When I was about twelve, I had my first battle with depression. I was severely bullied, I was quiet and it manifested in stress migraines practically daily. It all stopped when I was moved to a different tutor group and found friends. When I was sixteen, I was overwhelmed. I was a young carer, I was depressed, I was stressed, I worked and I am a perfectionist. A perfectionist who hated maths. My nervous breakdown was triggered (embarrassingly enough) by not being able to answer a single question on my maths exam. Talk about the straw that broke the camel’s back. It showed me that some things needed to change and I forced myself to talk to people. And I had to force myself to admit that I needed help, that I needed to handover some of my responsibilities and that I needed to accept that I couldn’t control the world no matter how much I tried. And believe me, I tried.
And I got better. Slowly, each day at a time. It was strange, I think depression had been such a big part of my formative years that I didn’t even know I had it. It was just life. So, going to sixth form, having friends, enjoying every day, it was strange. It was like only being able to see the world through a letterbox and then being allowed to open the door and step outside. I got used to the light, the sounds, the smells. How bright everything can be. And I’ve always been terrified of falling back.
Today, I realised that I am sleeping a lot more than I used to. I am always tired, and I hope more than anything this is just my iron levels being low. Because I am also not eating. I found myself earlier realising I was hungry when the noises my stomach were making became audible. I haven’t eaten anything more than a breakfast bar and two coffees today… its nearly five o’clock. When my depression was bad last time, I couldn’t eat. Actually, it was less about not wanting to eat and more about not realising I was hungry, or that time was passing. I just sort of existed, rushing between classes and homework and carers and work. It was less a life and more a to-do list. My daily to-do list. During my A-Levels, I wrote out physical to-do lists, and added ‘dinner’ daily, because otherwise I forget. Today, I forgot. And it hurts. And I caught myself thinking – well, at least you’re still feeling. And that scared me.
You are never cured of depression, you can never beat it. It’s always there, a darkness lurking at the back of your mind. It’s the room in your brain you have firmly shut, filled with the negative thoughts and emotions and the spiralling out of control. But, the door isn’t impenetrable. It’s like any other door. Yes, it’s bolted, locked, chained….but an object is only as strong as its weakest point. A door has gaps, and the dark smokey encompassing thoughts can reach out like vines, tendrils trying to draw you back. It’s devil’s snare. It wants you in its clutches. It feeds off it, like a dementor. There will always been the door at the back of your mind, corrupting the good thoughts, and poisoning the positive.
It’s strange, because I always have good times and bad times. Some days are so dark I can barely function and I have to call my mum in floods of tears because I am just so afraid. But, most of the time, I am very happy. During the happy times, I am sociable, I draw, I write, I dance, I read books and am happy to try something new. I am incredibly productive. And right now. Today. there is a part of my brain whispering oh, is it time to go back again? Please don’t make me. It feels like I cycle between the two. Between good times and bad times. Between bright sunshine and the shadows. A never ending cycle with several years between. I haven’t drawn in days, and I don’t want to. My fingers aren’t itching for my pencils, and I haven’t been searching Pinterest for inspiration like usual. I feel a gaping emptiness, like there is a crater in my soul and I am stood at the bottom wondering how to get out. Someone please throw me a rope. I don’t like it down here.
Of course, there is also the question of whether these dark thoughts have a tighter grip than usual because I am answering a question on depression narratives in my coursework. Is this a sympathetic reaction to the pain I am reading? I have been writing this and registering the metaphors I use because that is what I am doing in my work. Perhaps I should change my question now, to head off this retreat back into my own brain. Anxiety I know how to deal with, but I don’t want to deal with depression alone.
I wrote this three days ago. Writing helps me to understand what is going on in my brain, even if I just go in circles. It has been a tough week, but I feel less like the world is disintegrating around my ears and more like I can do things when I set my mind to it. I have chosen my research for my essay, so I don’t have to delve deeper into other people’s psyche and my essay is actually fascinating.
The biggest thing with my depression is fear – fear of going back. I don’t think I am depressed at the moment. I think it is just my anxiety flaring up (which is way more common) and so I am just terrified that I will fall back into old habits and old routines. I even did some drawing yesterday at the dance competition, so clearly it isn’t all grey overbearing smog. The little things keep my head above water.
While I still find joy in the little things, I am ok.