Back in February I wrote that it’s ten years since my breakdown and first real bout of depression.
I couldn’t remember the exact date that it started, only that it between February 14th and 28th, so I picked a day and used that as the anniversary.
I can’t remember the exact date of the event I’m about to recall now either, but it was on a Saturday night in April, and the 21st was a Saturday in 2001, so today will do.
When it all started I dragged myself to my doctor feeling embarrassed and ashamed, and he assured me that I was far from being the only person who‘d ever fallen into depression like this, gave me tablets and lots of advice.Among other things he told me that the tightness just under my breastbone was the muscles contracting through stress, and that a long walk every evening would help this.
He was right. Each evening I took a long walk the whole away around the town and by the time I got home the tightness would be gone. I was still desperately depressed, still desperately fearful about who-knows-what, still very, very sad.
And one Saturday evening, let’s say ten years ago today, I was out on my usual walk. Part of the walk took me through a narrow lane, and on this particular evening there were a group of teenage lads and girls hanging around the entrance. I could hear their accents as I neared them, they were the kind of kids who were probably all at university and were into rugby, and long evenings chatting about how old people (those over 30) were fecking up the world (God, they’d no idea, we were only starting).
One of them was a slightly chubby, bespectacled guy, slightly taller than me, who looked like a teenage Elton John. I have no idea what came over him, but he suddenly ran at me, thrust his face close to mine and roared a sound that’s almost impossible to spell, but was more or less like “Whoaaaaarrrhhhh!!!!”
I’m not sure what reaction he thought he’d get. I bet he’d never thought he’d get none, but at that stage I was so dead inside that I wouldn’t have recoiled if he’d been carrying a machete. I never broke stride, but did turn my head to look expressionlessly at him as I passed. His eyes met mine, and for a brief second he stared into deep, soul-destroyed blackness.
I’d often heard the phrase “his face dropped”, but for the first time ever I knew what it meant.
His roar petered out, he shuffled backwards back to his mates, I kept walking.
If we do have Guardian Angels I’d rather mine looked like the one on the right. But it seems they come in unexpected shapes and sizes, and I got that kid instead. Because as I continued my walk the look on the his face kept coming back into my mind and eventually, for the first time in over two months, I grinned.
It was the night I began to get better.