Sunday, 18 May 2014

A Story of Depression

I have always valued people who have helped put words around human experiences. Those who have vulnerably shared their stories so that others can grasp onto that normalisation of their own experience. I believe our stories, our narratives, have huge power, both for ourselves to share them, but also for those privileged to hear them. Stories expel shame and invite empathy and community. The below is my story of reflecting on my experiences of depression:

Emptiness. The feeling that I have already been running on low with a leak slowly allowing drips out, drop by drop. And one day it is empty. Yet despite the leaks, the total emptiness comes as a surprise. A void inside which is bone-dry of energy, emotions, life. Just a gaping empty space where life used to be. But now nothing.

Feeling like a hollow body, trying to navigate through a world of people who seemingly have something inside - something which makes them enjoy and love and hope and smile. Something that makes these things come naturally and even vulnerably, not just as a mask to cover up the nothingness.

The voice of depression was in my own voice. But not the voice that other people knew. It was my 'inside voice', the one only I had to endure. The voice that reminded me I was worthless and broken and unfixable. The voice that told me I was a burden on others and that silence would be easier. The voice that told me that I had to do it all on my own so no-one else could see how weak I was.

Because I felt nothing, I found it hard to even feel anything about depression. The numbness instead reminded me that this wasn't life, so why would I want to be alive and continuing the suffering. Somewhere in me the rational voice reminded me that other people in the world still had feelings left inside them, so even if I didn't care if I was dead, they might be sad. This is the one thing that kept me alive. I didn't ever care about hurting myself, because when you can't feel you can't hurt. But I knew that my decision to end it all would hurt others who did still have feelings and I couldn't possibly take that responsibility for causing them pain.

I became the master of disguise. I smiled and laughed and helped and studied and functioned. As much as it exhausted me, I maybe even increased in functioning as a step to conceal what was really going on inside. I hid from others and I hid from myself. I tried tricking myself into thinking that I was fine, until eventually I'd end up on the floor in a ball wondering when this was going to end and debating whether I should help the end come sooner.

Depression also lied and told me that I was alone. Alone in my depression, alone in brokenness, alone in suffering, alone in life. Shame festered and grew and I knew that no-one must ever know of this terrible monster that was inside... This empty ghost in my soul.