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 Plath, The 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.
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.
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.
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.