Just Somebody That I Used To Know

I am the girl you see in the photograph from some party someplace or some picnic in the park, the one who is in fact soon to be gone. When you look at the picture again, I want to assure you, I will no longer be there. I will be erased from history, like a traitor in the Soviet Union. Because with every day that goes by, I feel myself becoming more and more invisible...
— Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
 Original image by   Clotaire Lehoux

Original image by Clotaire Lehoux

Depression.  There's a reason we don't write, talk, mention, chatter, or engage much about it.

It's because it's bloody depressing. 

It's also because, when you're suffering from it, the last thing you usually feel like doing - or, in point of fact, are capable of doing - is talking about it. Talking about how you're feeling, thinking, seeing the world and yourself. You're not seeing the world.

You're often not seeing yourself.

You are no longer visible. You are a shadow, a memory of someone who used to be. A faded polaroid, for those who know what a polaroid is, curling in a drawer, that one day, soon, quite soon, you will look at blankly, and no longer recognise as yourself.

That day may well be tomorrow, when you go to the loo, and look in the bathroom mirror, at the ratty-haired, not very clean, pale, unhealthy stranger staring back blankly at you, and you think 'I know her... I'm sure I do' and then shrug, and look away again, dismissing yourself from your own memory, because it's easier that way. 

Depression is seductive. There's a couple of reasons for this. One is, it's far harder to be happier than to be sad - the act of making yourself, of making those around you, happy, takes effort. It takes time, love, motivation, energy. It takes an urge to want to be involved with others, and to allow them to be involved with you. And please - don't confuse the flat, grey sadness which is depression with unhappiness. Unhappiness takes effort, too. To be unhappy suggests an active misery, even anger; making an investment in one's own emotional journey. The expression 'misery loves company'? Well, misery may well, but depression does not.

Depression likes solitude, and peace, and quiet. This is the second reason it beckons to you, like a siren song. Because it's easy. It's so easy. All you see, hear, feel is a lack of glaring light, noise, touch; a big, blank hole, with a pouring darkness in it, sucking you in. Far less trouble than making conversation, than ensuring others are feeling are alright, than showing concern, than going out, than cooking, than showering, than turning lights on in a room.

Than being. 

This is not a dramatic, or creative work of non-fiction. This is what it is like, for me, when I am suffering from depression. 

This is what it has been like for the last few weeks. I am thankful this time it wasn't months, as it has been on a few occasions in the past. That's mainly down to The Man Who Vaguely Resembles David Tennant, and his valiant persistence in fighting his way through the fog, and blank darkness. There are others too, who keep on not turning away, who recognise the signs of my wish to just slippery-dip down and not come back up. 

Depression is a persistent issue for people with Parkinson's, as it is for many who suffer from chronic and incurable diseases - but it is a clear and present danger for Young Onset Parkinson's in particular. Add into that mix a new and exotic form of arthritis I didn't know I had, which is causing all sorts of physical and mental firecrackers to go off, and you have the emotional equivalent of the SS Titanic setting course for a huge stonking great iceberg, with its audience of happy penguins and polar bears aboard, popcorn in hand, to watch the resulting show.

I have talked before about my need to manage depression. What I haven't really ever spoken about is what it actually feels like

Now you may understand why. It's horrible. Nobody wants to hear about this kind of crap. 

You may also understand why I am, now, trying to.

This September, in just a week or so's time, the media, public campaigns, awareness, is focusing on Mental Health for Women. One in three Australian women are likely to suffer from some form of depression in their lifetime - whether it be post-natal, menopausal, due to a chronic illness, violence, abuse, general anxiety, bullying - it's not particularly cheery just thinking about those statistics. One in three

That's on a general awareness level.

On a personal level, the big thing which drags me out from the black sea - apart from the people who reach in, and save me from those drowning, lapping waters - is writing. Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be. 

This time, it may not be a 'rational rant', as my mum calls it, or so much of a soapbox effort. It's not even a fractured fairytale. It's just reality. It's my real. It's everyday at the moment - or what has been everyday, with some bits and pieces of light poking in through the gloom, like sun accidentally getting in through a gap in the curtains, when it's not supposed to. Or pretending everything's OK, which I am seriously good at. But that light... it has stopped me, in many ways, from letting myself go. That light - it's words. They are my light, and as soon as I see them I know, I know, I can't slip that far down, because I could never write the words, could never let the person who reaches in every time and hauls me up, and out, not waving, but drowning, find these words, that hold such horrible power:

"I'm sorry for leaving you."

This is why I am not just a faded picture. I may be less visible to myself than I am usually, a little worn and white around the edges - 

- but I am still seen. I am still seeing

If you are reading this, and things are bad, then please, think and think hard, about the person who sees you. Even if you believe there isn't anyone who does - I promise you, there is someone. And if you are reading this and you know there is someone who is feeling, looking a little, a lot, less visible, to themselves, or to others - please - reach out to them. And hold on. Hold on tight, before they disappear, and become just somebody that you used to know.

Even if you have to do it blindly, in the dark.