Depression has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some people describe it as a black dog, shadowing their steps, but for me it's more like a big black vampire bat hovering over my shoulder, sucking away all the enjoyment and enthusiasm I have for any given situation.
It's not constant. Sometimes the bat is nowhere to be seen, at other times it's just an irritation - a gnat you have to wave away so you can get on with your day. Then there are the occasions when it's dark and looming. All encompassing.
|Varney the Vampire, 1847.|
I grew up surrounded by depression. An accident turned my dad from a non-stop exercise junkie to a pain ridden recluse. My mum became his cash strapped carer.
At least they had a good reason to be depressed.
Mine came from nowhere, and it terrified me. It would get me one day, I knew, and I'd lose weeks, months, years even, to an illness most of the world still seemed to view as self-indulgent wallowing. That's how I explained it to a counsellor the NHS sent me to see, in a cold, drab little room, and she told me that filling every second of my day with activity wasn't the answer.
It might stop me from thinking about it in the here and now, but I'd only set myself up for a breakdown.
It did, of course.
|Bela Lugosi as Dracula, 1931.|
My last big depressive episode was a few years back. I was constantly ill and constantly tired. Exhausted, even. The best way I could explain how I felt was like one of the foolish heroines of a Victorian paperback; a silly girl who did too much, too fast, and ended up spent and useless, abed with nervous exhaustion. The doctor diagnosed me with CFS - Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - very much the modern term for nervous exhaustion, and everything was so much effort I just wanted to give up on it all.
I didn't. I switched tablets, took things easy. It got better, I moved on, and the bat flapped off elsewhere.
But then it started to creep back. Over the last couple of months I've been well aware of it, sneaking closer and closer. I used to work for a depression charity, and in any case I've been there before. I recognised all of the symptoms.
Still I couldn't stop it perching on my shoulder and turning my life upside down. The last few weeks have been awful. Intellectually I know that I'm not well, that it's just a phase and I need to get through it. Emotionally, it seems so obvious that the world would be a much better place if I was no longer a part of it.
I went back to stay with my parents for a week, which was nice on the one hand as they were helping out with Marianna and I didn't have the stress of the house on top of everything. On the other it was an admission of failure, that I can't cope doing the normal, everyday things that it feels like everyone else in the world manages without any problem.
It weighs me down, mentally and physically, and magnifies every issue a hundredfold. It colours my thinking, and leaves me apathetic and uninterested in the hobbies and the activities I normally pour my heart and soul into. It even impacts on the time I spend with Marianna, whispering that she deserves someone who isn't such a mess. Who is simply better.
I'm not going to let it beat me though, not this time. Not ever.
No matter how many times the vampire rises from the dead, I'll be ready for it.
|Christopher Lee in Dracula: Prince of Darkness, 1966.|
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