As I’ve already mentioned somewhere, things have been pretty desperate for me for a while now. I’d done a remarkably good job of building walls up around myself and was well and truly stuck at the bottom, spinning wildly and reaching for calm but finding none. Things had got so bad that I’d forgotten everything I knew about managing my ever-present dark passenger: I was at the end of my rope, and had a very strong and persistent desire to end my life.
Somehow though, I carried on getting myself to work and getting through each day, and for a little while it continued to be a distraction between the hours of nine and five. As time went on, the gradual creep that had characterised my depression ‘behind closed doors’ started to crowd in during the working day as well. Rather than work being a distraction I started to feel distracted at work. I became slower at doing things than normal and far less organised, started putting off difficult tasks, and even began to avoid conversations with colleagues.
That I should come unstuck at work filled me with familiar and self-perpetuating fear, guilt and blame. I felt beaten and didn’t know what to do next (An old maxim for me at my worst being ‘I simply cannot see where there is to get to’ (Sylvia Plath)). It seemed to me that decline at work was the beginning of round two in me versus me, and I wasn’t at all sure I was up for the fight, which in my mind was another reason for giving up the good fight altogether.
I limped on for a little while through the second wave. I was aware that things were going badly wrong, but was impotent in the face of it. It was all I could do to get through the motions (the motions being getting up, showering, getting to work, doing my work, coming home and getting to bed) and I felt I had become incapable of doing anything beyond that. When at home I cried a lot, did a lot of pacing around and spent the rest of the time lying in a prone position waiting for the darkness to pass. That was the story of my life for about three months.
And then came a particularly gruelling day when I finally hit the bottom of my pit. I’ve thought long and hard about whether the details of my ‘rock bottom day’ are suitable material for my blog and have decided that all I’m willing to say is that it was gruelling and it was rock bottom. It was bad and beyond that, I guess I’m what saying is that you can take my word for it.
I woke the next morning with the usual feeling – part guilt, part dread, part regret but over the next few hours the feeling began to change. It was still guilt, dread and regret, but it started taking on a new quality. It was directed not only at myself but also at the two significant people who had been on the receiving end of a very frightened, desperate and selfish me the preceding day. Worth noting, I think, my view that empathy is an unusual feeling in the depressed, not because depressed people are bad people but because depression is so personal and inward that thoughts of its impact on those around you are simply not available.
My descents into the pit have almost always followed the same pattern from start to finish, but particularly towards the finish. In my experience you eventually hit absolute zero and are faced with a simple fight or flight decision, after all, you’ve decided you can’t get any lower and it’s a blatant and straightforward choice after that. Don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s as if sense finally kicks in.
In terms of how I was feeling about myself, I think I’d been flat-lining for months, so there was no bottom to be found there (those who know me well, will know it was all I could do not to squeeze a lame bum related joke in there*). Instead it was in terms of my relationships with others that I eventually found the bottom. Knowledge of the distress that I was causing, and let’s face it, the damage that I was doing to two very important relationships forced me to think about the potential outcomes. Either these people were going to receive a very unpleasant piece of news and I was never going to see either of them again, or I was going to try to get back to myself and then get to know them over again with a well head on my shoulders and plenty of other things going on beyond an illness that has dogged me too long.
When I started writing this blog I was simply sending some thoughts into the ether – I wasn’t writing to or for anyone but myself. Nothing’s changed, except that the last little bit of this post was written fondly for people I know well. It’s a thank you and apology rolled into one. It’s a little nod towards what they have done for me and an indication that I’m finally ready to start taking over the reins again. And now normal service will be resumed.
I’m aware that this one is a little meandering, but I got to where I was going in the end, and the back story was important, I think.
*But then I went and did it anyway, in a roundabout kinda way