There was an article yesterday in The Observer about having workplace psychiatrists, as this has been put forward for Parliament. On the same day there was considerable criticism by IDS towards a graduate who had had benefits taken away because she wouldn’t work for free for a commercial company stacking shelves in a pound shop, rather than working as a volunteer in a museum where she may have helped people visiting rather than increasing profits. His criticism was that she probably felt shelf-stacking was beneath her.
After my degree I worked on the coke ovens at a steel works, delivered free newspapers, cleaned JCB’s. The menial jobs are fine and when you are paid properly for doing them, and when you know they are for a short period to get over through a time and through your ‘education’ there is a light at the end of a tunnel and actually become part of your education. It is when they are your life that it becomes an issue. But these workers will almost certainly not have the benefits of a workplace psychiatrist to help them through the depression this sort of work causes.
Depression has no sense. It just comes, for me without any realisation it was happening. I was in a job I loved, I was reasonably well paid, I could plan my own time, go to and do things I wanted to. It first struck me hard when I was attending a week long writing course. I was looking into a thick black oil in my thoughts and could see nothing the other side. I did the most stupid thing and went and got drunk in a pub on my own. When I had realised what had happened I wrote about it, which helped, a piece I have lost and can’t rewrite. It then came and went, I began to recognise the signs, though didn’t see anyone about it. I didn’t feel at the time I had anyone to talk with. The only time I discussed it with my wife she just felt I was blaming her for something, a partner is probably not the best person to talk to as they begin by seeing your depression as a criticism of themselves, then feel hurt you have kept it to yourself, not easy. My very supportive Management Committee were spread all over the country and well I could have but didn’t talk. I wish I had had the services of a workplace psychiatrist.
When about ten years later I had gone through a long period of bouts of medium depression I went to the doctor. There was a set series of questions they asked and when I answered ‘yes’ to ‘have you had thoughts of suicide’, whichI had begun to feel was a quite normal thought process, they sent me for some support. The tablets they gave me I didn’t like as it felt they took over my life and for a short period I lost my creative abilities, I got off them asap!
Now I feel as if I have controlled it, I keep a record of how I am through two sets of questions they had asked me every week, I use Excel and when I see the graph rising know that I have to work on things. That has happened very little over the past four years.
I wrote a poem I completed in 2011 Six Trees, trying to express how it felt/feels, it is below, I allude to the wonderful Stevie Smith poem Not Waving but Drowning, though I cannot get close to her concise qualities.
Six black oaks in a circle
A circle around a cover of briar
A cover of briar sand brown in winter
Winter’s safe haven beneath a spiders web of branches
Branches energetic with rooks cawing to a silent world
A silent world that emerges cold green as the sun warms
Sun warms the rooks depart to feed in fields
Fields I know so well in which I am lost I am lost
I am lost in a place so familiar I cannot see the patterns
Patterns of grey stone walls flowers smells memories
Memories that offer a way out and captivity
Look over there no not there over there a horseman
A horseman on the ridge galloping so swiftly
So swiftly he cannot maybe does not want to hear my cry
Hear my cry I plead to no one to nothing
Nothing I say is heard lost to the wind unheard
Unheard as even I am not listening
I am not listening to what the others say others say
Others say this is a magic place where I see no magic
No magic in nature only unyielding relentless growth
Growth which envelops the path
The fear of happiness
Happiness the starting point you know
Know from the inspection of your levels
Your levels of the unlevelled oil black ink black emptiness
Emptiness in which all thoughts intentions creativity melt
Melt like snow ice lard ice cream ghosts sugar in tea
Tea yes let’s have a cup of tea that always helps
Always helps to block out the reality of your knowledge your knowledge
Your knowledge that you don’t want this but it is inevitable
It is inevitable that a black block will put your life on hold
On hold unheld unholding working through another cycle
I’m waving not drowning
Tim Diggles 2011
Today’s photograph is of discarded art in the backs near my flat, taken (after the dustmen have been) at 9.05am on a bright cloudy and cool day.