Ok, so here’s a thing. Depression is the number one most diagnosed mental disorder in the UK with about a quarter of the population experiencing it in the course of a year. Think of four people you know. Odds are one of them is experiencing a weird kind of pain that you have no idea about, or maybe you do know and you have no idea how to help. Maybe you’re the one in four. I am. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Mark Twain said “write what you know”. So I will. Since December 2010 my mind has been playing nasty tricks on me, making me feel things harder, think things through badly.
Its not about being sad. Its not about crying. Its about guilt and self loathing. Its about the cycle of doom which is going round and round in your mind without you realizing it. Its about cutting yourself off and being alone in something because you don’t want to burden other people with your stupid brain issues. Its about assuming the roles of other people in your mind as you put words into their imaginary mouths. Its about going to parties and feeling invisible. Its about how five minutes feels like an eternity in a room full of people where you’ve somehow never felt more alone. Its about doing nothing. Not bothering to get out of bed. Not looking after yourself. Punishing yourself for not being better than you are. Not being as good as other people. But who told you that? You did.
Depression is a master of disguise. I’m often the loudest in the room. The most boisterous. I command. I attention seek. I laugh and I make jokes and I have a good time. But there’s always a part of me, even when I’m with my closest friends, that feels out of place. Like somehow I shouldn’t be there and it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t. That its probably what everyone wants anyway. Someone who suffers or has suffered depression on any level can instantly recognize it in others because its like looking in a damn mirror. Your own pain reflected back at you. We know man. We get it. But what about the people that don’t? The partners, the parents, the friends? The people that worry on the outside of the glass house but can’t find the door to get inside. The people who have an entire toolbox but not a single thing that they can use to help. Help. Get help? How can I help? Cheer up. Fuck, look at that I’m cured. They feel useless. You feel useless. We all scream for ice cream.
Let’s take a moment to think about the suffering of non-sufferers. Watching someone you know dig themselves a pit to curl up and hide in and standing on the lip looking down is terrifying. Its as though you’re both stumbling about in heavy fog, both trying to find a way to each other and a way out. Missing the tip of their fingers by a hair as you reach out to help in any way you can. Its watching them sink in quicksand and beginning to sink yourself. Its the empty void swallowing you both. Its arguing and fighting. For us its rage that we feel for ourselves projected on the ones closest to us because we don’t know what else to do. We push you further and further away bringing you closer to the edge of the pit. You are our punchbag. Our pillow fort. You are the only good thing we have and we don’t deserve you. We’re so sorry. We don’t know how to change our behavior yet. We know you don’t have the answers. We know its hard for you too. Separate us from the illness. We aren’t one in the same. Depression is selfish and nasty. Depression shuts you out and keeps us isolated. We need you more than we can ever articulate. Please don’t give up on us.
So, what do we do? What is the answer? Medication? It helps. For real, it helps. The feeling of anti-depressants creates is best described as “Everything still sucks but it doesn’t matter as much”. You don’t go numb. You don’t suddenly walk out the door with your own theme tune playing in your head to be greeted by the mental equivalent of a sunny day. There are down sides though. I find I can’t really get drunk on them. Ever. Bad idea. My body tends to eventually just reject all the booze in my system at once. Which is horrendous. There’s the fact that if you accidentally stop taking them, you will crash and have a meltdown. Frighten your mum, worry your friends and set yourself back a few months. There’s the fact that they become kind of a crutch. I know I need them. I know that if I don’t take them I won’t work properly. But I do have the answer.
Talk. Own your madness. Know that its ok to not be ok. That your friends want to know if you’re feeling low. That it won’t be easy, but that there’s a major difference between actually having no one and choosing not to see the people closest to you as your shield in the fight. Show your weakness and let that in itself show you your own strength. Know that depression is not emotional weakness. Know that your loved ones want to understand, and the only way they can is if you explain. Own how you feel. Focus on you now and make the decision to care enough about yourself to get better. Reach out in the dark and finally find the hand that’s always reaching back.