So last week, I was on holiday. An actual holiday, in another country, with extortionate cellular data costs and salami at breakfast and everything. An actual holiday at an actual holiday resort. A white, shiny place where blue slush was an acceptable pre-breakfast aperitif; water polo was a deadly serious post-lunch pastime and the continuous sunshine and, ergo, sunglasses wearing said sunshine brought, meant you could totes give that bronzed lifeguard the sly side-glance perv without anybody being any the wiser. Look, he was a qualified lifeguard. He had access to the portable defibrillator. He MUST have been at least 18. Don’t judge me.
Anyway. Holiday. Sun, sangria, Stefan the fit Spanish lifeguard. How lovely was that? After one great big whore of a month leading up to this break it was all going to be perfect and totally relaxing, right? Well. Sure. Kind of. Ish.
Actually, not so much.
Because, three days in, surrounded by chirpy, oiled-up holidaymakers, the majority of whom seemed more-than-content with happily cocking around to shouty Europop in the name of Aqua-Zumba, and gleefully clapping along to Team Animacion’s weird Club Song (something to do with saxophones and samurais – exactly what though, is anyone’s guess), I found myself having none of the fun that that lot seemed to be having. In fact, not only was I struggling to jiggle along with the Spanish frivolities, I instead found myself curled up on a poolside sun-lounger, logged on to the shonky free hotel wifi, Googling ‘holiday depression’.
WOOO. Hands up who wants to come away with me next year?
Now, if you want to give such Googling a shot (LOLs), prepare for a big fat ‘OH’ when those results come rolling in. Because, despite me trying all kinds of search filters and canny word arrangements, all that Googs came back with was a bunch of forums full of ‘back in UK. Raining. FML. Monkey-covering-his-eyes-emoticon’ post-holiday blues type stuff OR people talking about holidays in the festive American context?
I mean sure, depressives, we all know Christmas is pretty fucking grim, right? RIGHT?!*, but a holiday-holiday? Whaaaat? Don’t get me wrong, the wanker in my head (he’s called Alan**) can usually piss on almost any seemingly pleasant parade but, as a source of some sadness, a summer holiday was a new one for me.
And actually, while I’m being that wanker, now’s probably a good time to be straight about the ‘some sadness’ thing too. Because, as anyone who’s been in this situation themselves know, it was far and beyond ‘some sadness’. It was a soul-ripping monster of sheer fucking anxiety and hollow misery that I just could not shake. No matter how much I reminded myself of what this holiday had cost, or what effect this was having on my family, or of what an utter arsehole I must be to want to cry over EUROPOP AQUA ZUMBA (‘how can anyone garner gloom from a hot senorita with great abs side-shimmying to some Latino-based house tracks, you fucking BELLEND?’, I shouted at myself on pretty much an hourly basis), I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t shake this shit off. It was like the world’s oddest relay race, with the world’s shittest relay team – my head and my face and my voice. They were giving it a half-arsed shot to work as a team – my head being the lame-o cheerleader, telling my face ‘come on, COME ON, until we figure out a real way out of this cloud, let’s fake it’, and my face, though reluctant and a bit glassy would be all ‘sure sure, let’s give this a pop’ and would stretch a tight smile across it, but then, the moment I had to speak in any kind of chit-chatty type way, everything just fell apart. The usual, holiday-convo words got caught in my throat. The happy fell at the last hurdle. And it was really, really bleak.
I tried all sorts. From throwing myself full throttle into the entertainments timetable (darts, boules, some weird Scandinavian shuffleboard gig – I was on first name terms with that ents team by the end of the week); to reading and re-reading the filthy bits of 50 Shades; to afternoon naps; to, the old faithful, gin. And then no gin, because let’s be honest, as much as I love gin, when in any kind of funk, gin is not the answer. But nothing, NOTHING worked. And instead, the cloud grew thicker, the black dog barked louder and the words of faux happiness bottle-necked in my throat to the point that I could physically feel them. You know that tight neck thing when you’re trying not to cry? That. That for a week. Grizzly. I even tried downloading a self-help book but my mind was so fucked with all kind of interweaving, cloudy thoughts of doom, gloom and YOU ARE A DESPICABLE PERSON, I couldn’t get past the first page. So, instead, I carried on Googling, in the hope I’d come across something that showed me I wasn’t on my own with this, that holiday depression is an actual thing. And still I couldn’t find it.
And then I remembered a friend. A friend who also suffers from this grotesque condition, who’d told me a story about something similar happening to her while away with her boyfriend. A holiday where, consumed with depression, it had felt like anything but. So I messaged her. I went and sat in the pocket of less shonky wifi that I managed to find in the hotel reception, got on WhatsApp and had a big old cry as she reassured me that these feelings, combined with a holiday, weren’t all that weird. And in fact, what is more weird, is when these feelings do come along and you expect a bit of sun, some cheap cocktails and the Macarena on repeat each evening to suddenly flip them. It was never, ever going to happen.
So instead, my friend suggested, in the pursuit of some clarity, I try writing about it. And I did. I started all of the above while away and carried it on on the plane but then, when home, for some reason just stopped.
And then Robin Williams killed himself. And some people on that this here internet started bemoaning the fact that a person with so much money/success/adulation could even feel sad in the first place, let alone do such things to themselves. And, without wanting to blow any of my stuff out of proportion and into the terribly, terribly sad thing that he did, it kind of made me realise that despite all the online articles and the ‘in-depth’ chats on Lorraine and the celebrity columns in Closer magazine, it doesn’t matter how much this stuff is being talked about at the moment, a clear understanding of depression is still a long, long way off.
Whether it’s a bubbling undercurrent of something just not feeling right, to an all-consuming sadness with no apparent way out, it doesn’t matter how great your holiday resort is, who you’re hanging out with, what you’ve got in the bank, how big your house is, how ‘perfect’ everything in your life seems to be…if you’re overwhelmed with depression, this stuff means jack shit. In fact, if anything, it just makes things seem a trillion times worse when you’ve got people listing all that stuff off for you and pointing out how what you’re feeling must simply be wrong. It’s not fucking wrong. It is just what it is. And, for want of a better word, it’s shit enough as it is, without you telling me otherwise. When you already feel like you’re failing at life, to have it suggested you’re also failing at appreciating life, really, really sucks.
HEY! So. Anywaaaaay. For anyone asking what I did on holiday, I wrote the above. And then I saved it on my laptop with the intent of never doing anything with it ever again. But the last few days have made me realise that this is still a topic that needs to be talked about. A lot. Without any sense of apology, or embarrassment or worry that you’re boring someone with this shit. Because it’s when the silences of people affected by depression start to draw in, that the repercussions of the condition become truly dreadful.
This piece originally wasn’t intended for anything other than a means to move some debris out of my head and onto the page, and give my thoughts a little space to breathe. But all of the press and online coverage from the last few days has changed that. This is still a problem. Depression is still a taboo. And the shame and simpering apologies that go with admitting to suffering with depression – mine very much included in that – will only ever help this illness spread. Having nobody to talk to, and the endless, heartbreaking loneliness that comes with that, will always make depression the winner. And believe me, nobody wants depression as the winner. Depression is a terrible winner. All up in your grill. A real showy gobshite. So this, here, now, being put out there for anyone else to read? Well, at least if even just one person in the future finds themselves curled up on a sun-lounger, looking at the people around them, wondering what the fuck must be up with them to not be feeling what everyone else seems to be feeling, and they also decide to Google ‘holiday depression’, they won’t come across zilch. They’ll instead come across this and, hopefully, someone who was, and maybe still is, in the same position as them. Someone who gets it.
*holds up hand for a Christmas-is-shit-for-me-too-high-five, gets punched in the nose for mentioning Christmas in August
** this is Alan. He’s a prize cunt.