This is probably the darkest – and most honest – post I’ve written in a while. Content warning for depression and mention of death, and my apologies in advance for the florid turns of phrase I use to describe abstract concepts.
I’ve been quiet lately. Christmas came and went – I had a beautiful, rejuvenating few weeks with my family, and I was brimming with hope and optimism for infliximab and the new year ahead. January came. And, as always, exams came with it. I returned to uni, shut myself away in my flat, and studied harder than I’d ever studied before. I was exhausted. But it paid off.
And now February is here. The new term has started, the modules I was so excited about are up and running, and… it’s not living up to my personal hype. In short, I’m struggling. Really struggling.
Out of nowhere I feel like I’ve been side-swiped by my depression, like a tiny car T-boned by an 18-wheeler. Let’s talk about the depression first: for me it’s like a smothering pillow to the emotions, blotting out my ability to feel anything other than apathy or disdain. Sadness is the only other accessible emotion, but even that feels weird, detached, like it’s coming from outside. I cry every couple of days now, but it doesn’t always feel real. It’s more like someone else flips a switch and I do my allotted day’s crying and then go on pretending it didn’t happen (until the next day, when it happens again). Motivation? Where? Sorry, don’t know her. It takes me hours sat staring into space to persuade myself to shower, prepare food, do laundry. The most basic of tasks feel like Sisyphean efforts. I have lost what little remains of my appetite. I oversleep, because despite being in bed by 10pm, I lie awake for hours, exhausted but somehow forced into wakefulness. When I do sleep, I cherish it, burrowing into the haven of my blankets where nothing hurts and nothing is expected of me.
Despite the gloom of the above (!) what’s different this time—and more frightening—is how much I am struggling not to be smothered by it. Inside, I fight like a wildcat to avoid being enveloped by the grey haze, to claw my way back up that oh-so-slippery slope. It’s draining me of all the energy I have, but it still isn’t working. I can still feel the slip, centimetre by centimetre.
Sometimes my effort pays off. This time, I’m lucky enough to still experience days of happiness here and there. The sun shines, the birds sing, and I lie on my bed and feel peace suffuse through my veins like a sedative. I marvel at every second of that feeling, because I know it’s so fleeting.
So, I suppose, I should be grateful, that at least sometimes I remember what happiness feels like and I don’t feel like a stranger inside my own head. Except I don’t. Call me selfish, but I’m not happy to live like this. I feel like I’m at the end of my tether: not just physically, but now mentally, too. I don’t know what to do any more. Every move I make proves to be wrong somehow. I feel like I’m walking on broken ice and—in perhaps the most brutally honest confession of this post!—I am frightened. The pain, the way my body feels like it’s disintegrating beneath me, all the tension and anxiety I feel about being unable to do anything about these terrible symptoms—all of these build up into a storm of hunted-animal fear, leaving me constantly on edge. I am an animal caught in a trap: I am in terrible pain and there is no way for me to get myself out. So, yes, I am frightened. All the time. I have been suffering so long without remission (in every sense of the word: typical of me, still punning in the darkest of times) that I fear slowly dying and, worse, that nobody with the power to help will care until it is too late.
“How have you been?” some of my peers ask tentatively, when I occasionally manage to show up to lectures. I just shrug in response. I don’t have the energy to lie any more, to beam and say “I’m okay!” like I used to. But there’s no way I can convey all of the above in just a few words. So I just shrug. I’m still here, at least, and that counts for something. Doesn’t it?
Photo by Casey Horner, from Unsplash.