By Felicity Gibson
First, let’s get this out there: this is about me. This is all about me, and people like me, people whose lives have been irreparably damaged by cancer and all that it brings. People who have to stumble through the dark, trying to find a way in a maze, knee deep in shit. Sometimes it can be hard to read, but I’ve written it without prejudice and honesty is the best policy.
I do not have time to consider the impact of something to which someone else might have taken offence, when in fact my mind is so full of snakes that the last thing I care about is how anyone else feels. I have no space to care how anyone else feels. My skull creaks with thoughts of harm, suicide and inky blackness.
I crave sleep and silence and solitude. Banging on the door of normal, I scream to be allowed in but my membership has expired and they’re not taking any more clients right now. I pace the slippery concrete outside, hoping for a chink to get some purchase on, or to be able to squeeze myself in when someone else comes out, like a stalker in a film, but it remains steadfastly shut. No one is leaving normal; everyone wants to stay. Lucky bastards.
I do not write my blogs for any reason other than to reach people like me; sometimes I can be helpful to people, sometimes people can be helpful to me. Today I’m hoping for the latter.
Depression strikes without prejudice
Oh my word, the scorpions are back.
The train came careering at me on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Apparently all was well with the world. Except this wasn’t allowed. And my brain – taking that lovely moment – bashed it and bashed it and bashed it until my body stiffened, my stomach ached, my heart bled and my hands strangled the throats of the very things I so desperately love. ‘Fuck you, happiness,’ it whispered, ‘fuck you.’
Before you call the police – I did not literally strangle anything or anyone. And a good job too or I’d be in prison right now and that’d do my mental health no good whatsoever. But my happiness was, indeed, fucked.
What was the trigger? That word’s used a lot in mental health and it pisses me off a bit. You see, on that sunny Monday there was no trigger at all. When you’re in the mire of depression – and I have finally admitted that I am – you get so used to battling terrible thoughts all the time that it’s exhausting. On the outside you look like a paid up member of normal but on the inside you know damn well you’re still pacing that concrete looking for a chink.
You curtail everything you do
It’s exhausting. You must pretend you’re fine every minute of every day and make sure no-one catches you staring into space or biting your nails because those can be indicators of madness. But then you realise that everything you do could be an indicator of madness so you curtail everything you do. You walk more carefully, you tread lightly, you touch things with reluctance and reel yourself in when your voice becomes too loud. Other people’s voices are always too loud. But you must try not to say anything, because if you do that’s another sign of not being normal.
If you’re normal you might not get this because it sounds weird. It’s not weird; it’s shit.
This is just the tiniest little nub of it. Depression is in your bones, your blood, every organ. Your body is under constant attack and your brain is in league with the enemy. But what’s the enemy?
Listen without prejudice
For me, the day to day is the enemy. The having to get up in the morning and pretend, all day every day that there’s nothing wrong. When someone asks, ‘How have you been?’ and you know it’s a direct reference to your mental health but you can’t bear to have a conversation with someone who just doesn’t get it. They’re not without prejudice, but it’s not their fault. They’re lucky, they don’t know this day in day out misery of simply existing. They can find pleasure in things that someone with depression cannot.
So the smile on my face fixes and I pretend. I pretend all the time. To everyone.
But then the scorpions come back and there’s no more pretending. And you are, to put it bluntly, fucked.
I am nearing the end of 48 hours of not pretending. In some ways it’s a relief to not have to pretend for a time, but oh my word it brings everybody down and then there’s the guilt. Jeez, the guilt! That’s the worst, the absolute worst.
So today, once I’ve posted this, I’m going to dress, put my face on, give the kitchen a wipe round and take my children to a castle where I can stand on a high turret in the wind and quietly imagine falling. I won’t actually do it of course, that would be stupid.
Nope, better to get back on the horse that hides everything and pace the door of normal again.
Reproduced with permission, originally posted here: Without Prejudice