It’s been 8 months now. 8 month since this cruel depressive episode began and it fails to calm. Fails to let up from it’s relentless torture. Fails to allow me to breathe without its heavy weight on my chest and I’m exhausted.
But I’m alive.
In the physical sense at least.
But that’s not the truth that people want to hear when they ask you how you are is it? They ask with the hopeful expectation that you are feeling brighter. Lighter. On the mend. So we lie, or at the very least omit to confessing the truth.
The truth being that I spend almost every day telling myself not to end my life despite wanting to. Almost every day believing that this episode will be the death of me. But I smile. I smile, say my please and thank yous and allow those that ask me how I am to remain blissfully ignorant.
I go to work and despite everything, do my job well. My colleagues are none the wiser. My bosses the same. I spend over 40 hours a week appearing and acting sane, which is a full time job in of itself but I do it because I no longer trust the world to cope with my vulnerability.
But I don’t moan about the pain I’m in. Don’t write about how unfair I think it is that I have to suffer to such a degree because everyone is ‘worse off’. ‘People have it worse than you’ and I don’t doubt that they do but we all suffer in varying degrees and that doesn’t stop my mental illness crushing me with the weight of its words. Doesn’t stop me listening to the part of me that tells me I’m a failure. Weak. Pathetic.
But there are days when I have strength to ignore those hateful beliefs. Days where I can strongly tell all my fears, doubts and self hatred to sit down, take a ticket and shut the fuck up. Days where I have the energy required to do more than just exist. But they are few and far between despite what people would like to believe. That’s the truth they want to see, not the ugly, painful part of life because negative truth makes people uncomfortable doesn’t it? They don’t know what to say or do. They don’t know how to behave. And so they stop themselves asking the difficult questions.
I recently had a mental health assessment in the psychiatric ward of the hospital that caused my breakdown; a painful irony that was not lost on me, and despite smiling and laughing throughout, I told her the absolute truth and for a moment she was speechless. Speechless because she couldn’t connect the pain I was describing to the woman in front of her. There I sat looking well-dressed, upbeat and ‘together’ and the story I told was one of a woman who didn’t want to live. She called me high functioning and terrifying. Terrifying, she said, because of all the people she treats it is the high functioning she worries most about because we quietly yet painfully break in plain sight. We are the statistics. The ones who ‘slip through the net’ despite being on medication or seeking counselling. We break and we smile as we do it.
She offered to listen. But I said no. I said no because after 16 years of ‘chronic low mood’ interspersed with severe depressive episodes, I no longer believe I can be fixed. Supported? Yes. Fixed? No. And that’s the danger isn’t it? That we convince ourselves that there’s no hope so we stop searching for support or help. She asked if she could help find the ‘root cause’ of this episode but I know what’s causing it. Home. Australia. And the fact that I lived the happiest months of my life there and now it’s over. The fact that I finally felt content and that isn’t the life I have anymore. The fact that for almost an entire year I woke up happy to be alive. But no more. There are no whales at the end of my road. Beach breakfasts with friends. Naked swims with strangers.
And there will be people that read that last sentence and be angry because I should be happy that I got to lead such a ‘fairy-tale existence’ and achieve my dreams, if only for a short amount of time and that’s true, I did get my ‘happy after all’. But I deserved it just as you do though it’s hard to state my pain without sounding like an ungrateful person to those who haven’t suffered to the depths so many of us have. Imagine being chronically ill for 15 years, discovering a cure for 10 months only to have it snatched away. It’s the closest analogy I can muster.
I spend almost every day avoiding Australia and my feelings for it, in every way. I have pushed my friends away. Can’t look at photos and have entire playlists of music I can’t listen to. And I avoid them all because the moment I am forced to face the reality of my current situation I am crushed by a tidal wave of pain. An avalanche of emotion that I don’t have the strength to cope with.
But I stay quiet because it’s easier than seeing people’s faces when I tell them how I feel or feeling them roll their eyes at how ungrateful I appear to be because they don’t understand. And I have to persistently remind myself that my feelings are valid whether other people understand and acknowledge them or not.
I am in pain. Daily. Whether other people can see it is immaterial. It is felt.
I wrote in January that I had lost my will to live. That I was merely existing. 8 months later and though I have more energy to put make-up on my face, clothes on my back, go to work and see friends, my feelings have not changed.
But I am stubbornly attempting to move forward despite the emotional and mental weights that I carry with me. Attempting to make business ideas come to fruition despite the lack of self belief and energy. See friends despite wanting to stay in bed all day and sleep. Be the ‘inspiration’ people perceive me to be.
But I am not much better. When I have dared to think my episode is plateauing, my acute symptoms worsen. I have had hysterical panic attacks so intense I have considered the need for hospital just to be sedated, my energy levels are not consistent and my sleep is broken. Despite what I may write, or omit to write, on social media, my mood has barely improved but I continue to get up each day because it’s what I should do. What others need me to do. What you need me to do.
I am existing the best way I know how; one minute at a time.
And I haven’t talked about this in detail for the only reason that I haven’t had the energy to write. Or read. Or focus enough to formulate an emotionally intelligent way of saying I am broken.
For a short time I even considered seeing a grief counsellor until I realised that they would ask me to do the one thing I knew I could not. Let go of Australia. To let go of all my emotions wrapped around my Australian life and the person I became because of it. To let go of the notion and anger that it is no longer my physical home. And I’m not ready to do that. I’m not ready to say goodbye because doing so makes it real. Doing so means that Australia is now in the past and I can’t bring myself to move on. And whilst that means I am mentally and emotionally stuck in this purgatory of hopelessness and anger that my happy life came to an end, I would rather live with that pain that move on from it for now.
It is not healthy, that I realise, but I also realise (and have written before) that grief does not come with a time frame. There is no precedent for moving through misery. And though I carry my grief like a ball and chain, I am not ready to let it go for now. I am not ready to accept my current reality as my new reality.
And as you read this I have no doubt that some may roll their eyes believing I should simply ‘get over it’, others will understand and some will want to make suggestions to attempt to fix me but this is my pain. I don’t write my words so that people will support or help me, I write to know my thoughts and so that others struggling know that they are not alone.
I want to let go. To be able to look back and smile instead of crying at the life I once lived but I can’t. Not yet.
I don’t know when the day will come where I feel ready to move on but it’s not today.
And it’s certainly not tomorrow.