I am addicted to the promise of being normal. For over a decade now I’ve been funnelling exorbitant amounts of subscribed medication into my system, all with the hope that my brain would function like that of a normal person. I’ve allowed myself to be a NHS slot machine for pills, councillors and therapists alike. I’ve suffered from fits of social anxiety; waded through constant battles with my OCD and had gawking matches with the mirror, praying that my reflection will accurate portray my real weight, rather than the mammoth sea cow I see jiggling around in front of me. Depression has robbed me of sleep and beauty and years of my life I’ll never get back. It still creeps in some days, telling me to just ‘end it’ and everything will be better. Even last week I found myself rocking back and forth, a fist full of pills, trying to decide if I wanted to stay or go.
The build up to a rock-bottom moment always follows the same structure, yet I each time I am shocked when it arrives. The anxiety morphs into paranoia, morphs into issues about my weight, morphs into self-loathing and then into pain and depression. Suddenly I hate everything about myself, psychically, emotionally, career wise and socially. Everything I have said in the last week is thrown into question and before I know I’m too scared to open my mouth in case the room collapses in around me. Each aspect of my life is suddenly viewed through toxic-glasses. “I’ll never make it as a writer, I’m not talented at all. I have no friends, I’m fat.” This is the subtext scrolling through my mind when I tell you ‘I am fine’ because people judge my mood-swings and off-beat behaviour. Then the obsessive-compulsions start coming back. I subconsciously start to line things up; I start counting how many flakes of cereal I put in my bowl at breakfast time. I count to eight silently in my head when I’m stirring the milk into my tea; I must wash my hands at least once an hour. Behaviour like this sometimes goes under the radar of my friends and co-workers. I fight the urge to give into my OCD, but I feel like a meth-head waiting on his next fix. I get snappy, grumpy. I kick off about the smallest things and react to situations that would better be walked away from. In turn, people’s perception of me changes, and thus I think they are giving me dirty looks and that they think I’m mad. This quickens the arrival of the depression and then one tiny, insignificant event will trigger the storm and before I know I’m caught in the throes of an unescapable monsoon.
I understand the science behind why I feel how I feel, but the reality behind my depression is something I can never grasp. On paper, I know what is coming; I know what I’ll feel like. The science helps ground me in those unrelenting moments of turmoil; moments like the one I faced last week when I genuinely thought I was going to overdose there and then. The science behind it reminds me that this feeling is chemical; it can be sorted, it will pass over. The reality of the feeling though, which stings worse each time it digs its claws in, is something different. Depression disguises itself in the form of undeniable facts and then forces you to swallow them down. Depression is so convincing in this its role that I believe all these negative thoughts about myself to be true. But depression is tricky, deceitful. It poisons your mind to the point you’re chocking, gasping for a remedy, but then presents a glittery cure; it comes your saviour and offers you a way out.
This has been my cross to bear for years. Being broken to the point I am teetering on the edge of suicide, but pull myself back last minute. Whether this is because I have called a friend and she’s calmed me down, or if I’ve called a help line, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s due to losing my cousin through suicide, so I’ve seen first-hand the carnage it leaves in its wake. Or perhaps, as depression tells once I’ve walked away from the temptation, I am a coward; maybe I don’t have the balls to go through with it? Or maybe I do on some level value my life and know that this feeling will not extend beyond that very moment I feel trapped in. The part I find weirdly amusing comes afterwards. I’ve slammed against rock bottom, have picked myself up, cried it out and dusted off and got on with my day. I am now on my way to work, dressed fashionably, looking alright, but have zero energy. People ask how I am, I say fine. People moan to me about their mediocre problems or payroll or don’t even bother to ask how I am in a text and I sit there thinking, not three hours ago I wanted to kill myself, I planned out my funeral in my head, imagined what people would say, what would wear. I smiled when I thought how guilty people that have hurt me would feel. Someone moans about how tired they are from the one eight hour shift they have to do a week and I just want to throw something at them – at this moment in time I am as void of compassion as they are ignorant to my suffering.
When someone with a normal, healthy brain asks me to describe my depression to them I tell them that the feeling they have on their worst day parallels to an average day for me. I describe the sensation as a ‘hospital feeling.’ A general uneasiness; knowing that something unpleasant is coming but you’re sitting around in a crowded ER waiting room, for what feels like days, dehydrated, unable to leave, or feel at peace, waiting for that news to come. Each time it comes, each time I survive it. Most of the time I can get through that day. I didn’t punch anyone and I didn’t die. Kudos. Then I start thinking about four years-time, even two years…and I get tired. It seems too hard a climb up too steep a staircase. How can I possibly amount to anything? How can I ever reach whatever destination I’m meant to reach? Are things going to get so bad that I wind up turning to non-prescription drugs to numb the pain? Will I wind up on the streets?
The moment you start telling people what you really feel they start to panic; their perception of you is altered. You become a ticking time bomb and they start speaking to you in a slightly higher register. That’s why it is easier for me to write all this down; it removes the severity from the situation; gives friends or whoever else reads this a chance to process what I feel outside of that immediate moment. Let’s face it, the majority of people would shit their pants if you told them you were on the verge of suicide a few hours ago, wouldn’t they? Will things get better? Will I get better? Who knows.