I’m stuck in a tornado of foul weather at the moment. Wexford is sunny, mostly, the eucalyptus trees still sway jauntily beside the wooden deck where I have my coffee every morning. The flowers are still in full bloom, their vibrant colour a solid example of how beautiful the world can be.
But boy do I feel like crap. That’s the problem if you are prone to depression, or anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. With effort, you can manage it, you can surmount it, but you can never fully escape it. It will come back at certain points to torture you.
I’ve always wondered about this. How can things, outwardly, remain exactly the same, yet inwardly, change on a dime, and change violently at that? Sunshine, still in place. Stunning beach with wild waves, still there. Trees and flowers, refer above. Three gorgeous children, steady, loving husband – all present, all still a gift.
But I feel wildly sad and sorry and angry and yes, depressed. It’s been brewing for a while, a few months and here it is. It’s arrived, as bolshy, as unwelcome and invasive – as insane – as Boris or Trump. It will pass – it does, it has before, even though every time you get a fresh bout, you think it won’t, you think: that’s me done for now. I’ll be feeling like there’s been a truck of manure dumped over me for the rest of my life.
There’s no immediate reason, based on my present reality, for the way I feel. This is the vileness of mental illness. It strikes anyone, at any time. While a traumatic childhood or experience can set the scene for it, an inviting, filthy bed for it to lie in, depression is not discerning in who it chooses to mow down, and when it decides to do it.
I hate feeling like this. What exactly does it feel like? Well, first off, your hope goes. Just like that. Where it is there one day, it is gone the next. Your imagined future quickly follows suit. Then your present reality sours, even though yesterday it soared. Guilt sets in, that you feel the way you do, even though you have everything that you have. It’s swiftly followed by torpor, apathy about things that formerly excited you, and relentless worry. An inescapable, terrifying feeling of doom descends, like something truly awful is going to happen. A knot forms in your stomach. It doesn’t go away. Anger rises and falls, sweeping you along, crushing you down. You want to hide away, batten down the hatches, but you can’t. I used to do this before I had a family, and it made me feel worse. Dangerously so.
So you don’t hide, you can’t hide – you carry it around with you. You plaster a smile on your face when the situation demands it. You try as hard as you can, especially for your children because you can’t let them see you like this, or sense you like this.
How to get out of it? Each time I start slipping and drowning in it, I can never remember. I know vaguely that routine will help, eating properly, staying away from alcohol, taking refuge in books will help. Simply watching my children will help. Meditation becomes a chore, sitting with myself seems repulsive. But I do it anyway. Moving, walking – that helps. Talking to people, and not necessarily about how I am feeling, that helps. Taking a shower feels like an achievement, so that helps too.
There’s no one way to help. There’s no magic button to press. You just have to be with it until it goes. And it does go.