Depression – An Unwelcome But All Too Familiar Companion – By Malli Malpass29th May 2023 0 By Malli "Metalhead" Malpass
I need to preface this by saying there are descriptions of intrusive thoughts and potentially some content that could cause distress. I must also make it clear that I am safe, I am not going to harm myself. For narrative purposes I’ve included some tracks that set the tone for each section, to give you a sense of where my head is at in each part. So please, take a little journey with me.
Allow me to introduce myself, twice. Why twice? Surely you need only introduce yourself once? Normally you’d be correct but on this occasion, I’m introducing both well me, who I am today and have been sporadically for decades and unwell me. warts and all, who has been interspersed with well me over the same period. Ask me on any given day which is the “real” me and I’ll confidently claim one of the two as my authentic self but we all know it’s more nuanced than that, right?
So, hello, I’m Malli Malpass. I’m 46 years old and live in South Wales. I’m a mildly popular content creator, musician, artist, and writer. I’m confident, outgoing, and fun. I adore performing live, writing and recording music, and utilizing my literate competency and expressive verbosity to create powerful poetic lyrics. I love meeting new people and socializing, striking up conversations about my passions, and really connecting on an individual level. I can interact with anyone, I’m confident, articulate, and curious. Learning new things from people brings me joy and leaves me feeling enriched.
I am a good father, who loves and respects my children. I endeavor to raise my children to be better humans than I am. I prize their kindness, compassion, and empathy above all else. I try my best to be the absolute best parent I can be.
I’m a good partner. I love and respect my girlfriend. I love her quick mind and sharp wit, I feel whole and vital when we are together because we are a team.
I am so good at so many things! My creativity is vibrant and flowing. I pick up things really quickly and soon show accomplished ease when learning new things. I feel the world is a bright place full of opportunity, of which I am eager to embrace. My brain fizzes with ideas and plans, as I articulate myself clearly and confidently, so others can understand my thoughts and processes. I’ve been on the telly. I beat 2000 applicants to feature on five seasons of a prime-time comedy panel show. I sold myself impeccably and achieved something that not many people can or will ever achieve.
I love the way I look. I am confident in my own skin. No one can tell me how to present myself to the world. I forge my own path and often so effectively that it encourages others to follow. I know my worth, I won’t sell myself short and I’m a positive role model to others.
I acknowledge that I’ve painted a picture of near perfection there and yes I can see that some of it verges on cocky or arrogant but this serves as vital juxtaposition to whom I’m introducing next…
So, hello, I’m Malli Malpass, I’m 46 years old and live in South Wales. I hate myself, I’m a fraud, an imposter, and a habitual loser. I’ve never achieved anything of worth and everything I have done has either been handed to me or I’ve just been along for the ride, ending up in places that could be construed as successful. Everything is a chore, my poor mental health will not permit me to move forward in life. I hate people! The stress of meeting new people and hoping they won’t see right through my veneer of bravado is crushing. I cannot create, I’m stunted, bereft of motivation or drive. I’m useless, good for nothing, and pathetic. My days consist of scrolling between the same four apps while hoping that an opportunity for positive change will suddenly appear in one of my inboxes. So I wait, scroll, wait, scroll until I can justify a nap or convince myself that 6 pm is late enough in the day to go to bed because I don’t want to be awake anymore.
I’m a terrible father. I cannot cope with the needs of my children. I struggle to meet the basic requirements of parenthood. I feel my children carry the weight of my uselessness but I hope they don’t realize that they’re having chip shop chips again because preparing a meal feels as insurmountable as climbing a mountain. I’m ashamed, riddled with guilt, self-doubt and so, so angry at my failures as a father.
I am a horrible partner. I’m selfish, angry, miserable, and lacking any attributes that would make me a “keeper” or a “Catch”. I am continually overwhelmed, snappy, and emotionless. I don’t understand what she sees in me.
I am good for nothing! Sure I have some minor skills but nothing useful, nothing I could implement to make myself more successful. No one would want anything I have to offer. I know I’ve blagged some performances vocally, in musical projects in the past but it was just a fluke, an anomaly. I can’t hold down jobs or relationships because I’m the epitome of inconsistency. I somehow blagged my way onto a prime-time comedy series. Fuck knows what they saw in me. I’m just a fat old, mentally ill metalhead. My head tries to swim and trudge through a thick murky mire, while I plan ways to ease the news of my self-inflicted demise, that those closest to me will have to bare. I plan to walk into a cold sea, take all my numerous meds in one hit or jump from a great height. I often fall asleep to these thoughts and by morning I am safe again.
I cannot look after myself, I don’t cook, I eat junk food, and then whatever takes zero effort when the junk food runs out. I don’t wash, brush my teeth or take any care of my appearance. I hate the way I look. I feel old and used up but I don’t have the means or capacity to alter my circumstances for the better. Often the bathroom is too far away, so I piss in a jug, downstairs because that’s all I can manage (disgusting I know but I did say this was warts and all)
Well, that’s me! there’s an enormous difference between those two people and I’ve fleshed out and been dramatic in the darker parts a bit but ultimately, as stark a difference as there is, they are very much me. I wanted to articulate them both, partially as a catharsis and partly to illustrate to you the reader that there’s a disconcerting normality and familiarity for anyone that suffers and struggles with their mental health. Don’t lie, you saw a part of yourself in there, didn’t you?
Let’s now have a frank look at a few things about depression.
The big black dog, the looming oppressive dark cloud that follows us around, blocking the light and often convincing us that we’re better off and more comfortable in the dark. The real kicker with depression is its ability to isolate the sufferer, sever connections to other humans, and make us feel alone. If often said that if a depression convention was held in a stadium, with 70,000 depression sufferers in attendance, every one of those 70,000 people would feel completely alone and feel like no one understands.
Our depression lies and depreciates our worth. I trivialize the things that make us happy and inflate the things that feed into our hopelessness and despair, and that hopelessness is the overarching theme of depression. How can something that seems so bright one day, one hour, one minute ago, seem so dull, grey, and unimportant the next? Those things don’t change, only skewed perceptions.
Most days I find basic tasks so overwhelming, the pile of dishes appears to shadow me, like a monolith built to honor depression. I watch it grow, spill out of the sink and continue to stack. I see the mold form. the food crust harden and the chore increase in size exponentially. It’s too big! I cannot get my head around even starting the task. It’s the same with personal hygiene. I will put off showering or brushing my teeth for days or weeks until it begins to hurt and I’m forced to act. But THEN! The lights start to come back on, the washing-up pile becomes more molehill than mountain and I relish the task of cleaning. I have Metal blasting from every speaker in the house, the sun feels like it’s shining from somewhere, even if it isn’t sunny outside. Then I accomplish, I buzz, I’m alive. The hot soapy dish water feels like it washes away more than food scum and mold, it helps to wash my mind off the murk. There’s usually a welcome and blessed shower soon after. A clean body, clean hair, and a freshly brushed set of gnashers are like sweet ambrosia. The big black dog has gone to sleep, the black cloud has lifted and I’m feeling like myself again, even if only a short time ago I was convinced that the depressed me, with my foggy mind, my psychomotor retardation, and my skanky AF body was the definitive me.
Interestingly I’ve observed that those of us that struggle know exactly what will make us feel better when the clouds descend but there is no instinct that pulls us into action. I’m so self-aware that I could draw you a detailed map of the inside of my head, from the happy Shire to the dark and imposing depression of Mordor. So why can’t I act on what I know will be hugely beneficial? This brings me back to the hopelessness, the “There’s no point”, the “I’ll only end up back here anyway”. Depression makes us act directly against our own interests, it’s the lying, manipulative Politian who lives in our heads and convinces us the dark thoughts are really common sense, there’s nothing we can do about them, we don’t have the means, so we may as well accept them and in doing so we allow the lying, manipulative Politian to retain power over us. Depression is a dick head.
So what can we do to help? Please bear in mind that I am not a psychologist, a trained counselor or even a school nurse that will give you a plaster (band-aid) for period pains. In short, I have no formal experience but I am someone with decades of dealing with poor mental health.
Do you know the stress of playing fuel roulette? The Will we, won’t we get to where we’re going because the fuel gauge has been fingering empty for the last 30 miles? We know common sense dictates that we should have put sufficient fuel in yesterday or not said “fuck it” to the last services we passed. Instead, we elect to face the sphincter-clenching uncertainty of fuel roulette. Had we prepared with a little foresight, we wouldn’t be on this stressful endeavor. The same applies to depression. One thing we do have with depression is a certain amount of foresight. We know it’s inevitably going to hit, that’s a given. We’ve seen it a thousand times, so we need to capitalize (put fuel in the tank) on the good days, instead of just coasting through the good days, thinking “At least I’m not depressed”. Go for your walks, drink your water, and talk to your therapist if you’re fortunate enough to have one. Eat good food, dance, sing, lark through long grass, and frolic like you’re a free wild pony. All these things will build positive reinforcement, get your brain dolphins jumping, and hopefully help to stave off or at least lessen your next depressive episode. Confide in your friends! Depression sufferers in my experience have a tendency to internalize and not reach out to anyone, even though so many people have said to reach out. We feel like a burden to them, like they won’t understand like we’re alone in this. Remember that depression convention I mentioned earlier? That applies here. Your depression is lying to you again!
Someone recently suggested to me that I should carry a photo of myself as a child in my wallet and on that day when I’m being particularly negative and mean towards myself, I should take that photo out and ask myself if I would speak to that child the same way. The obvious answer is NO! You would hope that you would want to nurture that child.
I’m not sure if I’m even making a point here or just randomly articulating in the hope that will resonate with someone and may help in some small way. If I am making a point it’s likely that it’s something along the lines of, Your depression and/or overall mental health does not define you but it is part of you that has to be managed, lived with, and fought tooth and nail for your own betterment. Listen to your health professionals, take your meds if that’s working for you, don’t self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, and above all, try to remember to be kind to yourself. If you can be your own worst enemy, then conversely you can be your own best friend.
Does that make sense?
Thanks for reading.
If you are struggling to cope, you can find help and support in the following places, in the UK
About the author
I'm Malli 'Metalhead' Malpass. I've been Metalhead on five seasons of BBC2's The Ranganation and have been a front man and performer in Metal bands for years. Music has been my passion for as far back as I can remember and tends to dominate all aspects of my life and personality. I've been fortunate to have been asked to share some of that passion through All About The Rock