Life has been a little hectic of late. The month of May is like that for us we have 3 birthdays in 3 days (mine and the our twins 3 days later), followed by Mother’s Day and then my Mum’s birthday. Actually, that isn’t all the birthday’s in and around May, my youngest nephew is 5 days before mine, my eldest 2 days after and one more birthday exactly two weeks after the girls. There are always lots of cakes, presents, and celebrating throughout these weeks, hectic probably understates it really.
This year just for something different my health threw a spanner in the works. I broke a tooth two days before my birthday so I was destined to have a tooth repair as a birthday present irrespective of what happened in the early hours of the morning of my birthday. Hubby found me collapsed struggling to breathe, head over the bath, semi conscious – this earned me an ambulance ride in the middle of the night and a couple of nights in hospital. The best explanation anyone could come up with was my BP dropped dangerously low. After 2 bags of fluids it was 80/50 in the resus room. After 2 days and kind of 2 nights (if you count the one I went in on) of observation and no more explanation I came home to get organised for the girls birthday.
I also had my tooth fixed and for the first time I was a grown up and went to the dentist by myself! Even the dentist was a bit surprised to see me there alone so I am sure that is why she took pity on me and gave me laughing gas!
The busyness of May presents another challenge for me. The smile, I can typically hold it together and smile when I am around people. Chances are that if you did not know the back story and you saw me I would smile, be bubbly, social and pretty typically “me”. The likelihood is you would not even notice a difference. The thing is my smile is really just hiding the turmoil floating around in my head, smiling through the inner anguish I feel on a moment by moment basis.
The thing with my smile is that I have gotten so used to doing this over the years that it is relatively easy to fall back into the default patterns. Contrary to popular opinion I actually really don’t enjoy being the centre of attention, talking “all the time”, and often being the hostess with the mostest. I have learned these strategies to cover up how I am feeling over the years. The real truth is that I have been depressed for decades not just the past 18mths or so. I have just managed for a very, very long time to be able to effectively wear a mask to hide it from everyone including myself except in very vulnerable moments when I would break down in the shower crying so no-one would know.
We have been incredibly busy in May as I have said which means that I have been around people a lot, and everyone tells me how much better I am doing. Granted for me this is incredibly difficult to gauge given I can’t remember where I was physically or even mentally 18mths ago. What I can do is read over my journals and while they paint a different picture physically, to me the mental picture is the same if not worse. The stronger I get physically and the more I am “coming to life” again, the better everyone seems to be telling me I am.
When what I really want to do is scream I’m not Ok, I might look like it on the outside but inside the war is raging.
The more you tell me I am looking great the harder it is for me to tell you I am not ok when you ask. It is much easier to agree with you, smile and nod than to argue. So I will talk about something else, the football, politics, the kids anything to avoid telling you how I really feel inside.
You see, when I try to say I am not ok, and you have seen me smiling, laughing, being “normal” so I don’t want to have to convince you that I am not ok. I am scared that you will argue and say but last week you were happy, last time you came out we had a great time – yes to all of those things. That doesn’t mean that a little piece of me isn’t dying each day though.
I feel like for me, for now, I am really just surviving life whereas everyone else is out there living. There is a a big difference.
Living would be where I get out of bed with a sense of expectation, that the day holds new promise, hope, and that there is no overwhelming sense of dread or weight of the new day.
Surviving on the other hand to me feels like every ounce of energy dragging myself through the world. You know that feeling when you are trying to drag yourself out of the surf walking up the beach and the strength of the water rushing back out for the next set of waves is pushing against you. It feels like I need to be super human just to get the basic things done, let alone anything extra.
The worst part of all is that I will pretend to you, to others that I am ok, that I am capable of being here all the while fighting the need to run and hide, to be alone, to have the TV on to shut out the noise in my head. Some days it is so hard to focus on anything with all the noise of negativity in my head. The hopelessness that I feel can be overwhelming and sometimes it feels like it would be just easier to drown in the wave.
I desperately want to feel better, I wish there was a way that I could sleep all this away and simply wake up and it would be all gone. I want to understand why I feel like I am getting worse and not better.
I want nothing more than for this life-sucking disease to be gone, I am stuck in its stranglehold, I know this but there seems to be nothing I can do to change this. There is no magic pill. No amount of gratitude lists, or finding things to feel positive about or telling myself to “suck it up and be happy” seems to work. I rationally and logically know that there are people worse off than me, I know that I am incredibly blessed with loving family and friends, and that I have the means to get the help that I need. Sadly, these things actually only make it worse add to the burden like a noose around my neck.
All that I can do is hang on for the ride. I keep getting up each day, I keep trying, I keep hoping that today will be better. I try to remember what it felt like to be able to go to the shops without panicking I might run into someone and that they will ask how I am going. I play out how that might go in my head, I tell myself they don’t really care, that they are just being polite. I pray that I don’t run into anyone, I pray that I have the strength to smile and nod, I pray that I have the social graces to not unload on them in the supermarket, but mostly I pray to not have to go out at all.
I wish that there was a nice way of putting this. Of sugar coating depression and all the feels it brings with it. The reality is that there isn’t. Living with a major depressive disorder is a really shitty way to live. It isn’t living at all. Every day you put everything you can into just surviving please don’t ask for more.
I more than anyone knows that because of the smile I can put on that if you are on the outside looking in that this is not how it all appears. I understand that this can be hard to read and hard to comprehend but it is what lives in my head these are the feels that I (and a vast many others) live with everyday.
My hope is that one day this will all end, something will work, something will shift, something will change and take away all the darkness and pain I feel inside and that tomorrow will be a new day and that maybe the sun will come out. Until then I wait, I hope that I am stronger than the pull of the darkness. I have no other option really, this is how things are for now and the more I fight it the harder it is.
I am not sharing this to garner pity or sympathy. I share this in the hope that it might help someone else understand, so that it gives a window into the feels. The best thing you can do is just be there, hold me if I want to be held, talk with me if I want to talk, or just sit if I just want to sit. Depression is insidious and can affect anyone, if it touches someone you know just let them now they are not alone.
If you or anyone you know needs help with mental illness here are some support lines
Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
Lifeline 13 11 14