The ArcelorMittal Orbit is a bemusing structure to look at. Gazing up at it from the ground, I was of the firm belief that it would look more at home within the confines of some obscured amusement park than at its current location in the vibrant metropolis of Stratford; it is a hulking, outlandish lump of steel that, if capable of sentient thought, would surely be aware of its own abnormality. Irrespective of its transgressions against the aesthetic quality of the city’s skyline however, I was less intrigued by its unconventionality than I was the looping lattice enveloping the sculpture’s core; I could only compare it to the obtruding tentacles of some invertebrate clasping at its kill. Whilst I acknowledge the sensationalised quality of this statement, I find it to be a fitting metaphor for the psychological struggle that I faced on this day.
I was within the vicinity of this building to participate in a free-fall abseil, which I appreciate might seem peculiar considering the opening paragraph of this entry. While unsurprisingly the idea to partake in such an anxiety inducing activity did not originate from me, it was initially something that I faced with some measure of excitement. With this in mind I would have liked this account to be one where I was able to shun off the persistence of my social shortcomings and perhaps even enjoy my controlled descent down the 115 meter high structure. Regrettably I must confess that this fanciful notion remained exactly that as my feet remained rooted to the ground.
Something that is often the case with depression is it’s propensity to strike in unexpected circumstances. This was a lesson that was reiterated to me on this day. I remember taking the escalator up to the topmost observation deck of the tower and despite being at a height where I could observe the entirety of London and its myriad of opportunities, to me it was all a ruse. A convincing replica of the iconic landscape hell bent in its efforts to give me hope where there was none. I was on top of the world and yet, ironically, life had never seemed more hopeless and obsolete.
Perhaps this highlights the irrational nature of depressive thinking. I had an opportunity to achieve something and yet, I could only see the pointlessness of it all. I stood by and watched as my mum (despite her best efforts to sway me otherwise) took part in the abseil by herself. As I observed her descent I began to hear an all too familiar voice in my mind. It was a loud and obnoxious voice which seemed to get enjoyment out of its abuse. Not unlike how a tormentor gains pleasure by inflicting pain on his victim. A wave of self loathing washed over me as this inner agency enticed me to believe things I never would have believed in my normal state of mind. It succeeded in drowning out any form of logical thinking, and left me entrapped in a spiral of emotional turbulence.
However, I think that it is important to note that just because on this single occasion I gave in to the emotionally driven inner voice, it does not mean that the other, reasonable voice was not present. It may have had a miniscule presence in my mind, but it was there. As a result I think that a more positive lesson can be drawn from this experience. By examining the various participants slowly lower themselves to safety, it made me realise that life is not, nor should it be, stagnant. For each individual, mentally afflicted or otherwise, it is a constantly changing journey that tests us both physically and mentally. This is something I personally have had, and still have, difficulty accepting. Nonetheless, I acknowledge that by being more forgiving of my own imperfections and focusing on the present I may have perhaps have avoided plummeting into despair.
Emotional support helplines:
Samaritans :116 123
Rethink Mental Illness advice line 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday 09:30-16:00; local rate)
Sane Line:0845 767 8000
Mind also has a useful guide of support and services, which can be found by clicking the link right here