Tuesday, January 28, 2014

This time I know you

I'm starting this week's post with an apology: this is no good. Please, just skip on to the next. It has not been written to entertain an audience, or to continue the blog, or because I want to share my feelings (I'm pretty sure I don't). I can't really explain why I'm writing this one and I may never hit 'publish'. It won't even make sense without reading all the way through. But here it is:

I knew you were coming

This isn't something that hits suddenly - it takes months and months to manifest. It seemed sudden before, when I was younger, because I wasn't yet experienced enough to understand the warning signs. I didn't know back then what was coming. But this time I do. I've been feeling you now for almost a year and, because your progress was slow and gradual, I honestly thought that I could fight you off, ignore you, push you down and carry on.

I remember how you operate

It's been almost three years since your last visit. You struck me in February 2011 when I left Cardiff and started a new job in Swindon. I'd had a sizeable pay-off, walked straight into another role with a better salary and bought the car of my dreams... and yet I managed to justify you. I told myself you were expected because my life had changed without my permission, because the work I was doing was unsatisfying and because I'd lost the social interaction of working and spending time with friends closer to home. Those things supposedly made my fortuitous life miserable enough to warrant you.

I could plainly see the contradiction and was embarassed by the excuses, but my doctor and family backed me up, prescribing drugs and rest to counterbalance the 'horror' of my situation, and when I was later invited to start a new life in London I used those same excuses to shrug you off, eventually indulging in some of the happiest circumstances I've ever been lucky enough to live through.

I thought I'd beaten you

Every time I felt that you might be lurking, I deployed my defences. I planned, imagined, took control of my life and sought out the big rewards that keep you at bay. Change is the key, or so I believe, so I kept changing: new flat, new job, new friends (the most amazing friends), new diet, new ambitions... Every time I dreamt up something worth doing I did it without hesitation. I found creative outlets and I celebrated every win. I believed you would fade away, cease to be.

But I felt your gaze again in December and my defences were weak. My default position was propped up on one elbow, repose on the sofa with a bottle and a pizza box. I drank cheap wine with anyone who'd join me, fearing spending time alone in case you spoke. I knew that you were gaining strength and that my next change would have to be a big one. So I took time over Christmas and conceived the 'build an eco house' plan. It was a good one! One of the few wishes I've always held onto but haven't ever before tried to fulfill, one that I was saving for 'later'. In planning I realised that it was achievable and that I could make it happen now, and the excitement of the project would be enough to defeat you. I was prepared and I was focused.

You didn't back off

But it's a delicate position to be in, relying on just one plan to stave you off. My passion can keep you at bay as long as it's progressing but one setback, one difficulty and you leap. Every obstacle gets harder and harder to overcome, and I feel less and less in control. You're strong now and my plans are faltering. The next milestone is entirely reliant on authorities like the Australian immigration board and my corporate employer, who between them need to prioritise my request for residency here with no self motivation whatsoever to act in my favour. I can't influence that decision and I can't progress with anything until it's been made. I feel helpless.

And you've been waiting long enough. You're ready for me.

Who you are

I always thought that depression was about feeling sad. But that's not all you do to me... you paralyse me. You make me dread. I sit here anxious, scared to do anything at all - I don't want to write, I don't want to speak, I don't even want to get up and make a cup of tea, or grab a bite to eat when my rumbling stomach is all I can hear. It's like needing to urinate in the middle of the night - of course one should get up and go to the toilet but there's no way of convincing oneself to do it. Against all reason I genuinely believe that 'lying here a little longer' will solve the problem. And right now all I want to do is sit here a little longer. I don't want music, company or even comfort, I just want to stay. Exactly as I am. Still.

But that's the one thing life can't allow, isn't it? I'm expected in the office, in direct contradiction to my inability to pull on a pair of boots or open the front door. It's morally outrageous to sit at my desk staring at the BBC homepage for hours on end while my colleagues pick up the slack, yet all efforts to arrange my thoughts clearly fail. I can't keep to a corner in blessed silence while my friends strike up a conversation... but I have nothing to say.

And that just makes it harder again. The pressure of having to do these things, worse to do them cheerfully, makes me feel even less in control of my own life. If I can't even decide what time to get up or whether to eat, what's the point of my existence? I'm just a reluctant automaton, a slave to social conventions with no purpose or direction. Suddenly those big plans I was using to fight you with seem ridiculous, hopeless, beyond fanciful.

My hands shake, my throat catches and my head hurts. I feel like I'm crying or about to cry even though there are no tears. I'm tired. I have no idea whether I'm better off with company or alone so I'll stare at films and TV shows without paying much attention. Perhaps the characters' voices are comforting, or distracting... I don't notice. Every hour is a struggle to pretend to be okay, and a struggle to fight the desire to escape and crawl back into a small, dark space. I have an overwhelming need to get out of the way.

I love my friends dearly and treasure doing things with them but dread the approaching appointment and breathe an enormous sigh of relief when our engagements are over. Who knows what that means?

Everything will just work itself out. Or it won't. And you've destroyed my ability to care either way.

What do we do now?

Well, there's the question. I could visit a doctor again. What would she say? Take time off work and try some drugs? Sick leave would only cause resentment in the office - I have no right to be sadder than anyone else - and it certainly won't help with career prospects. It would be unprofessional at best or a limp excuse for laziness at worst. And a diagnosis of depression could endanger my residency application, could see me deported from the country if I stopped work. Wouldn't that just suit you perfectly.

No, on balance I'd rather suffer now knowing that I can fight you better in future. I will do my best alone. I'll fix a smile and carry on. I'll hide you from my friends and I'll continue writing, drawing and playing music to channel you. I won't let you take hold of me - I'll be your partner and your companion for as long as it takes to make those big changes. I'll learn to meditate again and use mental presence to appreciate the beauty of the world I'm in right now. I'll break my dependence on the future just as one day the future will break you.

Walk with me, old friend; your time is brief.

1 comment:

  1. It's the loss of confidence and the debilitating weight of the world, that's the bugger for me. Fekit. I just get through it.