I’ve had depression and anxiety disorder since I was a teenager. The latter is a jittery Chihuahua that I have to carry with me everywhere while it chews precious things to pieces. The former is the attack dog, the one that I fear, the one that floors me every single time. And even when it’s not around, I can still see the tracks it’s left across my life.
So if someone close to you has depression, then this is what it feels like from the inside. Or at least, this is what it feels like for me…
When you are sick, you’re like a refugee from an alien planet (minus any Ziggy Stardust glamour). You move through your day in the fog of a foreigner, holding a map called ‘normal’, consulting it secretly when no one is looking.
Your colleagues are talking about recipes. You nod and smile. Your friend is chatting about her writing project. You nod and smile. The barista is telling you to have a good day. Nod, smile, repeat.
In fact, you’re drowning in static, you’re stuck behind glass, you’re in a smoke-filled bubble and you’re choking. Your emotions are muted – except when they’re not. Because sometimes an overwhelming sadness presses down on you and won’t be budged.
All the things that used to make you smile are suddenly like toys you’ve outgrown – you can’t imagine what you ever saw in them. You’re running out of distractions. The greyness spreads.
But you’ve learned not to talk about it. They call depression the black dog but really it’s the black sheep. The unacceptable illness. It is not a burst appendix. It is not a broken leg. It is not deserving of cards or flowers or baskets of fruit. Your boss won’t tell you to ‘take all the time you need to get better’. Your friends won’t draw hearts on your cast while you’re laid-up waiting to heal.
Because no bones are broken. No major organ has malfunctioned (except for your brain, of course. Only that).
You don’t know what causes this, though you have your theories. Rogue genes firing bullets through your life? The creeping spillage of childhood sadness? Or just the massive faultline that you sense running through society? (tick all, or none, of the above).
All you know is that you’re to blame, that you’re defective, broken. If you weren’t, you’d be able to fix it. Fix your malfunctioning brain all by yourself, just like you’d fix a kidney. Except…no one ever fixes a malfunctioning kidney all by themselves. And no one ever expects them to.
What you most need to hear is that it’s not actually your fault, despite what you‘re feeling right now. That this will all end soon. That the attack dog will get bored of baring its teeth and will walk away, just like it did the last time. And that once it’s gone you’ll be able to put your life back together again.
What you most need to hear is that no matter how you’re feeling right now, you’re a citizen of Earth. You belong here and you always will.
Deborah aka @thelasthatgirl