ZHUCHI has a workshop on today and I’ve just returned from the venue having set up the room, sorted the equipment, mingled with participants and seen the presenter right. Everything went swimmingly but that one hour of plastering on a smile and faking the social orgasm has left me depleted.
It’s a beautiful, sunny Autumn day in Newcastle, one of those days that would move my friends and family back in the UK to say something like: “This is AUTUMN??? Wow, it’s warmer, brighter more summery than our best summer day, lucky you.” And I would agree on the surface, with all the appropriate acknowledgements about my good fortune. Inside though, I can shamefacedly say I feel nothing. NOTHING. The blue sky and soft breeze, the silver of the water, the merry birds going about their business; I have a cerebral awareness of them, but do I feel the emotions I am meant to feel as I move through this reality? Sadly no. Because I am currently depressed. Not your run-of-the-mill blues, but a thick, stifling nothingness that threatens to drown me like a fly in molasses. The trip down the pit began a week ago and right now, I am bang in the middle.
What amazes me is that while I know this is a part of who I am, and it is largely managed and kept on top of, each time it happens it still surprises, shocks and despairs me. That’s amazing don’t you think? Shouldn’t I be taking it in my stride by now?
It occurs to me that one of the major features of depression is that when it passes, the horridness of it quickly leaves my mind and memory, almost as though it never happened. I think the soul must do this as an efficient way of ensuring I continue to put one step in front of the other. If I had a real-time recollection of each episode, I probably wouldn’t still be here. A bit like childbirth. If every first time mum were to remember the agony of birthing a baby, in all its bloody, panting, puffing, shouty glory then, crap, the world would be grossly underpopulated. But the brain conveniently forgets so that nature can continue to take its course. It's the same with each episode of depression. Quite simply, (and thank DOG), I forget them. But this is why, when they come again I am so stunned and angry. Even though all evidence points to the contrary, I would swear on the bible it isn’t ever going to pass; that this is the big one that I’ll never recover from. This is the one that will take my life. It’s so convincing and so fucking terrifying.
Do I want to wake up each morning with a sinking stomach and painful chest? No. Do I want the suicidal thoughts that pass inanely through my head like a shopping list: “oh look, there’s a 4WD, if I stepped off the curb now…” or “If I unbuckle my seatbelt now and open the door, the Pacific Highway would sort it all out”. I HATE that I have these thoughts, I hate that they come in to my mind as randomly as they do. I don’t want to act on them and I can assure people, I don’t invite them. They hurt me as much as they hurt my loved ones who watch on in their own version of helpless despair. But the thoughts come nonetheless, like maverick little pixies hellbent on gatecrashing the party. Depression makes you feel so out of control.
And today I’m really angry. I’m angry because I’m tired and more than a little defeated. I have bills to pay, a business to run, a part-time job to consider, a home to run, dogs to walk, a cat to feed, a garden that needs weeding, a husband who needs to feel loved, a family who wants to engage, friends I need to connect with; and I’m angry because I can’t do any of it. More to the point, the very thought of my "to-do" list petrifies me. This morning’s little performance has exhausted me to the point of sleep; considering embarking upon any of the other tasks at hand is overwhelming. No, correction it’s OVERWHELMING x 6 million. So I send yet more texts (because conversations are lethal) to people waiting for me to surface, advising them (sometimes honestly) of the situation, and do so knowing many will get together and talk about me, share opinions on what I should be doing to get out of the hole, pass a few well-intentioned judgements on how I don’t try hard enough to observe my triggers and respond to them in order to head depression off at the pass. It sucks.
I try my best but the problem is, I don’t really know what my triggers are. By the time I get an inkling of whats going down, it’s too late - I’m only one rung from the bottom of the ladder. By this point, the triggers come thick and fast and can be anything - from a child’s tear-stained face, to a dying butterfly knocked off course by a gust of strong wind. It’s so utterly random. How can I respond to a trigger I don’t even know is going to be a trigger? How?
Today is a particularly bad day and it’s still only 11.30am. By tonight I could be either a bit better or I could be in a full-on rage over the injustice of Officeworks wanting to charge me $175 to print five Powerpoint presentations back-to-back and in colour. I might also try and convince my husband to divorce me because I have nothing to offer him but misery, I might be content to lay tiredly in front of a movie, just grateful to not be thinking or feeling anything very much. I don’t know.
Usually these awful times last about two weeks (unless this is the forever episode of course) so I anticipate starting to feel better within a week or so. When I get there, now will have passed in to unconscious memory and I will inevitably look back, with some embarrassment and surprise, at the utter “poor me-ness” of this blog.
Until then, the pixies will continue to play, I’ll hold loved ones at arm’s length to protect them, and I’ll cry over dead worms and the fact the cat’s whiskers are slightly bent. Music will be soundless, sunny skies will exist only outside my bubble and birdsong will remind me of funerals.
Right now I am going to turn this machine off, rub some Vicks under my nose for comfort and I’m going to slide under the duvet to give my heart a rest.
Last entry I promised this one would be better.
Chris Skellett says…
Dear Liz, This post just tugs at my heart! You are soooo achingly honest. The last thing that you probably need is a visiting psychologist, but I’m hoping to come over anyway next month, so you’ll have to deal with that too! Take care. Everything has its place…
on May 13, 2014
oh liz, so profound, so accurate, such poetry, you are a gift, you are brave, ….
on May 11, 2014
I watch my daughter go through literally the same thing periodically, and desperately wait for it to pass. I also wonder, is this the one that is going to take her from this world, those insidious suicidal thoughts that just hop into her head uninvited. It strikes with such savagery, after all this time it still shocks me but we just batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. She never tells me just how bad it is, unfortunately she suffers in silence, but her eyes tell me the story, its very scary and for me the most painful thing to watch. For those that pass comments, its easy to give an opinion, but usually in my experience they don’t have a clue. A word of understanding would be a much nicer gesture, keep the rest. Love your blogs, keep it up Liz. Take care, Narelle
on May 05, 2014
How you paint so clear a picture, in a space so dark, that those who don’t know can even learn from it, is truly beyond me Liz.
If you can keep being brave like this we will all be better for it. You may not feel that but I am grateful to and for your courage.
Hoping you’ll be allowed to paint under lights again real soon. In the meantime, if you need your brushes washed, or some more supplies, “those who can’t, stand-awkwardly-by-with-open-arms-&-help-intending-hands” x
on May 02, 2014
I am so sorry to read that your depression is slogging you at the moment. It sounds terrible, painful and isolating. This is beautifully written, and I think your description of depression is so accurate it hurts to read it.
Stupid pixies with their stupid twittering. I wish I could throw darts at them, with good enough aim to pin them to the wall and get them tha hell away from you.
The pain comes through in this post, but your wisdom comes through as well. It is really good to read that you know it will pass. I second that, but I also wish it wasn’t happening in the first place.
Sending you a virtual bowl of vegie soup, with an offer to make and bring you a real one.
Wishing you whatever peace the day is prepared to bring you,
Liz I so admire your honesty and I love the way you write. You need to write a book. I was where you are now about three weeks ago and thank goodness am back out the other side. It will pass I promise and for now there is no shame in hiding under the doona. Your loved ones and friends understand. You did amazingly to even get there today. You are an inspiration to us all. Take care. Pip x
on May 01, 2014
It truly is such a lonely, exhausting illness. I too am currently in the middle of “no-woman’s land.” I hate that I can’t give a shit about friend’s birthdays, engagements, my job, my home. You said it so simply yet so accurately – it sucks.
I’m sad to hear you’re at this point, too. I’m sure we both know that words and well-meaning sentiments don’t really help… But I just wanted to commiserate, to say thanks for keeping it real in your blog and for pushing to get more awareness and understanding of this debilitating illness.
The depths of despair always surprise me too, when they inevitably come around again.
I hope you can get some rest.
Sending you hope…
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