The 'D' word. Depression. The one British people seem to have such difficulty talking about. It has held me helpless in its jaws for some little while now, and I AM going to write about it. In that way I may reduce its power over me. May, I say. So if you are of a stiff-upper-lipped disposition, look away now. Baring of the soul can be embarrassing.
You can't see it. That's the first fact. It is not a broken limb, not a cut nor a bruise nor a dripping red nose. It is invisible, inner--an internal battle with the mind. If you are clever about disguising it (and I am), only your nearest and dearest will know--and maybe not even them. Ask me how it feels, and perhaps I will try to tell you. But probably not. Words on paper come easily. Words to describe this thing (and yes, it feels like a tangible entity)--to say out loud what it does to me are less easy. I find myself inarticulate and gagged and unable to formulate the energy to speak at all about it. It is all just too much effort.
When the fight is going my way, I have methods of keeping it at bay. Mostly they work. I have had a great deal of practice in making them do so. But sometimes a small thing (or maybe a larger one), will tip the balance the other way, in the beast's favour, and then it pounces, leaps, pins me to the floor, rolls me into a deep pit with no ladder and no way out. It is then that it becomes a little more physical, with tears (slow, rolling, unstoppable), loss of appetite, sleeplessness leading to utter exhaustion of body. Worse than all these is the unseeable grey fog which surrounds me, suppressing all emotion. I care for nothing and no one in this place, and I feel sick and weighted with a formless burden of fear, which freezes me like a rabbit in headlights. Moving is hard, seeing anyone--speaking of everyday normality--is impossible. The only remedy is hibernation. Hiding. Running away, some would call it--but it is not that for me. I need to fight this battle in private and alone. After all, who else but I can battle the beast in my head?
Pills, people say to me. There are pills which will help you. But I choose not to go down that route. Part of being a writer is to be able to feel, to experience. The pills take me to a calm plain where I am unable to feel anything at all. I won't go there again because the last time I did, I couldn't write for a year. I am a strong person, and I know, rationally, that this will pass eventually, given time. And I am luckier than many. There are small rays of hope. Loving family who understand. Caring friends who hold out a hand and send kind and worried wishes. This morning, forinstance, I received a cheering and unexpected parcel of cantuccini biscuits in the post, and yesterday, from the same lovely person, the offer of 'a ladder made of kind thoughts and warm wishes...gossamer-frail...but it is deceptive and has the strength of iron and steel.' It is on the back of such small but important things that I will climb out and up to the sunlight again.