If there’s one thing I know about depression, I know that it’s different for everyone. Those who suffer can certainly empathise and many of them will share symptoms but we all deal with depression differently and we respond differently to treatments. My depression is all my own, so what follows here is simply an account of my experience. I hope that in writing about it, it helps other people feel less ashamed, or less alone with their experiences. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to depression. There’s no ‘should’, or ‘shouldn’t’, there’s simply a commitment to getting through each day, to doing whatever you can to look after yourself, nurture yourself, be gentle on yourself and that’s it. There’s also a need to remember, wherever possible, to ask for help if necessary. It can feel like that hardest thing in the world to do but it only feels like that because along with depression comes a dollop of shame so intense in its power over you that it makes you willingly put aside your own wellbeing and life. It’s a hard barrier to break through but all you need to do is ask once…after the first time, it’s easier and easier.
So, here’s what my depression looks like.
- Exhaustion. A tiredness so intense that I feel like I can’t get through the day without a nap. A physical tiredness that means I can barely walk from the fridge to the counter to the bin at more than a glacial pace.
- The physical exhaustion makes everything so much harder. Cleaning the house, staying organised, making beds, doing ironing and laundry takes so much emotional and physical effort that it’s overwhelming. I end up overwhelmed by my physical ineptitude and simultaneously overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I just can’t do.
- I isolate myself. I cancel meetings, social events, and everything else I can. I’ll tell myself it’s because I’m practising self-care, stripping it back, keeping it simple, but often I’m lying to myself. Often it’s because the anxiety about acting ‘normal’ when I’m out is too much to bear.
- Despite the exhaustion, insomnia is rife. I’ll fall asleep fairly easily but I’ll wake up numerous times throughout the night. I’ll wake up feeling foggy and tired because of the lack of sleep. Add that to the physical and emotional exhaustion that the depression is responsible for and I’m done.
- I lose all my creativity. I struggle to know what to say, what to write, how to reply. Writing, normally something that comes so naturally to me, is awkward and stilted and frankly, a bit shit. My ‘funny’ is not so funny and trying to wade my way through any kind of entertaining instagram story is painful for everyone involved.
- I isolate myself further by immersing myself in mind-numbing a soul-destroying addictions to terrible TV that I can’t turn off. Don’t get me wrong – I love shit TV whether I’m depressed or not but when I’m struggling, I will, given half a chance, sit from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep.
- I’m phenomenally impatient.
- And indecisive. Whether it’s what ice-cream to choose or what school to send Billie to, I can’t make a decision.
- I’m reluctant to look after myself. The rational part of my brain knows that a walk every morning helps me get through the day but the depressed gremlin in there is dominant. The rational part of my brain knows that I should shower everyday but the depressed gremlin asks me why bother? It’s not like I’m going anywhere (I cancelled everything) and you’re not really worth it anyway. I know that meditation helps but I’d rather drown my sorrows in another episode of Real Housewives of Bum Fuck Nowhere.
- I go quiet partly because I have nothing to say all of a sudden and partly because I just don’t have the energy to expend on anything that isn’t essential. I’ll rarely answer phonecalls, I definitely not make any and I probably won’t reply to texts either. Again, it’s more isolating.
- I lose my ability to organise anything. I forget everything. I can’t even get myself together to write a ‘To Do’ list let alone ‘do’ anything. I find it almost impossible to complete tasks from cleaning the kitchen to writing a pitch. I’m easily distracted, lack in concentration and struggle to focus.
- I lose all willpower. I eat badly, my drinking increases, I go from an occasional social smoker to a full time smoker. I believe all of these things will make me feel better; they all, without exception make me feel worse.
I’m sure there’s more I could write but that’s enough for now. More than anything, when my depression hits, I feel overwhelmingly frustrated. As someone who’s normally so organised, effective and hard working, there is nothing worse than feeling paralysed from the inside out. Physically it feels like I’m walking through a quagmire. Emotionally, I feel like my whole soul has cramp – that unbearable pain/no pain. My brain feels drunk and ineffective. Overall, I feel sad and anxious. All the time and its exhausting.