My relationship with depression: It’s Complicated.
Staring at the blink of the cursor on the screen till it disappears into the white makes me realize the gravity of what I’m attempting to do because no words can truly explain what my depression’s like.
All the metaphors; the black dog, a dark cloud or shadows following someone around don’t come close to the reality of living with something that blots out patches of life that should be lived.
Time that should be spent doing things that enrich us; because life is short, but depression makes minutes, hours and days stretch on for innumerable miles that I don’t want to walk through.
Simple things like getting out of bed become hard, even speaking to people is a task and days and days become consigned to inactivity. A mix of anxiety and depression results in the paradox of having crippling lethargy and anxiety in an inertia to do anything and gnawing worry about all the things I haven’t done.
Those stretches of time are the worst. Sadness comes with a plucking anxiety, like leaning back on a chair and feeling your stomach lurch. I know the feeling of being depressed, but it comes with a strange novelty every time it hits. It isn’t something I chose, that I can control, nor is it something that I feel is useful to anything. Endless hours, or days, being down is exhausting and all I want is for the spell to end– but that’s another thing I can’t choose.
We romanticize mental health because our understanding of it is lacking. There’s no glamour in seeing meticulously applied mascara and eyeliner melt down your face, there’s no luxury in the pure sadness that envelopes you in those times. Depression isn’t soundtracked by Lana Del Rey’s languid vocals with the visuals of a Wes Anderson flick (at least for me) it’s silence, emptiness and aloneness. There’s no beauty in it. We’re very good at trivializing mental health because it doesn’t manifest itself like the physical. The stigma around women’s mental health in particular means sufferers don’t speak up, forcing them to conceal daily struggles for fear of being derisively stereotyped as hysterical or unstable.
Suffering depression as a young woman can sometimes mean your experiences can be ignored or simply put down to ‘raging hormones’ – that old chestnut. In a culture that routinely victim blames women it’s particularly important we look after our mental health rather than considering it a consequence of what we have brought upon ourselves. Mental health issues are very rarely a result of oversensitivity or ‘female hysteria’, so if you do feel as though you’re struggling don’t make little of your own experiences and do seek help.
Not being a bodily condition doesn’t take away from the reality of mental health, in fact it makes it even more real when your mind is the thing that shapes your own reality. A mindset you can’t control makes even the best times seem like the worst, and though the problem is in your head it affects everything you perceive.
Well meaning voices drift in and out of my ears: “cheer up” and “you’re just having a bad day” and though the intention isn’t there to offend, the ignorance is clear. If the cure for depression were as easy cheering up I’d have done it long ago. This isn’t something I chose, it took away my autonomy, and it can’t be reduced down to bad days either. Explaining the issue is another thing, who it’s prudent to tell and who won’t judge or explain away a very real aspect of my life. People who support you and listen through the darkest parts of your reality are invaluable- and though you are alone in your depression you don’t have to be lonely.
Speaking to people has been the thing that’s helped me the most. Life when I wasn’t depressed made the bad spells of yesterday seem like an illusion, so I ignored them until they came back. Seeking support means I’m better equipped to deal with the lows (whenever they come) and has validated me in realizing that I’m dealing with something ‘real’. Seeking support for what has been a lifelong issue has been the biggest turning point in my journey. It isn’t easy living with depression, but it’s a part of me that I’ve accepted.
The battle isn’t won, and I don’t know if it ever will be, but living life with depression is getting easier and that’s the best progress I could have wished for.
Find out more about mental health here.
Illustration: Alessandra De Cristofaro