And now comes the time where inevitably I have to update in a less cheerful manner. Over the last couple of weeks my mood has dropped significantly. I expected this: after all, I have cyclothymic depression and so after a nice, long, stable period, the natural progression of the cycle would see me swoop back down at some point. I had anticipated it happening in January, an amplified post-Christmas slump being the norm for me, but I was given an extra month’s grace. Sod’s law being what it is, I had just noticed that I was enjoying this extended happy space – I was feeeelin’ good…. ba-bum, ba-bum etc and a week later I really wasn’t. It seemed as though I wasn’t allowed to be happy. Or rather, I can be happy as long as I don’t realise I am happy. As soon as that happens then the wheel turns and I’m tumbling back down the other side.
Of course, I am writing this from a rather depressed perspective, so I could *possibly* be reading too much into it.
But anyway, the fog well and truly descended and I hit the bottom (I hope) a week ago. It always starts off slowly. I begin to feel more tired than usual, my concentration falters and everything becomes a little bit more like a chore. I tell myself “it’s fine, it’s just a bad day” with far more frequency. I start eating more than my brain feels comfortable with, adding another layer of self-disgust. ‘Measures might have to be taken, I can’t afford to put on weight!’ Interaction with my friends becomes more challenging. I can listen, but actually contributing is quite hard. I can react, but don’t initiate conversations and so silences stretch on. A planned trip to visit a friend seems endlessly complicated. I haven’t seen her for months, I have so much to say – but it goes unsaid. I feel unable to do much more than sit and monitor my own child, kindle open on my lap. Forget long, laughing reminiscences over a glass of red; I think she spoke more with my husband than me. In the 2 days we were there I read half a book – that’s hardly being an entertaining friend or a grateful guest. I crave the solitude. I can cope with solitude.
Then the fog thickens. I want to sleep All. The. Time. Don’t ask me what’s for dinner, I could stand in front of the fridge with the door open for 10 minutes and still not be able to tell you what was inside. I could happily starve, simply because making a decision over what to cook is too hard, but I end up eating mindlessly instead. My routine is imperative, because only by engaging my autopilot can I make it through the day.
Monday – playgroup for A. Tuesday – Community Mental Health Group + Orchestra. Wednesday – day at home. Thursday – trip to soft play zone with A. Friday – housework whilst A is at nursery. Saturday/Sunday – family time.
Do NOT mess with the routine! It’s at this point that anxiety kicks in with full force. I’m on edge. I’m on the edge. The phone rings and my adrenaline spikes: don’t answer, don’t answer, they’ll go away, it’s safer. Letters are dark news, more bills to pay, more chores to do. I start buying things I don’t need just in case, just-in-case, with money I shouldn’t really spend, which only heightens the sense of panic. I already have hundreds of books, DVDs etc, but maybe this one will fill the void inside.
I stare in the mirror and there it is, behind my eyes: the gaping maw that swallows everything, turning sweet to sour and success into ashes. I see it and I hate it. It’s not a hatred of self, but of the creature squatting within, uncontrolled. It came under the cover of the fog. Medication only helps me so much. The creature is still there, chained temporarily, waiting to free itself again. It’s powers are exponential. The fog has become claustrophobic. I lash out at the slightest thing, My patience is practically non-existent. For God’s Sake Leave Me Alone. Don’t touch me, don’t hug me – it hurts. And it does.
I ache with weight of my life. My paltry simple life. How useless do you have to be, to not be able to cope with my privilege? What the
fuck is wrong with me? Private school education, money was never an issue, my parents were together until death did them part. I love my husband; I love my child, we have no serious difficulties . My family are there if I want them to be. I am both non-existent and painfully obvious, a walking contradiction. The weight of the world, the world I can’t control, presses down unbearably. I want to speak, but become mute instead. I want to write (I wanted to write this weeks ago), but the page remains blank, the words didn’t come. One weekend I spent 3 hours in the middle of the afternoon face down on the bed, fully clothed, head under the pillow. Painfully blank. But the internal scream is deafening. I start to think about cutting every day, but somehow manage to refrain this time. And then comes the bottom.
Unable to cope any longer, my mind begins to try and find a way out. It considers taking drastic measures. Possible plans start forming. What is the point? What is the point of me? What good am I doing here? And I think the unthinkable.
But thankfully, this is always the turning point. It seems like reaching this dark, unforgiving place brings me up against a brick wall. I can go so far, but no further. Somehow, the bleakness of suicidal thoughts triggers my survival instinct. I do not believe in suicide as a solution; I never have. And chemically my mind is spun around to go back out of this hole. A tiny part of me breaks through: NO! I will not be broken by this. I am a mother! I am a wife! I am a friend. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am a musician, I am a writer. I exist. I love. I create. ‘I will not go quietly into this dark night!’ (to paraphrase Dylan Thomas). And so with this rallying cry I can start to haul myself back, to push my way out of the fog and tame the creature again. It doesn’t happen over night. It will take several weeks before I am clear and functioning ‘normally’ again. But having reached the bottom, the only way is up. I know I will reach the stage again where life happens without too much effort and I can revel once more in all the little ways that A melts my heart. I will laugh freely again. The wheel is turning and I have hitched a ride.