Like a lightning bolt from above, it hits me – my galling lack of integrity – that I’ve screwed up. Again. I’ve held myself up to unrelenting standards and outrageous expectations, neither of which I’ve had the strength of character to achieve, and so have been the author of my own failure.
In more ways than one, as it happens, for I’d already determined how useful it was to me (and, allegedly, to others) to read true accounts of people’s encounters with depression, and promptly turned my back on the notion of writing my latest bout, as soon as it struck. In addition, I’ve been angry at myself for succumbing to it. Irritated by my own lack of inner strength and stickability. Frustrated at how flaky I’ve become, and determined to Set Myself Right (or Write), by doing this.
I’ve treated myself in all the ways I tell my depressed friends I wish they didn’t treat themselves. I’ve fallen easy prey to the same, roiling mindset, and simultaneously held myself apart, as though precious, untouchable – as though I alone should be immune to its levelling treatment. As though I, David to the mental illness Goliath, should stand in the field and carry on, stones in pocket and sling at my shoulder, a jaunty, devil-may-care whistle indicating to all and sundry that I am special.
I’ve been ego; boosted to titanic proportions by my own refusal to open my eyes, take my fingers out of my ears, and stop screaming “I can’t hear you”. I’ve been selfish, self-obsessed, and you’d think I had wanted the sun, moon and stars to bow down to me, the way I’ve been carrying on. I’ve had myself pegged as the rainbow-togged precocious rogue, meanwhile turning my back on those I profess to care about.
I’ve been doubt. I’ve been horror. I’ve been unabashed in letting forth, in secret corners, to those who had ears to hear me. And into their patient, generous ears, I’ve poured poison from the depths of unearned misery I was wallowing in. I’ve been self-pity, self-sabotage, and as stupid as they come.
Except I haven’t, because I can sweep it all – the whole glorious, decaying craphill of it – neatly under the rug of ‘depression’, and move on.
So often the imagery used to describe depression suggests some kind of monster; an independent being, which has taken over our minds and lives, turning everything to gloom and agony. And thus it so often feels.
The twin, dispassions of science and logic raise cool, clinical eyebrows and murmur “chemical imbalance”, as they check a box, neatly, at the bottom of their clipboards.
I find (with increasing infrequency, which is wonderful, really (#SilverLinings, and all that)) myself subject to those little words ‘chemical imbalance’, experiencing their devastating effect on my mind, turning me into the monster – a festering ball of resentment and self-loathing, hyped up on the outpourings of what is arguably an over-inventive imagination, whilst lacking the energy or drive to do anything.
Minutes blur into hours blur into days as I sleep erratically and turn into an automaton. I have remained capable of my job, of dancing the dance and looping my limbs through the puppet-strings of professional expectation. I was successful and complimented on my ability and expertise – truisms which bounced off the armour of my atrocious mood, and broke into pieces at my feet.
Outside of work, all bets were off. I was sleeping erratically, accidentally, finding myself in nested nightmares where I was aware of people trying to wake me, then awoke to find them demonic without eyelids, or suddenly disappeared. I struggled through tunnels ever decreasing in size, only to be ridiculed for not going around them. I drowned, face down in a pool of my own tears, floating, in a red dress, having been admonished and told it’s “all in my own head and none of it was real, was it – you were just using it to get close to people!” I woke, unrested, unsettled, unable to connect with reality or disconnect from dreams.
Depression, a thief of days, has been siphoning portions from the length of my life, turning them to counterproductiveness and self-abasement.
I was suspended. A chemically imbalanced acrobat, teetering along long off-kilter neural pathways. A juggler of things; dropper of plates; squanderer of hopes; breaker of promises. I dangled over an imaginary pit of boiling tar, batting away the outstretched hands of those trying to help me, wishing I had the gumption to jump in and earn my stripes, knowing I am only worthy of the yellow livery of cowardice. I am ashamed of myself.
Shame – a powerful weapon used by depression (or, tapped into by those insolent chemicals), which leaves me feeling irretrievably Less Than. Irredeemable. Ridiculous. And to add insult to injury, I can’t even do it prettily (not that it makes a difference, for there are a million ‘wrong’ ways to do depression, and not a single right one).
But what I can do, however eventually, is write. For me. For you. For greater good. For no good reason whatsoever. Just because I can. Words have finally revealed themselves and for the first time in days, I can hear music. I only hope I can improve upon my silence.
A few people noticed I was absent. A smaller number knew my mind was holding me captive. One knew to what depths.
It doesn’t matter who didn’t notice. It doesn’t matter who didn’t miss me. I can attribute 90% of ‘missing’ to self-involvement (mine) and an over-inflated sense of my own importance. I’m just thankful I was too apathetic to take umbrage and burn bridges.
What matters is I’m still here. I still matter. At least a little bit. To some.
Which is all we can ever hope for in life.