I haven’t done much writing of late, haven’t had the inclination to sit here and attack the keyboard and vent my spleen, and the reason for this is that the depression that has plagued a third of my life has made an unwelcome return. I’ve felt it creeping around the edges of my mind, trying to worm its way back in, and for a goodly while I was able to hold it at bay – life was good, I didn’t want to go back down that road again. But then when my best friend in the world died from cancer a month ago it proved to be the final straw, and I stopped fighting and allowed the blackness back.
It’s hard to tell people you’re ill when – at face value – there’s nothing apparently wrong with you; you aren’t limping, bleeding or struggling to catch your breath. You feel like the world’s biggest fraud sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and seeing people come hobbling in with their genuine ailments. But, in a way, that’s all part of the illness; you’re a fraud, there’s nothing wrong with you, everyone knows you’re faking it and they’re all disgusted. These are the thoughts that are going through your mind, and you can’t make them stop. Your brain has turned against you. Welcome to the world of the big D.
A couple of weeks back I could barely bring myself to turn on the TV. I’d sit watching the news and would look at the journalist thinking that person has made a success of their life, and I’m a total failure. I’m pathetic and my life is pointless. Wouldn’t it be great if I could just go to sleep and never wake up again? They call these ‘intrusive thoughts’, these blasts of self hate that rampage through your brain. But at the time they don’t feel in any way intrusive; for something to be intrusive it has by it’s very definition to have come from outside. These thoughts haven’t come from anywhere or anyone else; they are your own voice, and they are entirely rational. There’s no point arguing, because the case that you’re worthless scum is entirely watertight and beyond argument. It makes perfect, unimpeachable sense. In the same way that cancer turns your body’s own cells against you, the big D turns your own thought patterns against you.
I have a phrase I use to describe my blackest, bleakest moments; an epithet I picked up from a Stephen King book many years ago (I think it may have been ‘It’); The Deadlights. When I’ve sunk so low I can barely think, move or focus my eyes I know that the Deadlights are on; I sit and stare blank at the wall, lost in a sea of darkness and unable to find my way back to the light. These times mark the very rock bottom, the depths of despair, and it was when the Deadlights came on for the first time in a decade a fortnight ago that I knew I had to get some help. I went to see the doctor and she issued me a prescription for Prozac, and now the gloom and despondency is starting to lift. And only now, now that my mind is starting to come back under my own control, do I see this as a good thing; one of the surprising things about the big D is that in no way do you ever see it as a threat; the big D is your friend; it puts a blanket around your shoulders and keeps you warm, protecting you from all those awful people on the outside who despise you. There’s no point making an effort to get better, because you’d only be wasting your time; stay here in the murk where it’s safe, for the big D is the only friend you’ll ever need.
Unfortunately the big D is a liar; it isn’t your friend at all, and is dragging you blindly on towards the cliff edge, where ultimately you will topple over and plunge to your death. If you never had suicidal thoughts then you probably cannot begin to comprehend how someone could be so crazy or selfish as to take their own life and inflict so much pain and misery on those they’re leaving behind. What you aren’t seeing is that it was the big D that made them do it; that the big D had them convinced that no one cared, no one would even be sad at their passing, and that all possible avenues forward were blocked. In the same way that cancer ravages your body and leaves you dead, the big D will keep on whispering in your ear that it’s entirely rational to swallow that bottle of pills, or that the only sensible option left is to throw yourself in front of that train.
The big D took hold of me when I was fourteen and, despite bucketfuls of antidepressants and counselling, never left me alone until I was nearly thirty. I had a ten year break, but now it’s back and telling me it wants a second bite of the cherry. But not this time; I will not allow the big D to destroy any more of my life, for I know its tricks and methods all too well. The Prozac is helping, and admitting to my friends and family that I have a problem is helping too. The big D didn’t want me to tell anyone, it wanted the gloom that was seeping back into my life to be our little secret, all over again.