It’s been one of those days, and I have retreated to my safe place of happy films and Pinterest. During an inspirational pinning session (we’ve all been there am I right) I found a quote about writing – ‘a day will come when the story inside you will want to breathe on it’s own, and that’s when you’ll start writing’. Sometimes I get so sad I feel like I’ve swallowed a black cloud and my ribcage is going to burst. Sometimes I am scared of leaving my bedroom for fear of life collapsing around my ears, and no matter how hard I try ‘life’ that day I end up lying on my side in the dark waiting for my husband to come home. There are days when I am the essence of fun-loving itself, but there are days when a text can reduce me to tears – swings and roundabouts, bloody swings and roundabouts. Today is one of those days where the Dementor is sat with me in the living room as I tap at my keyboard, so I might as well try to tap him away (much less calorific than chocolate too).
I’m incredibly lucky to have lots of wonderful people in my life – people who give me pep talks when I need them, people who are a shoulder to cry on, people who are ready to kick me in the direction of reality when I need it – but not everyone can talk about it as freely as I can. So many sources claim that 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, so you’d think it would be easy to talk about, right? Not right after all. It’s getting easier, especially if you’ve stopped caring what most people think as I have done, but it’s not nearly as easy as it should be. You can chat to your friends if you’ve come down with a cold, or if your smear test came back irregular, or if you’ve been getting regular headaches – all medical problems, all illnesses – but if the illness happens to be depression then the conversation is a lot less run-of-the-mill.
These days people seem to be a lot more informed about mental health issues, even if they don’t suffer themselves or know someone close who does, but there is still a mystery there and I’m beginning to think it is down to the sufferers to fill in the gaps. I have amazing friends who have said I am the only person they know with depression, so it is up to me to explain it as best as I can – to send them into the world and every day life with a better knowledge of what it’s like to live as a normal, functioning, fun-loving human being that happens to live with the black dog every now and then. Where do you begin though?!
I read an incredible book on honeymoon called ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig. I couldn’t recommend it enough, and if I was more financially stable I’d buy every single friend of mine a copy. In the early days I read a lot of psychology books, thinking if I could identify what was physically happening inside my head I’d understand it all better. I’ve read memoirs, I’ve read articles, I’ve read every blog under the sun – clinical depression, PTSD, post-natal depression, grief, stress, bipolar, personality disorder…every single one gave me another snippet of understanding, another patch to add to the fabric of knowledge, but this book was the biggest lightbulb moment of them all. I’m a very quick reader but I absolutely devoured every page of ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’. It’s basically about a man who suddenly began having panic attacks which lead to a massive breakdown and his subsequent diagnosis of depression. He is brutally honest about the lows, some I’ve definitely not experienced myself, but every paragraph gave me that feeling I love from the best kinds of books, the feeling that someone else has felt the exact same thing as I have.
If you asked me how depression felt the answer would change depending on the day. When I’m happy, depression is like a rainy day – you know one is going to come by eventually, and even though you’re not looking forward to it you are comfortable in the knowledge that it won’t last forever and besides, it’s such a sunny day you can’t possibly think about a rainy one. When I’m sad, it’s like someone has literally sucked the endorphins out of me; I can look at happy photos of myself and feel like it’s someone else’s face smiling back at me – that can’t possibly be me, I can’t comprehend I was ever that happy and the thought that feeling will ever come to me again is impossible to imagine.
It’s like true love – when you feel it, you know, and explaining it succinctly to anyone else is not an easy task.
I have not had a really awful episode for quite some time now, and I am touching wood that it is quite some time until I have to endure one again. When I get a visit from the Dementors it is unpleasant and unkind, but I have to remind myself my current success rate of defeating them is 100% so I’m doing alright. I can’t explain how it feels and I can’t make it easier for people near me to understand, but the fact people are actually acknowledging that it is a struggle is a victory in itself.
To all my friends and special people who have come to notice when the black dog is visiting, who know to give me space or that there are times when I am truly not myself, my gratitude could never be as full as I wish it could be. To all my friends who still don’t quite understand, thank you for sticking with me all the same. I hope one day we will all be able to talk about the problems in our heads as easily as we can talk about the problems with our bodies. Until more money, research and resources are ploughed into mental health issues and their treatments, we’re going to have to get used to them being around. Might as well get talking.