I appreciated much about the first lockdown. But, it became real hard to keep head above water this winter. Physically, financially and mentally. My depression struck hard. I think I realised I was sinking when it became clear that Christmas would be spent on my own. Home alone. Just me. More alone time. I’m a solitary type and my happiest place is at home with my cats. But too much of anything is bad. Living alone with depression means constant self check-ins to try and maintain a level head, to not slip into the deep waters which I know are always nearby.
I’ve done quite well at keeping stable, now in my third year of living alone. Surprisingly well to those who know me. There are way less of the panicked desperate phone calls to my parents, sobbing down the phone unable to explain what’s wrong. I’m getting a bit better at self regulation, but it does take massive effort. An effort which drains me regularly and results in a fatigue which consumes my every limb. When tiredness takes over I retreat to what I refer to as my cloud (which basically means I take my cat Walter, and we get fully under the duvet, heads covered, and we hide). Daylight streaming in the window and through the white of the duvet makes us feel as though we're away from the world, up in the sky on our own little cloud.
I know my depression is setting in when my cloud is the only place I can be. It’s a little bit like being dead for a while I guess. Days submerged. Silent. Unaware and uncaring if the outside world is in night or day.
Winter (and especially Christmas) is when my depression always hits hardest. It feels like I’m trying to lift the weight of a cruise ship just to keep it at bay. Sometimes I can’t keep lifting though. I anticipated that a lockdown Christmas would be hard. I thought I may be able to ride it out by ignoring it and seeing it as any other sofa Sunday. Christmas is hard for me as I’m not a foodie, I find formal meals tricky, and a holiday which focuses on eating, drinking and socialising is basically a celebration of all the things I find uncomfortable. It seems to magnify my difference and lead to a further feeling of isolation. This Christmas day, the silence felt massive. Scrolling through social media in my boredom I saw people saying ‘cheers to all those alone’ but these people were smiling, full of food and alcohol and with their immediate loved ones. I was none of those things. That alone didn’t cause much upset. It was as though the loneliness of a whole year in lockdown fell onto me in one huge heap. All the depression I’d been managing to keep at arms length was on top of me. I had sunk.
Napped, cried, short family zoom where I managed to put on a cheery ‘Yes, I’m fine’ face, napped, cried, didn’t eat anything, went to sleep sobbing at 7pm. That’s a Christmas day spent alone with depression as your only companion. A familiar companion at that. One I felt I hadn’t seen for a while. There’s always a strange comfort in its familiarity. As Kurt Cobain sang, “I miss the comfort in being sad”. When you’ve had depression all your life, it becomes a place where you know yourself well, where you recognise yourself well. Where only you see its true extent. Nobody is there to witness the darkest parts. You become your own, only ally throughout.
I really envy those who carry a lighter head. Who don’t bear the weight of longterm depression. Depression is like trying to climb out of quicksand with your limbs bound. Up and down. Exhausting. Terrifying. You hit a numb place. No attachment to your body. Head blank. Void. Motionless. Not necessarily wanting to kill myself as that would require effort I don't have in those moments, I just want to already be dead. To evaporate.
There's great shame with depression, it feels selfish to be so self absorbed and miserable when people are dying and suffering in so many worse ways. But that’s depression. And that's why I retreat and push through it alone, it seems self indulgent to bother others with my weight. One redemption of living with depression all my life is that I have learnt to hold my own hand tightly through a bad episode. No matter how low I drop, the adult me is there knowing it will pass, almost carrying me through it. I know it passes because I have been there so many times. Things become ok again. I know the signs that my mind is shifting and I'm coming back to the surface. It can be days or weeks, but it comes. When it does, it's like seeing the world with new eyeballs. You notice the smallest joys like a young child would, all over again. The cuteness of my cats purr, the mind-blowing beauty of a flower head peeping through the ground. After a bad episode of depression, you see the world from a whole new place. And I guess I'm lucky to have that, to get a renewed appreciation of all the little things over and over. The memory of every previous recovery is what continues to pull me out of the sea when I find myself drowning.
Thank you for reading, I really appreciate it. If you enjoy or learn something from my blog, you can always buy me a virtual cup of tea to show your support! x