This blog post is a bit random - it's not a book review, or anything to do with books. It's just an effort to how I am feeling at the moment; how many people suffering from depression may feel at times.
Some of you know I suffer from depression at times; some of you may have no idea or don't really care. Some of you may be embarrassed. Some of you may even identify with what I am trying to say.
I feel disconnected. Numb, sometimes. Other times, raw, like an open wound. I'm going through the motions of living. Plastering a smile on my face assuring everyone that yes, I'm fine thanks, how are you? I've been hiding from it for so long I've got lost.
This time it has been going on all year, probably the longest bout I've had.
January is always a hard month. So many sad anniversaries, so many people loved and lost. This year is this worst in a long time. Lemmy, Bowie, Wogan, Rickman, Corbett. Victoria Wood. Grizzly Adams. Sounds ridiculous doesn't it. How I can be so affected by the deaths of people I didn't know personally; had never met. But they have been in my life ALL my life.
I thought it would get better. I thought as the days grew longer, the darkness in my head would recede. But it hasn't.
Instead I've been going through the motions, convincing myself that it WILL get better, I just need to carry on as normal.
After all, there are people around me suffering far worse than I; people with cancer, some fighting it with everything they've got, some resigned to the fact that it means the end for them eventually but in the meantime they're going to enjoy what time they have left.
Then there's me. Nothing physically wrong - well except for the diabetes, which, having been under control, has gone awry cos I can't curb my appetite for everything bad; and the plantar fasciitis in my right heel which makes every step agony. Jeez, don't ask her how she is. How long have you got?
I know what I am supposed to do. I know what I am supposed to eat, what exercises I should be doing on my foot, what I should be writing to fight the anxiety, how to be mindful, how to breathe. I've had the training. But it's not working. I'm not working.
I struggle to get out of bed. The daily battles with the children, their constant niggling and backbiting overwhelms me, leaving me exhausted before the day has begun.
If I'm going in the office, which very luckily I only have to do once or twice a week, I drive the 62 miles there, quite often with the radio on full blast to keep me from falling asleep. I do my work, pass pleasantries with me friends and colleagues, go through the motions of normality. Then I drive home again. Once I found myself talking to myself about there being no aliens. Another time, more recently, I was waiting to put my carrots in the lane I needed to take for the M25. WTF?! Exactly.
When I'm working at home, I log on to my laptop at 7:30, maybe do the school run, and work, sustained by the cups of tea and coffee my lovely husband brings me. Then at lunchtime, I set my alarm for 1.5 hours and fall into a deep, deep sleep. Then I wake up and carry on working till 5, 6 o'clock. Dream job - I am very lucky to be able to work as I do.
But I now cannot concentrate. Whether it's work, in the office, at home, reading a book, watching a favourite TV series, I find myself either distracted and fidgety, or I fall asleep.
I struggle to fulfil my book review commitments, leaving everything till last minute. I joined the Romantic Novelists Association's New Writer's Scheme again this year. My novel is all planned out; it's going to be brilliant. I have until 31st August to send the full manuscript in for a full critical review.
I've got 13,500 words written so far. Nowhere near the 80,000 word novel I intended.
Nothing's working any more. Three weeks ago I gave in. I went to my GP and told her my current antidepressant wasn't working. She gave me another one to try, with instructions on withdrawing from the old one and introducing the new one. She signed me off for three weeks.
I don't feel better yet. I'm on a low dose of this new tablet, which can be increased. I don't think the side effects are that bad, though my sense of taste has changed, making everything taste bland. I'm sleeping a lot, but I think that is the depression. I physically ache. That feeling of disconnection is still there; I go places but I'm not present. My glucose levels are ridiculous; but I can't deal with that at the moment. One thing at a time.
This week has been pretty tough. I (stupidly) got involved in a political argument on Twitter with a couple of old 'friends'. Or rather, they decided to attack me for my views, which I do not force down people's throats, constantly pushing me to justify myself. Usually I just walk away, but this time I felt I had to stand up for myself, to prove to myself that I wasn't so weak. In the end, exhausted and feeling battered beyond belief, I gave up, saying I was too tired, I couldn't cope with this on top of my depression. Then I was attacked for hiding behind it; then was told by one that, by the way, I was the reason the other one had cut themselves.
I'm not stupid. I know ultimately I am not responsible, They have their own issues. But it was still very upsetting. I've blocked them now.
I probably sound like a right whinger/hypochondriac. But anyone who lives with depression knows that it is so hard. What may seem like a simple solution to one person can be an insurmountable task to a sufferer. I am lucky in that I have the support of my family and my real friends. Otherwise, instead of just thinking about driving the car into that tree, I would actually do it.
Sunday, I went into London by myself, to meet friends I only know online. I could so easily have stayed in bed, but my husband gently encouraged me to go, knowing that one of them was returning to Australia and I'd regret it if I didn't meet with her. I survived. I may have floated around the tube, in a bubble, but I met up with these awesome people and we spent hours talking. It was great. But now it feels like I dreamt it.
I feel guilty, but the thought of going back to work on Wednesday fills me with fear. I like my job; I just can't do it at the moment. I can't do much at all. I am hoping that I can get a little bit longer off work, just to let this medication do its stuff.
The thing is with depression, is that you cannot see it. There are no outwardly visible symptoms (other than a miserable face). I don't look ill. Sometimes I wish that I could hurt myself physically so that there are wounds to see (but I can't - I'm a wuss. I don't like pain). Trying to set an example to our children is so hard; three of them are adolescents and hormonal, trying to show resilience when you are at rock bottom is pretty bloody difficult. My kids are brilliant though. I had another melt-down earlier, and my eldest son came and sat beside me on the bathroom floor, holding me, supporting me. My husband holds me too, takes care of everything else so I don't have to. I hate that they have to see me like this, but I'm proud of them, too.
The colour black is often associated with depression - the Black Dog, the Black Hole of Despair. But for me it's more of a murky, grey fog. Sometimes it lightens, more of a mist, sometimes allowing the sun to shine through; other times it is suffocating and the only escape is the sanctity of sleep.
I know there is light. I know I will be 'fixed' and will be on an even keel again soon. You may ask 'How can I help?' The answer is I don't know. Just be you, and carry on as normal. Just be patient with me. The sun will shine again soon.