depression, down time and drop-offs
I dropped out of the first A to Z challenge last month when I couldn’t face turning up to the page and admitting, in the most part, how I was feeling about a lot of things. Gone are the days of having the almost anonymity of a blog, a handful of online friends and the ability to just spill the beans on everything and anything. I had a professional appearance to uphold and I didn’t want anyone to know the terrain I was stumbling through.
Yes, I’ve been suffering from depression. April was the lowest and darkest month I have possibly had since late 1997 when I was caught in a bad job, bad relationship, in the middle of nowhere and I felt my only way out was through suicide.
The depression this time was the overt experience of joy being bleed out of life and an all encompassing numbness. I told my son, when he looked at me with big brown eyes full of confusion and concern, that I was ‘sick with sadness’, as I sat staring at the wall in the bedroom crying… or crying for what seemed to be no reason at all. How else do you explain depression to a seven year old?
I don’t know how long it’s been there –the depression. I’ve worked myself into the ground this year, and of course, the first hint of taking some down time.. and I got just that – ‘down time’.
And even when it was obvious to all and sundry, I was depressed and not coping, I couldn’t bring myself to utter the words, to be upfront and honest. I kept expecting myself to bounce back. At my worst, it’s a day or two of feeling down, and then I haul myself out and life goes on (and I pay attention to my needs a little closer for a week or two)
At my son’s school they teach them about resilience – the ability to bounce back. And that’s what I’ve always had, along with an enduring sense of optimism. But what happens when you don’t bounce back, when the only forward motion is a nose-dive?
The first step is always to admit to where you. What you’re feeling. To be honest. But I struggled to do so. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed or ashamed. It was more to do with feeling I would debase or diminish the experience of others if I did so. But the hole got deeper, I wasn’t finding my way out and the darkness seemed to stain everything. I started to search for meaning, but ended up going around and around in circles. My ability to want to do anything, rapidly diminishing and with it, my memory.
When I started telling those closest to me, including the most wonderful group of writerly friends, I was surprised by the number of people who shared in my experience. And in doing so, I didn’t feel so alone any more. No one wants to fix you, they’re just willing to share the space with you, by sharing the fact they’ve been there.
The darkness has humbled me in a way, perhaps I needed. I am far more empathetic to those around me now. I’ve always been sensitive to the needs of others, and been an advocate for asking for what you want – especially if its time out/time to yourself/ time to get life straightened out. But there is something about the month of April which has sobered me up.
And today, when the dark clouds gathered, after a particularly gruelling and soul-destroying school drop off, as the numbness started to creep in and I shuffled through the shopping centre like a zombie, with tear encrusted and swollen eyes, I wondered if I was going to bounce?
I came home and set myself the simple task of washing the dishes. I wanted to have a clean kitchen to come home to so we could bake muffins after school. I put on some favourite music and just lost myself in the menial task of cleaning. Bit by bit the numbness receded. I read the final few pages of my Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, went to school to change my son’s class readers and had a conversation with an adult waiting for the bell to go. As afternoon faded into evening, and the house filled with the aroma of butter chicken, cooked from scratch, the worst edges smudged into a more general tenderness. The prickle, without the cascade of tears.
It wasn’t a bounce, but it wasn’t a headlong tumble back down the rabbit hole. It was faith in the fact I can feel the depths without having to fall into them.
And tomorrow… it is a new day.
IMAGE: this is the tracked floor lighting in the local movie theatre. Sitting there in a haze mid-April, attempting to be a decent Mum during the school holidays, the idea of being able to follow the tiny bits of light, back out into the blazing afternoon sun was appealing – on all levels!