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DATE: 26 November 2018

CLINICAL NOTES: Chronic fatigue, depressed mood

My doctor had sent me for tests.

Based on my age (I’d just turned 52), he speculated that I might be suffering from male menopause. I didn’t even know that was a thing. And such knowledge certainly didn’t help me feel good about myself. I was already wrestling with feelings of self-loathing.

Brought up in a working-class family with very hard-working parents, I was raised to be a man’s man.

But there was a problem.

As a child, I loved creativity: art, acting, singing, music. (Billy Elliot springs to mind.) And I was very much in touch with my feelings and emotions.

So I don’t think dad ever really understood what kind of man he was raising.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for all my dad did for me and my brother. He provided a roof over our heads and put food on the table. But dad was raised not to cry or express love — and so he struggled to express love to me. I was crying out for an affectionate father to help me feel good about myself. Dad simply wasn’t one of those types.

So I grew up thinking I was a bit ‘odd.’ Which was only reinforced at school by the bullies. And the school system itself, sadly. Academic prowess was exalted (science, maths, economics, history), while art, acting and music were relegated to ‘nice hobbies to have but won’t put food on the table’ status.

But it was the 1970s — and I wasn’t an unhappy child. I simply adjusted and suppressed the emotions. I found myself drawn to the marginalised kids in the class — those picked on by the bullies — and I made some great friends. Together, we learned to play the game. But I didn’t do too well at school. Perhaps unsurprisingly.

Fast forward 40 years. I’m 54 as I write and I’m still that same boy in many ways. I still love art, acting, singing, music. But life has conditioned me to live without them. Or to live with a lesser view of those things. Which is sad. But it’s something I’m (finally) addressing as part of my recovery from depression.

And for that reason alone I’m grateful for what I’ve been through.