I can tell when I’m starting to slide back down into the familiar patterns of living with depression.
I don’t always realise straight away but I soon become aware of the creeping sense of dread building in the pit of my stomach that only increases as it becomes clear what is happening.
I find myself struggling to concentrate, to hold thoughts in my mind and make connections that previously came easily. I find that I’m reading words in a book or listening to people talking but that I can’t put the words together to form a sentence or make sense of what is actually being said.
I forget what people have said to me, having to ask them to repeat themselves seconds or minutes or sometimes hours later when I remember that I’ve been told something important but I can’t recall what it was.
My mind and body feel like they’re wading through treacle; everything feels slow and difficult and stilted and when I try to talk the words feel thick and alien in my mouth and I stumble over them.
I feel as though I’m somehow cut off from the rest of the world; that I still touch and talk and interact but that there’s now something numbing my senses and keeping me separate. As though I’m coated in plastic with lenses over my eyes and a mask over my face so that I don’t contaminate everything else around me.
I find that I’m having to talk myself into doing even the smallest things; putting a load of laundry on, doing the washing up, putting out the recycling. I have to persuade myself to get up, get dressed, to eat and drink and take my tablets but sometimes no amount of persuading makes me actually do these things.
The tears come easily both at home and at work and I have to bite the side of my mouth until it bleeds to stop them escaping.
No one wants to see my tears.
It tends to be my sleeping patterns that eventually give it away; I start to struggle to settle and night but then when I do eventually fall asleep it’s even more of a struggle to get up in the morning. When things are going well I’m up and out of bed as soon as Squidge lets me know he’s awake, ready for a day of fun and giggles and playing.
Over the last few days he’s been awake for a while before I’ve eventually managed to get up and go into him; the sounds of him playing and getting increasingly annoyed and then upset at the lack of company have just been an indication that I have to get up and face another day.
What kind of monster thinks that about their own child?
In some ways the return of depression being in charge feels like a release because I can stop pretending that I have any sense of control and instead I can let go and allow depression to creep in and resume control over my life as though it’s never been away.
The illusion that I can fight vanishes as thought it never was and anyway I don’t see the point of fighting anymore. I can’t fight something that comes as naturally to me as breathing; that takes such a toll on me physically and mentally that it hurts just to get through the day. At night the healing release of sleep comes for such a short time that I wake feeling more tired and defeated that I did the previous day.
Instead I release my grip, almost gratefully and let the waters close in over my head.
I sink; slowly moving away from the light and yet never reaching the bottom or quite losing sight of the light, even though it seems so far away. Being able to still glimpse the light is part of the torture that I’ve earned myself; the memory of what once was making the present harder to bear. Most of the time I simply float in the darkness where the weight of the water crushes my chest making it hard to breathe and half seen shadows appear and then vanish, my mind twisting them into horrors that I can’t quite see.
Everything happens slowly.
There is nothing violent or jarring about depression’s return as it comes in the guise of an old friend; one who knew that I couldn’t manage on my own and who is now here to take charge and return things to the way they should be. It slithers in a way that is almost hypnotic and I can see it happening but I’m unable to tear my eyes away and do something to actually stop it.
Instead I continue to make lists and plans but I know that the majority of the things will end up not being done. Places will remain unvisited, projects unstarted and every day the whisper of incompetence will grow louder and louder until it rings in my ears and reverberates inside my head and I will continue to be powerless to stop it.
The curtains remain closed; the sunshine taunts me that all around me life goes on while I feel like mine is grinding to a halt. The days start to feel so similar that I wonder if one day they will just stop and I will remain suspended in the grey mist of my own half formed thoughts.
On the surface I continue to function.
Squidge is clean and dressed and fed. I still talk to him and sing to him, play with him and read him stories because I will never let him see this side of me.
I go to work with my hair neatly put up, my uniform clean and ironed and my make up in place.
I care for the babies, I talk to their parents and I work with my colleagues.
Once I am alone I let depression wash over me.
I let it tell me that I am stupid and useless; that I am a bad wife, mother daughter and friend. That me ceasing to exist would be in everyone’s best interests and that my death would simply be a messy inconvenience that people would soon forget once they’d finished cursing me for making more trouble for them.
I agree with it that I am undeserving of support and love and compassion; that I have brought everything upon myself and that I only have myself to blame.
I dredge up memories and use them as evidence, twisting them until they fit with the overwhelming feelings of self loathing and hate.
I lie in bed at night unable to sleep and my mind fills with thoughts and images.
I imagine what it would be like to hold a gun to my head; the feel of the cold, heavy metal in my hand, my fingers curling around the handle and creeping towards the trigger. I think about the sensation of the muzzle pressed into my temple, the click as the barrel engages and then.