As I am writing this post it is currently 7:30am. ‘No big deal’ I hear you say? Yes ok, 7:30am is a perfectly acceptable time I’ll give you that, however it’s a time I’ve not voluntarily seen in a while. Most of my mornings comprise of me putting off the day by sleeping in for as long as possible. My usual wake-up time is around 10am and even then I’ll try my hardest not to leave my room. Recently every day has become another day of struggle and it’s a struggle I’m pretty tired of facing. So I try to cocoon myself away and avoid that struggle for as long as possible. However, I’m only human so the need for food eventually draws me from my lair.
A few weeks ago I had a particularly bad time. It was just a normal day, nothing much happened to me. In fact it was supposed to be a good day because that evening I was going out with a friend for karaoke. I LOVE karaoke and so I was in high spirits for most of the day. It also meant that I would be getting out of the house which doesn’t happen very much recently, so I was looking forward to it. That evening I got myself ready and off I went. I met up with my friend at his house and drove us both to the bar. We were the first of his group of friends to arrive so we just milled about a bit having a drink, being greatly amused by the guy on stage singing ‘It’s not unusual’ and doing the Carlton dance (he was pretty spectacular, it took me a lot of will power not to ask for an autograph). Soon enough his friends began to arrive and I was introduced to them one by one. They were all very lovely and, although I was shy at first, we all started talking and having a laugh together pretty quickly.
As the night wore on and the singing got worse, I decided I was going to go up and do a song. I love singing and always put myself forward to sing at events. I was sober as I was the driver for the evening, but I took full advantage of my friend’s inebriated state by forcing him into an unbreakable karaoke oath; If I’m doing it, I’m gonna force you to do it too! We both went up and put our names on the list, he would be singing ‘Drops of Jupiter’ and straight after I would sing ‘Black Chandelier’.
Almost the instant that I finished writing my name I got a familiar horrible sick feeling in my stomach. As we walked away from the sign up list, my sense of dread built up higher and higher.
What in God’s name had I just done?!?
I just put my name forward to stand on a stage. Where everyone can see me. Where everyone will be looking at me and judging me. Where everyone will hear me. Why did I just do that!? They’ll see my stupid pale fat face and fat body, they’ll hear my stupid girly voice pathetically attempting to sing Biffy Clyro, they’ll laugh at me for ever thinking I could sing a rock song, they’ll think I’m attention seeking, they’ll see my stupid cleavagey dress which at the beginning of the night was pretty but now just seems like an obvious desperate attempt to be noticed. They’ll hate me.
All these thoughts kept whizzing through my head as the time ticked closer to me going up on stage. The more I thought about them, the more real they became. Remember the lemon? If you think really hard about cutting into a lemon your mouth begins to water even though the lemon doesn’t exist. So even though I knew that none of these bad feelings existed towards me, I still felt them as if they were real. I began to feel panic and just wanted to get out of there, but I knew I was trapped. I couldn’t go up and withdraw my name without attracting negative attention either, so I just sat and prayed that they would run out of time before my turn. When my friend was called up for his song I was pretty certain that I was doomed. I stood there smiling and cheering him on with all the others but inside I was really sizing up the best possible escape routes if I really did decide to do a runner. As luck would have it, the last song of the night was given to a pushy diva with blue hair who obviously believed the best should be saved until last, meaning him. I asked my friend if we could leave because I didn’t like the song and he very merrily complied.
It wasn’t until after I dropped him off that it really hit me with full force. I’d very nearly had a panic attack over singing at karaoke. What?! Singing is me, it’s who I am! Anyone who knows me knows that. And now all of a sudden the thought of singing terrifies me? What the hell is this?!
When I got home instead of going to bed I just sat down in the living room in shock. Ever since I developed depression it’s been as if little pieces of me have just gradually died away. My confidence, my self esteem, my desire for adventure. My personality has changed into something I hardly even recognise. It’s even taken away some of my memory and my intelligence. The scariest thing about it is that I hadn’t even noticed when this last bit had gone.
As I continued to sit there thinking about all the pieces of me that I missed, I began to wonder about how much more I was going to lose. And I decided that if this was how it was going to be, if I was just going to gradually keep losing pieces of me, then I didn’t want to carry on. I created this idea in my head that if I went to bed I was accepting that I was going to wake up the next day and things would carry on as they were, but as long as I was awake in the living room there was still the option of ending the struggle. And in that moment I decided that I didn’t have the strength to wake up to another day. However, my fear of pain and death also meant that I couldn’t think of any desirable methods to actually carry it out, so instead I resorted to just sitting there willing myself out of existence. The longer I sat there, the more I felt my fear diminish. The sense of hope that this could all be over soon became intoxicating and I calmly began to plan getting in my car and driving to the sea.
Luckily for me, Burly has perfect timing and chose this moment to come and check if I was ok. I very obviously was not ok. We entered into something very much like hostage negotiations as he attempted to talk down my depression into letting me go. But I’d had a taste of freedom and I wasn’t willing to come back. In those moments where my fear had left me long enough to plan I’d felt calm, brave and relieved. I was so close to not having to fight anymore, so close to never being afraid ever again. I just needed to break through my final barrier and actually act on my thoughts and I’d be free. To ask me to give up on that seemed so cruel. Why did he want me to continue hurting? Couldn’t he see that I’d be happier this way? Why was he making me carry on when I just wanted some peace? It was as if after years of crawling through the desert I’d finally spotted an oasis on the horizon, and he was telling me I had to turn around and carry on crawling. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t let go of my freedom.
We continued to talk for what seemed like hours and what we discussed even I feel is maybe a bit too personal to write about. I knew that this was the turning point, it was literally now or never. If I stepped back from the brink now I was choosing to live and if I chose that I had to mean it. It meant continuing to fight, continuing to struggle. I could actually feel my mind screaming in agony as I tore away its grip on the idea of freedom and dragged it back into the battle. I eventually staggered into the bedroom and knew I was defeated. As lay down in bed, gut-wrenching sobbing and wailing took over my body and I felt like I was actually grieving. The hope was gone and I was stuck here.
Pretty grim, yes? I know, I’m sorry about that. When I’m away from the situation it’s so much easier for me to realise it was just my depression speaking and not me but at the time of it happening it just takes over.
But this is a blog post about silver linings! About rainbows and sunshine! As horrible as that evening was it proved to be a massive turning point in my mentality towards my depression. I had made a conscious decision to keep fighting, and once I set my mind to something I’m like a dog with a bone. I didn’t want to go through making that decision again because it was heart-breaking for me and maybe next time I’d make the wrong choice. It finally gave me the kick-start I needed to stop facing this alone and to go and get some help.
So I finally booked an appointment with a doctor and spoke about returning to medication. I know that medication isn’t a quick fix option, nor is it the answer to ‘curing’ my depression. This is how I see it; if you break a bone taking pain killers isn’t going to mend it but they’ll help make fixing it a lot easier. I haven’t been taking them long enough to assess their affects but it just makes me feel better in myself knowing that I’ve spoken to someone who understands and that I’ve taken an active step forward in my fight. Also, on a much more major point, the fact that I’ve gone to ask for help means that I think I’m worth helping. That is pretty impressive for me.
This last week has actually been full of surprising kindness and understanding from people around me and it’s really made me feel quite thankful and proud. First of all, the doctor I went to see was absolutely amazing. The only available appointment before Christmas was during Burly’s work hours which meant I’d have to go alone. I was incredibly nervous and dreaded putting my faith in yet another stranger. With all the other doctors I’ve seen in the past it’s been like depression is some sort of big grey area that nobody really understands. Non-specific treatments have been flung at me; promises of counselling that never came to fruition, offers of free gym memberships to give me exercise endorphins, discussions on how to have a positive mental attitude. In other words a load of bollocks. I just felt like I was being fobbed off with half arsed answers and when I surprisingly didn’t improve it was my fault for not trying hard enough. However, this time I couldn’t have asked for a more kind and caring individual. He made me feel as if I had nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of, like I didn’t need to justify being there just because I was ‘feeling down’. It was more than just understanding where I was coming from, he knew why I was struggling and why certain things would be more difficult for me. He was frank but so compassionate and I came away from the meeting feeling like for the first time in ages I’d spoken to someone who actually understood what it’s like in my head but didn’t judge me for a single second.
The second bit of kindness to happen was when I got back home after the doctors. As soon I got in the door I started crying, mostly to let out all my stress but also from relief that it had gone so well. Burly rang to check on me and I said I was fine, told him the doctor had given me a prescription and said not to worry about me. After a bit my mum rang and I told her how it had gone and that I was happy. I told her what drugs he had given me and said that I was under strict orders to give myself a break for at least a month while they kick in. And then something amazing happened. My mum understood and was fantastically supportive and kind to me. Now that sounds very harsh on my mum, like her being kind is a rarity, which it very definitely isn’t. My Mum and I have always been extremely close and I felt like I could tell her anything. Unfortunately our relationship has suffered a great deal due to my depression. Over the past few years our relationship has been breaking down until I reached a point a few months ago where I no longer wanted to ring home to speak to her. It took yet another argument on a visit home to get me to finally make her sit down and talk to me about what was happening to us. Since then our relationship has come on in leaps and bounds. When she spoke to me on the phone last week her words were sincere and heart-felt. I was so proud of the massive steps to understanding that she has taken and gratefully let her love and support wash over me. My mum is officially brilliant and I love her!
Thirdly came the kindness from Burly. This kindness is one I get every day but it never ceases to amaze me. When he came home that evening, we chatted a little about the doctor and I showed him the tablets that I’d been given. He instantly replied, ‘Yeah, I looked them up at work and I found all this information’, and produced his phone to show me. I was surprised but then I looked at him and realised I shouldn’t be. He was just being his usual brilliant self. He wants to understand what I’m taking, why I’m taking it and how it will work. He’s not just leaving it up to me to understand, he’s helping me share the burden. He’s so keen to help me and see me get better that he even came prepared with notes. I just looked at him and thought ‘Do you even know how wonderful you are?’. I gave him a kiss and told him I loved him.
So, what is the moral of this tale? I’m not quite sure. ‘love conquers all’ seems a bit cliché, as does ‘every cloud has a silver lining’. In the absence of being able to produce my own eloquent words, I will borrow those of the ever amazing Allie Brosh…