“D’ya want to come out for a drink with us?” my flatmate calls from the hallway. No, I think, because I haven’t stopped crying for two hours because I am so worried that the pizza delivery guy I saw last week is unhappy with his life and the skin around my fingers is picked away to nothing from anxiety and I feel sick every time I have to look anyone in the eye.
“Nah, not tonight. I’m way too tired.” My voice sounds thin and reedy. It doesn’t belong to me.
I end up crying alone for the rest of the night, the kind of desperate, choking crying when you’ve long since given up understanding why.
It’s 2015. We can get our heads around, like, the fact that we can grow human beings in test tubes but, no matter what, we can’t seem to register depression as being a real illness.
Of course, not everyone considers their depression that way – maybe the connotations are too negative, the impression of being broken, but to me thinking of it in terms of an illness makes me think ‘it means I will get better’. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to talk about. I can’t even bring myself to tell my flatmate, so I couldn’t in a million years take a day off work by explaining that I feel so hollow and desolate that I can’t physically bring myself to speak. Flu? Sure, you feel better soon. Period pains, TMI but we’re all girls here. Crying so hard it hurts to blink? Well we all get upset and stressed but we can’t use it as an excuse to not work, can we, or we’d never get anything done around here.
It’s exhausting. How can something that causes so much pain and be medically proven just be brushed aside? Because it’s all in my head? Well, isn’t everything? I read that ONE THIRD of the British workforce has struggled with depression and not spoken out. How has it been allowed to get to the point where unwell people are having to pretend that everything is okay at the risk of being fired just for being ill? It may not as obvious as, say, broken bone but it doesn’t hurt any less.
We need to stop thinking of depression as just being sad and start thinking of it as what it is – a real, serious, debilitating condition. Being a bit down didn’t make me stop eating for days on end and breaking down in public on the rare days that my mum managed to coax me out of the house. Feeling a bit sad wasn’t the reason I lay awake at 4am wondering how I could die without upsetting my family too much. It’s real and it hurts much more than a broken bone ever could.