I’m at the edge again. That place you find yourself after battling with something larger than life to the point of giving in, lying back, and thinking: Do your worst, fucker. I’ve been there before—several times—more often than any of my closest friends may know, more than the busy-bodies from a small community can begin to fathom; hell—more than I can even admit to myself most days.
I hide from it; run from it. Running is my middle name. Always has been. (Not really, my middle name is Kaye with an ‘e’, and the only time you’d see me run is if I was on fire, which is the exact opposite of what someone who is on fire should actually do.)
At times like this, it’s so easy to feel like you have no one. In the middle of the night when you can’t stop crying, and can’t stop thinking and rehashing and obsessing, and you can’t sleep, and can’t relax—or by chance, you can sleep, but the nightmares come—everything else is so quiet that you want to scream just to make sure you didn’t go deaf, then, it feels like you’re alone.
At times like this, I feel like I’m losing it, (Yes, I said it, and I don’t care!) It truly feels like you’re losing the actual plot, and there’s no one left who can help you any more than they have done already. It doesn’t really get better, and it doesn’t go away. It merely hides for a while, and then jumps out and takes you hostage when you least expect it.
Except now I know to expect it. Which is (almost) worse. Every good day I have is tinged with the threat of a bursting overhead cloud-of-crap. Like Grumpy Bear—only more suicidal—and a lot messier.
‘There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to it. Some days you’re floating along quite happily, being really good at doing this living thing, when apropos of nothing you’re picked up like a rag doll and shaken, and you don’t know who’s picked you up and you don’t know why they’re shaking you or when they’re going to put you down or even if they’re going to put you down. You just know that you’re being shaken, and it’s awful, and you would do anything for it to stop but it just won’t stop. You wonder to yourself whether maybe this is it, this is the time it doesn’t stop and you keep being shaken about until it’s too much and you make yourself a little rag doll noose and end your little rag doll life. It feels like it’s never going to stop, they’re never going to put you down again, and you can’t think or feel anything but pain, and it hurts all over and you’re stuck in bed and immobile but on the inside, it’s like your entire mind is made of barbed wire and every single mental move you make rips open another gash in your already torn-up body. And then it stops. You’re dropped bodily onto the ground, and you feel like maybe living life is tenable again. It’s such a wonderful relief that it merits opening an entire paragraph with a connective, and you look back on that whole period you were being shaken and wonder what on earth all the fuss was about. Surely it can’t have been that bad? Five minutes into living again, you can’t remember why you were sad, and you can’t imagine it happening again any time soon. You go on your merry way, your myopia for the past the only thing preventing you from looking back and going truly insane. Then, when you least expect it (because it’s always when you least expect it), it happens again, maybe for a reason this time. But it’s never completely gone. Even when you’re living a normal life, pretending to be a functioning human being who can Deal With Things, there’s this sheen over everything which takes away all of the world’s gloss.’
Tim Squirrell on Depression
This is what it’s like on the edge.
The Edge has almost become an actual place for me. A low, seedy little dive bar that no-one really likes to admit they’ve been to. I’m a regular. I’m the one in the corner, replaying the same pitiful song on a battered, old jukebox, between knocking back cheap whiskey and staggering off to pee.
“There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
Hunter S. Thompson
The sad reality of it all, during these times, is that I make myself a prisoner in my own house, trying and failing to distract myself, occupy myself… something, anything, to shake the fluctuating tides of numbness and pain. Sleeping is too difficult, yet getting out of bed is equally as difficult. Talking is too difficult, and the mere sound of someone else’s voice on top of the cacophony in my head is enough to make me cry and squirm like a cowering animal. Sometimes, I cry endlessly. Sometimes, I zone out. Sometimes I lock myself away with books, despite knowing that when it’s really bad, it’s too difficult to even read; the words on the page are nothing more than shapes and squiggles, and I give up after re-reading the same paragraph seventeen times over. Other times, I’m able to use books and movies and games to escape—so I do—and I ask not to be disturbed. Or I freak out when I am disturbed.
Needless to say: my partner is a saint—an actual fucking saint—which is a good bloody thing, since both life at The Edge, and living with someone who frequently visits The Edge, is no picnic.
Sometimes, when I visit, I don’t want to leave; I have to be dragged out kicking and screaming, and on very bad benders, I’m brought back slumped like a sack of potatoes over an unfortunate shoulder. When I’m there, it is as though the Real Me has truly gone to die along with three buckets of over-medicated sweat, and eighteen badly-sung choruses of ‘Things Can Only Get Better‘. When I come back to the real world, the land of the living, I can almost pretend it didn’t happen. It’s written off like a blip. I apologise as necessary, I bundle my guilt into a creaking, overstuffed closet, and everybody tries to move on.
No-one wants to talk about The Edge… and that’s where it all goes wrong. It really is. There should be a fucking rule:
Everyone should talk about it.
I have depression.
Dammit, I HAVE DEPRESSION.
I don’t expect sympathy. Hell, I don’t even expect understanding. What I’d really like, though, is acceptance, and tolerance.
Not just for me—hell, no. I want this for every sufferer, for every family member and friend of every sufferer; the feeling of being able to talk about exactly how you feel without judgement, and without having had to make a bloody appointment with a health professional to do so. To be able to discuss it as freely as people discuss the common cold—wouldn’t that be bloody fantastic. Not that I’m in the habit of harping on about common colds, just so you know. It’s more about the misconceptions of mental illness. It’s almost taboo… Mental health has come a long way, sure, but that god-awful stigma is still there. The whispers, the derisory comments… the blatant disrespect, even disbelief:
‘Maybe she’s making it up?’
‘Maybe he’s just lazy…’
‘There’s no such thing as depression…’
‘Pull yourself together!’
‘I get depressed all the time—I still ‘get on with it’.’
These things, small as they may seem to an outsider, a bystander—a non-sufferer—can become very crippling. It makes you feel small and ashamed, even more so than the depression itself has made you feel. It makes you want to do one of two things: hide away from the world, or put on that ‘brave face’, and pretend that it’s all okay.
|Illustration from ‘I Had a Black Dog’ by Matthew Johnstone|
The trouble is, with depression, isolation is the enemy, and quite frankly, putting on the brave face is quite likely the very thing that escalated the illness in the first place. Whatever your trigger—whether this was a physical trigger or a traumatic event, a bereavement, an overwhelmingly stressful situation, all of the above, none of the above—an altogether different experience that became the catalyst for the downward spiral of depression and anxiety—putting a brave face on it, and smiling through the pain, and striving on, forward-march, hoping that if you cover it up with that mask long enough, it’ll fuck off on its own…. exactly that, is what doesn’t help.
I know this because it’s exactly what I did. It’s what I went through; it’s what I’m going through, still. Yet, instead of being able to talk about it in the same way others can discuss their illnesses with no fear of judgement, I bottled it up. I have yet to meet someone with similar struggles as those I have, who hasn’t felt this way.
Depression is a very real thing, a very real illness, and yet in some form or another, there’s a wall of idiots prepared to tell you otherwise. Imagine a person with a broken leg being told to ‘pull himself together’: ‘Don’t be a moron! You’re making that up! Your leg isn’t broken. Now—WALK.’
Nope. Never happened, and not likely to happen.
So, this is my stand. Right here, on my public blog (with a readership of two… sister; cat; (and I’m pretty sure the cat pretends to read it)), I am making a stand.
I am standing on my fucking soapbox like an imbecile, and saying it aloud:
I have depression. It is an illness. I will not be ashamed.
Sure, it won’t solve the problem, and it won’t change the world’s opinion, but just maybe, it might change my outlook. Affirmations can be powerful. So I’m doing this for me, and maybe the next person who reads this (other than the aforementioned sister/cat), will feel inclined to make the same personal commitment and—
To everyone who has a similar battle, be proud.
Yes, proud. We have just made it through another day, and we’re still fucking here. Still fucking miserable… but hey, tomorrow is another day.
So here’s to tomorrow—bright and breezy, full of partially fake smiles and occasional sarcasm. And if you’re lucky… a small handful of wonderful people at your side who love you exactly as you are. ‘Black dog‘, and all. 🙂