If only depression could manifest itself in a subtle physical way – like a fingernail turning blue, a spot of discolouration on a shoulder or a swollen knuckle – something that would let people know that you are not better even if you seem to be.
I had a meeting with my boss today. At one point she said “you seem better now” and it’s true, I’m better than I was when I last had a meeting with her. But I’m not better. And I sensed her annoyance at me when I wouldn’t commit to dates and shied away from full time work. She wasn’t mean or unreasonable but she kept gently pushing – maybe you could do mornings and afternoons here? – and I had to keep pushing back, trying to explain that the reason I am somewhat better is that I have taken on much less. If I had a bright blue fingernail to wave or an over-sized knuckle to show off, it would be so much easier to prove I am still not well and I wouldn’t feel guilty about not going back to full time or pressured to accept hours I don’t feel ready for.
And maybe also I wouldn’t question myself. Am I ready to go back to full time? Am I just being lazy, enjoying my 2 o’clock bus back into town, home before 3 a little too much? Or am I just angry with myself for being talked into something I didn’t want to do, of being too weak to state my case clearly and eloquently? When I doubt my own mind and my own motives I can hardly blame someone else for doing the same.
If I were rich, perhaps I would fund some kind of research into turning brain reactions into subtle physical signs. Maybe it would help with stigma, maybe it would help to self-monitor such an unpredictable illness, maybe it would make my boss realise that I am not ready to leap back into work.
But then if I were rich, I wouldn’t have to take on any work and the problem would be solved.