I think, on and off, over the years, I have always suffered with depression. I never quite realised it, I just thought I was a miserable old grump, a bit of a Victor Meldrew. But as the years passed, I wondered more and more if I was depressed.
It was mild depression, mostly, but there have been a few darker episodes when I felt particularly low, when I questioned myself, and my reasons for continuing in this life.
As an only child, I quickly learned to be independent. Mum and Dad were working parents. Often, I was left at home on on my own. Today, I guess that would be seen as neglect, but I think it helped to strengthen my independence. Don't get me wrong, I had friends, I just wasn't always interested in seeing them or going out to play with them. But more often than not, when I did go out with them, I always felt on the periphery of the group, the odd one out, the black sheep. On reflection, being independent made me feel I didn't belong in a group, I didn't need to belong. I was just as happy, if not happier, being at home on my own.
I lost Dad just before my 16th birthday (that will be another story). School work got messed up. I passed a few exams, but also failed a few. I stayed at school an extra year to re-sit the exams I failed. Most of my school friends had left after the initial exams, so again, I was pretty much on my own doing my further studying.
Discussions about my future career choices with Mum were always met with, "I'll stand by anything you choose". So I chose to leave home and join the military. I discussed this with Mum and she said "I'll stand by your decision".
Did all this independence make me selfish, or was I the 'spoilt, only child'? Was it environment, or genetics? Was it fate, or was it choice?
Whatever the reasons, I was selfish. In business, it helped me on my way to earning a decent salary (for Norfolk anyway), and to becoming a member of two professional bodies. However, it was also the reasons for my darkest days.
When I first saw a doctor about this, I thought, "I'm sure I have depression". I didn't really understand what depression was, so when the he said my "pain" was "muscular and skeletal", and referred me to an Osteopath, I believed him. Quack! The Osteopath was great. He fixed a few creaky joints, but he wasn't the solution to the underlying issues.
It wasn't until a particularly painful breakup of a relationship a few years later, having sleep and concentration issues and a visit to Accident and Emergency with a suspected heart attack, that I found a Doctor who took the time to listen and explain.
I finally learned and understood about depression. If only all doctors were like him. I also learned that my selfishness affected other people, which in turn had a ripple effect. There were consequences to my choices. My 'independence' had shielded me from all of this. I knew my choices were mine, but I gave little thought to how they affected others. I knew they would be affected, but I never really knew how much.
I didn't feel good about who I was, how I behaved, or what I had done. I did a lot of soul searching, questioning myself. Who was I really? Who was the man in the mirror?
Many times, I stared at myself. I recognised the face, after all, I had worn it for over 40 years. But who was I looking at? Who was the person behind the visage? Who was the real Steve?
I still don't completely know Steve. I know him better now, but I'm still getting to know and understand him. I have a deeper knowledge of who he is. I also understand that decisions he takes have much wider consequences.
I have a close group of friends, who, through all I have endured, (and all I have put them through), have stood by me, and supported me. I cannot thank them enough.
Why didn't I choose the easy way out of this malaise?
I am too cowardly, I have too much to look forward too, I still have a life to live.
The man in the mirror fits the face I wear, and at last, I am comfortable in my own skin.