Blue Monday seemed like an appropriate time to ‘fess up about some stuff. While everyone else is trying to bring a little colour to your life on what is apparently the most depressing day of the year, I’m hear to say: You know what? January can suck. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s notoriously low on the money front and depression is real. So if you’re feeling like shit and wondering what the hell happened to you then maybe my little confession will make you feel a little less alone and, in a roundabout way, make you a little less blue.
So, here goes: My name’s Cat and I suffer from depression.
In previous incarnations of my blog I have written about my battle with depression. It isn’t something I’ve written much about here and I’m not really sure why. As you know, I’m not one for boundaries and there’s certainly no topic off limits but if I really try to unpick the locks in my brain, I think it’s because I didn’t want to sit depression right next to motherhood at my virtual safe place where I wanted everyone to feel like it was ok to have bad days.
I think I was nervous that an admission to my occasional struggles with depression may undermine my whole premise: that motherhood is hard, that it’s ok for it to be hard, that it’s ok to not love every minute of it and even, that it’s ok to really struggle with the early parts especially. I didn’t want people to read that I’d had depression and then read that I found those early days really hard and write me off with a diagnosis of post-natal depression.
Because, here’s the thing: I’ve been depressed so I know what that feels like. What I felt after having Billie wasn’t depression. It was desperation. It was despondency. It was discouragement but it wasn’t depression. Depression is a vicious bitch. It doesn’t give a shit whether you’ve got a business to run, or a human to keep alive or a job to kick ass at everyday. It doesn’t give you a pass because you’ve got a really big day, or because your sister’s getting married, or because you’ve had a baby.
Depression is an all-consuming dark space that takes up residence in your brain and renders it paralysed. It’s an emotional bodysnatcher that makes you question your decisions, your thoughts and your feelings every minute of every day because, for some reason, you just don’t recognise them. It leaves previously capable, strong, organised, efficient people unable to even write a list of the shit they need to get done because they can’t even remember. It makes it damn near impossible to concentrate on a conversation because, generally, you just don’t give that much of a damn. You love nothing in life. Not even the people you do love. It’s a numbness. It’s a mire of emotional blackness that you wade through day in and day out and then, when you finally get to the other end and bed is there, the bitch that is depression won’t let you sleep.
There is no respite.
I haven’t been depressed since Billie was born and I’m grateful every single day for that. I can’t imagine what it must be like to go through that when you can’t simply draw up the bridge and do whatever it takes to get you back on track. Depression is selfish and it makes you just as selfish. Depression and kid-free life is almost unbearable. Depression and motherhood must be…there aren’t even words.
So, this is how I knew I wasn’t depressed. It didn’t mean that I didn’t need support or that I didn’t need to reach out and be honest about how I was feeling, but it did mean that I wasn’t depressed. The thing is, recently, I’ve been starting to have those weird feelings; the ones that make me feel like, any minute now, I may drop my basket. So far, so good, but I’m being gentle on myself. I’m actively removing unnecessary stress and worry from my life (hence, my slightly quiet period on the blog). I’m cutting down on the booze. I’m trying to get sleep. I’m trying to exercise. So far, I’m keeping the bitch at bay and actually, over the last two or three weeks, I’ve felt better. Clearer. More energetic.
But of course, as I’ve mentioned, depression is a sneaky little bitch and you can’t always beat it with exercise, sleep, meditation and clean eating but you can give it a great shot if, like me you’ve been there before, and you recognise the early signs. It’s the complete opposite of easy and honestly, in my experience, I’ve never beaten it without the drugs but this time I feel confident that I caught myself slipping early enough.
Who knows? What I do know is that my experience with depression has made me self-conscious, more controlling and less secure in my own skin but it’s also left me wiser and kinder and more open-minded. It’s a curse when it’s here but a blessing when it’s gone. I hated this glitch in my matrix at first but the more I live with it and without it, the more I realise that I can use it to be a better person everyday.
There’s no clever sign off here; just a reminder that you’re not the only one.