‘Hey look I’m really sorry, I couldn’t make it to yr party. I know it looks like I’m gonna cry, got this to do list behind my eyes. Go tell yr friends I’m still a feminist, but I won’t be coming to yr benefit. I give up, I’ll be at home today’
Le Tigre, Much Finer
I’ve been dealing with depression for most of my adult life: my black dog, my darkness: I use euphemisms to try and explain it, negate it, or transform it into something other people can understand.
It is not constant. It waxes and wanes. Re-emerges in different forms: from the initial eating disorder which sent lights flashing in the gps eyes but was probably just a stage I was going through, to the persistent crying in my final year of uni when I drank far too much, far too often and kept injuring myself on nights out, or the 6 week period of insomnia I went through as an adult which was the warning sign for the breakdown of the long term relationship I was in and a greater depression I’m still emerging from. Its triggered by stress, change and uncertainty. But after a while you come to realise: these are symptomatic mutations of an underlying condition. For me that condition is clinical depression.
It was a huge thing when I was told that now, because of the length and nature of my symptoms, under the DDA I am classed as having a disability. That’s a big thing to take in for someone who always laughed it off, never took such things seriously herself, never mind expecting others to do the same.
Because I am (and hopefully always will be) high functioning. What this basically means is despite the problems depression brings for the most part I can hold down a job, romantic relationships (er), and close friendships.
The diagnosis was a kick up the arse. On one hand I didn’t especially like it and on the other it was a kind of confirmation of a problem I know I have, but really have never understood or accepted.
It made me do what I should have done a long time ago: I started taking it seriously. Starting with indepth research of my condition and treatments. Like most people SSRI’s are a crutch (and a bloody vital one) which take the hard edge off of living a depressive episode. But they don’t really fix anything. Looking at patterns in my thoughts and behaviors and realizing that they fitted; pretty much point by point: into a text book case of depression, was actually really helpful. It started to shed light on some of the irrational thought patterns which fire off in my head which were previously never really conscious. Stuff like speaking to a friend who is in a bad mood and assuming its something you’ve done to them which is making them pissed off and then being racked with guilt about it, or not being able to articulate when someone does something to hurt you, because your so scared that it’ll make them reject you, because they probably never really liked you in the first place, because why would you, yr a waste of space right? Or dismissing any of yr achievements as worthless cuz of the one tiny thing you could have done better. It is *hard*. It is hard to own up to, it is hard to make any progress on.
It also made me realise there were some people I couldn’t have in my life any more. Who for whatever reason actually liked the insecure, self hating Rachel and actively encouraged me to be this way. Only a couple, but I don’t break friendships easy; and it was a massive step for me to move myself away from these damaging relationships.
And that’s kind of it. After the ‘revelation’: ‘yeah I probably do suffer from depression’, comes the hard work of owning then challenging harmful thoughts. Its like anything else worth fighting for: slow and hard work. And sometimes when it is a fucking achievement to get out of bed, its not something I have energy for. But then this just becomes something else I can beat myself up about and I’m trying to move away from that. So I’m slowly chipping away, like with my writing, trying not to judge, trying my best, not comparing myself to others. And just really: starting to learn that I’m ok. Really I am. I’m doing alright.