I woke up yesterday and felt nothing. I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and the person staring back at me in the mirror had completely checked out. The lights were on but nobody was home and EDF were loving it.
Since my dead-behind-the-eyes days are cyclical in nature – meaning they come and go, usually due to hormones, or when I have nothing to distract me from my long-term, underlying unhappiness – I don’t like to class myself as ‘depressed’.
I enjoy the days when life seems brighter, and I think, “Maybe there isn’t anything wrong with me?”. Even though it’s always there, running quietly in the background like an iPhone app I can’t close.
Because of that I don’t talk about it much. Only when things get really bad – the days when I feel like things will never get better, and I don’t want to deal with it alone anymore. On this particular day (in June 2018) I told two friends, “No, actually I’m not good today, I’m depressed”.
One made sure to call me on their way home from work (the other said they’d call, but never did). After commenting on how dead inside I sounded, they offered some much-needed distraction from the tornado of despair whirling inside my head, by chatting through all the things that were making me feel so awful. It even incited the one, albeit small, laugh I did that day.
Aside from taking that call, all I was able to do was lay around comatose, like one of those little wooden horses, where you push the base in and they collapse. I’m a little wooden horse, and depression is the thumb.
But none of my other friends – who weren’t the two I told – knew I was in a dark place, because they didn’t happen to get into contact with me that day. And nor did I reach out and strike up a conversation with them.
And how could they know? They’ve got their own lives to lead, and their own shit going on. They can’t be worrying about whether I’m okay 24/7.
Same with me when it comes to their well-being. I’m 100 per cent there and present and on the person’s case, ready to assist if a friend tells me they’re feeling down or depressed, but, on reflection, that’s something that rarely happens.
But when I’m stuck in my own head, with my own problems, I probably haven’t been that proactive in seeking out issues in others. In regularly checking in when they’re going through a shitty life event, or being on high alert when they haven’t posted an Instagram story in a few days… So maybe I’ve not been there for them when they’ve needed me either. I like to think I have. But maybe not.
And maybe that doesn’t matter, because what can someone who isn’t a trained therapist or doctor really do to help? Friends can tell you, “Oh, don’t be depressed… your life isn’t as bad as you think it is” and then you’ll be magically cured. Not.
They can offer sympathy, and make you feel even more pathetic and useless than you do already. No thanks.
They can tell you “everything’s going to work out”, which is based on no truth whatsoever and essentially a well-intentioned lie.
All they can really do, is offer distraction, which in itself is pretty powerful. And a good thing to remember if you’re dealing with someone who’s depressed.
What I’ve realised is: depression is your problem. And if you have immediate loved ones (a spouse, children) then I guess, unfortunately, their problem too.
For the most part – unless you’ve sought help from medical professionals – you will be dealing with your shit alone. And perhaps quite rightly, because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who can pull you out of it.
One of the scary things about depression is that it means you never feel truly content with any situation. Earlier this year I walked away from a full-time job to go freelance, because I thought the job was making me unhappy, only to find out I was even more unhappy being freelance.
When you’re depressed it’s impossible to judge whether it’s your current situation making you depressed, or the mental illness.
Depression is permanently having your finger on the self-destruct button. Pushing it over and over again in a desperate attempt to make things better, but mostly just making them worse, and then having to suffer the consequences of that.
Depression is wondering if you’ll ever be happy again. And feeling like you probably won’t.
And as much as I want to be mad at my friends for not being psychic and rushing to my aide when I’m having a dark day / week / month, I can’t be.
This is my storm to weather. And all you can really do is look after yourself and wait it out. Wait for those better days, because they will come. Eventually. It’s statistically impossible that you won’t have at least one good day in the future. And maybe those good days won’t stick around, but hopefully they’ll offer you just enough respite to get you through your next eight-season boxset of Bullshit.
They say if you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm. And it seems there’s only room under the umbrella for one.