Depression, in my own words.

You can’t explain to someone who hasn’t been there what it’s like to wake up, and the black curtain of storm clouds have suddenly dropped around you. How do you face the people around you, silently mouthing to each other “again?”. How can you explain that the objectively irrational impulses seem subjectively rational? That you understand that you’re not OK, but there’s nothing you can do to change it, while the world goes on making demands as if you still felt “normal”.

Your partner still wants you to be able to be there for her. The kids still want to get hugs from you – and they still need to eat. The boss still wants you to output widgets. The bank still wants you to make payments on the credit cards you used to survive when things went pear-shaped last time. The landlord still wants his rent. 

There are two ways things can go from here. Sometimes with a good night’s sleep (or two, or more), and some looking after yourself, things will be OK again, and you’ll pick up your stuff, and keep moving forwards.

Sometimes, things don’t get better. The wiring isn’t just on the fritz, it’s burnt out. If you ask for help, they’ll insist on chemical assistance. They don’t really understand quite why or how the chemicals work, but “they should help”. They might (will) have side effects. The cure might end up being worse than the disease. If that one doesn’t work, they have others. Or a cocktail of medications, each one to deal with the side effects of another. That way lies its own unique madness.

With the meds, they might prescribe talking. Lots of talking, in the vain hope that like the infinite monkeys with their infinite typewriters might turn out some Shakespeare, if you say enough words for long enough, everything might fall into place. Sometimes they’re good at listening, sometimes they’re not. With the right person, it helps.

Some sift your words carefully, picking out the little nuggets of truth that help you understand a little better who you are. Others nod, grunt, and write you another prescription. I’ve known both. And it’s expensive to sit in a little room and talk. When you’re in a situation where you need to sit in a little room and talk, there’s a good chance that you’re not in a position to be able to afford it.

Fortunately, for me, most days now resemble ordinary. I wake up. I stare at the face in the mirror worn with lines I don’t remember collecting, and stubble that feels like it belongs on someone older than me. I go to work, and try to fit into “normal” like a cheap suit that I bought in a hurry and can’t take back.

But occasionally, there are those days. Days where the mask is tissue-paper thin. Surviving the day is an act of will that leaves a lingering exhaustion that seeps into your bones. Like a drowning man in a flash flood, you wrap yourself around the hope that the waters will recede soon, and you’ll be safe and dry again.

At least until the next deluge.

 

Postscript, 21/09/08

  • Nazzard

    Thank you

  • >> The wiring isn’t just on the fritz, it’s burnt out. If you ask for help, they’ll insist on chemical assistance.<<

    Evidently it has not occurred to the “professionals” that the pace of modern life is more than some people — a substantial and rapidly rising number, judging from drug use statistics — can sustain physically and mentally. It also never occurs to them that a good first step would be lifting all the demands OFF of a depressed person, the way they tell someone with a broken ankle to avoid putting weight on that, and see if it helps. If that helps, then the problem is overload, and demands should be re-added one at a time until the safe limit is determined, so that excess demands don’t cause a total meltdown. Because there’s really only one end to a situation where more energy is going out than coming in.

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  • Kellyg

    I started to read the comments and stopped at Biff’s. I wish I didn’t read that. That hurt way too much.

  • sara k

    the void starts small, you never know it’s growing
    it dissolves you from bottom up but you continue never knowing that it’s growing
    that irksome little sentiment of owing
    is sewing
    tiny increments on who you used to be,
    who you used to see
    that swelling in the chest you used to get is ’bout to
    spring free
    lost to you now for the long haul just leave
    me alone in the corner
    why try to fight this disease, it does more than displease, it turns everything grey, makes you say
    “who cares about someday?”
    that poisonous phrase,
    who cares about sunday, monday,
    who cares what the future brings
    so why try
    why try to decide
    why try to breathe
    why try to take a step more than you need
    it’s so hard to try to grow, when you know
    that the nothing is eating you up inside
    you can’t hide
    from yourself so you hide from everything else
    the opposite of mental health
    when you want to find something to be afraid of you
    realize that it’s JUST you
    that there’s nothing more to do
    just hole up and chew
    on past ideas you THOUGHT were true
    and try to dream up something new
    to motivate you.

  • I came back to re-read this and find it so true to life, real, and very comforting in that I am not alone and what I am going through is not just what some might say “a cry for attention”. yea, r-i-g-h-t! I wish one person who has ever said that or even thought that about another someone who is truly suffering from depression – could just walk in that depressed person’s shoes for a day, having to experience what it’s like to be empty and shallow and the depth of sadness that person has to cover up with a mask of some kind just to make it through the day. “Fake it till you make it” just doesn’t work, in my twenty-something (thirty? don’t remember) years of dealing with depression and other mental disorders. Thank you for writing this, I’m glad I came back to it.

  • I understand friend, I understand.

  • alex

    I remember in High School they tried a few medications. The side effects were unbearable and initially I couldn’t function. Then, as the side effects calmed and I got used to it, my anger and hate that I had been to depressed to act upon destroyed the rest of my youth.

  • fhqwgads

    Had to go back and read biffs comment, because everyone was referencing it. It’s not that bad.

    Biff, the problem with your argument is that you are not taking in to account the historical evolution of human psychology. Of course people in the 12th century didn’t suffer from modern depression, they were much more deeply emotionally disturbed than modern people. If you want to see examples go check out Lloyd Demaus’ institute for psychohistory. Why do you think that people in the middle ages lived in utter poverty, under an aristocracy, and a mass murdering church? Hello, they were emotionally disturbed people.

    Depression is rationally inexcusable, you can’t justify it logically, it’s caused by the chemical makeup of the brain. But, frankly, depressives don’t give two shits about what you think of the subject, it’s hardly relevant to our internal misery. You’re ill-informed derision pales in comparison to the rest of our day to day suffering.

    It’s great that you haven’t experienced depression, so you don’t have a frame of reference to understand. But, your lack of empathy and antagonism suggests an emotional disorder all it’s own. People deride others as a projection of their feelings about themselves. Maybe you actually dislike yourself, or maybe yer just a psychopath.

  • Love this post. I have suffered from depression for many years and thankfully seem to be having a period of quiet right now. I feel so isolated alot of time with this illness, and when you read something so very well written which makes you realise other people have had (or are having) the same experience, it really strikes a chord. You forget theres a mask you have to wear when you can’t cope. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thank you for your description. It’s dead on.
    I’ve tried everything, and it don’t work. I only feel alive when either playing something improv (I’m a gigging musician), writing bawdy songs or when writing a really coherent blog entry…thank God for music.

    (For those who take the ‘suck it up’ position: sorry. I don’t do ‘self satisfied prig’ very well…neither do I speak ‘Massengillian”.
    However, if you were to be suddenly stricken with the shit we all deal with, I could help you make it through more difficult days/weeks/months/years than you can imagine, but I won’t. You can just ‘suck it up’, right?)

    My mother in law has had more ECT treatments than anyone can count. All it did for her is turn her brain into squirrel-scat…in fact, we know when she’s feeling ‘normal’ when she complains about wanting to die. Not fun for her or anyone else.

    All I know is that depression sucks ass, and I do NOT choose it. It chose me, though–how lucky can one boy be? Why couldn’t I have been chosen by something easier to deal with, like heroin?
    At least horse has a hipster factor that makes money (if you play guitar, at least). Depression only breeds bitter masturbators that troll blogs…umm…waitaminnit…

    Seriously–thank you for the article.

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  • Brit

    I want to voice my apprecation for your blog. I just came across this and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so understood my entire life. Thank you for your honesty and courage.

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  • Charles

    Thank you.

  • Autism_is_a_puzzle

    I need effective words to describe to my husband when he sees me off in a daze, off in my own world and seeing that something isnt right instead of telling him “everything’s ok just go about your business”

  • Jo

    I can understand your comments about anti-depressant medications (especially if they didn’t help you), but I just have to say that for me Zoloft has worked wonders and I’m thankful every single day for that medication. Without it, I feel practically suicidal. WIth it, I am able to live a fairly normal life.

  • Hi Jo. I totally get that. I’m not entirely opposed to anti-depressants; they work really well for some people. I just wasn’t one of those people.

    Keep on living! 🙂

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  • Smart Janitor

    “Worn with lines I don’t remember collecting” is very good & very sad.

  • the truth

    Your description of depression is spot on, but anti-depressants have saved my life. So although I respect your choice not to take prescription medication, you are wrong that they are a problem of their own as long as they are prescribed and taken properly.

  • Thanks. However, five years is a long time. I now take a regular low-dose anti-depressant again (different to the previous two I’d taken).

    I’m still not quite sure why people read it as recommendation “against” anti-depressants, though.

    They helped me away from the precipice in 2006 – it’s just that by 2008, the side effects were worse than the symptoms.

    Thanks for commenting.

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  • Sandy Seton-Browne

    That ability to live in the moment and to let depression flow through and round you is hard to do.
    Thanks for your account.
    Sandy
    Vajrablue.com

  • nubwaxer

    i use an effective sleep aid and i am relieved every night to be going to sleep. i get up in the morning for a couple of hours and can’t wait to take a nap which i do morning and afternoon/evening. other than that it’s a dull round of internet surfing and tv with no joy from either.