Love hurts – but so does mental illness


“Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiii mi corazonnnnn…” crooned the wavering falsetto – and as the radio gleefully crackled and spat in the corner of the cafe I grimaced and slid a handful of coins across the coffee-stained table. The year was 2007, the location Honduras, Central America and, once again, I had lost the bet.

The game of chance my little travelling gang had been enjoying so frequently was simple – how many seconds into a song played on local radio would the singer last before uttering the word ‘corazon’. Heart. In this instance it was approximately seven – and although my Spanish was limited, even I could pick up on the torrent of grief and woeful tale of spurned love that followed. Latin Americans don’t take affairs of the heart lightly.

Back in England it was business as usual, and songs on the radio took on a less desolate timbre. But when those sad melodies crept onto the airwaves there it was, time and time again, that same word once more. Heart. And every melancholy tune cataloguing the destruction of this essential organ seemed to be about one thing and one thing only – the woes of amour gone wrong. I felt like the world was on the edge of despair and it was all down to romance.

But, of course, it’s not just the romantic catastrophes that can tear you in two. Anyone with experience of chronic depression and anxiety will know how difficult dating or maintaining romantic relationships can be when you’re trying to keep the black dog on its leash. But life without romance still holds its fair share of heartache. Try telling that to Taylor Swift, I know.

I haven’t had much opportunity to experience tragedies of the heart of late; thanks to my illness my love-life has been barren as the Kalahari. However having spent the last four to five years on-and-off very ill and debilitated, I’ve experienced a different kind of loss – that of a large chunk of my twenties. While I should be in the prime of my youth – out adventuring, building a career, experimenting, humping everything with a pulse, I’ve had to watch life pass me by while an avalanche of self doubt, misery, anxiety and chronic pain and exhaustion prevents me from really connecting with the world around me. It makes me unbelievably sad. And I mourn the loss of these opportunities far more than I probably should.

Forget catching Dave snogging another bimbo at the bus stop, looking back on a recent life that’s resembled a rolling desert of despair, and all that’s been wasted, is truly heart-breaking. As if depression and exhaustion aren’t enough to deal with on their own, it’s common for a sufferer to feel mournful and traumatised even when they’re in recovery. An illness like that blows a devastating hole through life as you know it, and that’s hard to get over.

At least in the aftermath of a tragedy or relationship break-down you can off-set some of the pain you feel against the good times once shared with the lover you’ve parted with, or the loved one that’s departed this world. Mental illness presents a double edged sword – it can cause you insurmountable grief for seemingly no reason.

I think it’s this lack of logic and sense driving the arrival of depression in people’s lives that can prevent them from appropriately grieving for what they’ve been through, and what they’ve lost. But grieve you should. As with any traumatic event in life, whether romantically tragic or not, I think you have to spend some time wading through misery in its aftermath – crying out the tears that are trapped in your body – to get to the other side.

If this means weeping into a Doritos packet while listening to Michael Bolton, then so be it. Shriek, rant and rail, sob, claw at the walls – do what you must to feel what you need to feel when depression has stormed in and out of your life.

Then when the time is right you can move on. And maybe get onto Taylor Swift about changing the record, literally.



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