I have been blessed, on the whole, for most of my life. I have enjoyed reasonable health, had the love of a close family and, whilst I may never have got everything that I always wanted, I have always been lucky enough to have everything that I need. Big difference there really. I might not have got the lottery win I wanted but I had enough money to eat, and I suppose in a list of priorities, eating is pretty high on mine!
In my life I’ve seen beautiful, talented and kind people be totally brought to their knees by depression and if I’m honest I’ve always struggled to understand why. They have everything going for them, yes everything in their lives might not be perfect but whose life is? I would sympathise in the short term, but eventually, and this is probably more a reflection on me than them, I would lose patience. I’d adopt the “they should pull themselves together” stance and eventually avoid them.
I’d avoid them because, if anything in life, I’m a doer. If I don’t like something then I do something about it. If I don’t like my job I retrain. If I don’t earn enough money I get other jobs until I do. If I feel ill I go to the doctors, find out what’s wrong and get it fixed. So, as a doer, it is incredibly hard to see someone who is depressed and can tell you everything that is wrong and listen to any advice that you may have given and then they do nothing about it! I just can’t understand it. At least I couldn’t until a few years ago.
I’d gone into hospital for a routine bladder operation and had had some serious complications. In short I couldn’t pee. I ended up being readmitted to hospital and being discharged with a catheter and a bag and somehow, something inside me seemed to die. It is difficult to describe and even more difficult to understand, even to me.
It felt like the joy had been sucked out of me. As if a Dementor, straight from the pages of Harry Potter had drawn a deep breath and stolen my happiness, indeed my identity. Things which would normally made me smile, I repelled from. I didn’t want my children to come and give me cuddles. I didn’t want the curtains open to see the sun, I wanted them drawn so that my surroundings reflected my internal thoughts.
This internal darkness was all embracing. I didn’t have the emotion I needed to sob even, I would just lay there in the dark, tears slowly falling down my face, with no energy to even brush them away. I felt desolate and alone, yet I was surrounded by everyone who loved me. I couldn’t even explain what was wrong. I just couldn’t face life, nothing invoked any feelings in me, it wasn’t that I felt particularly sad, I just didn’t really feel.
It was like stepping into an abyss. My husband, family and friends couldn’t reach me. I could hear what they were saying sensible words, the type of thing I would say in such a situation, but the words bore no relation to me, they were words to invoke feelings in someone who still felt, and yet I was emotionless.
I was lucky. Less than a week later, my health started to return and with it, gradually my mental health also returned. I have never felt that way again and I hope to goodness that I never do. I have often wondered why this relatively small event threw me into the abyss, when so many worse situations I have been in haven’t. I don’t think there is an answer to that. Perhaps that is why depression is such a difficult thing to deal with. It hits when you least expect it, it demands your entirety and it is extraordinarily difficult to be reached by your loved ones, when you need them most.
So now, I like to think I have more patience with those I care for who have depression. I understand that they aren’t ignoring my advice and support wilfully, they just don’t have enough will inside them to do that. It is just a void, a cloud of darkness, an abyss.