Whenever I talk about mental illness, I write about it in the form of a poem or a creative writing piece. I can better express what is going on in my head with something creative than I can when I talk about the facts and the hard truths. But it is a serious issue, and I think it’s time I spoke about it in a serious manner. So I want to talk about depression. No poetry, no creativity, just an honest explanation, as best I can word it.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was eighteen. Prior to that, I had been suffering the effects of my own brain for at least two years, without a proper diagnosis. I never, ever told people I was depressed, even after the official diagnosis was given. If I ever spoke about it, I said I was ‘feeling low’ or ‘going through a bad patch’. Even now, I usually just tell people I’m not in a good headspace. I didn’t want people to pity me or judge me based on preconceived notions they had about depression. It is not something you see modelled on the runway, and you can’t buy it on the sale rack a season late. You don’t catch it like a cold, and it doesn’t go away. It is a debilitating, life affecting mental illness and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. You know, if I had one.
Depression, like any mental illness or impairment, is not an easy thing to understand for those who don’t have it. The truth is, I genuinely struggle to comprehend that there are people in the world who have never had depression, because I can’t imagine what it must be like to never be a victim of your own mind. That is how it feels to me most of the time, if I were to be honest. Because it is not a physical ailment, like a burn or a bruise or a broken bone, it is difficult for other people to see the way it affects the sufferer. You can’t just slap a bandaid on it and as a result, a lot of people say that it is not a real thing, or that we’re just overreacting. But the thing about mental and emotional damage is that, whilst being invisible to the eye, it is not as easily healed as a visible injury. And it can be much more incapacitating.
It is different for every person, at least as far as I can tell. I can’t speak for everyone, only myself. Though there are times when I cry for no reason at all, depression is not necessarily a sadness. For me, it is a kind of numbness, and a lack of interest in living. I don’t get excited or angry or happy or even sad. It is as though my entire range of emotions has been surgically removed and what I am left with is a feeling of emptiness, and nothing. And that in itself is strange. To be alive and know what those feelings and emotions are, but not be able to feel any of them. I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and all I want to do when I get home is to get straight back in. I lose my appetite, my sex drive, my motivation and my energy. The very notion of socialising is unappealing, because it becomes too exhausting to go to work or out with friends and pretend that I am alright. More often than not, I space out and don’t take in a single thing being said. My sleep, which is erratic and limited at the best of times, becomes virtually non-existent and my body and my mind are in a constant state of fatigue. The world around me seems muffled and muted. I can hear and see everything going on around me but I take none of it in. The days begin to blur into one and I can’t manage to make my brain and my mouth connect. I distance myself from people because it is easier than having to be around others. And yes, there are times when all I want is to never have to wake up again. I don’t want to kill myself. But sometimes I think it would be easier if a truck crushed me and my tiny car on the way to work. I am not being melodramatic. This is what it is like for me.
Depression is hard to understand, even harder to explain. I have tried my best here and have barely even scratched the surface. The brain is a complex organ, and I don’t think we will ever understand it fully. Perhaps one day someone will discover a miraculous cure for this illness and no one will ever have to deal with the things I (and others) deal with. But until then, I just have to battle my brain, and make sure that I get up every day.
If you think you may be suffering from depression, see someone about it. Don’t trust that the drugs they prescribe are going to make you better, but don’t discount the possibility that they might help. Don’t try to be your own doctor; see a professional before you diagnose yourself. Most importantly, remember that there are always people you can talk to. And if you don’t want to talk, that’s ok too.