Today comes a rambling but important post. Read it in its entirety. Normal service resumes shortly.
For the last six months I’ve been suffering from some pretty steep and horrible depression and, after reading the post by my friend David R. Agon, I think the time is right to discuss it.
For me, depression has been a black cloud that has steadily enveloped me. It’s scared me and brought me to my lowest ebb. Unlike David, I know where it all really began and I know that it’s brought out a side of me I’ve probably tried my best to ignore for the best part of fifteen years or so. Better out than in, right?
The circumstances around my depression are, in essence, inconsequential. There’s no point in going into intrinsic detail; that’ll both bring up painful memories and thought processes, plus it might appear embarrassing to individuals involved. But to briefly recap: In 2015 I suffered two personal tragedies and I feel guilty for blaming my depression on them because, ultimately, who doesn’t suffer from losing relatives or people they’ve known all their lives; why indeed should it tip me over the edge? Suffice to say, 2015 is a year with relatively few good memories. And those I do have are soured by what happened. But the two large events of 2015 that quite profoundly upset me weren’t the tipping point; rather, they destabilised my personality enough to make the third event finally tip me over.
In 2016, at a time when I was in a more vulnerable state than I was likely either prepared to admit nor was aware of, this third event happened. Someone I was close to and trusted, to truncate a very sad and very upsetting story, let me down and things generally went horribly wrong. The hole they’ve left is pretty much akin to the losses I suffered in 2015. Looking back, I think the way this person chose to let me down, and the timing too… it was certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back. It still hurts because I was unprepared for it and I was emotionally battered as it was. Bad things happen in threes, right?
I don’t want to blame this person for “tipping me over the edge” – that’s unfair, really. It wasn’t entirely their fault; I think they were unaware (either wilfully or through ignorance) of what bad shape I was in and they did what they felt was the right course of action; I disagree. Sure they should’ve known better. I am not perfect – this experience highlights that quite acutely. How I feel about this person… it’s complicated because I don’t want to feel anything because it just makes me upset and opens up the wound as the initial sinews of healing begin. However, I lack the ability to disconnect that they do, and I suppose I envy them for that.
What I will say is that, in a way, they did me a favour, in a roundabout (and truthfully, unnecessarily painfully way but that’s neither here nor there any more) – they have brought up the flaws in my personality that I was probably aware of somewhere but was kicking into the long grass. When you’re in pain for what seems like days and weeks on end, with the only apparent solution some kind of decisive and scary act… I never realised for one how scary a place I’d find myself.
What I hate the most about depression is that is creeps into the very crevices of your life and waits for you to sleepwalk into it. It replaces your default state, and becomes all-consuming. It waits there, waiting for you to linger back into some old comfort zone where it ensnares the unwitting psyche. That’s what happens to me all the time: I can so easily fall back into a state where my mind inexorably drifts back to this bad territory, which can spoil my tenuous good moods. I try my best to, ultimately, distract myself from going down that path, but it’s brutally hard at the best of times.
Considering I’d no real experience with “mental health”, all this came at a time, very quickly, that became scary and frightening. Pride, I’ve found, is probably the biggest barrier to getting the help I need, and I’ve made the initial, hardest steps. Prejudice, too – depression is not what people take for granted as “just feeling crap today” – it’s a truly encapsulating beast I think a lot of people allow to carry on because “everyone feels crap from time to time”.
Depression has left what I’d describe as a chemical burn on me, and the wound, left untreated for a fair while, has festered enough that I’m no longer caring about prejudices and my own stupid pride. I just want help, because the places I’ve been with this are so awful and upsetting already I never want to go back. This isn’t an over-exaggeration, as depression can have similar effects to physical pain, and it lingers. People, I guess, put it aside as “just feeling crap today”.
The effects of depression on me have been quite varied and wild and scary. Certainly, this is an experience that will define 2016 for me, such as losses defined 2015 for me, and that’s disappointing but I have to be at one with that. I can’t really change it now.
However, on a positive note, I’m seeking help. I’ve decided to be open with one more person – myself, and I’m challenging the stigmas attached to mental health. My sense of pride and stoicism is no reason to stop me getting help and addressing concerns about my mental wellbeing that I feel I’ve neglected. If I can take one positive from this horrible experience I have had, it’s that, with luck and effort (and probably tons of pain too) I will be more resilient to the sort of mental and emotional triggers that sent me on this dark path this year.
The more I talk about this, and with the right people, the better it gets. I’m really grateful for the friends – the real friends – who have been sympathetic and actually seem to care, even though at times I feel I’ve been a nightmare, when I’m at the lowest point, mood-wise and they have to endure me at that time. I can get really foul then. I feel I’m in a place – aware of what’s happened but reflective, and both anxious and enthusiastic about beginning the long-term healing process – where I can talk about it more publicly.
Do I have any advice for people who feel trapped by depression, who feel scared to admit they are in that trap and that it’ll “just go away”? It won’t, trust me. Don’t be scared of depression, or the work you may need to do, the soul-searching and introspection and self-evaluation that comes as part of that, but embrace that, as without doing that, you’ll never be able to own your depression, it’ll own you. And talk to friends and family. Talk to anyone. Don’t suffer in silence.
Update: I wrote a follow-up to this post. Please read it before you continue on.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons