More than just sadness

There are a lot of horrible things about depression. The sadness, of course, is one. Being sad all the time is about as miserable as you imagine it would be. But beyond the sadness is the lack of happiness. The two are not quite the same. Sometimes the sadness goes away for a while and the tears stop but the lack of happiness remains. Eventually it becomes a forgotten emotion, one you know exists but can’t quite identify with any more.

Then there’s the exhaustion. Having to pretend is tiring, not sleeping properly adds to that, crying takes it out of you. And it builds. Each day sees you beaten down a little bit more until it gets to the point when there are days when even getting out of bed is too much. As for things that actually take effort, they go early on. Getting ready for nights out, socialising, working, making plans, making changes… All lose to the necessity of staying in pyjamas in bed and moving as little as possible.

Of course, being sad and tired all the time soon loses you friends. And then you start isolating yourself and that loses you friends and soon even those people who told you they’d always be there sidle away and you are alone. And because you’re sad and worn out and, of course, depressed, you convince yourself that you don’t deserve friends anyway and so there’s no point making any more or putting yourself out in the world. Even if you had the energy to do that. So loneliness becomes almost tangible and more real and painful than you ever thought it could be.

There’s the over-eating or under-eating. Binging and starving. There’s the aching neck and shoulders from the constant tension, the headaches from crying, the heart palpitations and panic attacks…

And then there’s the void. The nothingness. When there are no feelings, there is no motivation. You long for this emptiness when your emotions are so low but when it comes, you just want to feel something. You shuffle through days in a daze, dragging legs through heavy air, that same heaviness pushing down on your shoulders and into your head until you can’t focus or think. You just go through the motions and wonder how no one seems to notice that you are not a person any more.

There’s the hopelessness and the pointlessness and the worthlessness. The fear of the future, the hope that it never comes, that there’s some way out of this. The fear of people finding out.

But the worst is the shame. Depression dumps shame on you and stands back to enjoy watching it worm its way in and take up home. It is ever-present and all-consuming. It’s there every time you read the news and see people being bombed and people younger than you battling terminal illnesses and plane crashes and car crashes and old people having to choose between heating their home or eating. It’s there when a friend loses a relative or suffers a tragedy. It’s there when you can’t summon up the energy to visit someone or show enthusiasm for something. It’s there when you show fake enthusiasm and smile with your mouth but not your eyes. It’s there when you ask for help. It’s there when you congratulate yourself because, wonders of wonders, you had a shower today and brushed your teeth. It’s there every time you wish you had cancer or hope that the plane you’re on will plummet to the ground and solve all your problems.

And it’s there because your life is on hold indefinitely. Even if you’re lucky and no one tells you to your face to pull yourself together (“why didn’t I think of that?!”), you feel it every time someone suggests a solution and you shake your head in defeat and crawl back to bed. You feel it every time you cancel an appointment. And mostly you feel it every time someone asks how you are and you realise you have two choices: lie or tell the truth, and neither is fair.

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