Nine years ago I had a crash. A really big crash. My life spun out of control and hit a tree. A forest. But there was no accident site, no visible damage and no efficient emergency workers to take control and make things better.
There was just me; crying in a corner, unable to get out of bed, too tired to wash my hair for days on end, locked in a place of darkness that felt like one of those really bad nightmares where all your childhood fears leap out to confront you – expect for me the waking up and escaping was a slow, slow process.
I suffer with depression and anxiety. Gut-wrenching, debilitating anxiety, which makes breathing too hard and the unlit corners of my mind far too terrifying a place to be. Depression which ground my life to a complete halt and removed all sense of hope or future from my mind.
I’d heard about depression, I was a savvy journalist, accustomed to sad stories and bad news. So when my depression hit, like a freight train careering out of control on a black night, I knew what to do.
Therapy, I decided, was what I needed. I knew I was pretty sick – for the first time in my life I was unable to write; to work – so I tenaciously set aside a good month to kick this Black Dog from my life. I set the deadline in my head and got stuck into the task.
Who knew? Who knew that nine years later I would still be in therapy? That only now am I able to make some sense of my illness, that although I can see the enormous progress I have made, and enjoy days of sunlight and peace, there are still many days when getting out of bed is still just too hard and times when I wonder why bother living at all.
Suffering depression is like wearing a heavy woolen coat everyday. It’s cumbersome and uncomfortable, and I want to throw it off, but the effort is often too great.
The coat is sodden with putrid, stagnant water, which leaves me shivering and weighed down; gauche, and awkward in every situation.
Work is sometimes impossible; trying to concentrate on my children’s sweet faces is difficult – I am interested, I want to be present, but the stench of the coat is distracting -and I get frustrated by the constant cold and the cloying world inside it.
Some days I fight to get close to loved ones, but the coat muffles my words and dampens my emotions. It’s exhausting, every movement is an effort and I fight for each clear thought.
And then there is the pain; the intensity of which I still find hard to believe can exist within just one person. Pain that sends me fleeing for escape; for sleep and wishing for a more permanent end to its hold on me.
Yet depression shows no wound, no visible damage. One day I could apparently do/be everything, the next I’m flummoxed by the intricacies of making school lunches; crying at the kitchen bench and overwhelmed by Glad Wrap.
Depression has forced me to rip down my life, examine all the elements which formed it, and then re-build it with greater strength and clarity.
I would never have asked for it, would never have wanted it, but in enduring this devastating illness I hope I am becoming a better, stronger, more empathetic person.
There are resources and information about depression here