It’s a while since I came out about my depression on my more "worky" site in the post Getting From A to B. I still can’t decide if that was one of the best or most stupid things I’ve ever done. I wish I could say all was better now, that it was a passing thing and everything is now back on track. I’d dearly love to say that but I can’t. Things are mainly better than they were but I’m far from 100%. I’ve been slowly facing up to an uncomfortable truth and having realised something I’ve decided to share it. It’s nothing groundbreaking, sure someone will have said it before, but here goes.
I realised that I’d been treating this recent experience of depression as though I’d had a car crash. It was big, seemingly sudden, dramatic and certainly involved a fair amount of wreckage. Car crash. I had some stories about it that I could tell that would raise eyebrows, smiles or tears. Importantly, they were stories that defined the depression as something in the past, something at a distance, “I escaped the crash and now I can look back and laugh”. All that nonsense. The only problem is that it’s not that simple.
I’ve slowly realised that my desire to put depression in the past is tightly bound to the shame I feel about being depressed. I know I shouldn’t. I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel shame for any mental health problem, yet somehow that does exist for me. My head tells me that I should be able to sort it out myself. My head is an idiot. So I somehow discounted the actual impact of depression on me. It was more comfortable to falsely file it under “things past” than to confront the fact that my memory, energy levels and concentration were not yet fully recovered. So I made some stupid mistakes.
My response to recovering was to throw myself into a lot of things. I was nearly better, so if I behaved like I was fully better that would speed things up, yes? I found out that that’s like celebrating having a cast taking off your leg by taking part in a shin kicking contest. You might come out ok, but don’t bet on it.
This wasn’t my first episode of depression. It is the second time I have had to take time off work with it – the first being in the mid 1990s. In the intervening decade and a half I have had roughly ten days off work in total. That includes the time I took to recover from a head on car crash. And in that time, I had managed to keep depression as just presence in the background, largely invisible to people who knew me. Then it came back in form that I couldn't disguise.
So now I’m trying to look at depression as something less dramatic than a car crash, something more akin to diabetes. Something which I don’t intend to define me or my life or limit my possibilities. That means it's something I can't ignore any longer. I can't pretend it's not there, but I can manage it.