It’s coming again. Even whilst (some of) the days are still infused with bright sunshine and glorious warmth, I can tell it’s there, lurking, just around the corner. It’s dragging at the edges of my mind and turning them to cold and darkness and that damp smell of rotting leaves. It’s crumbling away the foundations of what I thought was a reasonably stable place, and in spite of being assured it’s “chemicals”*, I’m still reluctant to admit I might not be past this little thing, depression.
Okay, okay, I know it’s not about how I look. In fact, I think when people who struggle with depression (or any other mental illness, for that matter) aren’t crying in corners (I get to say it cos I do it), they’re probably making the most effort to look very most definitely NOT like someone with a mental illness. Certainly that seems true for the people I know who have this little matter of ‘chemicals’ to take into consideration.
Nonetheless, I’m struggling, or at least, I have been for the past day or so, when I first noticed that it was dark in the morning. I switched on the light in the kitchen and something faded in my heart. Shadows swept in and took it to themselves to give me a thorough haunting. That I have the luxury of things like a kitchen and a light when I’m trying so hard to raise enough money to get my homeless friend Jenny housed (I’m even keener to do it before the weather turns nasty), and yet can still be upset in the face of such abundance is patently ridiculous.
Except it’s not. Because mental illness doesn’t kowtow to logic – it brings its own and reshapes your view of the world, whilst berating you for having such a horrendous perspective and being a miserable bint when there are people out there with actual problems.
So I find myself bereft of words, my eyes swimming with tears I feel I don’t deserve** to release, watching my inner self as it drifts loose from the people which connect it, and drifts unbidden into a landscape of dark mud, stark trees against chill skies, and darkness clawing up from the frozen earth to claim me as its own as rotten leaves stain my soul with their mulch.
I’m beyond grateful that I have strong connections with people who DO understand this – who experience it personally (whatever form it takes for them), and who are willing to step in and be supportive. I’m thankful that if I describe myself as feeling trapped beneath the ice of a shallow, stagnant lake, watching with horror as the inevitable drifts of leaves and snow hide me from sight, from mind, from thought, and from heart, they will understand and reassure me.
Thinking deeper, I know that there are tangible reasons I dislike this time of year, which are compounded by the darkness and gloominess of the world at large. The end of summer was always an ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ event for me, and now there’s a date in November I wish I could forget. The snags and tangles of abuse and grief, however softened by time, still have a surprisingly strong hold. But even if i name the emotions, and attempt to reason them, experience them, and step away, there’s still the tiredness and the cringing exhaustion of “Not another round…”
I already have strategies in mind (sun booth, here I come) to try to combat this, and if I can avoid going back on medication, of course I would rather do that. Not (for once) because I’m bothered by the stigma or the fact that it means that once again I’ve confirmed that my mind just can’t go it alone; but because I really didn’t like the numbing side-effects I experienced last time I was taking meds with any frequency. Added to which it’s taken a month ++ to come off them, and I still get the weird ‘brain zap’ thing every now and again and ohhh I can’t bear to go through it again.
So what to do with these worries which are tightening the thumbscrews on the tenderest portions of my mind? I can ride it out, with help and Lifeboats, I think. I know I can distract with work and seeking beauty and talking to my people. And thus far the music hasn’t disappeared from my world or become something too good for me. So there’s that.
It’s an unexpected nuance, too, because for once I don’t feel passionately full of self-hatred. This is more like self-apathy, as though I am worth no more than one of those awful, crisp-brown autumn leaves which crunches underfoot and shatters, reflecting in miniature the death of the year. I don’t even care about myself enough to get riled about my figure (usually a huge self-absorbing focus of negativity and poison). I feel shrouded in cold mist of emotionless dismissal, which is obscuring the warmth and colour from my world, and sapping my strength and resolve to meet this dip head-on. It tempts me to succumb, which is a large jump, and not one I usually make, but this time around the winter seems to stretch ahead endlessly, and the prospect of losing my heart in Murica and then finding I have to leave it there, is already springing gin-traps in the more fearful hedgerows of my thoughts.
I’ve been told time and time again that life is for learning from, and that sometimes the way to redeem a negative experience is to see what can be learned from it. I’ll cling to that idea, and see what can be discovered as I undergo a time of the pieces scattering to the winds again and seeming like they might never reassemble. They will, because they always do, and like kintsugi, the gaps mean that gold can be poured in; from experiences; from people; from finding beautiful things to appreciate; from keeping calm and carrying on, and somehow being useful.
I’ve no idea how long this will last (would that I could schedule it, conveniently). Maybe I’ll wake up in the morning and it will all be fine, and maybe not. But I will wake up; because there’s gold to find.
*In case the “chemicals” comment sounds short or dismissive, it wasn’t – it was part of a very gentle, loving response from someone who knows the worst of me (and perhaps some of the best), when I told her I was dipping again.
**Anyone who knows me well will know that word is anathema to me. And yet…and yet…