but “the part they didn’t see,” she wrote, “was me turning around, me leaving the room, me getting in my car at the end of the day, taking a deep breath and me crying all the way home. I have always done what is needed to be done and when I can stop pretending I let it out.”
In the mornings, though, she would wake up drained and spaced out, despairing that she could fail even at this. Then she would resolve not to speak of it to anyone. To her, suicide attempts weren’t cries for help but secrets to be zealously guarded.
That night I never slept. The worries, anxiety and depression of those challenging weeks never gave me a moments rest. As the pointless alarm rang out at seven AM I reluctantly got dressed for work and walked nervously out of my room. As I checked out I wanted to avoid seeing anyone from work, I wasn’t in the right place for breezy morning chats. I grabbed a cab and headed for Old Trafford. I felt sick. The cab driver dropped me off outside the ground but at the wrong end of the ground. I didn’t care. I walked through the driving rain until I found the outside broadcast trucks and sat down – in a daze. And daze is how I felt for the rest of the day. At 8:15 we had the usual production meeting but it just passed me by. The only way I can describe it was like an out of body experience. As Jack our Producer went through the first hour of the show I sat there totally disengaged. I tried to focus but couldn’t. As he pointed out the graphics I would be talking about in the build up to the game I felt like a drunken man being asked to walk in a straight line.
Eventually I was sat in my usual chair in the studio, rehearsing the top of the show like we do every week. I managed to get through most of it but as our on airtime of 11:30 approached and Graham Souness and company were in their chairs ready to go I had to escape. I knew I’d be there when it mattered but at that moment I had to get out. I could feel a sense of panic overcoming me. Never before had I felt like this. I made my excuses – last minute trip to the loo and all that – and headed to the disabled loo. At least there I would be alone. As I sunk to the floor I began to cry, uncontrollably, and began to breathe quicker and quicker. In a small part of my mind the cry was ‘what the hell is wrong with me’, but the bigger part was gripped by fear. All I could do at that moment was grab my phone and ring the only person who would truly understand. That person was my rock – my wife Gemma.
As ever she was the reassuring voice of calm. Whilst my body was shaking and my breaths had become more shallow and more rapid, she spoke truth and reassurance without dismissing the pain I was in. I can remember so clearly her words – “Darl I know you can do it. God had given you this gift and he won’t let you down. He knows you have the strength to do it, you know you can do it and I know you can do it, now please darl tell Jack your producer how you are feeling.’ I did as she said and somehow at 11:30 the titles music kicked and it was all about survival. My boss Gary Hughes who has since heard this story told me that when he watched the game back he would never have known, and if anything my performance levels were higher than normal. That’s the amazing thing about the mind – as we went on air it was flight or fight. If I fly the whole hour build up ends up in a disaster, if I fight I had an outside chance of holding it together. Thankfully it was the latter.
“At least there’s nothing physically wrong with you.”
This statement makes me want to scream. It’s just awful. I don’t even know how to explain how awful this is.
First off, I don’t like the latter part of the statement; “wrong with you”. There is nothing “wrong with me”, I’m just me. I have an illness, it’s there, and I’m fine with it.
Second, what do you mean by “physically wrong”? Because there are MANY physical symptoms of my illness.
My Physical Stuff:
Obsessive Skin Picking: A few years ago my dermatillomania got so bad that I almost lost a finger due to a really bad infection. My obsessive compulsion, at the time, was skin picking, and I couldn’t stop picking at my hands… and I don’t mean picking a hangnail; I mean digging relentlessly at gaping wounds on my hands.
My life is, by every objective measurement, very very good.
And in spite of all of that, I struggle every day with my self esteem, my self worth, and my value not only as an actor and writer, but as a human being.
That’s because I live with Depression and Anxiety, the tag team champions of the World Wrestling With Mental Illness Federation.
That difference, between existing and living, is something I want to focus on for a minute: before I got help for my anxiety and depression, I didn’t truly live my life. I wanted to go do things with my friends, but my anxiety always found a way to stop me. Traffic would just be too stressful, it would tell me. It’s going to be a real hassle to get there and find parking, it would helpfully observe. And if those didn’t stop me from leaving my house, there was always the old reliable: What if…? Ah, “What if… something totally unlikely to happen actually happens? What if the plane crashes? What if I sit next to someone who freaks me out? What if they laugh at me? What if I get lost? What if I get robbed? What if I get locked out of my hotel room? What if I slip on some ice I didn’t see? What if there’s an earthquake? What if what if what if what if…
When I look back on most of my life, it breaks my heart that when my brain was unloading an endless pile of what ifs on me, it never asked, “What if I go do this thing that I want to do, and it’s … fun? What if I enjoy myself, and I’m really glad I went?”
I have to tell you a painful truth: I missed out on a lot of things, during what are supposed to be the best years of my life, because I was paralyzed by What If-ing anxiety.
All the things that people do when they are living their lives … all those experiences that make up a life, my anxiety got in between me and doing them. So I wasn’t living. I was just existing.