Depression Saved Me: The Truth of Living With It Part 1

Posted on August 31, 2014

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Written a few weeks ago in the back of a three hour-long overpriced taxi from Nairobi to it’s nearest town. I couldn’t get a minibus because of the Nairobi Marathon that had blocked off access to the bus station. But that’s inconsequential. And I was caught in the throws of a deep, dark depressive state.

What it’s like, living with DEPRESSION

I’ll tell you what it’s like living with depression. It’s like living with someone – and you’re never alone. There’s always these other voices that don’t seem like yours – they’re otherworldly – and yet they’re so entirely familiar you must be making love to them regularly, sweetly, for them to want to hang around so much.

And of course there are good days. Good days so damn good that you forget you ever had depression in the first place. So damn good, you just feel normal. Whatever subjective construct you place on the feeling of normality. For me, it’s a sense of wellbeing, of not feeling like I want to punch a wall, or smash my face in with a crow bar. It might even be that cherished, much desired, but never maintained feeling of inner peace that some people like to call happiness.

On the whole living with depression is an extra dollop of that weight on your shoulders. Constantly. It comes and goes. It washes over me suffocatingly and then subsides into a calm, placid, glass-like serenity that hides a turbulence that lurks underneath, watching, waiting.

One good thing comes out of being depressed – when I’m caught up in a tidal wave of it, I can write. The words flow out of me as much as the darkness cloaks me.

Writing helps

I keep thinking about writing my memoirs. If I die – and I WILL die some day won’t I – I want there to be some kind of legacy, for people to understand what my significance on this earth was about. I always felt like there was some kind of significance to it all at least anyway. But maybe I’ve just been kidding myself.

But depression makes you think about all these things. Why are we here? What is the purpose of it all? What can we take from this darkness and turn into something positive, or constructive at least. For me it’s been about trying to make sense of the world and why people do the things they do, to navigate my way through the haze and perhaps help a few others along the way.

The most tiring thing about depression is the relentnessness of it all.

The ups and downs. The constant ups and downs. Its emotionally exhausting, one minue in panic, chest tight, negativity feeding off the darkness inside and paranoia dominating all thoughts, that familiar but overwhelming sense that nothing is okay, that the world is never going to change and that these feelings will always lie dormant; fantasising about my suicide notes and who to write to and what to say, tears pricking my eyes, only 5 minutes later to be laughing with someone, those horrendously dark emotions on pause in the backdrop of my mind.

Don’t ever lose who you are

Really, I’m the sort of person who feels positive that things will be okay. I have faith in myself and my ability to be okay. I’m a genuinely confidant person, I thrive on owning the situations I find myself in, and I can always get myself out of a sticky one whether internal or something in the real world. But when depression takes hold, and I’m vulnerable beyond capability of being able to speak the truth, the whole, honest, frank dark truth, I find myself seeking excuses, reasons to justify my needs or behaviour. To try and enable people to understand what I might be going through. When really the shameful and candid truth is – I just have depression folks. That’s all!

I read a blog today about a kid who got depression and he told it through animations and it was perfectly brilliant in demonstrating the two voices one has in their heads… the angel and the devil. One that speaks rationally and with reason and another that, in panic mode, tells you that no one loves you, that people find you annoying, that you’re ugly and fat. The devil is a bully people. And the devil, really does exist.

Donkeys grazing on the side of the road, black exhaust fumes churn out acrid smells from every mini bus on the road, and my driver swerves car sickenly from side to side on the motorway in Kenya that I’m currently driving down. With 90 more mins to kill I had to pull my laptop out, as the moment to write had hit me. So many lost words and beautifully strung together sentences, due to lack of notebook and pen (or digital notebook), have been lost over the years – and if my legacy is to write and share those sentences with others, then it’s time I stop procrastinating!

It’s a stigma, we’re all embaressed to admit it right?

The truth about depression is that most people don’t understand it. Why are you so depressed?? They ask. What’s happened? Snap out of it. Chin up! But the truth about depression is that nothing needs to happen. It can be triggered by life events, sure… but when you’re manically depressed it will come and go for no reason at all.

But it can be controlled. The stereotypical things that people will tell you – healthy diet, exercise, less or no booze, a clean living lifestyle basically, plus meditation and lots of early nights will definitely contribute to you feeling better. Exercise produces endorphins and we all need those to feel good inside ourselves. So there is a direct correlation between feeling like shit and exercise and I can attest to that, as I’ve not done any exercise in around two weeks, and in that two weeks I’ve declined into a state of horrid depression.  And I’ve not meditated in about a month. I think I’m scared that if I meditated now, and it didn’t work, then I’d have an identity crisis. And at the moment I can just about cling onto the notion that meditation works and that there is a ‘god’. Although I frequently doubt that, obviously.

Hello old friend, but actually really – go away?

Depression can come outta no where and kick you up the backside. It can throw you off balance in a way that you can’t even piece together and leave you feeling lost, confused, lacking in confidance, unable to think clearly, forgetful and of course the amouse bouche of the whole damn meal, depressed. Being depressed is a state of despair, disfunction, unclarity, unmotivation, unpassion and a whole load of other words that don’t technically exist that become negative the minute you put the letters u and n in front of them.

Pensively, I wander how to wrap this up.

I want to write my memoirs.

I have stuff to say, despite my depression not being linked to a bad life, or horrific circustamces. My life is quite ordinary in many regards, but has been relatively extraordinary by comparison to the average person’s existence I suppose. At least, I think I have a story to tell. If I can remember half of it.

It’s terribly self indulgent, isn’t it. But I can’t help but wander if by working through it, that somehow I might be able to find the right pieces to put in the missing slots. About 20 something months ago I had a revelation that the girl I wanted to be growing up, was a writer. And I remember in that revelation, I had thought to myself, sat on the 57 bus at Elephant & Castle, that I had to let that girl have a go at being what she wanted to be.

That was when I started this blog.

So given that my depression hasn’t gone anywhere, maybe it’s time to let that girl get what she wants. Or at least, let her have a stab at it.

And perhaps this can be my opening gabit of my memoirs.

Before I go I just had a really exciting thought.

Depression Saved Me.

Perhaps that could be the catchy title of my memoirs.

Depression Taught Me How To Feel.

Er, perhaps not.

Learn how to to love yourself…

But to leave this on a positive note, depression really did teach me how to love myself. It made me a searcher. Maybe I’m not there yet, and this whole Kenyan experience has reminded me of that (and who doesn’t secretly love a reminder that there’s still work to do! No?)… but I’m still searching. Still looking to pull myself out of the entrapment and bullshit that can be this little thing called life (if you’re not careful). Coz really, when you think about the grand picture, all the shit that’s going on in Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Ukraine… when you think about your personal turmoil quest and the paranoid voices in your head that tell you you’re shit and worthless, that’s a sad way to live isn’t it? To get so caught up in your own melodrama that you forget about the bigger picture.

Depression could be argued to be a middle class disease.

Hugely sweeping and likely incorrect generalised assumption coming up, but poor people don’t suffer from depression do they! I’m pretty convinced that poorer people are generally happier because if you have nothing, then you’re grateful for each sip of clean water or edible meal that comes your way. That’s why the Ice Bucket Challenge annoys me so much. Hey world, we’re so fuckin privilaged we can choose to throw a bucket of nice cold sanitised water over our heads, just for a laugh. Most people on facebook don’t even know WHY they’re are doing doing that challenge either. Someone on my facebook thought it was to bring back the recently broken up pop boyband JLS.

If depression, a western disease, serves to make one realise how lucky they are, how much they have, how spoiled and privileged their lives are – fortunate to not be born into civil war or starvation, then you know what?

Depression saved me.  

And writing this post, in turn, is the catalyst that caused it so. Writing saved me. Just like the little girl version of me, subconsciously, knew it was her destiny. Writing was the beacon of light I had to find, and searching was – for all intent and purposes of this analogy – the lighthouse.

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