Disclaimer: Depression has been written about and discussed for hundreds of years. Despite advances in understanding its complexities, depression remains one of the most controversial issues today. I recognise the differing, often polarising, viewpoints regarding mental illness. Furthermore, I do not claim to be an oracle of all things depression. This is simply an account of how I am experiencing my version of this affliction.
I suffer from clinical depression. Whilst I’m not proud of it, I’m not ashamed of it either. Why am I telling you this now? Well, because I was just diagnosed with it a few weeks ago. People may think depression hits you overnight (and in some cases it does) but, whilst depression can be obvious, often it’s a sneaky bugger.
You might seem happy on the outside. Smiling, talking to people at parties, saying things like Did you put lime in this hummus? It’s delicious, my face is having such a great time! But you, and others around you may not realise how deeply the depression runs. You just keep going, congratulating yourself on being the “normal” human you are.
Over the past few years the facade began to crumble. It became increasingly difficult for me to make decisions. I had no empathy for anyone, and I started to crave solitude. The worst part was that it became harder to face people, even those I loved. It felt much better to be holed up on my sofa for unhealthy periods of time, which was odd as only a few years ago I was a high-functioning humanoid. Look around you… you’re probably surrounded by other high-functionaries. When I say “high-functioning” I mean, people who are doing stuff. They are doing well in their jobs, making decisions (both important and basic), and organising murder mystery dinners on weeknights (weeknights for crying out loud!)
A common misconception about depressed people is that we’re easy to spot — flailing around, zombie-esque in Dawn of the Depression. Nope, most of us like to keep that shit at home.
However, when it comes to being in the ‘outside world’ with ‘the people’ and the ‘stuff’ it’s possible to trick yourself into being a superhuman/athlete/actor. If you were running track, you’d probably be high-fiving yourself as you lap people.
Then one day you hear the starter pistol go off, but you don’t run. You just stay in the blocks staring down at the asphalt, mesmerised, thinking I feel nothing for this asphalt, I’ll just wait here till I feel something. Everything you thought you were interested in (or thought you should be interested in) goes straight out the window. You liked hanging out with friends? Nope, not anymore you don’t. You liked cycling at weekends? Nope thanks. You liked grocery shopping? Well, no-one really does but screw it, you’re not going to do that ever again. Why? Uh, because that would involve doing something and then there’s all the people… oh the people! And the things and the noises, and the fact that it means leaving the house. I’d rather repeatedly receive an iCloud account issue dialogue box.
You would think this would all be somewhat terrifying, but for me, it wasn’t. It was actually very comfortable. I’d revel in not having to feel feelings. Being numb meant I could just ‘be’ without ‘being’. Turns out this made me a ticking time bomb. See, when you extreme hoard all the feelings (like finding-a-dead-pet-under-the-refrigerator kind of hoarding), you end up with none at all. I let myself feel nothing, all the while a toxic swirl bubbled up inside me and time quickly began to run out.
Now, here’s the really terrifying bit — detonation. I didn’t know when it was coming or how it would happen but I sure as shite was not prepared for it. Detonation of depression and feelings was very clear and simple for me. I can’t remember what, but something was said and instantly my brain snapped from my heart and my body filled with hot, black sludge
Darkness surged through my veins and permeated my eyeballs. All the feelings I’d hoarded over the years were now rushing through me in one go and all I wanted was a one-way ticket back to numbsville. I’d been ensconced in my tiny, numb mind for two decades, and now something was ripping it and me to shreds. Of course I reacted because I was helplessly trying to piece back the ruins of the only mind I had ever known.
There are many reasons as to why this happened. I attribute the lion’s share to my silence. I had an inkling I ignored, an extreme sadness that surfaced twenty years later to teach me various painful yet valuable lessons. I only wish that I had talked to someone about it earlier; that would’ve at least let some air out of the over-inflated shit balloon I was holding onto.
Thing is, it’s hard to suddenly sidle up to someone and be all “Hey, I think I’m really sad for no reason, any guesses as to why that might be?”. Even your best friends might be like “What? But you were really into that hummus at Dave’s party”. They may take you out more as some sort of exposure therapy. They may even take you away on holiday so you can “relax and heal.” Now, all these things are lovely, and I appreciate having such thoughtful friends, but they may not necessarily understand that, whilst in depression, going on holiday is a fate worse than having to listen to your voicemails.
As I grew up, repression became so much easier, and much more crucial, like breathing or grossing people out by telling them what a Mooncup is. It was yet another one of my dysfunctional lifelines — like a Slanket of thorns (omg…new band name).
Now, as I’m going through treatment, I’m seeing and feeling the repressions of Christmas pasts, scooping out all the trauma which lead me to this point. I watch, anesthetized, as the pain passes in front of me on a lonely airport conveyor belt. All of the bags are mine and I’m forced to watch them circulate, then remove them, and then empty their contents.
The positive in all of this is that I’m not doing it alone. As I mentioned earlier, I’m in treatment and have been for 6 weeks. Reaching out for help is the single best and bravest decision I have ever made.
Depression is like being in an anaconda-esque bind and releasing yourself from it is a process — A process I’m still trying to understand. I mean shit, even some of the sentences you’re reading now were written during deep depression and mania (can you guess which ones? Answer: rhetorical). Look, I’m not writing this to you from a place of recovery (far from it!), I’m writing as I go. As I said at the start, I do not claim to be an expert on this but I do know that, when it comes to depression, you should not suffer in silence. Talk to someone, anyone. I know there are many reasons not to — it hurts, it’s hard, it’s embarrassing, it’s not the right time. Well, it will never be the right time to talk about depression, but it will always be the right decision to talk about it.