This has been a toughie. Sorry to have kept you waiting, my darlings, but I hope you think it worth the while. The main reason I came up with the COMING SOON post was to prevent myself from chickening out of the post you are reading now.
I was a happy, healthy, confident young woman. And then I wasn’t.
This is what depression does.
It crushes all that is good in you. It blinds you to the best you have to offer. It hollows you out.
I lead a charmed life. This is how I see it when I am healthy. This is what I cannot see when I am depressed.
I am lucky to have a wonderful husband, great friends, and a caring family. They would’ve helped me through this, if I had let them.
I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was the maiden in distress, in my impenetrable tower. There was no Dragon guarding the entrance. But the other D was.
They deserve the truth. You deserve the truth. At last I am ready to be candid.
I know now that I am not alone.
I hope that my speaking out about this will help others who continue to suffer in silence.
It took me a long time until I realised that enough was enough!
Time to break the silence on depression.
This letter is as much an apology for pushing you away, as it is a public acknowledgement of my struggles.
I do not want to start with an apology. Apologies sound hollow when written. You deserve so much more than any of these feeble surrogates for feeling could express.
I do not want to give any excuse for my absence, and for failing to get in touch with you. What I want to do instead is explain. And trust that you will understand.
I have been depressed. Still am. Clawing my way out of the bottomless pit.
I cannot pinpoint the moment when it came back. It is difficult to say, because when it comes it does not announce itself. There are early symptoms, yes, but there have to be eyes and a willingness to see them too.
My near-obsessive focus on getting the thesis submitted on time blindsided me to those warning signs.
I did not see them, because I did not want to see them. I could not, would not accept that this was happening again, so soon (at least it felt that way) after I’d managed to recover last.
I marshalled forward regardless.
One morning, some six months ago, I got in front of the computer. Routine. Turned it on. Opened the file. And then it happened.
The panic attack.
I had to crawl downstairs and get out into the garden for air. I could not breathe inside. Every time I returned, it struck again. After a while the attack subsided. I thought it best to take the rest of the day off. I put it down to exhaustion. One day. And I will be fine again.
For over three months, it happened again every morning. And then it got worse. It stayed. Chest constricted, gasping for air, hour after hour. I lived in panic, became paranoid. Afraid.
I do not know what I was afraid of.
Being watched. Being seen. Being found out.
When you are in the clasp of depression, the fear is somehow organic. Now that I am slowly coming out at the other end, I struggle to understand the logic, if there was any, behind this fear.
I isolated myself from the world. Worse than that. I was still in denial. No one close to me knew first-hand what I was going through. None of my friends. No one in my family. Not even my husband.
I concealed it from him until ten days ago, when I finally broke down and told him all, that I could see no end, no solution in sight.
The past two years, call them five, were an incredible strain on our relationship. We’ve pulled through somehow. It is beyond me how this did not manage to wreck my marriage, because it certainly gave it a good try.
Two years ago my grandmother died. It made me realise that I had become estranged from my father, if not by choice then by omission. It broke me.
I was afraid it would be the final straw, that he would not be able to take any more of it and I would be left alone, with my world crumbling around me. I am grateful that this did not happen. Yet the feeling of panic and fear were constant. My relationship was the only thing I had left that kept me going. I was afraid that if I told him, I would lose that too.
In the past, I’d never considered, really considered suicide other than in theoretical terms.
I always supposed that thinking about death, the pointlessness of life and pain, the lack of meaning in this world, were all prerogatives of a philosopher’s daily burden. I was a philosopher in training, so it was only to be expected that the subject would concern me.
When I finally hit rock bottom, the line between theory and action became blurred. Too blurred for comfort.
I was afraid that in one of the worst slumps, I would no longer take the daily demons, and do something stupid. Put an end to it.
For months I was an automaton, going through the motions, barely alive. I ate. I slept. I could not function at any other level as a human being.
It was worse this time than the last. Two years ago I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, cried myself into the morning night after night. Had to skip several nights of sleep for my body to become so exhausted that I would finally collapse and rest. Not this time around. It was worse, because all feeling, all emotion was numbed.
I was in denial about being depressed.
Not eating, not sleeping, and crying: these were all symptoms I could recognise. So my mind created a blocker, numbing all emotions. I subsisted in this false state, where on the one hand I was incapable of doing anything that might categorise me as a functioning individual, and on the other continued to deny this being the case.
Every morning, I climbed the stairs to the top room after breakfast, put my computer screen on and then stared blankly at it for hours on end. The panic attacks came. I numbed that too. When I felt them coming, I went through the motions until they subsided enough. I accepted them as part of my daily life, just like eating or sleeping. It was something that happened. That was all.
Churchill called his depression his little Black Dog.
I had a whole pack biting at my ankles. When one was done, another took its place. I can’t even be sure that they are gone. I still feel them lurking in the corners, around the recesses of my mind. They are always there. All I hope, is to keep them tame enough. Live to see another day.
I know now that I ought to have sought help. But I didn’t. Depression does that. It made me, in a skewed deranged way, impervious to the outer world. I became a spectre.
In truth, I wanted to remain so. To disappear, be forgotten, for the world to no longer exist. And since the world carries on regardless, for me to no longer exist instead.
Several weeks ago I started writing again.
I used it as a purge, or the equivalent of a leech that would presumably suck out the bad blood that coursed through my veins.
Day after day I wrote. I clasped onto it. It anchored me into life. After a while I breathed. I started clawing my way out of the abyss, see the light again.
It is time for me to break the silence on depression. I refuse to be ashamed or afraid.
I am grateful to you for all the support over the years. I hope that I succeeded with this letter, if not to fully explain, at least to make a positive first attempt at explaining myself.
With the deepest affection
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We’ve met in Dublin three years ago now and you left a lasting impression on me. I cannot say that I understand your struggle, but I do feel somewhat familiar to it. To my luck, it has never gone this bad with me and the longest I struggled to open up to world again was about a year or so. Just the fact that you are writing this somehow makes me happy for you. Depression is closing of from the world for sure, and however artificial it may feel that you wrote this – or however authentic – you’re talking to us, even when we are somewhat anonymous. It is an opening up and I think it is beautiful.
Did I tell you my worst fear in life is becoming mad? Probably not, I only told a few people. But it is. The idea of losing myself in irrationality is the scariest thing I can think of. Scarier than depression for sure. But to me, depression is also some weird way of trying to block ourselves of from becoming mad. Because what else is becoming mad than being completely open to the world? Did I tell you my deepest desire is to become mad?
As I see it, the feelings you are describing are common to all of us. The lack of feelings is only dark, thick, slow, consuming feelings, but still feelings. Some of us are lucky, and pass through these disturbing feelings in minutes, rather than days, months or years. Others, probably like yourself are unlucky,and have to suffer. But I would also like you to know that I think the reason why you were so unlucky is because of your deep desire to be more open to the world than many (or any) people can safely handle. That is both beautiful and tragic…
You are one of the few people in my life that were new to me, and I think that means something, even if I don’t know what exactly. Your love for Cioran was only an excuse to get to know you a little bit ;-). Next time you send me a message, I promise to reply (I suffer a little of those problems of non-responsiveness too, but don’t hesitate if you feel like it).
All the best,
Such a beautiful message, Jelle. I pomise to write soon, and you must get in touch when you are next in London. Would be lovely to see you.
As to madness… yes. What is madness exactly? A way of viewing the world and those around us that does not conform to the norm?
The King’s Fool was mad… or was he wise?
As a writer, a thinker, a philosopher in the making I have to consider the kind of life-questioning issues that cut deep into one’s psyche. Issues that get to the bone.
Every day, I have to ask the kind of questions that are only considered by children, philosophers or madmen.
I am no longer a child. Not yet a philosopher. Where does that leave me.
Thank you for your message. Beautifully put.
And I do remember you, and Dublin, even if it has been quite some time since 🙂
my lows feel like leaded weights in my legs, like a large stone tied to my waist or shoulders, dragging behind me, but then i remember it’s not as heavy if i pick it up and carry it 🙂
Well put, TwinCentaur 🙂 It is the remembering part that can be tough. One becomes an amnesiac about the most curious things.
very true, it’s always a blessing to have loved ones as they can be the most beautiful reminders 🙂
Keep writing, Vic. It helps keep those dogs at bay!
Thank you. Will do x
Wow, it’s so impressive and awesome that you’ve done this. You have earned a follow. 🙂 I hope that you can get further on track. I understand that it can be really hard, as I have a friend who’s going through some messed up stuff and feels like this too.
Thank you, obstructedbynoone, I really appreciate the support x
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Oh what we hide from the world, right? Writing and posting this piece for all to read took a lot of courage, so good job Vic. But it also feels honest, and liberating, which is exactly what we need.
I think the best writing is the most honest writing; you inspire me to get back to my own ramblings. 🙂
Look forward to reading more of them next 🙂
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Bravo! I’ve been down the same path and feel a little less alone in this world with its ever changing seasons of emotions.. Thank you for being brave, and allowing us to be present for a part of your life.. Take care … many hugs…
Thank you so much for your comment and all the hugs, sweetpea2love. It is a tough journey and sharing it has helped more than I can say. The support since I have finally broke the silence has been incredible. It helps me make it through each day, and it helps to make each day lighter. xxx
Beautifully written and so moving, Vic. xxx
Thank you. It was a feverish letter written in the early hours of the morning. I could not sleep. I knew I had to get it all out, and I knew that I had to make it public. I am glad that I did, though it wasn’t a decision taken lightly. Two years earlier I had been unable to do it. Finally I realised that the only way to ensure that I would not and could not disappear again was to share. x
Yes, your final sentence says it all, Vic. It is the reason why I write so frankly about such matters. After years of antidepressants and therapy, I made the decision to go public! xxx
Love is my antidepressant and writing is my therapy 🙂
Beautifully put, Vic. xxx
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Hi. This post is brave and strong – like you. But I know it probably doesn’t feel like that. Remember, only the strongest of us get depressed. How are you now?
Hello, Rachael. Thank you. For a long time I saw it as weakness, but I’ve come to realise that depression has nothing to do with whether one is weak or not. It’s something different altogether. I am better I think. Good days, less good days. At least I’m no longer trying to go it alone, and that in itself is a great help. Someone told me that I get depressed because I feel too much, that the world, life, people are too present to me, and the intensity of it eventually shatters me. But in a strange way this intensity is also what makes life worth living – to me at least – so I can’t let go of it. I will learn to live with it, or it with me. This may be one story that never quite reaches its end.
I so agree with what you are saying. Maybe pain, if it doesn’t kill us, makes us wiser. x
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Just found you and glad I did. Depression is awful. I discuss it often on my blog “faithsighanddiy”. The “sigh” stands for depression as when I’m having a bout I “sigh” a lot. Most people do. Good post. God bless.
Thank you, Rebecca. It is a difficult one and one in three people will experience it at some point in their lives. The modern world is a melancholy place it would seem.