For me, the fall into depression is not a smooth ride down a slide. Instead, it’s like tumbling down a long staircase with the concomitant bumps and bruises one would expect from such a fall, with brief stops at landings prior to reaching the bottom – except, of course, you never reach the bottom. The pit is infinitely deep, and the stairs go on forever.
The landings serve as markers of sorts. I don’t always notice when I’m falling but I do notice the pauses and the changes that have accrued. I’m stopped at a landing right now and what I notice most is the flatness. Everything is flat and hollow. I feel like I’m trapped in a dark and empty bubble, though I can sense despair lurking in the darkness at the edges.
My house is abuzz with Christmas preparations already. The people who live here with me are shopping and wrapping; giggling giddily over their purchases and asking me for lists of things I want. I am devoid of suggestions. It all seems so pointless. I have no joy, no happiness, no enthusiasm. No eagerness fills my heart at the coming of the holidays. I am empty of it all.
The emptiness is still preferable to what came before and what comes next.
In the before, I struggle. I know I’ve tripped and am sliding away. I fight it. I keep doing the small things that help somewhat. I take my meds, I read the books, I write in my journal, I exercise. I meditate, haphazardly, but I do it. I keep self-defeating behaviours at bay. I white-knuckle the days. I do all the things I’m supposed to. The fact that they don’t stop the slide would enrage me if I felt up to feeling that level of emotion. Luckily, I’m not.
Nothing good happens when I’m enraged. I don’t handle anger well, I turn it inwards and act out in “inappropriate ways”. That phrase was used on me once by a temporary therapist. I found it nicely distancing and tidy, a way of cleaning up for others what is messy and uncomfortable behaviour. God knows I hate to discombobulate or be a bother.
Regardless, it doesn’t matter at this point because I’m no longer there. I’m here. And here is mostly empty. Here is a void. Here is infinitely flat and dark.
Here, everything is hard. I know it’s not as hard as it’s been in the past. It’s not as hard as it could be, but it’s enough. What we know, however, is never the same as what we feel; what I know is not helping me out at this moment.
When I’m here, and I’ve been here before, far too many times, all I want to do is sleep. Up seems difficult, self-care and all that encompasses seems impossible, and the future seems infinite and bleak. The now seems impossible and the fact that I have to interact with it makes me angry. I don’t want to talk, don’t want to connect, don’t want to be anything but left alone.
Danger, Will Robinson.
The danger is not so much in the wasteland of the now, it’s what comes next and I know, I know that I have to stop my descent.
Part of it is seasonal – November is dark and dreary and that drags me down. Part of it is historical – the body remembers, and bad things have happened to me in the late fall and early winter. Part of it is biological – I am prone to depression and that’s just a fact.
There is a small part of me that’s still fighting it. Still fighting the self-destructive nature of what’s happening. There’s part of me that wants to tell someone in my circle what’s happening, again, but as is the case with most people who suffer, I don’t want to seem a burden. I get tired of myself and my fear is that others, if I keep sharing, will get tired of me too.
I’m not so far gone that the small things aren’t still helping a bit. When I take the time to make my bed – and it doesn’t really take much time, under ten minutes at the outside – I feel better. When I put on a new bottom sheet that smells fresh and clean and is pulled tight against the inevitable wrinkles driven in by tossing and turning, when I change the pillowcase for a washed one, when I shake out the layers of comforters I keep on the bed and put them back on fluffed up and tucked in so that when I crawl into bed I’ll feel cozily cocooned, I feel proud of myself – which is odd since really, making a bed is a small thing – and I recognize that I’ve done well. It’s a feeling I don’t get too often right now since the small things are usually the first to go. Then the medium and then the big until the nothing of the inside matches the outside behaviours.
I will try to continue chalking up the small wins. I hate doing it, it makes me feel more than a little defective when I celebrate things I consider to be small and matter of fact, but it helps and anything that helps is a good.
There are those who don’t understand mental illness, those who disparage a person’s inability to just “get over it”. I think about them a lot when I’m like this, wondering if they’re right, wondering if I’m just a failure in this regard but then I remember that with mental illnesses, the brain is often trying to kill us. The messages it sends are not based in reality.
The fact that we resist the call to away, the fact that we are still fighting is a testament to our courage, and I suppose I have to include myself in that number as well.
I will, therefore, disregard all the things I haven’t done, and the negative things I nearly did and remember that making the bed and getting dressed and sitting down to write are all wins, even if it’s hard for me to acknowledge that fact.