I’d like to preface this post by saying that I’m neither a healthcare professional or someone who has ever been officially diagnosed with depression. Still…
It’s my opinion that my brain, my mental health, is like a wheel. Like the wheel of fortune from ancient legends, it rolls ever onwards, and sometimes I am up, sometimes I am down. It never remains in the same place so it varies. I do not get to experience the highs forever, but I don’t have to languish in the doldrums and the depths forever either. It just goes on, second verse same as the first.
After a very long time talking to the first doctor I actually liked (as opposed to the family doctor who scared the shit out of me for years), he gently told me that I was ‘probably depressed’. When I made it clear I’d rather blow my brains out than take medication, he didn’t press the matter. It wasn’t news to me, not after the time I’d just endured at school. I’d been bouncing from dizzying highs to terrible lows all that time, and probably even before that too. Despite my own opinion I was brilliant and friendly, my mother once described me as a loner… which was just as true. I remember having a miserable time at my primary school leaving do because I was incredibly down. Although I’d had a bit of a run in with someone, I remember sitting there on the sidelines, practically paralysed by my own misery and knowing I was there because of how I felt, not because of what had happened. I was eleven years old then.
I am also very lucky. My lows have not quite kept me from leaving the house… not when I had to get out of bed. The lows have kept me from moving when I didn’t have to… and I spent large chunks of my time asleep during the day because of it. Just curled up in bed, either asleep or waiting for sleep, waiting for time to pass so that the next day might be better. Might be better.
I’m lucky. I haven’t ever felt truly suicidal. I’ve always been the kind to have a ‘don’t-care-if-I-live-wish’, not a death wish. There have been times I’ve not looked before crossing the road with a sort of fatalistic attitude of ‘well, if I die it’s not a loss, is it?’.
It’s the lows that have kept me from pursuing the things I think I’d love. That’s a very simplistic way of putting it… but it’s not inaccurate. There are other reasons… but mostly it’s the paralysing effect the lows have. Paralysing, I think that’s the word I’m looking for. It’s the kind of thing that makes me so… morbid-fatalistic-mute-apathetic. It’s the feeling that makes me think “I don’t need to shower. Who fucking cares? Let’s stay in bed.” It’s the feeling that makes me think “I don’t need to move from this bed, even though I’ve been here for three days.”
All this thought has come from Stephen Fry’s quite great programme about his battle with manic-depression, which is finishing tonight. He’s talked about all kinds of things… and I’m desperately glad that I’ve never had such a terrible time with it that I’ve been forced to seek medical help. I’ve never sat in a car in a garage with my hand on the ignition key. I’ve thrown shit, I’ve had moments of such utter, utter, uncontrollable rage where I have little or no control over what I’m thinking, feeling, saying or doing. Only a few months ago I stormed into Waitrose (a supermarket chain in Britain), up to my parents and demanded they sort their fucking car out. Why? The alarm had gone off while I was sat in in it. Two whole times. I remained in this rage for a long time- even beyond the point where I started making jokes to stop my mum being angry with me in return.
I am so lucky to only have to deal with this shit on a relatively minor level. I have not had medication forced on me. I have not been at the point where I’ve missed work because of it… although everyone noticed the last real bad time I had back in March or April. It hasn’t been forced on me. I have not had to return to that doctor and say “Yeah, you were right.” The fact is, I probably do have some kind of manic-depression… I say this only because the highs are too manic and the lows too low. This isn’t the natural drama queen side of me talking now… it’s an utterly honest opinion of what makes me who I am. Perhaps I’m the luckiest little girl in all the world- I get all the good stuff of this and only a little of the badness of it.
I’ve never doused myself with petrol, I’ve never jumped off a roof or hung out a window. I’ve never held a knife to my wrist, and I’ve never swallowed a bottle of pills. But I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought about these things. I’ve always been a very insular kind of person, always carrying on my life inside my brain in a more detailed way than outside it. I’d tell you some of the things I’ve seen and felt and thought, but it would worry you. Despite my narcissism and love of drama, I don’t actually like to worry the people around me.
Maybe I’m getting through now only on sheer force of will. Maybe I’m not manic-depressive and I’m just a genius. Maybe I’m a drama queen. Maybe I’m just a silly little girl who doesn’t know what the fuck she’s talking about. Maybe it’ll get better, maybe it’ll get worse. The wheel of fortune may one day pause, and whether I’m near the top or the bottom when it stops, I don’t know.
But the way I felt this morning, I’m still on the wheel, it’s still turning and I’m getting back near the bottom. Maybe this time music will lift me out of it. And maybe it won’t.