I received a message the other day from somebody thanking me for the unflinching way that I talk about my depression. It was a lovely note, but it confused me. I do flinch. I flinch all the time. There’s all this bubbling blackness inside that I’m too afraid to let anyone see.
I’m writing this a few minutes after coming out of a black puddle. I’m still in bed. I can’t be bothered to go to the loo, though I need to. My nose is still blocked. I’m basically a mess. So that’s the state of me while I try not to look away from it. I don’t know why I’m sharing this now, apart from, someone thinks I don’t flinch, so I’m going to try not to.
I wander into black puddles regularly at the moment. Spaces and times that consist of nothing but blackness. You can’t plan beyond it, or see outside of it. It’s a thick, dark air that’s uncomfortable to breathe, and it’s heavy and cold on your legs so it’s hard to move. It’s just despair, and it bloody hurts. This has been going on for several years now, and I’ve become pretty adept at holding on through them. Some of the puddles are pretty big. I can spend hours at a time just breathing, trying to hold on, minute by minute until it starts to lift a little bit. I used to be quite pleased about this. I realised that if I could get through one puddle, then I could do it. So each puddle became an exercise in getting to the other side without just drowning. I had before, so I could again. Each one is pretty horrible, but survivable.
So at some point, ‘surviving’ became the way I lived my life. I’ve had some OK times during those years. I had a run of about three months without a black puddle from October to January. Then that stopped.
What I hadn’t anticipated, when I got into my ‘surviving’ mentality, was that the puddles might get worse. They got worse. They’re a lot blacker, a lot more intense now, and harder to get through. It’s like I’m trying to walk through snow drifts and each time I think I’m through, I’m presented with another one, higher and colder and more ice-filled than the last. I keep falling down in them, and I keep having to heave myself up again with numb arms and aching legs.
I can sometimes predict them. This morning’s was caused by me having a nice afternoon out yesterday. It wasn’t a big piss up. It was a meal with a small group of people who I love very much. I had a vaium so that I could cope with the outing, and I’d napped ahead of time so that it wouldn’t exhaust me.
It would appear that didn’t work. I had a nice time. I felt no stress before, during or afterwards, but each pleasant, nice feeling is always, always paid for the next day. It doesn’t matter what it is; talking to someone new, doing a great piece of writing, spending some happy times with family. It doesn’t matter. It will be paid for.
When I’m in a puddle, I find myself exposed and raw. Everything that is said to me or around me feels like the worst insult. I’m awful. I’m a mess, I’m weak, I’m evil, I’m rubbish. I end up curled into a ball with my arms over my head, trying to shield myself from these constant kicks, but I can’t, because they’re not coming from outside me.
They feel like physical blows. Kicks to the stomach that make it hard to breathe. A few months ago, when I was still trying to get through work days, I started to hurt myself physically. Anything to distract from the pain that’s inside, that’s tearing me apart. Anything would feel better than that. Sometimes it took a lot for me to notice that genuine, physical pain that I was causing. The one that’s going through the normal nerve endings and pain receptors and has a beginning and an end. But usually, I could get my brain to look away from these massive internal beatings that I’m getting.
I know, and I always knew that it wasn’t a healthy way to deal with things. But it worked, damn it, and anything is better than the pain. I can’t explain how desperately I just want the other pain to stop.
I am trying so hard at the moment to not do that any more,but it's because I know that I shouldn't, and sometimes that makes no sense at all.
What’s frightening me most at the moment, is that I don’t know how long I can keep surviving these puddles or these snowdrifts. I am so desperately tired, and all I see in front of me is a life where every pleasure is paid for, and each time the payment is harder and tougher.
I’m a fighter. I’ve been fighting this off for years, but holy fuck I’m tired out now. I do not know how long I can keep fighting, and that thought terrifies me.
I’ve daydreamed about my death, just abstract feelings of ‘oh that would be such a relief…’ on and off for two years, but in the last few weeks those daydreams have started turning to wishes. They’re growing stronger and more detailed, and it causes me so much pain to fight against them now.
I have little, tiny sparks of logic which are keeping me going. One is that if the depression kills me, I will not be allowed a Catholic funeral, and my children won’t understand that.
It’s crazy; part of me can see it’s crazy, that I think my children would understand any part of it at all. I have focussed on my son as needing me to stay alive and help him, and I don’t know why I think my daughter would be fine without me. I know I could not possibly kill myself in the house where my husband and children have to live. That would be utterly, utterly wrong. These are all illogical thoughts, but they keep me going when the rest of my logic is so hopelessly twisted up, that I’m not going to knock them.
When I’m in a puddle, sobbing, with my arms up over my head, I literally think that it would be better for my children if they didn’t have to live with me like this. They could move on, and find a more stable, capable mother. Just staying alive like this must be damaging them so badly. I know, I know that this is wrong and it makes no sense, but when I’m down, in a puddle, being kicked, it’s very hard to see that. So I’ll take the ‘no Catholic funeral’, and ‘not in the house’ if these things will keep me alive.
It’s getting very cold and dark down here though, and I don’t know how long I can keep getting up again. I’m so, desperately tired. I don’t want to try anything new, or try to be vaguely happy, because the unhappy that follows it is not worth the price.
So there we are. That’s unflinching. That’s the absolute blackness of me at the moment. It’s not pretty, and I wouldn’t blame anyone who wants to look away.
I am getting help. I’m not prepared to stop trying yet, so I’m getting help. The reason for the lack of hope is that I’m on medication already. The stuff I’m currently taking has got me through a couple of big bouts of depression in the past. On top of that, I’ve had two lots of CBT, and I do mindfulness exercises, and I watch my diet, and I try to keep vaguely exercised when I can, and I go for walks and look at trees and stuff. Hell, I can’t even listen to music without assessing what mental effect it might have on me. Technically, I’m doing everything right. I’m doing everything I can to prevent this happening, and it’s still happening.
I’ve been passed on from my GP to the psychiatric team in the area, and they’re going all out to sort something that might help. I’ve been given a small amount of Valium to help me get through the puddles for the next week. Just to ease that pain a bit. I’m seeing a psychiatrist next Friday who will do a full review of my medication, and we’ll start trying to find something that will work now my current medication has, well, it hasn’t failed, but I clearly need something else. I’m going to be hooked up with long term counselling.
So I’m tired. I’m in pain. I don’t know how long my strength will last, but I do, at the moment, have a tiny glimmer of hope that this blackness won’t last forever. I daren’t try to look into the future to far, or plan or dream just in case, but I will keep trying. One foot in front of the other until I get to a place with no more puddles.
I feel a lot better than I did when I started writing this. That particular puddle is behind me. I can go to the loo, and I might even go downstairs and get something to eat and drink. I do believe there are chocolate digestives in the fridge, and that might be worth getting up for. Breathing is easier now. Maybe I won’t be in another puddle for a week or two. That would be nice. There is quite a lot of the day when I feel more or less fine. Slightly anxious maybe, very tired, but not hopeless and in despair.
So these are the things I would like you to take away from this. Sometimes I’m OK. Sometimes I’m even optimistic or can make jokes and talk lightly. And I will keep fighting. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m not going down without a bloody good fight.