Lately I’ve been experiencing the slow dark descent into depression. I hate that word, all it makes me think of is the 1920s.
I’m at a stage now where I can explain what it feels like. I want to do this as an attempt at helping those who’ve never experienced it to understand. And for those who face it regularly to know they’re not alone. And if they struggle to explain how they feel to others, maybe they’ll direct them here.
Those who don’t understand might say we have a case of the melancholy. Or the blues. Or we’re just a bit sad. But it’s more than that. I myself am guilty of thinking of others, ‘ah come on, you can snap out of it’. Even when I’ve felt it before. But when I feel it again myself I know it’s not as simple as that. Not even close.
I’ll tell you how it is, but first a bit of background. I was always prone to depression but it was mild. It wouldn’t last long or cause enough problems to warrant medication, so you could say I handled it on my own. It was when the anxiety reared its ugly head that things became unmanageable.
That was six years ago. Around the 5-year mark, I reduced my dose with doctor’s guidance and weaned myself off them. The withdrawals were worse than the starting side effects, I can tell you. After a couple of months, I felt the descent. It got so bad I would go out in my car, park somewhere and just cru until I had no tears left. On one occasion I actually reached out to a local charitable organisation, but there was no one available to help me. It’s a good thing I wasn’t suicidal…
Another couple of months passed, and I was struggling to lose weight. When I spoke to my doctor, he said the depression had slowed my metabolism to a crawl. So he put me back on the medication, and the weight started to come off.
Fast forward about 8 months, and it was time to reduce the dose again. This time I was on the half dose for 4 months. Right now is about two months from my last tablet.
And here’s what it’s like…
You wake up in the morning feeling like no sleep has been had at all. You lie and look at the ceiling, wishing you could just stay there in the darkness because for now it feels safe.
When you finally get out of bed, you start at yourself in the mirror, questioning the reality of your existence. Am I awake? Am I still sleeping? Do I really look like that?
You get dressed, but it takes a lot longer than usual because your legs hurt. Your arms hurt. Your head hurts. Your legs feel heavy, like they need to move but they don’t want to. Breakfast isn’t the usual, because all of your regular food is unappealing. You take the bare minimum so as to not feel sick.
The journey to work seems much longer. You try not to look around so much because that field over there could look a bit too attractive
The stairs to your office seem bigger, your legs screaming to go somewhere else because this place isn’t going to help. They say routine is good, but this place really isn’t going to help today.
Sitting at a desk with limited opportunities to change position aggravates your restless legs. They feel pain because they are desperate to move. The ringing phone generates fear that someone will notice in your voice that something’s wrong. Fear that they’ll think you’re rude or you don’t care but really you do, because you struggle to speak words that other humans can under because you struggle to speak. Words come out one at a time, and even then you’re not sure they came out at all.
Everything goes so slow; time, the speed you do your job, the movements you make. Even your words come out slowly, so slow that it takes all the breath you have and you need to inhale so deeply it’s like you’ve broken the surface of the sea.
People you love become people you can barely tolerate. It’s not their fault, but it’s not your fault either, a fact that’s easy to forget. Things you felt joy from doing, only cause pain. It stirs up feelings inside that you can’t understand because your brain won’t make the connection between the activity associated positive emotion. Your brain forgets. Your heart aches.
Depression is a block. It’s a preventer. It’s a black hole of despair that no one else can see, no one else can feel. Every person who knows what I’m talking about has their own version of The Hole. Some contain apathy, some anger and rage. Some drown in their tears, like me. And some are able to carry on without showing any sign that they’re in the hole at all.
Mine won’t let me out until I have something to focus on. Yesterday it was watching the highlights of the MotoGP race in Brno. Doing that again today might not have the same effect as yesterday, I have to find something else to focus on. Writing this blog post has helped. But what will help tomorrow? I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll wake myself up tonight several times to actively worry about it.