This is @agreencow’s story of her experiences living with depression.
There’s a bit of a difference between a physical illness and a mental illness, and how you get treated for each. If you have a physical illness, say a broken arm, people can see it, they are use to it, and they know how to treat you. When it comes to a mental illness, say depression, people ring alarm bells, run for the hills, are awkward around you, think you should be locked up, all because they can’t actually see the problem. My mental illness doesn’t turn me into some weirdo only Hollywood could invent, it just means I react differently to some situations. After all, don’t we all act differently in some situations at times? Having a mental illness doesn’t make me a bad person. Depression is not contagious, it’s just something I live with.
So what is depression for me? Well it can be many things, each on their own, in some kind or another combination, or all at once.
It’s the anxiety attack in the supermarket. It’s the worrying over the most minute detail, like wondering if the word minute will be read as the time measurement of minute, so I go to an online thesaurus, search for the word, then realise that microscopic was a much better word to use. Then I wonder why I just typed that out. It’s being in a room full of people, yet being completely disconnected from anything and everything that is happening. It’s the myriad of voices that pop in and out of my head at times that suit them.
It’s the fear, oh the fear. Just how to describe that? No, no stranger walking down the street will randomly punch me. No that car with no number plates is not going to ram me off the road. No that person who showed me kindness is not out to ruin me. No, any number of things that my brain doesn’t quite calculate as fitting into my there and now, are things to fear. But still it happens.
It’s the feeling of utter self worthlessness, where breathing is painful, and I just want to roll up in a ball that gets smaller and smaller and smaller, until I just no longer exist. It’s the feeling of anger and loathing that what I write here wont make sense to anyone else, so why do I keep writing it?
It’s the sadness that I know all these things happen, yet I can’t control them.
While I have achieved many things in my life, both physically and mentally, the one goal that has alluded me, is going through one single day where none of this happens. A day where I can see the world for what it is, and not some mishmash of scattered moments, that have me existing and not living. It’s not a need to make sense of it all, just a sense of of me.
So how do I deal with it all? Well the first way is to only give people a glimpse of what really goes on. To put on a public persona that is one the rest of the world can deal with. In an ice cream shop with 40 different flavours, I pretend to be Vanilla, when I’m really more of a Rainbow with chocolate pieces.
I try to stay in control of my surroundings. If I am going out somewhere, I do as much research as possible, to know as much about the place as possible. Maybe it is just being prepared, but I think it is more of a case that if an anxiety attack happens, I know how I can deal with it, until I get to my own space.
A thing I learnt years ago is headphones are a wonderful thing when it comes to having your own space in a public place. People these days are use to seeing people wearing them in all kinds of situations, so if you’re seen bopping along and in tune with the music, people tend to leave you alone. What they don’t realise is, most of the time, I’m not even listening to anything.
When I can feel the tension build up, I like to pick up a musical instrument and play. No, I’ll never be the number one selling artist in the world, but it’s a great release for me, although the neighbours might not agree. I have to say, recently buying a ukulele is one of the best things I have ever done. It’s light, it’s portable, and it’s a great way to relax.
Something else I have learned over the years, is some days the depression wins. But you can control just how much it wins by. If I try to resist it, and keep pushing myself, and keep ignoring it, the black dog (depression) bites back harder. When I can feel like I am having one of those times, I have to let it win, but only just. I guess living with depression for me is more like a marriage than being locked in a Thunderdome cage match. It’s all about give and take.
Would I like for the battle to not happen at all? Of course, that would be wonderful. But it’s just not going to happen overnight, and it’s not something I can do on my own. Unfortunately the answers are not out there yet. It would be great if there was some kind of miracle cure tomorrow, but it’s just not going to happen. Some scientist is not going to find a single gene, or work out that all my issues are caused by the colour puce. Instead I have to learn ways to deal with it, so there are less times when the depression wins. I need to learn that it is ok for things to not go the way my brain thinks they should go. That the world is not out to get me most waking moments of my life. I need to learn to let go of worrying about the number of times I have used the word “that” in this article. For those wondering, it is twenty-one times to this point.
Most of all, I need to learn that help is out there, and while it may not be a cure, it is at least a process which will improve things for me. One step at a time. I know what my battles are, good luck with yours.