Depression is insidious. It stalks you. Wherever you might venture, there it is, skulking in the shadows of your mind. And it is inconsistent. That’s one of the hardest elements of the condition to effectively communicate.
On any given day you might be fine. I use “fine” only loosely, because even when not in the pits of a depressive malaise, you never really feel “fine”, just “not as unwell”. But on some days I might be “fine” in as much as I can go out, I can socialise, I can be with friends, I can work. But a switch can be flipped at any moment and suddenly I find myself shutting down, unable to effectively cope with people, sounds, lights. That can look odd to an outsider- it is understandable that they might argue “but you were ok yesterday, you came out with us” but that “ok” is usually me putting on a front because I want to be with you. I want to spend time with friends, but the wrong noise, the wrong venue and I have to call it a night and go home to what I see as my sanctuary.
One day to the next, one hour to the next can be vastly different. And social events, being out and busy will take its toll. I’m at a stage where I need a couple of days recuperation for every day I am out. If it is a particularly busy couple of days I will find myself tumbling down the rabbit hole of despair and having to shut myself off from the outside world. Even simple communication can be a challenge. Phone conversations are virtually a no go, and even text communication very rapidly wears me down.
People often say “if you want to talk, I’m here” and as much as that is appreciated, I don’t know what to talk about. Rarely is there a specific thing that sets me off. Though stress can factor in, much of the time it just happens. There is not always a trigger.
And it taunts you. It doesn’t just tell you that you are worthless, unloved, untalented, it cherry picks all of those moments stored in your memory where you did or said something rotten. Or the majority of the time where you perceived yourself to have said or done something rotten. Laying awake at night, the cinema projection in your mind splashing all of your perceived mistakes in iMax whilst a small black and white television fuzzily tries sparking in to life to portray any apparent successes. The latter overwhelmed by the former. The latter drowned out by a sea of darkness, of blackness enveloping every spark of positivity.
Depression is still seen by many as little more than a case of the sads, of maybe feeling sorry for oneself. At times you’ll even have former depressives chiming in with “if I got through it, you can” but not in the positive, supportive way that some do, but in the “you’re clearly not trying hard enough” way that so many seem to think is all that’s required. If you just WANT to be better, you will be better.
Exercise can help, but when all you can physically muster is the strength to make a cup of tea that will simply lie dormant and cold on your bedside table, the idea of going for a run, a swim or even just a walk around the block can seem like ordering a person with no limbs to climb Everest with their teeth.
And even talking about it, when you feel able to do so, can feel like complaining. No one likes to see their time lines or newsfeeds dripping with misery and complaint and it feels like that’s what you’re doing. I’ve posted comments on my health before, and had people unfriend me because I was moaning too much, or because they have depression too and you don’t see them moaning. But I’m not posting necessarily to engage, or to discuss, but to simply put in to words what I’m experiencing, and maybe – just maybe – show people that they aren’t alone. For the times people have cut me out of their life because they’re sick of my ramblings, there are others that contact me to say how my own openness is helpful to them. And in truth, if people are themselves made more comfortable and included by my public discussions, then losing some others from a social network is a small price to pay.
Ultimately depression is cruel. It is vindictive. Depression is your school yard bully transferred from the real world into your own mind. Never giving up, and never dropping the taunts and abuse. And all of our bullies are different, but they have one thing in common – they are cruel.