I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in life; like staying in unhappy relationships for too long, allowing myself to be manipulated by people I once thought of as friends, buying the smallest jar of Nutella. But starting a blog about my illness hasn’t been one of those bad decisions. It’s something that has allowed me to transform one of the worst times in my life into one of the most positive. It’s become an outlet for me to express my fears and struggles in adapting to an incurable illness. It’s also offered others in the same or similar position, a chance to feel less alone and maybe not as terrified to face their future. That makes my heart swell and is something I am incredibly proud of.
I do feel selfish sometimes when I write for ‘me’. I often single-mindedly post here to help me deal with feelings I perhaps struggle to process, things I feel I can’t say to my friends and family, or to allow myself a platform for discussion. But it helps, so I forgive myself a little introspection and perhaps vanity. It’s also important for me to remember that you don’t have to read what I ramble on about – you have made that choice, so there the selfishness ends.
I haven’t felt inspired to write for a little while now, perhaps because *SELF PROMOTION CLAXON* I’ve been polishing my book in preparation for its publication in a few months’ time. Or because I’ve been feeling distinctly below par with my own disease and that in itself is exhausting. OR, because I have been utterly floored by a lingering bout of The Blues.
(Answer: it’s all of the above I’m afraid).
I don’t often talk massively about my own struggles with depression. Mainly because I’ve never considered the feelings I have to be as intense or serious as to be referred to as ‘depression’.
But then you don’t have to be ‘intense’ and ‘serious’ to feel depressed. I don’t have to put myself in an imaginary box to give myself an imaginary label. I just have to admit my own feelings to myself and those around me. Openly saying ‘I’m depressed’ doesn’t change me in any way; no more than saying I have a bowel disease does. Although it doesn’t always come that easily.
I suppose even I still have a skewed view on depression until recently. These people should be in dark rooms, despairing of their lot while watching the rain fall as All By Myself plays in the background shouldn’t they?
The truth is, depression, like my invisible illness, is concealable. Easily hidden with a smile and a laugh. An ‘I’m fine!’, or excuse upon excuse as to why you are cancelling on your friends yet again. It can go unnoticed for lengthy periods – if those around you don’t know what you are going through and you are unable to tell them you’re often left rummaging around alone inside your own head. Not the best place to be when it’s your state of mind that’s the problem.
Lately I’ve felt like I’m sinking.
I have felt hollow and pointless.
Weepy and miserable.
Unattractive and unworthy of love.
I haven’t written about this because it seemed so ridiculous. Who was I to advise anyone on how they should or shouldn’t steer their sickly ship when I was so obviously drowning myself? But on the other side of the coin – why did I suddenly forget that I do the same thing with my disease? I talk openly about my physical pain so why shouldn’t I write about my mental skirmishes too?
The difference is massive.
Because when you are depressed you don’t want to talk. You don’t want to do anything. With anyone. You feel numb. You can be in a room filled with the people you love most in the world and find yourself unable to raise an ounce of enthusiasm. I can’t explain that, and I can’t make excuses for it. How do you tell someone you love that you feel nothing? You know you don’t truly feel that way, but when you are stuck in that fog it’s almost impossible to see beyond it. Besides, you’re pathetic and hideous, unintelligent and pointless – everyone you love will see that soon enough, it’s inevitable!
I don’t feel that way today. I didn’t yesterday either. Isn’t that GREAT?! Today I feel better. I laughed a lot yesterday and I felt warmth and happiness and loved. I was drawn to writing today because I can see that there is no shame in how I feel and that maybe some of you feel the same way. I hate that you do and want to squeeze you tight enough to juice out all your sadness. I also know that even if I had the strength or the plans and time to create an elaborate human juicer it wouldn’t work. It’s all about time. Time, maybe medication and/or therapy if that is the key for you. You’ll find your comfort like we all do with any illness.
But what I’ve learnt from my recent bout of the blues is that is difficult on both sides of the depressed fence. When you feel deeply unhappy it’s hard to talk about. Sometimes you feel desperately that you want to tell someone but the words just cannot make their way out. Keep trying. Don’t assume they won’t know what to say, or that you’ll make them feel awkward, or that you will ruin a friendship. You won’t.
When you know someone you love is struggling; persevere. Don’t give up on them. Don’t give up when they snap at you, cry at you, and take things out on you. They don’t mean it and deep down you know that; because you know them. Don’t berate loved ones for not contacting you sooner – there are a million and one reasons we couldn’t – most commonly it’s a struggle to get out of bed let alone call a friend and weep openly down the phone. You don’t have to know ‘what to say’ either; there are no right or wrong answers.
If someone reaches out to you because they are struggling, or maybe they don't but you know they want to, please don't give into awkwardness or the trap of not knowing what to say so saying nothing. Talk to them and let them talk to you. It's essential and can be the difference between life and death.
Keep well, K xox