Almost every week I deliver some training that includes some teaching on what it is like to live with depression.
Of course, many of those I’m training have already lived with depression themselves – but for those who haven’t, I am hopeful that the training I deliver gives them more of an insight into the reality of living with the condition.
I am certain that it does. My training is highly rated. The feedback is excellent. But, despite that, right now, I’m left wondering… how much can people really ‘get it’ if they haven’t felt it?
And I’m sure that, to whatever extent that is true, it applies to most – if not all – conditions that I train on.
The reason that I am left wondering this is that the last couple of weeks I feel like I’ve been knocked into a deep depression and I am shocked by how I’d forgotten how bad it feels.
Then again – can you really truly remember how bad something feels as much as when you are caught up in the feeling and can’t get out of it?
It’s been quite a while since I considered myself to have depression. I know that I’ve even mentioned to people on a few occasions this year that I don’t have depression any longer. Borderline personality, yes. And most of all, living with the effects of painful and traumatising life events and trying to heal from them.
But I have no doubt that during my worst period mentally – mid 2010 to late 2011 – I was severely depressed.
I remember it well.
- How difficult just functioning was.
- How impossible it felt just to get out of bed in the morning.
- How pointless everything felt. How ‘little things’ like showering or doing the housework were like the most challenging things in the world.
- How I felt no joy in anything.
- How I couldn’t let anyone into my flat because housework had piled up so bad, and I was so embarrassed – yet completely unable to do it.
- How practically every waking moment I was tormented by suicidal thoughts.
- How every day I would will myself to get into the shower, ask myself ‘how hard could it really be?’ yet most days it just felt too much.
- How I would have given anything to just not exists any more.
- How doing the laundry was so hard so I was often wearing unclean clothes into work – so afraid that people were noticing, and of course afraid that I was smelly, but still feeling unable to do anything to fix it…
- How I felt like the most useless failure in the world for being unable to manage even the most ‘simple things’ – which of course just left me feeling worse about myself, and I got caught in this big vicious cycle.
- How I would go to work (usually late, as getting out of bed was so hard), focus on my work, often work late, as throwing myself into work just made it easier in a way, go home, and just curl up till morning (no housework, no personal hygiene, no anything… it was too hard)
- How I so badly wanted to find a way to end the pain, and could see no other way than through suicide – yet didn’t have the courage for anything big, but couldn’t find another way that was certain to work.
- How I gave myself such a hard time for not being able to do stuff ‘I have two arms, two legs, why can’t I just pop some clothes in the washing machine? why can’t I just shower?’ was the type of thing I asked myself constantly’ again just making myself feel worse.
- How I felt so guilty for wanting to put the people in my life through my death, so devoted so much time into researching ways to take my own life which may look like an accident, hopefully making it easier for those left behind.
- How every waking moment was just so painfully unbearable in a way that I could never describe to another person, no matter how much I wanted to
- How, realistically, I could just go on and on with this list forever…..
I remember all of those and more. How could I ever forget it?
But… I don’t know that it’s possible to truly remember how bad it feels, except when back feeling it.
I have felt it at times since then. But usually very temporarily and not as severely.
This week in particular I have really felt it.
There are several things that may have triggered it. They’re not important. Well, they are to me, but they’re not important here.
But, as much as I tried to tell myself that it’s normal, it hurts and it’s unbearable but it’ll pass, there are things that I know I can do that will help and so on… as much as I reassure myself of anything, I’ve still being so very shocked by how bad it feels.
How can you truly remember every day how bad a deep depression feels unless you’re actually in the midst of it?
I’m glad that I’d forgotten. Because knowing and remembering how bad it feels is unbearable.
This week I’d no training scheduled – though that’s not why I was feeling this way, but it probably didn’t help.
Most days I stayed in bed – I lay in bed willing myself to get up, to do stuff, to eat, to shower, to just not be in bed – yet couldn’t. Some days I did work on my laptop – but in bed. Because I simply felt that I couldn’t get out of bed.
I slept two nights on the sofa, because going in to the bed was too much effort, and then the next morning getting up from the sofa felt too hard, so just lay there most of the day.
I felt like everything was suddenly swamped in darkness. And this darkness was completely overwhelming me. And I wanted so badly to do things that I knew might lift the darkness, yet felt completely unable to.
I’d forget to eat, and when I did that was an effort in itself. But then I was surprised by the fact that I’d forgotten to eat – which really isn’t like me.
The flat had gotten very messy – for many complicated reasons – and I wanted so much to get up and start tidying up, yet it felt so hard.
I’m describing external symptoms, but I’m not sure I know how to describe the feeling. Darkness, yes, but it goes way beyond that. Bleakness. Nothingness. I wish I could describe how bad and unbearable everything felt, but I can’t. I really, really can’t.
The constant thought was ‘it’s all too hard‘. (I sobbed to my psychologist a week and a half ago, and what I kept saying then also was ‘it’s all too hard‘)
And those ‘it’s all too hard’ thoughts were, I’m sure, partly what lead to the suicidal thoughts. I wasn’t actively suicidal – not much more than ‘I can’t take this. It’s all too hard. I need a way out’. Yet suddenly I was googling and researching ways to take my own life that could look like an accident. That was one of the first moments that really made me take notice and see that something was very wrong.
I hadn’t really been thinking about self-harm, yet everywhere I looked I was seeing new methods, that I felt really compelled to do. Methods that intrigued me a lot. I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to avoid doing so, but that was a massive struggle in itself.
There were two things that made this past week and how I was feeling so hard.
1. The fact that I’d forgotten how bad it feels. I truly had. And that was scary. Because it made what I was feeling so much more overwhelming and so much more painful.
2. That I knew what may help me feel better, but generally I felt unable to do them. If I was speaking to my psychologist she would reassure me of the things that we both know may help. But when caught up in feeling so bad they feel so difficult to do . That’s one of the difficult parts – and in that moment, knowing the things that may help, but feeling unable to do any of them, it makes me lose any hope that things may get better.
Where I had to go and do stuff with other people, that was easier in a way. But otherwise… no… it felt impossible to do any of the things that would help.
Today, for now, I’m feeling a bit more able. The bleakness feeling is still there (but not as strong) but for now, feeling a little more able is good. Even if it only lasts today.
And because I feel a little more able, I’m going to do some of the things that I know may help (writing this, of course, being one of those things). Hoping they will lift some of the bleakness.
But I’m still ultimately stunned by how bad it feels.
I’m glad in a way that I’d forgotten. If, every day, I’d been remembering quite how bad it feels, I don’t know how I’d have been able to go about my everyday life.
But in another way it definitely makes it harder. Because it makes how bad it has felt the last week so much more over-powering.
And if I’d forgotten, how can anyone truly understand if they’d not felt it themselves?