Some people describe depression as a hole they can’t get out of. I can see why.
Growing up I experienced moments when I felt down but I thought that it was all normal. Everyone felt down from time to time. I didn’t realize until later on, recently actually, that it was the degree of ‘down’ I was feeling that was setting me apart from my peers.
I fell into this ‘hole’ for a good couple of months. Nothing I or anyone said, thought or tried made me feel alive. I felt myself slipping. I was tired a lot. I slept in more and was increasingly late for work. I had trouble sleeping at night. I had trouble concentrating. I thought I was ugly. I thought I was no good. I thought seriously for the first time in my life about taking my own life. I thought for the first time about giving up on God.
I always thought that depression would encompass a numbing feeling that would disassemble you from the inside out. I always thought that you would go away quietly, uncaring and forlorn; just a terribly quiet, sad shell of yourself. But in the waking hours I was erratic; erratic in thought and in doubt and in self hate. What was worse, amidst this tumultuous emotional activity was the lingering feeling that I was clutching and consuming the last remains of my energy; physical mental and spiritual. I felt that I was slipping.
From the moment I walked into the office I began to count down the hours, the minutes, even the seconds until I could retreat home again. Home represented a cocoon I could crawl into where I could immerse myself in wine, cigarettes and bubblegum television. Increasingly I felt aware that I was becoming an alcoholic. I longed for the sweet numbing taste of red wine on my lips. I truly felt that it was my only saving grace; a beautiful calming ritual at the end of a hard days work. Until, that is, I started to consume a glass that turned into two on my lunch breaks. I was out of control. Openly, desperately in turmoil.
Eventually, it became too much for me to keep to myself and I began to leak the worst parts of myself to the ones I loved the most. I was moody and sad, bereft of sensibility. I wasn’t myself.
One afternoon, traveling home from work on the train, I had what would be the first of a series of panic attacks. It began with the sensation that I was unable to move my fingers. Suddenly I felt that I couldn’t swallow and then worst of all I felt I couldn’t breathe. The train was crowded; a mass of unfamiliar, incompetent faces surrounded me. I felt in danger. In danger of making a fool of myself, of passing out, of dying right there on some shitty train at 24 years of age for no good reason at all.
I recently answered an online questionnaire that’s aim is to give you an accurate idea of what level of depression, if any, you are currently experiencing. I filled out the answers as honestly as I could. I resulted in a score of 33 which meant that I was in the highest bracket rendering me an individual who required professional help or advice.
Including family, friends and partner I have a relatively good group around me. When I feel that I’m at the brink and I have to talk about it, I can and often do. Unfortunately, for the most part my family is very stoic with a very ‘get on with life’ attitude. In their defence this has worked for the majority of their lives and mine too, I guess. But nonetheless I could always express how I felt. On this occasion, however, these life-lines were not enough.
So I started to discuss it with my doctor, a GP. He seemed to me to be a sensible man. He tried, I think, in his own way to counsel me as best he could. We started with ‘bi-lateral’ exercises that’s aim is to give the sufferer a wider range of stimuli to distract from their anxiety. You simply pat your hands onto your lap over and over. I tried this but never once felt the benefits. I became increasingly more desperate. I was making appointments twice a week. I felt myself watching this man thinking, ‘I’m dying inside, so close to the edge, and you’re not seeing it. Help me. Help me.’
Finally crying and angry I left his office and never returned.
I’m glad that I was angry that day because it meant that I still valued my life, it meant that I could feel. I could have given up in the solace that I had asked for help but not received it. But I didn’t. I kept asking for help and now I've found it.
The point is, if you are down, if you are depressed and you ask for help but don’t or can’t get it, please don’t give up. Keep trying. Fight. There is help out there. Depression is increasingly becoming an epidemic. It’s dangerous. It feels lonely. But it's not. The help may mostly be inside of yourself, but you have to keep trying to find it.