Part 1: Work
I recently lost a friend who was suffering from severe depression. He was well known, well liked, and the shockwaves from his passing were far-reaching. Many people struggled to understand how someone so full of personality, so loved and admired, and with such a wide social network, could have been lost to us. Many people expressed feelings of guilt or regret that they’d not reached out more while he was still with us. I know from having had a near-fatal depressive breakdown that just because people desperately want to help, and would do anything in their power to help, it doesn’t mean it will make a difference.
For people who haven’t ever been seriously unwell with depression, it’s one of the hardest things to understand, and also one of the hardest to explain; when you’re actually in the midst of a depressive episode, it’s almost impossible to understand it yourself, let alone put it into words. While I am well enough to express it, I am going to try. I hope it helps, whether you’re struggling yourself or feel like you’re helplessly watching someone else suffer:
Depression has a very particular and insidious effect on our ability to accept help, care, support and love by making us believe that we are absolutely unworthy of that help, care, support or love.
Work (which here means “holding down a job which enables me to pay my rent and bills”) is one of the first things that I wrote down on my list of ideas for this blog series, with my Anxiety and depression affecting my work day in myriad ways. The bright lights and constant buzzing noise of my open plan office are irritants on good days, migraine inducing on bad ones. Being surrounded by people – particularly in a country where “how are you?” is a standard greeting, with “fine thanks, how are you” the expected response – is a huge challenge on days when I am a slight breeze away from tears or shouting. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to say “fine thanks” when you’re anything other than fine and replying with “pretty dreadful, I’ve cried three times already today and it’s not even 10am and now I just feel existentially dead and have been having idle fantasies of throwing everyone’s laptops out of the window and setting them on fire using my office chair as kindling. How are you?” is generally frowned upon. Some days I consider surviving the journey to work without having a meltdown is a success; but then I have at least 8 hours of Being A Normal Human In An Office Environment to get through.
Part 1 – Work
I got up today.
Not only did I get up today, but I showered. I got dressed. In clothes, not just pyjamas. I put on shoes. I even put on some makeup. I washed my hair. And then I brushed my hair. I tied it up.
And then I left the house.
Ok, I didn’t go far, just down to the coffee shop on the corner, where this first paragraph is being typed. I probably won’t stay here long, but that’s not the point. I am up. I am out of bed. I even managed to interact with strangers and I think they believed I was a normal human. Well, apart from the Darth Vader Christmas jumper and the pink hair in Princess Leia buns, but, y’know. A normal human for a given value of “normal”. I managed to ask for a coffee and didn’t cry in public so it’s all good.
Of course, ‘tis the season for not getting dressed and forgetting to shower and having to google to find out what day it is. Those sleepy limbo days between Christmas and New Year for those whose workplaces or colleges are shut down, or those on holiday, can be like that for many of us.