So before I went to Sydney I was feeling emotionally terrible. And while I was there it was a struggle. And now I’m home I feel terrible again.
I feel guilty, like I’ve just had this great holiday so I have no real reason to complain. And I am well aware of my…good fortune? Blessings? Privilege? to have been able to travel and have five days of doing whatever I want.
But I guess it’s the old adage, no matter where you go, there you are.
I’ve been listening to the podcast Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown and her interview with Wil Wheaton on trauma, depression and self-discovery. Wil has long been extremely open about his mental health in a way that I’ve found helpful. I tried to transcribe some of the episode but because it’s really a conversation between friends it rambles a bit from point to point so you really have to listen to the whole thing to get all of what they’re saying. It’s a great episode and well worth a listen to get an understanding of depression and ways of treating it, how important support people are in your recovery and how it’s ongoing work (ugh).
One description of depression that really resonated with me was this:
Mayim Bialik: In unipolar depression, major depressive disorder, in this kind of depression, it’s essentially like there’s a sock over the lens of your camera, and you see through the sock, like I wouldn’t even say it’s like a pantyhose. You know, like, it’s a sock.
Wil Wheaton: It’s a sock. It’s a nice wool sock. It’s a warm sock.
MB: It’s a warm, cosy, “comfortable” – right, and I say that, I’m using air quotes –
WW: Yep. It’s tricks ya.
MB: Right, it’s a “comfortable” lens, because part of the insidiousness of this kind of depression in particular, is that it tricks you into believing this is it.
A sock over the lens. Yes. That makes sense to me. The lens being covered by something not completely opaque but completely distorting. Even while having wonderful experiences last week like going to see Hamilton, or catching up with friends who I love, or sitting on a clifftop watching the beautiful ocean, everything was blurred and dulled and painted over with this anxiety that I wished I could push aside. Fog? Fog with sharp edges? Too many metaphors. It’s a slippery sucker that’s hard to define and is different for everyone.
I tried to anticipate the crash that I would experience from holidays and built in down time this week but it wasn’t enough, because I still have had things I’ve needed to do or participate in, even with all the rest time padding. If it wasn’t for guilt and the fear of letting people down (that’s a schema I have to work on!) I probably wouldn’t get anything done. A great friend who I think of as my unofficial mentor (well if not mentor, then someone who gently prods me to right thinking about things like work) pointed out that guilt wasn’t a good long term motivator, and also asked what my ‘Why’ is. And I couldn’t think of anything more specific than I am here because God wants me here. I can’t think of anything I am especially driven to do or achieve. I know that isn’t true long term, that there will be things that will come back in to focus in the future, but right at this moment, there’s nothing. So it’s really hard to be bothered to do anything.
And yet because I turn up for the few things that I need to do, and I can make myself appear functional, and I can smile and joke and have conversations, I know it’s really hard for people to get a sense of how I really am. It reminds me of a scene in the excellent ABC series Wakefield where a woman with post-natal depression is terrified of leaving the psychiatric facility she’s been in because she doesn’t think she’ll be able to cope, because people don’t know what she’s struggling with and expect her to function the same as anyone else. The nurse has the idea to give her a moon boot, even though there’s nothing wrong with her foot, and almost immediately she experiences people helping her with her pram, asking how she is, etc.
It’s not anyone’s fault really. None of us know the depths of what is going on in anyone else’s mind or life. I’m as guilty of making assumptions as the next person. But it’s a very real fear I think, for so many of us with hidden illnesses, that too much will be expected of us and how much longer can we go on with what feels like “making excuses”, or for not being “fixed’ yet?
I am so grateful for my mum who prays and reads me psalms when I’m lying on the couch, crying, when I am wailing “What is the point of me? What is the point of anything?” And she reminds me I’m still in the middle of the adjustment period of my new medication so things are going to be up and down for a little while longer. I wonder what it’s like to not have these thoughts, to just be able to get up in the morning, go to work, enjoy your life, hang out for the weekend, be blissfully unencumbered by the black dog. He’s a heavy bastard. And smells like he needs a bath. And sheds everywhere. And barks way too much.
I started writing a travelogue of what I did last week, and then stopped because I thought “ugh no one will be interested in this, you don’t need to catalogue everything” but I might continue with it and post it later anyway, just as a testament to the fact that good things did happen, and I did experience them, even if I had a sock over my head at the time. I long for the time when the sock comes off…one day.