I hadn’t meant to start introducing the different mental illnesses yet. I hadn’t meant to write this post this week. But for reasons that will hopefully be obvious it is the only post I could write. Here then is a look at depression from the inside.
Depression is hell. Depression is a different hell for everyone. My hell is icy. I sit in 80 degree weather shivering, cold down to the marrow of me with no way to get warm. The cold goes so deep it locks me up. I can’t move, I can’t think. My brain is a clouded fog. Focus is a faint memory. One of the torments of hell is remembering being able to move, to think, to get off your ass and fucking do stuff, knowing that once upon a time that was only yesterday you were capable and functional and goddamn useful and today you are a frozen lump, unable to think beyond the constant mental ravaging of how you should be doing this, or you could be doing that, if only you weren’t such a useless pile of shit.
Depression, the first shrink to ever help me said, is anger turned inward. It’s when all the hateful, horrible things you would never dream of saying—of even thinking—about anyone else become the unshakeable truth of who you are. It’s sabotaging everything you are, everything you believe in, everything you try to do, not because you mean to sabotage yourself but because you hate yourself so much you can’t do anything else.
Everyone’s hell is different. But this is my hell. This is my depression.
You can’t live like that. You can’t live hating yourself that way, destroying yourself that way. So you stop living. Your mind shuts down, your body slows and freezes, and all the hatred and horror and self destruction get buried under the ice of nothingness. Because being nothing, doing nothing, reducing yourself to a frozen lump on the couch that can never get warm is the only way you can protect yourself from the way you are trying to destroy yourself.
You know you could feel better. If you go out with friends, if you get out in the sun, if you exercise, if you go see your boyfriend, if you do anything other than playing endless games of solitaire until you’re ready to set fire to every pack of playing cards in the world. But you can’t. The ice numbs you, makes it impossible to think of warmth, of happiness, of friends, and fun, and loved ones. If you can melt the ice you can manage to get moving—but if you melt the ice you find the self-hatred underneath, saying you don’t deserve to be happy, you don’t deserve the wonderful people in your life, you don’t deserve anything.
Did you know that people who are put on anti-depressants are at an increased risk for suicide? That’s why. The anti-depressants, when they work, take the ice away. They leave you able to move, and think and feel, and with no retreat, no defense, against just how angry you are with yourself, just how worthless and hopeless and useless you think you are. And there’s a knife, or a rope, or a gun. Or a car to drive off a cliff. You can think now, you can act now, you can end it. That’s why anti-depressants kill. That’s why you aren’t supposed to go on anti-depressants without medical supervision, preferably psychological supervision, able to help you navigate the self-hatred and catch you if you are in danger of leaving the ice while holding onto the self-hatred.
The scary fucking thing is knowing it’s all a lie. I am a good person, I’m not useless or worthless. I’ve touched a lot of lives and kept my family going through some impossible times. I may not be Mother Fucking Teresa, but I don’t deserve the thoughts and nastiness I’m directing at myself. I know that. I just can’t stop it.
I’m pregnant. Big news, wonderful news, happy news. But the hormones trigger my depression. It’s why I schedule myself five days off of work every month when I get my period. I know that when the hormones kick in, so will the depression and anxiety, and for a few days I’ll be a wreck. The human body is a wonderful thing. [sarcasm] I know for those few days my hormones make my mind lie to me, I know that I just need to wait it out, indulge in some comfort food, and the lies will pass.
But this isn’t just a few days. This is past 2 months now, with no sign of stopping. My work is suffering, my friendships are suffering. My relationships? Well thankfully Michael’s been down this road with me already. He holds me tight and tells me it’ll be okay, and the evil thoughts in my head are lies, and we’ll get through this together. Hunter I haven’t seen much of the past few months, but we’re supposed to get together tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be able to go see him. Hopefully.
I’ve learned to use the anger. Dig down through the ice with meditation or long walks, or by letting stupid irritations build up and build up, and build up until real feeling bursts through. Take the anger I feel at myself and redirect it. Turn the anger into an adrenaline rush which is how I got up off the couch to sit down and write this. Still can’t think clearly enough to put together one of my usual posts, but with the energy I can at least pour out my thoughts and feelings and fears.
Fears. I am scared. I’m scared because I know this isn’t going to end in a few days. My relationships will survive—I know my relationship with Michael is solid and I believe my relationship with Hunter will weather this. My friendships will either survive or they aren’t the right friends for me. My work? God my work. My clients are waiting for me, my writing is completely halted, my social media…well, at this point it’s more “What social media?”
My family needs me able to work. Able to bring in money, and build my business because until Michael is medically fit for work (for the first time in 5 years I can say that in time he WILL be fit for work, huge, huge, fucking deal, but he’s not there yet), until then I’m the only income my family has. We can’t afford for me to fall apart like this—which of course becomes one more log on the self hatred everyday that I don’t manage to keep up with my work.
Grateful. I am so insanely fucking grateful that I know what is causing this. That I know it is temporary. That in 7 months or so, the baby will be born and this will pass (assuming I don’t miscarry, but hell, gotta think positive, right?). I remember what it was like when depression was an unending hell with no rhyme or reason. When I had no idea why I was in hell and no hope of escape. I am so goddamn lucky to be able to point to the calendar and say “Then. I’ll be better (mostly) then.”
I am lucky beyond words to have Michael, who has stood with me through 6 years and one other pregnancy, who knows both the depths of the ice and the horror of the self-hatred and holds fast through all of it. Who will believe in me when I can’t believe in myself, and give me an anchor to cling to, a connection to the world, when I’m lost to everything else.
The adrenaline is gone now. The tears still trickle slowly down to fall on the keyboard. For a few minutes, I can think enough to recognize just how much of my mind is closed of to me, terra incognita so I can be protected from myself. It hurts now, with the ice and adrenaline both gone and the feeling is like a knife in my guts that is so horribly familiar and yet never the same twice.
The ice will close in soon. I’ll struggle through it, using numbed and weakened hands to fumble through my days, using what spoons I have to do the absolute necessities first, so that at least when the ice becomes to much to fight, my family will have been fed, and I’ve done a bit to take care of myself, and maybe gotten half an hour of work done. And try not to hate myself too much for all the things I am failing to do.
This is my hell. This is my depression. For the next 7 months, this is my life.
Hell is different for everyone. So is depression. This is mine.
This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.