This post is not one of my normal lighthearted efforts. Instead, it’s intended as a form of release for myself, and an explanation for others, of how my head battles within itself every day with the effects of depression.
I’ve known I was in trouble for quite a while. Anxiety has crept in where it wasn’t wanted. Tears have been closer to the surface. The anti-depressants, which I’ve been on constantly for thirteen years, didn’t seem to be having quite the same calming effect as they had in the past. My ‘unhappy’ emotions (anger, frustration, unhappiness, sadness, tiredness) have been at the forefront – not just for weeks, or perhaps even months. Maybe this has been creeping up on me for a year or two. Depression is an insidious foe, always lurking in my mind, always waiting to pounce. Always ready to remind me (in my own voice) that I’m not good enough, that people don’t really like me, that I can’t do what I think I can. Prepared, night and day, to tell me of the dangers lurking outside, what could befall my family if they go out there, forcing me to worry constantly, consider every ‘what if’ scenario, forcing me into a state of heightened agitation in which I toss every single thought endlessly around in my head, examining every thought from ever side, looking for where it will go wrong, because surely it will go wrong, because the world is never right.
Well-meaning people, when I attempt to tell them things aren’t quite ‘right’ will issue the following advice. “Don’t worry”, or my personal favorite “But you cope okay.”
I can point out a few facts at this point. Telling someone not to worry, is the equivalent of telling Niagara Falls not to fall. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, those two small worlds are the single most useless words on the planet. They don’t fix anything. They certainly don’t instantly stop the ‘black dog’ from eating away at my psyche, making me question my self-worth or ability to function in the world. No, all they do is make me feel worse. Because then I begin to question why I can’t cope, when so many others do. Why can’t I stop worrying endlessly about stupid things, which I know aren’t worth worrying about, and yet, no matter what I do, no matter how much I self-analyse – I can’t stop from worrying. Why can’t I ‘Not Worry’?
Because I have depression. It’s a simple, unarguable fact. I am mentally ill, and like a cancer, it’s eating away at me, constantly. I can no more tell my illness to go away, than a person with Parkinson’s Disease can. I can no more flush my problems away, than a person with cancer can. I have depression. I’ve suffered from it for all of my adult life. I’ve been treated for it for almost half my adult life.
I have depression.
And my personal favorite. “But you cope okay”.
Welcome to the wonderful world of illusion. Because that’s what this is. The one person in the world who knows me (probably better than I know myself) is my husband. He can probably explain this better than I can. I have, for want of a better term, ‘an outside persona’ and ‘an inside persona’. Steve sees what the rest of the world is hidden from – the true, guts and blood effects of depression on a depressed person. The tears, the self-analysis, the stress and the worry.
And then I go outside into the world. I know how I’m supposed to ‘function’ in the real world. And I can act it out. Quite well. I can appear happy and carefree and as if I don’t give a fat red freckle. I can giggle and smile and laugh. I can socialize with the best of them (although I struggle at events where I don’t know people well).
Here’s the real deal:
I have to talk myself into going. It starts days, sometimes weeks beforehand. I’d much rather stay home, where it’s safe and I don’t have to put on the mask of being ‘normal’. Bad things won’t happen to me at home. Being ‘social’ takes energy, and it’s something I can’t do for long periods of time. I like going home, just as soon as it’s polite to do so. It’s exhausting to appear socially adequate.
Talking to people is hard work. I don’t do small talk naturally, or well. I don’t think people like me, or are interested in what I’m saying. While I’m conducting a conversation with someone, in the background, my mind is asking me ‘are they really interested?’, ‘do they actually care’, ‘would they rather be somewhere else’, ‘come on, they aren’t really your friend, they’re just putting up with you’, ‘why would anyone want to spend time with you’.
When I get home, the analysis will continue, sometimes for days. I rethink everything I did, everything I said, berating myself for the conversation, where I went wrong, what I should have said. The ‘black dog’ will tell me what a fool I was for thinking I could be normal, because we both clearly know I’m not.
But to the outside world, I can make it appear that there’s nothing wrong.
Last year I directed a play for the local theatre group. They were under the impression that I had everything under control, believed that I was so confident in what I was doing, that everything cruised along brilliantly.
The truth – I was a nervous wreck. Second-guessing myself constantly. Worrying that I was going to fall on my face and look like a fool. Worried that I would let people down, that the play would be no good. I had a panic attack when I heard a reviewer was going to attend one performance. I worried myself sick. I didn’t sleep.
It was no fun.
But ask those people – the actors, the background people – and they would probably think I handled myself with confidence, I had everything under control… I was normal.
None of its true.
My ‘friends’ laugh, because I have a ‘three friend’ rule. It’s a constant giggle for everyone, because yes, I do have a ‘three friend’ rule and they all chuckle because ‘everyone knows I have heaps of friends’.
I’m never sure about that. Sure, I know a lot of people. I have acquaintances, some people I see a lot. But, as the ‘black dog’ likes to remind me. ‘They might only be saying that.’
Are they really my friends? Or are they just humoring me? I’m not interesting enough for anyone to really want to be friends with. I’m not good socially, so why would they want to spend time with me? They just don’t want to hurt my feelings. I think we’re friends, but they think we’re just acquaintances.
The analysis between the various factions inside my head go on and on, in a never-ending whirlwind of self-recrimination.
And now, I’ve reached this point. My GP is changing my anti-depressants, because among other things, I’m dealing with my family, my husband, a work-at-home job, the daily stuff everyone gets to deal with, plus my 92 year old mother, who is the bane of my life and I’m her ‘favorite’.
Let me tell you – being the favorite child sucks. Being the favorite of a manipulative, clever mother really sucks. For years, she’s manipulated me, relied on me, and driven me out of my mind. And it’s only getting worse. I can’t sneeze, without her wanting all the details of it. I can’t have a life of my own, because my mother is always in it. It’s not uncommon to have her telephone ever day, sometimes three times a day. And it’s not for anything important – she’s lonely. She wants someone to talk to. And she doesn’t like anyone else on the planet as much as she likes me.
Which isn’t my fault.
So don’t answer the phone, I hear you advise.
Yep. You’d think that would work, wouldn’t you? Except it doesn’t. If I don’t answer, she will ring back, every ten minutes precisely. (I know, because when I’m feeling particularly temperamental, I don’t answer the phone.)
The advent of mobile phones has not helped my cause. Because if I don’t answer the home phone for long enough, she resorts to ringing me on my mobile.
If I don’t answer the phone, she starts ringing people she knows, whom I know, to see if they know where I am.
Because I’m not allowed to have a life of my own.
(Actually, we’re in a period of grace right at the moment, because I lost my cool with her (which I’ve beaten myself up about for the last four nights, causing insomnia) and she’s sulking. I threatened to never take her shopping again. She behaving herself and hasn’t rung for the past few days. But again, it gets turned around on me by the master manipulator. It’s my fault, because I can’t take a joke, and she didn’t mean what she said which was nasty. It won’t last long, I can assure you. And I’m speaking from experience)
And being with her, talking to her is the most depressing thing of all – because she’s never happy. Exactly what a person with my personality needs. Nobody is nice, everyone is doing something wrong, nobody treats her the way she wants to be treated. Week in, week out, month in, month out, I’m dealing with this and it doesn’t help.
And so, I knew I was in trouble. On anti-depressants, sad, unhappy, uncertain, teary and resentful of the world in general.
I knew I was in real trouble, when I decided that Robin Williams might have the right idea. I’ve considered ways I could end it all. I’m too chicken to shoot myself. I doubt I could manage to cut myself. But I think I could manage it with pills.
Will I do it? I hope not.
Could I do it? Absolutely.
The world is not a great place for me to be in right now. I need help and have reached out for it. I hope it’s enough.
I love my nuclear family. My husband, I adore. My kids – I have to wonder, if they could cope without me. With autism and ADHD, they don’t ‘fit the mould’. I know they need me, and that will be the one, single most important thing which keeps me fighting in a world I don’t fit into. They need me and right now, I need them, more than they will ever know.
Steve asked me to tell him how I’m feeling a few days ago, because I internalize pretty much everything going on in my life, until it leaks out when it becomes too much.
I told him, ‘I feel like I don’t fit into my skin’.
When he said he didn’t understand, I tried to explain. It’s like wearing clothes, which aren’t too comfortable. It’s like having jeans, which dig in at your waist, and are too short, making you self-conscious about wearing odd socks. It’s like wearing a jumper which is scratchy, because it’s woolen, and you’re allergic to wool. It’s like having a shirt on, with a tag which is scratching your neck. And the sleeves are too tight. And you’re wearing a hat, which is making your head sweat. And your socks have got holes in the toes, and your toes keep poking through and the socks cut into your skin.
Being inside me right now, is like having all of those things happening, all at once, all the time, every single minute, of every single hour, of every single day.
I’m hoping the changeover to new medication will take all this away. I’m hoping I can find myself again, because I’ve gotten lost, somewhere along the way.
I’m hoping I can find a way to love myself.
I won’t be advertising this post, because a) I needed to vent and I figured this was a good way to do it, and b) because I’m not trying to gain attention.
Although, my doctor said it was okay to feel sorry for myself, the ‘black dog’ is of a different opinion. I’m weak and not strong enough and a failure, because I’m not coping, as far as the ‘black dog’ is concerned I deserve to be miserable. I deserve to think I’d be better off dead. I deserve everything the ‘black dog’ heaps upon me.
I want to prove him wrong.