Facebook.
And stick with it. This illness doesn’t deserve to win. You do.