Thinking About Depression
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about depression and my breakdown.
I was talking to a friend the other day; I don’t see him very often, and when I do he likes to check up on my mental well being. He was one of the people who dragged me through my breakdown, often kicking and screaming and sobbing on the floor. He knows what I was like, and I don’t think he fancies pulling me through it again so he has a vested interest in making sure I’m ok.
I don’t often sit and ponder these things; whilst I don’t actively try to Not Think about my depression, it’s no longer at the forefront of my mind. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not foolhardy enough to say “I’ve beaten it; it’ll never be back.” I know there’s a good chance it will return; it’s tried its hardest to get to me recently. I am fully aware that all of my struggles with body image and confidence are intertwined with the depression, a chemical imbalance in my brain that means my internal monologue often has a mantra of “Not good enough. Not thin enough. Not clever enough. Not pretty enough. Just not enough.”
The other day, I watched this Ted Talk. It’s half an hour long, but it’s worth watching in my opinion. It made me both laugh and cry. Andrew Solomon had a breakdown in the 90s, and then wrote (among many other things) The Noonday Demon which is an amazing book about depression.
Practically everything Solomon says in this video is the sort of thing you want to write down and show to people in order to explain. He explains depression perfectly. Everything he says is imminently quotable. One thing he says that really hit home for me is that his depression taught him how big an emotion can be; that it can be more real than facts. When you’re depressed, it doesn’t matter what the bare facts are. It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by loving, caring people who want to see you happy. It doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful, an ideal weight, have a high IQ. That nasty voice in your head is louder than any fact. Just like I can see measurements and clothing sizes and flattering photos and be told a million times that I’m not fat and not ugly, but that feeling in the pit of my stomach has often been louder.
Solomon also says that he loves his depression:
I love it because it has forced me to find and cling to joy.I love it because every day I decide, sometimes gamely and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to cleave to the reasons for living. And that, I think, is a hugely privileged rapture.
Talking to my friend about my mental state, and the last few years, I was hit with a dawning realisation. As the words came out of my mouth, I realised that actually, although I went through a hellish time, I wouldn’t change it. In the same way that I can’t say I wish I’d never met S’s father because otherwise I wouldn’t have her, I can’t say I wish I’d never had depression because I would not be the person I am.
Things were really tough when S was born; in a way I think the fact it was so hard is probably a blessing. I was so busy trying to learn how to be two parents to my child, worrying about her being taken away from me, trying to keep us safe, that I managed to stave off the depression that spent months waiting just outside the door, without really noticing. Also, I had a tangible reason for feeling crappy then: I’d had a traumatic pregnancy, followed by a traumatic birth, followed by a traumatic first few weeks as a mother. If I felt sad, I knew there was a valid reason, rather than just a poisonous feeling of doom.
The last couple of months have been a little stressful. Several factors have combined to mean that I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster. The meditation is helping in a way I didn’t think it would. I am able to take a more objective view of my emotions. I can tell that nasty voice in my head to kindly knob off. I don’t ignore it; I acknowledge that it’s there, I notice what it’s saying, and then I decide I’m not going to allow that one voice to rule my day. That’s something I’m still working on. Daily.
So here I am, living with depression. I have good days and bad days, and if I can keep the good from being overtaken by the bad, then I’m counting that as a win.