in which I describe a little of what depression looks like in me

August 22, 2014

I have a mug of hot milk and honey, and the froth is scented with cinnamon, and my knees are cold and I am thinking of my friends. my flatmate is taking a bath, I think; I can hear much sloshing in the room next door. the cat hops down from a chair and trots by, intent on something in the way cats are; at night I hear him racing up and down the polished wood of the hallway to nowhere in particular, back and forth. this milk is very sweet. cats are peculiar creatures. to-night it shall be cold, for today it was warm and clear and rolling from bed, I padded out of my room to sunlight and the heat of the bench on the back porch.

today was a good day. I have been thinking lately of good days. I have been thinking lately about depression, and how one knows if one has it, and how one separates the particularities of the everyday life you know from this thing, this recognisable, diagnosable thing, this list of behaviours and screening questions in clinical language, this thing you may or may not have. all I know is the life I have, and sometimes when it is all you have ever known or all you can remember, it takes a while to start putting language around it, framing the everyday experience of just existing as you in categories other people can relate to. judgement calls. names. boxes for sorting and easy handling.

this is depression speaking, this isn’t; this is the effect of depression in my life, this isn’t. this is how I act when depressed, and this is how I act when- what? what? this is my life. how do I know how depression affects me when this is all I have ever known, this is my everyday, this is just how it is? I have nothing solid in my own history of self to compare my behaviour to, no before, no after. it is myself who speaks and myself who acts, always, and how do I know what is depression and what is me, when I have been some shade of this for at least ten years? it reminds me, just a little, of when I was on medication long enough that I forgot what I was like without it.

the last time I was not-like-this, I was a child, and I climbed black leather sofas and stood on my head and waved my legs wildly about in the air. I hated sandwiches and I hugged people and I had teeth that stuck out to here; I had bright black bird’s eyes and a short black bob of hair and thin brown limbs and cheekbones you could cut yourself on. I curled on couches and read books for hours, and then raced about and climbed people; I had melancholy moments and felt heartache and longing, and I had days of wild joy and restlessness. I was well and I was young and I was a thing of strong emotions and no self-reflection to speak of, very much a thing of the present moment and of little self-awareness. that came later.

self-awareness came with this, with difficult circumstances and with the life that I lead now, and with learning about others and hearing their stories and what depression looks like on them. I am starting to separate these moments out, strand by strand; starting to realise, here, look, this is an inability to concentrate; this is me lacking energy for comprehending and gathering in sentences; these are my eyes unable to take in words, my mind unable to unstring them into comprehension, tripping over words I cannot stuff into my brain for sense. words too big for my mind to hold, sentences too many. look, this is me, exhausted in a roomful of people, the voices too loud and too many and from all directions, blurring in and out like a miasma of noise, and myself unfocusing and deadly tired in the midst of it (this one is a new thing from this year; I don’t believe I recall people draining me before).

look, this is me so tired I cannot think, can only hover on the spot, greyed out and dead in the brain, or pace back and forth between one thing and another trying to make decisions and failing, grasping for things in my head that aren’t there anymore, for resources or strength or thoughts I don’t have, finding only the sheer blankness in my head, the grey solid tiredness that is me. this is me standing in the dairy aisle of the supermarket holding two pottles of yoghurt or pacing back and forth twenty times between two teapots or going back and forth from the checkout towards two nearly-identical eggplants, unable to decide which one is just right and becoming, slowly, more and more tired and more and more terrified and more and more miserable, winding myself into this ragged grating terror of incomprehension and greyed out thoughts because I can’t choose, I just can’t, and if I wasn’t in a supermarket and I was in a corner I would be sitting and rocking in it (if you ever see me in this situation, and it happens more often than you’d suppose, pick one of these items out of my hands and say ‘let’s get this one, put the other one back’ very decisively and march off. please. I’m not joking, I would very much appreciate it).

this is me trying to string words together with nothing to string them from, when articulating an idea or trying to talk to someone is like trying to walk across a bridge you’re building across an abyss while the planks keep dropping out from under your feet, and you’re trying to step out into the air based on sheer willpower and momentum and hoping nobody notices you’ve lost it, that you don’t know what you’re saying anymore, there’s nothing in your head, you’re stepping into thin air. that one in particular I hate; I used to be articulate, I think, and able to think quickly and on the spot, and so I particularly hate it when the bottom drops out of my thoughts and constructing a sentence is like trying to damn well fly because I can’t connect ideas together anymore. this is why conversations, sometimes, are difficult; this is often why in person I prefer asking questions and leaving people to do the talking; this is sometimes why when I am tired I ask really, really stupid questions. this is also why I much, much prefer conversations by email or messenger chat, and why I’m much more wordy there, as here; it gives me time to think.

this is me so tired I cannot operate, and so yuck in my emotions that all I want to do is read. this is me reading, endless and blank, for hours and hours and hours until my eyes burn and my head throbs and when I sleep I have to press the knots out of my skull with my knuckles; this is me self-medicating with the non-existence that is binge-reading, that is binge-sleeping; this, actually, is me sitting here and typing and trying to talk about something I don’t actually want to talk about because I’m still not capable of managing the emotions that happen when I do remember it, when I am in it. there are bad days and awful moments, and most of them have to do with the things I feel; I don’t want to talk about it. I can talk about the way things affect my cognition and the way they affect my memory without much problem, but right now, I’m calm and it’s been a good day and so I won’t stir up trouble. the things I’ve described, I guess you could call them the effects or the symptoms of this; the horrible emotions are the core. there are days when I feel like death, and it is many and variegated. death is multicoloured. I’ll talk about them one day when I’m in it; I’m capable of being lucid while feeling like shit, after all- that’s what this blog is mostly composed of, innit?

y’know, I was going to talk about my friends, but I appear to have wandered off topic. that’s the next post, then. tonight, I shall finish my milk (it has gone cold) and climb into bed and sleep the sleep of the good day (the recent introduction of escitalopram into my life appears to be helping).

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