“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
I don’t know much about ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle or actor Ralf Little but both came to my attention this week after a tweet by Mr Little caused tw-outrage, coming as it did off the back of Mr Carlisle’s release from hospital following a suicide attempt.
A reference, I imagine, to Carlisle’s impending court date for failing to provide a sample when stopped on suspicion of drink driving. The two have some history having once been housemates, which at least gives context to Little’s position. But the whole uncomfortable saga resonated with me, and I am going to burble a bit about it now. You have been warned
One of my closest friends described knowing me in my teens and twenties as like watching a train derail over and over again. This friend’s reaction to the breakdown which saw me begin to seek help was less than compassionate. I was in poor shape and bewildered to be, frankly, kicked when I was the down-est I have ever been. I understood the lack of empathy in part – being a bystander to perpetual disaster had finally proved too much. Fair enough. The part that hurt though was the insinuation that they felt they were expected to, and would therefore absolutely not, excuse my bizarre behaviour, a kind of So you’re ill now are you? And that means we have to forgive all of your f*** ups and feel sorry for you?
As if I’d been in touch saying come and have a beer to celebrate my mental illness – it’s a moral Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card! Everyone’s memories will be wiped and my sins forgiven! Woohoo! rather than to apologise for being a rubbish friend.
To me it was simple – illness explained my behaviour, but it didn’t make it all ok.
And so, reading Ralf Little’s snipe at Clarke Carlisle, I recognised the tone Woah! You feel sorry for this guy? I could tell you a thing or two….
The trouble is, you have to be aware what depression and other mental illness do to a person to afford them a level of understanding.
Depression makes you not care. About anything. Not in an I’ll do what I want and damn the consequences kind of way because consequences are things that happen in the future. Depression takes the future away. You can’t see beyond the moment you’re trapped in.
I think that throwing yourself in front of a lorry is probably one of the purest examples of that.
It’s hard for some people to understand that there’s illness at play. What other illnesses have deliberately stepping into moving traffic as a symptom? Never mind the whole mess of self-medication and co-morbidity (or rather, dual diagnosis) which seems to be a factor in Carlisle’s case.
The way I see it, the best you can hope for is that people will understand that there is a difference between your choices & behaviour during an episode of illness and your choices & behaviour when you are well. If they understand that then they can at least accept that you are not quite yourself when they arrive home to find you have not moved in 10 hours or, flipside, have thrown away all the living room furniture because…reasons.
Because when you wander downstairs of a morning and wonder what sort of f***wit could have binned all the chairs … and then remember it was you, well you want people to know that you, yourself, normally, are not a furniture- hating- monster. Y’know.
Of course that’s easier when you 1) know people really well 2) don’t have the type of disorder which has you in a chronically, or even permanently, altered state. And if you’ve only ever met me when I was in bouncing around like Tigger or monosyllabic & Eeyore-miserable then I’d like you to know that I’m one of the good guys really. Well mostly. I try.
Anyway, I forgave my former close-friend a long time back. I think that she has forgiven me some stuff too. We’re in touch a little, because neither of us is the same person we were ten years ago. Which brings me round to Clarke Carlisle’s response to Ralf Little.
Explaining the reason for your behaviour does not automatically equate to making excuses for it. Speaking out about what you did because you were depressed is not the same as saying I was depressed so what I did is ok and Clarke Carlisle has been speaking out for some time, proving that mental illness can affect anyone.
So yeah. All that.
Anyway I will try to keep the monologues to a minimum, it’s just that I would really have struggled to write this many words about my gym visit yesterday.
It was sticky.
I listened to Eminem.
I am not an olympian yet.