It’s not proper depression.
It’s not the kind that has you locked away to be safe, cared for and talked to, analysed and understood. It isn’t the type of sadness that people name, hushed voiced, wide eyed.
I don’t alarm anyone, as a rule. Generally speaking, no one calls for back up.
I don’t go mad, become frightening, or lose myself in a world I can’t find my way back from.
It’s not ‘proper’ depression.
There have been times; times I circled our street in the dead of night, times when I drove to a friend because I didn’t trust myself to stay sane unless the words came out of my mouth and landed somewhere safely heard. There has been a time – once – when I contemplated driving hard and fast at a wall. It wasn’t when you might think. It was the time I was judged and ridiculed and left with nowhere to speak, no friends, no willing ears. Not the time you might think.
You might find that surprising, to know the worst time was not at the worst part of my life.
I’ve had times when I’ve huddled beneath the duvet, too consumed by self hate and guilt, grief and the unmanageable emotion of worthlessness. There have been times when the pain inside my head, of knowing I was not good enough to even stand upright in the light became so huge that I couldn’t make my bones obey anymore. There have been times when my most overwhelming instinct, to protect the mental safety of my children, got put aside by my own madness. Times when I couldn’t even care that losing mummy to her room, the dark, the underside of the duvet was scaring them from the inside out.
And that, I suppose, is ‘proper depression’. The times when medicine is the only way back. And it has been a while since those feelings lived in here.
It’s not politically correct to say it, but those bouts are almost easy by comparison. When something terrible happens and all the pain is easily attributable to an event or a loss, I can handle those. I can handle wading through grief and shock and difficulty (I’m well practiced) and getting the help that needs.
I know the drill. Get help. Get pills. Get out more. Wait till the chemicals settle back into place. Keep going through it until the thing, the event, fades away and the seesaw stops bouncing wildly from one end to the other. Step back into the middle of it. Balance. Breathe.
I comprehend the chemicals. I know what they do and what they sometimes choose not to do.
I’ve been struggling lately. Life has been busy and difficult and I hold that balance and equilibrium only very delicately. It doesn’t take much to wobble it. Too much on, trying to do too many new things, too many days away from home, not enough time with Max, the girls or Bene. Not enough time with Freddie too, in our own special way that we can/have to spend time together.
The bells rang after the health visitor called; she offered me some listening visits. She asked me if I cried when I was alone?
“No,” I said. “I don’t even cry any more.”
And then I said “If I can just hold on for another 5 years, then I can get some time to deal with all of this. Until then, I just have to hold it all together.”
And I realised how ridiculous it sounded.
I might be dead in 5 years.
When I get the ‘wrong depression’ and the ‘improper depression’ I don’t see it coming. It isn’t triggered by something, it just creeps up.
I’m not built for wild. I’m not built for fast or exciting. I can’t live life at a pace.
I’ve been trying to build a freelance career and realising that I can do this, but I probably couldn’t actually work full time anymore.
The creep comes up through my bones.
I start to sit still.
I start to waste time.
I start to self harm, not conventionally, but by eating things I know will make me fat, not going running but hating myself for not doing. I start to stay up too late or squander precious creative minutes.
I stop writing.
I stop thinking.
I stare past Max and disengage and wonder why he isn’t spending time with me.
I panic about my health and start to see symptoms in every twinge of some dreadful death.
Paranoia creeps in; if I write something that is a cry for help and no one answers, I delete it because I disgust myself at having asked.
A couple of days ago someone replied to a tweet about Freddie with “move on”. I blocked, because I’m better at that these days and that night I told Max how proud I was that I had done so and shrugged it off.
He didn’t reply.
Now *I know* that he didn’t think a reply was needed. I know really that he isn’t good at those conversations and didn’t know what to say. I know he loves me and he’s proud of me for still standing.
What I heard in his silence was “Yes, well you should move on.”
What I hear in no reply is “Stop making us listen to this grief now.”
That’s the problem with improper depression, the type I can sometimes fix with more sleep, non-rocket fuel levels of pills and some self care.
I can’t validate it. I can’t quite allow myself to believe that I deserve to be sad and that really, there is nothing I can do about this physical propensity I have for imbalanced chemicals.
It creeps up, twists my bones and sends white noise through my brain and all I hear is…
“Why can’t you be happy?”
It’s like the whole world is saying it.