In Blackest Night – Depression Is…
In light of my recent relapse, I wanted to do something productive; rather than focus solely inward, I also feel I should look at things in an observational way. To many, depression means to mope around an wallow in self pity – these perceptions need to change. Sadly, it’s not something that can be taught/trained, nor does a simple ‘like’ of a depression related meme or the bog-standard “copy & paste” statuses doing the rounds.
It seems that the only way to truly “get it” is to suffer from it or to have a particular disposition around those closest who endure the torment of the mind. Everyone’s experience is different yet there are many similarities that tie them together. To describe anxiety and depression is a somewhat impossible task: it’s like trying to imagine the unimaginable. You get close but don’t quite hit the nail on the head.
For some, depression is feeling locked inside your own body as if it were a glass cell – able to see out but unable to change or control the surroundings. That feeling of no control is the most terrifying of all and fuels the anxiety exponentially. Others would describe it as treading water, surrounded by sharks and every so often their head dips below the surface and they feel like they’re drowning. Again, a feeling of no control but the caveat is that a part of them wishes to let go. To stop fighting and let the darkness below swallow them up.
One of the biggest and hardest things to grasp is the fact that it doesn’t boil down to just one feeling. It’s a combination of any and sometimes all; in no particular order these feelings can occur despite having a good time or being surrounded by friends and loved ones. Think of the old adage where there is no one around in the woods and a tree falls. The other trees around are other people suffering from mental health issues. They’re powerless in terms of saving the tree. They can relate because they hear the tree fall and know that their day will come but they are so rooted that they cannot stop nor change their fate.
My perception of depression is a mixture of so many things, namely because that’s what depression is comprised of. I liken it to re-watching “Saw”. That first time is mesmerising and full of mystery right up until the massive twist at the end. But watch it again and the mystery is gone. The horrors are still there but the mystery is replaced with a feeling of anti-climax. I feel that I have pulled the mask off of life and can’t unsee it. For some, that revelation works to their advantage – a lot of the greatest minds have suffered from some sort of mental illness. But greatness isn’t for everyone, unfortunately. Society has gotten to the point where it wants people to be treated as special – each and every one of us, regardless of merit – yet, by the same token, it doesn’t lead by example because judgement and shunning is so common-place. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
As I sat outside gazing up at the sky as the darkness started coming in, I saw a number of planes passing over and heard the cars passing by on the road behind my house. It got me to thinking about the strides civilisation has made which is astounding but the flip side: it got me thinking about how insignificant we are. Oblivious to my existence, the cars and planes and everything else carries on. For me, that sums up depression pretty accurately – the feeling of insignificance and even by doing what CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) advises to do, it seems counter-productive. I know it’s easy to poke holes in the fabric if you set your mind to it…only, I never set my mind to it, it seems to have done so itself.
I think the hardest thing for “normal” people to understand is the why. Why can’t we just do things? Why can’t we think or behave a certain way? Why do we fall victim to the same thing time and again? It’s also the hardest thing for us. One thing I came to realise is the fact that depression or any other mental illness has a number of traits akin to addiction. Notice how my first paragraph mentioned relapse. A term normally used when talking about alcohol or drugs. But depression and other mental illnesses have a lot in common with substance addiction – by suffering a relapse, the odds of having another relapse increases each time. It can feel like a losing battle and everyone around you tells you what to do but don’t realise how hard it is to actually do. Addiction isn’t a choice. It isn’t a case of just do/don’t. I know a few people, myself perhaps being included, that feel overwhelmed when the symptoms of depression subside and I always think of the moment when Brooks is released from Shawshank Prison. He tries to resume a normal life after being institutionalised and he struggles and ultimately fails. He was so conditioned by the rules of the prison and the sense of being that the outside world proved too much. The same applies for most if not all of us – our minds are our prison and when we break free, even for just a moment, it feels unreal. We come to miss the inhibitions and draw-backs of our condition that we don’t know how to be.
I often compare my mind to the Allegory Of The Cave – my mind are the prisoners so conditioned by the appearance of the shadows on the wall that, when one bright little thought breaks free from the shackles and tries to inform my mind of what greatness awaits beyond the cave, my mind hammers that thought into oblivion because it is so warped and tormented that anything else is heresy.
I must admit, writing this piece has been extremely difficult due to the lack of concentration and inability to maintain a coherent thought process long enough to see it through. I have written this over the course of a few days with large intervals in between so if there seems to be a lot of jumping to and fro or inconsistency etc. then I do apologise.
Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts/feedback/experiences – as always you can comment below or use the contact form (remember to indicate anything you want kept private and do not want me to share – anything will be treated with the utmost confidence).