Most people who see me have only really seen the cheerful, jokey, confident, go getter. Very few have witnessed the other side.
There have been times in my life I have literally been staring into an abyss of despair, despondency and darkness. Certain friends are aware of the triggers that lead me towards depression and others are good at picking up the early symptoms. Some are fellow sufferers others are just people who I allow in, they are the inner circle and thanks to their small but elite number I probably can be thankful that I am still around today.
The first time I stared into the abyss I was a teenager who was just coming to terms with his sexuality as a gay Christian in Northern Ireland still echoing with the calls of "Save Ulster from Sodomy." I took myself to the end of the pier in town on a very windy day and stared and stared into the depth and contemplated jumping in for over an hour, thinking of ending it all. Somehow I eventually stepped away from the edge, I still am not sure how or why I did step back on that occasion.
Another time many years later I ran my self a bath, took my chef's knife out of the draw in the kitchen and sent one text. I'd chosen the recipient of my text wisely as I was called by immediately and kept on the phone long enough for that friend to get to my door and then to just hold me and let me talk and talk and talk. We saw the sun go down and come up again while they listened to what I had to say.
Another time I curled up into a little ball and couldn't face the world for four or five days.
These are episodes that visit me infrequently. But when they visit I do not know if I'll see them through. When Robin Williams' death was reported last night I could fully appreciate what he must have gone through, even before it was confirmed as a suicide I thought maybe he is just like me.
So yes if you have only ever seen me as cheerful, in control and confident you only know a part of me, and I don't mean that to cause offence. As I said there are very few who have really seen the other side of me. But if that is the only way you have seen me that doesn't always mean that I am fine. I've known in the past that I have been playing the role of the "normal" me while planning another visit to stare into that abyss and maybe how to step into it.