Thanks to a stomach bug that left me unable to stomach much more than a turkey sandwich and a couple of crisps from Christmas Eve to Boxing day, yesterday* became my Christmas day. There was fizz and turkey and what I believe is technically termed a metric fucktonne of trimmings. Followed by party poppers, mandatory wearing of glow in the dark tat and silly string fights. It’s all class in my house.
It was when said silly string fight had petered out i.e. when we confiscated it from my maniacally giggling Nan that I made a comment about last year’s silly string fight, only to be reminded that it wasn’t last year at all because we were elsewhere last year.
“Oh of course! I wasn’t present last year!” I announced to some strange looks from everyone except my mum who confirmed that I was indeed “away with the fairies” last Christmas and New Year. I don’t really remember the festivities from last year because I had so completely and utterly checked out. I spent almost the entire time shut away in my aunt’s spare room crying and avoiding human interaction at all costs. A bit like a teenager really.
It wasn’t until I saw a very nice doctor in January and he prescribed me Citalopram that I started on the road to recovery. Well if recovery is shutting yourself off from everyone in your life except your mum and only leaving the house to go to the doctors for more time off work because you have panic attacks at the thought of going back.
Depression is one of those things we don’t talk about, not really. People will say they’re depressed when they don’t really mean it – “They sold out of Bombay Sapphire, I’m so depressed!” – but if someone really is depressed or was and got through it they “weren’t very well” or were “going through a tough time”.
When Gary Speed killed himself my twitter timeline filled with some beautifully moving tweets from people expressing their sadness and sharing their thoughts on what he must have been going through to drive himself to suicide. One such tweet I favourited because it resonated with me was @Katie_Khan saying: “It’s only really possible to share regarding depression when you’re out of it.”
I originally started this blog as somewhere I could write about what I was going through. Splurge the dark thoughts out of my head, shape them into something coherent and hopefully work my way past them. That didn’t really happen. I wrote one post, that sort of mentioned my depression and that was about it really. I then neglected the whole thing until I was back at work, feeling much better – well, better at least, much is stretching it.
I started writing this in between Christmas and New Year - hence the Christmas reference at the beginning, the yesterday referred to was the 28th December - but got waylaid by the family shattering my peace and wanting attention. Since then I seem to have been struggling with a block between my brain and fingers. There have been lots of things I’ve wanted to write about and I’ll find myself mentally drafting posts when I can’t write, like when I’m driving or half asleep, but as soon as I’m in front of a notepad or keyboard the words won’t come.
Originally this post was supposed to be about how much better I’m doing now. I was going to write about how awful I’d felt and then self indulgently congratulate myself on not feeling like I’m about to crumble anymore. But on Monday morning I couldn’t get out of bed. Just couldn’t move. I woke up at alarm time and just sat there. I just stared at my wardrobe for about an hour and a half.
Nothing bad has happened, nothing’s changed at all, there’s absolutely nothing to explain why all of a sudden I felt incapable of facing the world. Choosing clothes to wear felt like a crushingly difficult decision, the idea of then getting in my car and having to drive for half an hour felt like a huge insurmountable task. I had a mild panic attack when I tried to push myself to get up and get ready for work. I felt ridiculous trying to explain that I was sick to my boss but I did, I tried to put into words feelings that I don’t even understand myself. In the past I would have just taken leave or fallen back on the migraine lie – as I’ve even been told to so before by a member of the management team.
Today was my first day back at work and I was dreading it. I feel embarrassed to suffer with depression, even though I know how ridiculous that is. I would tell anyone else they were being bloody stupid if they said they were embarrassed or ashamed of their mental health problems. I just can’t stand seeing the pity in people’s eyes. Or worse, doubt. Those people who put depression in inverted commas with their tone of voice.
I didn’t know how to act at work today. If I was happy, would people think I was just throwing a sicky? If I was quiet and down would they worry I was about to breakdown again? I worried about the how-are-yous and the are-you-feeling-betters you inevitably get after a few days off. How much should I say? Would they know?
Fortunately – or unfortunately, I don’t know really know - there’s been a stomach bug going round the office, so I just look like another victim of that and I didn’t have to deal with people looking at me like I’m about to crumble. I shouldn’t feel relieved that I’m helping perpetuate the reluctance to talk about depression and other mental illnesses. I should feel able to tell people that I had a bad couple of days in the same way I would tell them if it had been a stomach bug. Who the fuck decided that it was more acceptable to talk about vomit than anxiety and sadness?
It really is time to start changing how we think and the only way to do that is to start talking about these things. This is my first step. I suffer with depression. I still get bad days and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.