I have been depressed for as long as I can remember. Well, maybe that is to say that I’ve had symptoms of depression for as long as I can remember. On paper, in my memories, and to everyone I know, I had a happy childhood. I woke up everyday, I had a happy, functioning home and I did well in school. At the same age that puberty kicked in, I guess I started getting depressed. Actually, I know I started getting depressed because it marks the end of certain friendships, certain interests and a way of life. Whilst all my friends got caught up in boys and the excitement of all the new possibilities of growing up, I felt as though I had no interest. As if I hadn’t found the right friends. Even now, as an adult, I have yet to feel like I’ve found the right friends and that’s because no one else is living my depression. Only I wake up everyday with this and so it feels as if there is only me in this one man circle of friends. It feels as if in my clubhouse there is only me, and everything depression brings with it.
I am not diagnosed. I am not receiving treatment. I am not recovering. Because I have fooled myself for so long that this isn’t what I am suffering from. And now, it seems impossible to deny it because healthy people do not feel this way. Yet, it is impossible to accept it because that means that everything I know about myself, all the feelings and problems I have had up until now, are not part of my character but part of my illness. It means I then have to accept that for the past 6 years of my life, this has not been my life. This has been the life of depression. It means losing 72 months.
The strangest part of my depression has been crying. I have cried less, if at all. I’ve only cried when I’ve felt it all coming to an end, as if I needed to bring myself to an end. I haven’t cried at sad movies, happy movies, tragedies, personal deaths, personal achievement, books, the news… I fail to cry because it’s as if I have lost the capacities that come with crying. What they don’t tell you about sadness is that you need happiness to really feel sadness. Sorrow without joy is just emptiness. And surprisingly, that’s way worse. A hollow mind forgets things. You lose whole days and weeks of your life. It’s like monotony without consciousness. You don’t even realise the routine of being a shell until the coarse edge of depression rubs against you and then it’s free-falling and it’s black suffocation. And you stabilise and the routine continues.
The biggest question I have ever asked myself is why it’s so difficult to seek help. It seems baffling, even to me, that I could feel so awful and not seek help. It’s like letting a tickle develop into pneumonia and still not go see a doctor. It’s not the fear of getting help; it’s the fear of nothing being wrong. To pin down the chaotic hollow of this lack of living to the over-coined and all encompassing ‘depression’ is almost akin to invalidating all of the pain. It seems like depression will minimise the deafening screams I’ve internalised for years. The word doesn’t seem fit to scale. The word feels like shrinking my personal hell to one of statistical generalisation. It seems more than depression even on it’s best days. It’s a never-ending battle.
It’s irrational and needless suffering and yet, so out of an individual’s control. There’s no inflictor, no tumour to blame and no oppressor’s whip and so the depressed are left without a finger to point, a face to blame. That’s not the hard part though. What is hard is having to recover alone. That’s the difficult part. Cancer has oncologists. Oppression has liberators, has unity. Depression has the depressed. It’s up to those free-falling to climb back out. And we’re weak. And tired. And frustrated. It’s a big job to ask of someone. It’s daunting. It’s terrifying. And most importantly, it seems futile. It seems senseless because it wont be the first time we’ve tried to get better. We’ve dragged ourselves out with friends, to family events, to try and see the good things, to make lists, to be productive, to exercise, to clean the house top to toe…we know what trying feels like. It’s like spending your whole life being 5 foot and told to try and reach something 6 feet high. And you know, no matter what you do or how you do things differently, you can’t reach it. It’s like going to the doctors and being told to try one more time, just like you have been doing, to reach it. It seems impossible to try again and succeed. Only the healthy optimist could possibly imagine giving it one last shot and, unfortunately, the depressed are neither healthy nor optimistic.
I have lived with depression for quite some time now and I still do not know how best to describe it, how best to conquer it, but what I imagine haunts every depressed mind is that this is without end. That it will come back, it will continue, it will repeat. I imagine that we all fear the day when medication fails, when therapy does not relieve and we fall under the heavy curtain once and for all. And this is the motive that must drive suicide. Not the pain and the hollowness, but the seemingly if reachable, surely impermanent end. Because we must all have days where we feel things are better only to make it to another day where it feels as though we have only sunk further down.
Depression in its entirety is tireless, inexhaustible. It’s a permanent cloud of relentlessness and it slows and tires and baffles those lost in it until they lose hope that there is a way out. Depression is only an inch thick all around you, so they say, but from the inside it looks to span the entirety of the universe. It is an illusion from both sides. To the well, it looks like a bad day, like someone refusing to see anything good in the world, like someone hell bent on remaining entrapped in their own bad thoughts and sadness, someone who is impossibly stubborn in believing life is not worth living or that life refuses to change. For the depressed, it is the witches in Macbeth – always lingering, always threatening to come back. For the depressed, depression isn’t an illness; it’s a formation of their personality, of who they are.
A cold does not become a part of your identity the way depression does. Depression is in every decision you make, whether it’s to force yourself into something to try and feel normal or to resign and succumb and give up with things. Depression is in the way your name sounds and the colour of the day. Depression, for the depressed, is an illusion that sells itself on the principle that it is not something you have but something you are. How many times would I choose the phrase ‘I am depressed’ over ‘I have depression’? Why is it only in recovery would I learn to attribute it as an illness? Is it because it’s an illness of the mind, and nothing is more central to us, more personal, more identifying than our minds. The mind is the only place, the singular thing in this world, in which we all differ. So, because depression is an illness of the mind, do we not then believe it is ourselves that is the issue then? Not our bodies, which we separate from our consciousness? Not the blood we don’t have control over, not the kidney we can’t communicate with, but our minds, which we grow ourselves from birth, which we surely narrate and dictate ourselves, that is the issue here. The very centre of everything we are, the place ego and personality, love and hate, happiness and sadness comes from – in there, is where we find depression and so perhaps depression’s most terrifying point of contact is that it’s an illness I have created for myself. An illness, I have thought myself into. An illness, I walked myself into the centre of, in complete consciousness. Is that not the fear -that everything depression has made me think is actually just my thought and their absorbent darkness is what has made me depressed? For the depressed, depression is as abstract and as permanent as the soul. Only in death could we possibly lose it, could it possibly perish.
But, of course, depression makes lies and liars out of everything.