Man. My rage has just peaked. As if I wasn’t cheesed off enough. So I’m sat in University in the middle of a ‘depression’ lecture. I dislike the tutor with vehement passion. Her face is frozen from the nose up but she occasionally raises both eyebrows to emphasise points, causing me to bristle. I sit back in my chair and fiddle with my fringe.
‘Now,’ she chirrups. ‘I want to you all to work in your small groups..’ (because £10k for a Masters Degree isn’t enough to have quality lecturer-based tuition…) ‘and think about what depression MEANS. What do we KNOW about depression?’ I have my nihilistic existentialist face on, I can feel it.
I scan around the room and see flames burning in the eyes of all those who have been there and are not best pleased sitting in a Beginners’ Class for Dummies session. I breathe. Because breathing’s important. Be OPEN Jones, you might learn something. So we start to take notes. I like my small group. I fiddle with my fringe.
My mind drifts back to my last major depressive episode. I was 27 and very quickly becoming a sacrificial offering for The 27 Club. For an entire year I don’t think my heart beat once. I was consumed by a vast cloud of disconnected numbness and an overriding sensation that my every organ was riddled with cancer. ‘CHEER UP!’ they said, ‘THINK POSITIVE!’ and oh, how I wanted to gauge their simplistic vacuous eyes out.
Every night I would walk alone staring up at the moon and begging for this to wash away. Maybe tonight? Maybe tomorrow will be different? But no. The gloomy sunrise would penetrate my eyes once more and remind me that I was living on the edge. That distraction and fun could provide some temporary relief but ultimately beneath it all, there I was. Broken.
I was signed off work for a long time, I remember that much. I remember there was a lot of sleeping under radiators and spending days lying on the kitchen floor with accompanying imagery of stretching deserts and circling birds of prey, wishing they would just make their fucking move and peck my soul to pieces. Then I’d be free and out of this eternal nothingness agony.
I bored myself. I hated myself. My stupid ugly face, my nasty thoughts, my heavy hollow feelings. I hated them all. Dirty. That’s how I felt. Black. Tarnished. Poisoned. Evil. I felt I was possessed with some kind of demonic energy which wouldn’t let go of my soul. It didn’t want me happy. Happy? What the fuck was that anyway? Some conceptual ideal I’d certainly never attain.
My body ached, my muscles were weak. I had taken to living in my first love’s baggy ripped jumper with its tatty sleeves unravelling all over the place. I was the embodiment of the jumper. There was a sense of separateness, of not belonging, of not being understood by anyone. The best, well-meaning friends couldn’t help me. Books couldn’t help me. I couldn’t help me. The words of wisdom were all heard at a cognitive level, but at feeling level I was fucked.
Time. Time. I was waiting. What for? I’d fallen into the never-ending gap in between the second’s hand. This was too familiar. I remember crying, head in hands to my GP aged 21, trying to explain this feeling to him. He’d palmed me off with antidepressants and some kindly offered words: you just have to take each minute at a time. Couldn’t he hear the screaming inside of me? The desperation? The inferno which threatened to burn me to the ground? Couldn’t he sense the danger?
I cried to my Nana- the wise old Oracle: Steph, you just have to do SOMETHING. But why?? For what reason, Nana? It was too late, I’d over-thought love and existence entirely. You’re born, you die. Emotions come and go. The Tao seemed futile. It was all the same. Why live? Why die? Why do anything? Because you have to do SOMETHING.
No, this was not for me.
Time to leave. Plans were made for check-out. I thought about the people I’d disappoint but felt sure that anyone who really cared wouldn’t want me to suffer like this. I was so skinny and gaunt and grey. Everything was just going through the motions. I was trapped in a walking, talking body yet completely locked away.
In no place.
I am alone.
I check on the knife drawer for the tenth time today. None of them look sharp enough. Plus, I have an aversion to pain. I walk to the bathroom and stare at the bath again. Drowning is supposed to be peaceful after you get over the struggle. God, I wish I had a gun.
And so I began to write. I write letters of tear-sodden tender apologetic explanatory goodbyes to those I love, and believe me, the realisation of end shows you who the important ones are. But I can’t FEEL the love. I can’t FEEL anything, so my decision has been made.
Painkillers and vodka time.
The next bit is hazy. I really don’t know how it all came about. I’m not even sure if the person in question realises what they did that day. But at some point I am talking to my friend in Australia. He gets angry at me. Don’t you DARE Steph, I MEAN IT, don’t be so bloody SELFISH. That’s NOT FAIR, what about US? You COWARD. This is bang out of order. I will HATE YOU for this. I will never forgive you.
Shit. Reality. The change occurred.
I can’t say it lifted immediately, it took a good year of incremental weather, but somehow over time the clouds were interspersed with some sunshine, back to clouds, then to longer periods of sunshine. Although it’s been a long time since that period, from time to time it still gets cloudy.
And I don’t mean just sad- everyone gets sad- I mean sick.
When I’m tired or depleted I start to feel in danger but I do my best to give myself space and love and peace. Sometimes the pain still burns so deep that you call upon the vultures again, but it never lasts long. This too shall pass. I know enough people who are familiar with the indescribable angst to never feel truly alone. It’s almost like a rite of passage. An awakening.
I no longer feel empty. I feel full, be that of magical energy or consumed with intolerable anguish- but at least I am full. I am no longer resonating at the same frequency as the desolate void which bridges the gap between the worlds.
Pressing the edges.
So that’s what I KNOW about depression Mrs-I’ve-worked-in-mental-health-for-thirty-years. Good for you. I expect you’re fully qualified to look upon THOSE poor souls with IAPT quality condescending eyebrows.
But I’m in my small group.
And I look at Sam and sigh. And I look at Tania and Helen and sigh. And together we collectively knowingly sigh as I fiddle with my fringe.