Monday, March 2, 2015

Talking About Depression is Tricky.

I haven't posted anything here in a while. Part of the reason why will be evident later, but first a plea:

If you read the following and feel angered in some way; if you feel I'm attention-seeking, fishing for compliments; if you think I should just pull myself together (etc), then please, please, please stop reading, close the window and get on with whatever it was you were doing before you found yourself here: I don't want to hear your opinion and I don't want you to waste any more of your time forming one. If, however, you feel like commenting and/or getting in touch privately because you feel the same or have felt the same and can offer some words of support or wisdom to me or anyone else out there who feels the same then please, please, please feel welcome to do so. The post may be quite long. I'm not apologising for that: if you get bored, go and do something else. Seriously, I'd like a bare minimum of people to read this. I'd rather one person who really gives a damn about what it has to say read it than ten thousand who couldn't care less. I don't want cliché, I'm not asking to be patronised, and I won't be appreciative of small-mindedness.

It's about depression. If you can't handle talk on that topic then please leave now.

This has been quite some time in preparation. This is partly because I stop myself writing with the thought "why would anyone want to know?" I've countered that by reasoning that if you don't want to know you wouldn't have clicked, and if you clicked in error you should probably move on to something more fun about nowish, and it might be therapeutic to write something that might be read because private writings aren't doing a damned thing. It is also because I haven't been able to find a way of saying how I feel. It's been unutterable and when I've tried I just end up feeling silly (and being told as much). I think I've figured out a metaphor that works in most respects, and I'm posting it here because that makes listening to me baring my innermost an opt-in thing, rather than having to figure out who the hell wants to listen to me: plenty say they do, but isn't that just what you're supposed to say? Nobody actually means it, do they?

I live in a well. The well changes in all sorts of ways but two things are constant: the sides are vertical; everybody else lives up on the surface.

Sometimes I look up and all is dark. I can't see the mouth of the well because there is only darkness above. I don't know how deep it is so it may as well be endless, and this fills me with a strange and conflicting feeling that is at once claustro- and agora- phobic.

Sometimes I look up and it is dark, but I can see stars. This is when I feel most comfortable, though I can still feel the walls around me and the depth of the well. Sometimes the stars make the well deeper when I realise there's nobody to share them with.

Sometimes I look up and see daylight.

Everyone else lives up on the surface. Much of the time I can hear them and they sound like they're having fun but I don't know how to get up there.

Sometimes, on rare occasions when the well is at its shallowest I can climb out. It takes a lot of effort and I am worn out by the time I manage it, but I get there. On the surface I see that everyone is holding hands. They're standing in rings, some containing a few people, some containing many, but nobody is on their own. People may leave one ring and go and join another, or sometimes rings of people join together to make larger rings, or split to form smaller rings. I can go up to rings of people and interact briefly: some members may even break their hand-hold with the person next to them so that they can shake my hand for a while, but nobody ever holds it. The people are usually pleasant and seem pleased enough to see me, but I am always outside the rings. I can never become part of a ring and sooner or later I find myself back in my well, more often than not feeling deflated and frustrated, but at least the well is better than standing uncomfortably, unwanted, in amongst the oppressive, seething maelstrom of people who all fit somewhere; who all have a purpose in the indecipherably complicated movements of social interaction.

Sometimes I spend extended periods up on the surface, even thinking I'm about to be accepted/invited into a ring but it inevitably turns out that the ring opened up for someone else and it closes again after they have joined. Sometimes people leave their rings and hold my hand and I feel like we're forming a new ring, but then it turns out they were just shaking my hand for a bit, and then they say goodbye and rejoin their ring and I find myself back in my well.

Sometimes the noise of the jollity that I can hear from the surface becomes deafening and I end up digging my well deeper to get away from it: the sound makes me feel unwanted, unnoticed, but digging further makes me feel even more isolated. I can't win.

The well is getting deeper and the sides more slippery. Part of me wants to dig and dig until I can hear nothing: at least I'll get an occasional glimpse of those stars.

I've tried reading books about depression, social anxiety, how to win friends and influence people, how to talk to people, how to not hate yourself, how to ignore the fact that the rest of the world can't see you, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

I've tried talking to people and some have even listened. Most fling platitudes freely, wildly and indiscriminately: apparently I'm not ugly, plenty of people are fatter than I am and, according to some, I'm one hell of a hoopy frood: they love spending time with me (they just choose not to because mumble mumble mumble). I'm funny; entertaining; friendly; helpful; intelligent; witty; [and another generic positive trait], [and another one], [and another one too]. They can't understand for the life of them why I'm terminally single and don't have any friends. And then they go back to their place in the great dance of the rings and I go back to my well, and they keep a wide berth next time I manage to haul myself out.

I've tried being referred by my doctor for 'talking therapies' and filling in the tables and diaries that come with it, and have learnt all the correct responses and passed the test with flying colours and been declared functional.

I've tried taking a prescription for pills which helped me gurn a smile onto my face for a short while but didn't make the well any easier to climb from, and they certainly haven't done anything to help me move out of the well more permanently. I've just spent longer standing in amongst the spinning, fully-formed, dancing rings that don't have any space for me, grinning like a loon and cracking the odd joke to the occasional soul that stops briefly as it moves from one ring to another.

And now I'm back in the well with my shovel in my hand.

I won't post about it any more, I promise.