Notes on Depression: The Darkest Day

  • Spiral staircase

Notes on Depression: The Darkest Day

My Monday post last week came slightly late and my Monday post for next week is slightly early, so bear with me! Terri has very kindly allowed me to double up this week and share something very personal. Every experience is different, but sometimes I see something in an account that I recognise and it lifts me up, makes me feel less alone. If this can offer any comfort to others, even a slight flicker, then I’m truly glad. 

Notes on Depression: The Darkest Day

by Donna Brown

“I saw the days of the year stretching ahead like a series of bright, white boxes, and separating one box from another was sleep, like a black shade. Only for me, the long perspective of shades that set off one box from the next day had suddenly snapped up, and I could see day after day after day glaring ahead of me like a white, broad, infinitely desolate avenue.”

Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar

I have had many dark days, some involving hospitals, psychiatrists, sedation, drama, crises, arguments and isolation. In 13 years of dealing with bouts of depression, my darkest moment is still easy to pinpoint.  It was the day I woke up and knew I loved my husband but couldn’t feel it. Strange when you think that so many moments were more dramatic – more dangerous – but this, to me, epitomised everything that this disease can strip you of.

Long corridor

For me, the worst thing has always been – will always be – the disconnect from ‘normal’ life

You know the feeling: rationally you know something to be the case, but you can’t make your instincts and feelings tally. Imagine if that detachment and confusion applied to your thoughts about the person you love. I could look at my husband, my cats, my home and know how lucky I was. I couldn’t feel anything. I was standing on the other side of a canyon of emptiness, looking on.

In the 13 years since I was originally diagnosed with clinical depression – hospitalised, medicated and then after two weeks returned home as if nothing had happened – I have never found a way to explain depression that sums it up more completely than the absence of normal feeling. Intense anger will rise up, or intense self-loathing, intense sadness or overwhelming loneliness. Extremes. The feeling of satisfaction from a job well done or vague pleasure after a chat with a neighbour? Gone.

I was honest with my husband, Dave. I told him: I look at you and I feel nothing. I know I love you but I don’t feel it, any more than I can touch gravity or the sky. To his credit, he simply nodded, held my hand, thanked me for my explanation.

Spiral staircase

It’s a long way back up but it’s worth every step

Months after the start of this particular bout and a combination of medication, talking, exercise and rest have helped me progress considerably. I feel something when I hold my new niece – so much so that I often want to cry. I feel something when my little cat Buggles pushes his head against mine to express his love. Most of all – best of all – I feel the love for my husband. Not entirely – it’s almost as though it’s through a fog of anaesthetic sometimes – but it’s there and it grows daily.

There are many things that make depression a terrible disease: exhaustion, irrational moods, anger, insomnia, even physical aches and pains. For me, the worst thing has always been – will always be – the disconnect from ‘normal’ life, the feeling of being  an observer. I’ve spent four of the last thirteen years with severe depression. Sometimes I wonder, is that lost time? Did I waste four years of my life?

The answer is no. If those four years have taught me anything, they’ve taught me that every single moment that I can think, feel, love and experience fully must be cherished and remembered.

Phoenix

After the darkness, life’s colour is so much more vibrant..

I don’t know how much of the rest of my life will be spent feeling numb or empty. Perhaps this last instance will be the final one. Perhaps not. What I do know is that as much as I cannot appreciate friends, family, loved ones fully during the bad times, I am utterly, overwhelmingly full of love in every other moment. If depression is the ice around my heart, the good times provide the sun that keeps my heart warm and full of joy.

So, bear with me when I cannot feel fully, world. Something shuts down to protect me from the things you wouldn’t want me to feel  – self-hatred, regret, disappointment in myself, a sense of failure – but, like the phoenix I had tattooed to mark my first return to ‘normal’ life, I will rise again, more bold, more vibrant, more here.

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2015-08-14T05:58:14+00:00May 11th, 2013|Categories: Column: Donna Brown|Tags: , , |

About the Author:

Donna has been a virtual assistant since 2012. She blogs at Fragmentary Thoughts, writing about books, mental health, culture and cats on a regular basis. She's been blogging for the last few years and addicted to the internet for longer than she cares to admit. She lives in Yorkshire, UK surrounded by books and cats.

10 Comments

  1. Amanda May 11, 2013 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    Thank you for being so open, Donna. I’ve felt that “disconnect”, and I’m not at a point where I can appreciate it. Very few people know I was diagnosed with depression at 19, partly because I’m not good at sharing private things and partly because one of the first people I told responded with, “Really? You don’t act depressed.” I don’t even know what she meant by that. I don’t really have a point. I just want to say “thank you” and let you know you’re not alone. Unfortunately, I think there are many, many of us out here.

    • Donna Brown May 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      I’ve encountered similar reactions, but really, how would you tell? Along with ‘Why? Everything’s going so well’, ‘Chin up’, ‘There’s always someone worse off…’ What do those phrases have in common? They hinder rather than help, make it so much harder to talk about things without feeling like you’re making a mountain out a molehill. That has to stop. We’d never say to someone with a broken arm, ‘just carry on playing tennis – it’ll heal!’.

      Nope, not alone. It feels like the loneliest thing in the world but finding someone who has experienced things – like those comments! – makes a huge difference. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Sending lots of virtual hugs!

  2. Suzie May 12, 2013 at 12:40 am - Reply

    Donna, you provided a wonderful explanation on how it feels to be depressed. I have been there and it is an utterly lose feeling in where you wonder if you are the only person around. Just remember you are never alone. No matter what Dave, the cats and all TRUE friends & loving family will always stand by you no matter what. ****HUGS****

  3. Elisabeth May 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Your words are so beautifully descriptive, and so feeling, putting into words the actual place depression takes people. Being an observer, removed from emotional ties & feelings, sometimes is the only way to survive a day. I love your attitude, and your identity as a phoenix – thank you for your honest expression.

  4. V Hamilton May 16, 2013 at 11:35 am - Reply

    I have lived with Depression for 35 years. The worst part is people not understanding it and the enemies I have made because of it. They didn’t have the medication like they do now when mine began. Along with panic attacks, I sometimes wonder how I survived it.

  5. Laura Zera May 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Donna, thank you for such a beautiful post. You’ve put the feelings into words so well, and I totally relate. I’ve had bouts on and off for 23 years and when I’m in a good place, I agree, I feel such great appreciation and love and compassion for people and things that it really helps me feel that the dark times are a small trade-off. Of course, I don’t feel that way *during* the dark times, but who does? Hugs to you, you are not alone.

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