I’m currently 2 weeks into a strong depressive episode. It sucks. It sucks in a way that’s hard to fully explain in polite, concise conversation. So I thought I’d try and get as much of it as possible down here. It’s unsurprisingly going to be a bit of a downer, you’ve been warned.
Depression removes many parts of myself that enable me to function in the world. Every action feels both impossible and pointless at the same time.
Any of my usual pleasures that can provide comfort suddenly don’t feel any good. Music is shit, food is bland, people are hard work (more on this later). Sometimes nice things can even make you feel worse, staring at a beautiful plate of your favourite food and just feeling nothing feels like a sad waste.
The instant gratification part of me that struggles to get out of bed on a cold winter Monday morning goes into overdrive, and suddenly small chores feels more difficult than ever. Self care like brushing teeth, having a tidy house, exercise, all of which I know is important on any day, but especially when depressed, just stops. When I was younger and newer to this depression game, I wouldn’t notice my self care drop, but now I can recognise it. However even then I can only muster the motivation to fight through some of it, and you have to learn to navigate the fine line of achievable positive actions and pushing yourself into a pit of despair as you knowingly fail to achieve basic life tasks.
Sleep is just a disaster zone. In the last few days I’ve had a 13 and a 15 hour sleep. Waking up at 5pm gets in the way of trying to get yourself back into normal mental health.
My mental health hurts. It hurts in a way that’s quite hard to explain. My best description is imagine hearing the news of the death of a close one, the feeling of shock and despair rushing through your body, but about nothing more specific than just, well, everything. Repeatedly.
It hurts my brain as too many thoughts and emotions crashing into each other, but it also hurts physically. At peak I will be curled up in bed; face, arms, legs, hands, toes and stomach taking it in turns to clench as if I know pain is about to hit them.
Then there’s the dark thoughts. By this point, I just want to some quick release, except there is none (apart from temazepam, which must be severely rationed). I’ve done this long enough to know that I just need to wait, and keep working at it, but that doesn’t stop my monkey brain from wanting to do anything to escape this pain. It’s not very clever at this point, so desires from the silly like shaving my head to the grim like self harm flash through the mind. I’ve thankfully never succumbed to any of these apart from the occasional quick punch of something, but that doesn’t stop the harm of having those thoughts in your head.
So that’s all pretty intense, and therefore really hard to describe, both because it’s quite complex and also who wants to tell people about all of this? Anyone with some self awareness knows that this is as nice to describe to someone as telling someone your dreams is interesting.
That instinct is so strong that often I am unable to do anything else than act normal around people. A close friend can walk into a room when I am in the middle of all of the pain I describe above and I will immediately and unwillingly start behaving more normally than I was seconds before.
Am I really better when around people? In some ways yes, one of the best ways to fight depression is simply to behave like I’m not depressed, helping to break the cycle I’m in. But in other ways no, as it makes the whole experience incredibly lonely. No matter how good the intentions or actions of those around you, they don’t feel like they’re in there with you. There’s no camaraderie in depression.
Also, let’s not deny that depressed people are a pain in the arse to be around. They’re sad, lazy and irritable. You know it, I know it, it helps nothing but it’s true.
So basically, dealing with other people is at best tiring and at worst traumatic.
Life carries on
Of course, whilst all of this is going on, the world and your responsibilities don’t stop and wait. Hopefully you have jobs and relationships that are able to give you some time, but there are of course limitations to that. Some pressing things have to be struggled through, and others you just have to give up on.
I’ve had this on and off for about 14 years now, and it’s limited what I’ve been able to achieve. Just during my final year of GCSEs, while I was having my first big episode, I had 53% attendance at school. Since then I’ve probably lost well over a year of my professional and personal life to curling up in a ball at home, and that’s on top of generally trying to keep a 3 or 4 day working week and not pursuing many things that would risk my mental health.
It is what it is
So there’s no denying that this is all a bit shit. But this is a Medium article, so here’s my weak attempt at being a bit upbeat, without being dishonest. I hate having depression, but it is what it is. I am experienced enough to be able to admit it, without failing to acknowledge and appreciate that in most other areas of my life I’m incredibly lucky. I do my best despite it, and I’m mildly proud to say that most professionals that I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to help me have commented at how well I fight it.
I’m sorry if this made you feel a bit weird. I expect some people will want to help, that’s natural. If so, I appreciate the thought, but I deliberately avoided that subject as really it’s a whole different, equally difficult thing, but for now I’ll request to please not offer me any advice. I’ve got this.