#Whatyoudontsee or hear or feel

Last week was Depression Awareness Week with #whatyoudontsee as the illustrative hashtag, popping up with heartening frequency across social media. Social media can feel a contradiction in terms though. I’ve been particularly active on FB over the past six months, over-sharing selected trials and tribulations, beautiful words and beautiful pictures, the antics of small animals and children, grief at the relentlessly regular passing of the gifted and famous. But what I haven’t shared is the fact that I have been ‘enjoying’ one of the longest bouts of depression I’ve ever experienced.

I’ve dithered about publishing this blogpost, though not about writing it. #whatyoudontsee needs expanding, because in my case it’s not just what you don’t see but it’s what I can’t see, hear or feel. For me it’s about not wanting to see, hear or feel, keeping the senses in a state of deprivation. To the question, “What triggered it?” I can answer that the possibilities are both obvious and possibly trite, and the webwaves are rife with notions of nurture vs nature, the nn combo, blah blah. But to be honest I don’t care what caused it, because caring suggests a strength of feeling and most days I could barely muster the inclination to decide what to have for breakfast.

I’m not convinced there is an actual cause, more a convention of obstacles and difficulties that crowds into me. The crowding effect pushes much of me out of the way. Large parts of me are squished under a clump of anthracite polystyrene, it’s not a heaviness, more a breathless emptiness – a vacuum that fills with a dread that makes me dizzy and physically nauseous. I have dreaded waking up, that split second feeling between teeth-grinding deep sleep and opening my eyes when my guts start churning in anticipation of having to somehow be in the day to come. Oddly the dullness was accompanied by relentless crying, but not about the world and its miseries, no that would be a step forward. My tears were all about me, my physical and mental ineptitude, frustration and something approaching anger at everything and nothing.

I’m covered in bruises and eczema, and every joint and muscle aches. Not much is said about the physical effects of depression but trust me, they are all too real. From its arrival around November last year I have felt a degree of frailty that is at times the only sensation open to me. Dull pain can, on those really bad days, feel like a leaden comfort blanket and oddly reassuring. I walk into things, elbows clash with door handles, ankles with the edges of car doors, dishwashers, edge of the bath and all while I can see that it just as it is going to happen. My peripheral vision shuts down as that dark something demands that the world stops doing what it’s doing. My head, neck and shoulders need to be held up by the backs of chairs, or ideally a pillow. The headaches make me physically ill and no amount of pain relief seems to work. But even noticing the occasional absence of pain isn’t as good as it should be. It isn’t anything really.

Less is everything: worthless, pointless, meaningless. Pointless is the biggie, everything can and has felt pointless, with me at the centre. And I know it isn’t true, I know I’m loved but to be honest, so what? Being loved can’t compete with being nothing. Logic becomes an odd notion because none of it makes sense. Relationships are really difficult because I don’t often have the energy to try and be kind or responsive to those that tell me IT will be over soon (will IT? Really? What the fuck do you know?). Being told that someone loves me and is there for me can feel like a responsibility I have recoiled from. Cruelty knows no bounds in depression, even if things aren’t said I’m usually thinking them. My jaw is clenched so tight most of the time that my dentist is readying herself for a break in Tuscany on the proceeds, possibly!

I knew in the midst of the interminable tears that I should do something, see my doctor, tell someone something, anything, but in this state the action of saying is near impossible. I can’t explain this thing that is beyond sadness, anger, fear – it’s all emotions rolled into something unwieldy and uncomfortable, set aside for others to enjoy but not me, and no I can’t cheer up or fight IT, or get on with things, keep busy, look on the effing bright side – because IT doesn’t have one. IT has no sides, rhyme, reason, logic, pity. IT doesn’t acknowledge reality and is lodged deep inside. I have told friends in a somewhat frenetic way that I have depression (note: I am not depressed) because it only seems fair when I’ve cancelled at the last minute or cried at the drop of a hat. It can also seem strange because I’m often quite jolly in the midst of this (note: people with depression can still smile, laugh, outwardly enjoy. Sometimes.)

My first panic attack: a non-encounter with a really nice truck driver set me running into my house where I started to shake and sob, then my breath abandoned me and all I saw was an oddly framed view of my trembling hands and the roaring in my head was deafening. I was convinced my heart was shrieking to escape my ribcage. My heart has taken to being a rather noisy over-functioning organ, but regular blood pressure checks show absurd normality. I was weeping copiously at my delightful doctor within two hours. I see him regularly and we laugh a lot.

Medication has helped, especially after the dose was doubled. But the medication does a funny thing. Emotions bubble up occasionally and I have genuinely laughed a lot of late, but tears stay encased in a grubby Perspex cube. I can sense them somewhere just out of reach and have often thought, ‘I’d be crying now if it wasn’t for the meds’. Things that would have upset me even before the depression are comfortably wrapped in something fluffy with a label that invites me to, ‘ignore and retreat because you cannot be arsed today’. IT lurks. I’ve had another panic attack in the meantime and I think I’d be worried at the thought of another but the fluffy wrapping has packaged that fear too. Meds place another layer of disassociation between me and the world, between me, my depression and the world, which is slightly odd. I know this is not real life, or the real me, but facing the world without that fluffy wrapping, just the thought of it, makes my heart beat even harder and my stomach rise, so I’m sticking with it for now.

I’m exhausted by the lessness and its lurkiness! I have no advice to offer anyone. Depression holds a limitless supply of nameless greyness. I am unlikable and unlovable and pointless while I’m liked, loved and generally quite useful. The pain is real and at times unrelenting but it is can be impossible to articulate where it hurts, why it hurts. I’m not a fighter, I’m not battling depression, my depression just is. It’s a bigger part of me than it was six months ago and it’s likely to be a smaller part of me in six months time.

I have disabled comments on this post but if you find anything that I’ve said useful please can you share in the spirit of Depression Awareness Week.


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