I don’t remember the specific moment something in my mind changed. It could have been when I was little, when I was too young to really remember anything but my mother’s smile. It could have been when I was on the cusp of being a teenager, with spots covering my forehead and stealing whatever confidence I had left. It could have been when I was sitting in the exam hall with a maths paper in front of me, and with no hope at all. All I know is one day, for no reason at all, I could not get out of bed.
The thing is, there’s no explanation as to why I couldn’t get out of bed that day. Sometimes there’s a explanation for things like this: a bad childhood, a death in the family, bad weather. But I’d had a reasonably carefree childhood, there had been no recent deaths and the sun was shining outside. I couldn’t see it as the curtains were pulled tightly shut, but I could hear the neighbors setting up barbeques on their patios and playing the local radio station at full volume.
I had no reason to not want to get out of bed. I felt weighed down, I woke up in tears and when every last tear had been squeezed out of me, all that was left was an emptiness that hadn’t been there when I fell asleep the night before. All I could think of was the heaviness of my limbs, of my heart, and my mind. I pressed my face into my pillow and told myself that if I stayed still for long enough, all of these alien feelings would go away.
Of course, they didn’t.
The first thing you need to know about depression is that it creeps up on you and rewires you and strips you of your emotional stability and strength. It’s never a choice. In fact, I would have given my left arm for it to become a choice because I would have chosen to never feel so hopeless again. Then again, I would have given my left arm to delete myself from existence.
In all cases of depression, there’s stigma. A sort of ‘pull yourself together’, ‘you’ll be fine tomorrow’ stigma that makes you believe you are all alone and nobody else has ever felt this way before. If you have never been face to face with depression before, the symptoms are alien to you and because you’re so vulnerable, you allow people to tell you that it’s just a blip, it’s just a bad day and it will pass.
But what if it doesn’t pass? What if you are stuck in this Nowhere Land of empty feeling, loneliness and emotional isolation for ever? This was what came to mind every time I tried to leave my bedroom after The First Day I Couldn’t Get Out of Bed. I was terrified of being this way for the rest of my life.
When I first heard the word depression mentioned to me, I was stunned into a sad silence. I thought I’d never ever get such an illness, because I’d been brought up on the media and tabloid newspapers like The Sun. Depression was what celebrities got, and it wasn’t what normal people like me suffered with. At first, I thought I had some kind of virus or infection that had somehow rewired my brain.
My mother cried because her love alone couldn’t mend me and I felt ashamed. I felt guilty for feeling this way, for feeling at all and I wished I was a better daughter. A better person, with prospects, and who could get out of bed everyday, no problem.
“But I can’t have that. Not me.”I protested, digging my fingernails into the broken leather of the chair I was sitting in. I felt like flying away, but the thought petrified me, so I had to keep myself grounded.
“Of course you can. Anybody, at any time in their lives can become depressed.”The doctor replied with a sort of sympathetic, ‘that poor girl’ look in his eyes.
I wanted to run out of that doctor’s office. My mind whirled, and for the first time since The First Day I Couldn’t Get Out of Bed, I wanted to die. I wanted somebody to shoot me so it wouldn’t be listed as a suicide, I wanted to throw myself out of a moving car, and I wanted, more than anything, to no longer be. The guilt, the shame, the silences from family members when my mother phoned them that night, the sleepless nights and sleepy days all contributed to me wanting to end my life.
My family wanted answers. They wanted to know why I had depression, when I would be cured, why I’d developed it in the first place.
Let me tell you something right now: it’s not that fucking easy.
The second and maybe last thing you need to know about depression is that sometimes there is no answer as to why you became depressed in the first place. You could be a CEO with the world at your feet and more money than sense, and become depressed. You could have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and you still become depressed. In contrast, sometimes there is a reason. Your mother dying, for instance. Eviction. The end of a relationship. The end of a friendship. What I am trying to say is simple: your feelings, no what your situation is, or what your background is, are relevant.
Depression, for me, was a Nowhere Land. A desolate, lonely place that I sometimes still visit. And as Charles Dickens said ‘We need never be ashamed of our tears.’
We needn’t be ashamed at all.