I’ve suffered with clinical depression for much of my life. I was diagnosed a long time ago now. It’s part of my baggage as a survivor of major child abuse. Mostly I deal ok with it, and manage to get through life in a functioning state, with the help of daily medication. If I don’t take the medication, it’s not long before I start spiralling down into a black pit from which it’s very hard to claw my way back out and all I can do is hold on and ride it out until it eases.
At times like that, when I’m in that pit, life becomes very, very difficult and I get to a point where I’m just existing. I’m pretty much usually aware of what’s happening, and that it’s the depression rearing its head, but that doesn’t make it in any way easier to deal with. I subsist, drowning in a black place within myself where all attempts to lift myself up and out simply fail and I float in existential darkness and sadness for as long as it takes. There’s no “cause” or “thought” that triggers these periods of depression. They just come. And remain, for however long.
I’ve been in that place for around a week now. It’s all I’ve been able to do to function normally. I slept most of last weekend away, only emerging from the house to clean the long drive (during which I managed to hurt my knees and have an osteoarthritic flare up). I’ve just wanted nothing more than to sleep the time away, which I’m fully aware is hardly fair on Pogo, but when I’m in that black place, I just can’t seem to climb my way out. I know other people who suffer from depression experience exactly the same thing, so I know I’m not alone. It doesn’t help though, when you’re in that place. You feel so dreadfully alone and shut off from everyone and everything. It’s almost like exterior life is muffled and distant. I’ve been walking around work probably looking like I was in a bad mood when, really, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. During that period last week only one person saw that something wasn’t quite right and asked me if I was ok. It meant a great deal to me. I’d never impose myself on anyone usually, so the fact that someone noticed really touched me. It didn’t take the depression away, but I was profoundly grateful that someone reached out to me, for all that I smiled at them and assured them I was fine.
Yesterday was desperately hard. I was close to breaking down in tears all day, and felt like I was coming apart at the seams. The blackness of the feelings felt unendurable. When I got home, I tried to be happy for Pogo’s sake, but at one point, standing holding and cuddling her with tears pouring down my face, I knew I was in a desperate place and had to do something, anything to try and lift it. That was actually a first for me. Perhaps I’ve come a lot further along my journey than I I’d suspected I had, because, I just knew I had to try and make some sort of leap or I would be in desperate trouble. So I decided to do something kind for myself. I’m well overweight, but last night for probably the first time ever I chose to do something that always usually makes me guilty, given the way people view already overweight people. It was just a simple act of giving myself something nice to eat and being kind to myself. So I ordered my favourite pizza and poured a glass of wine and consciously sat and enjoyed it. Only one glass of wine, because both my parents were alcoholics and I’ve always been aware and afraid that I could go down that path too, and I just won’t do that to myself.
So I sat on the floor, watched a program I also enjoy, however dorky – BBC’s Bargain Hunt – and slowly and deliberately ate and enjoyed my pizza and wine, with Pogo for company, scratching her back as and when she asked for it. I just sat and was, demanding nothing of myself at all. And after a while the terrible feelings became just a little lighter. Not much, but enough that I knew I’d shifted something, even if just a little, and I would make it through another day and survive until this particular bout has passed.
I share this because I think it’s important for people to know that living with depression is a very real and often very painful reality. In the past I’ve had people tell me to “pull your socks up and get on with it”, or suggest I go see a counsellor (both of which are bound to make someone with depression feel even worse, if that’s possible), when all that I really need is for someone to simply just listen to me. Not say anything, just listen. So there it is. I’m very tired today, but also today I feel that I can go on, and that tomorrow will be a little better, and so will the day after, until this particular bout has passed.