I am depressed. ‘Tis the season for it, just before Christmas. Just to warn you this is a distinctly uncheerful post about depression with a content warning for mention of suicidal thoughts.
I often get depressed close to Christmas, having lost my bearings and my spoons in the race to get ready for the festive season. It seems the happier everyone arounds me is (or pretends to be) the lower I get.
I don’t hold with the oft-used ‘black dog’ analogy for depression. It feels more like an evil spirit than an innocent dog. An evil being that casts a rotten spell over everything, turning the land barren, causing everything growing to wither on the branch and die. It renders the world in black and white, drained of colour and life, covered in the jagged spines of broken and dead things that look spooky in the grey light.
I lie still in this cold world, listening to my inner dialogue catalogue the nature and origins of all I have ever failed at, all I have done wrong, all I will do wrong. Inertia grips me and keeps me still, unable to move. I know what I should do, but the steps to do it elude me. I lie felled, unable to make the muscles complete the required actions. I am anxious, the thought of meeting people feels like doing battle with demons. The world is too noisy, depression amplifies all my sensory sensitivities and makes them unbearable. .
Then there are black emotions and thoughts. I am slightly alexithymic – I can’t reliably always identify my emotions. I have two emotional states in depression. I either feel emotionally dead and numb or I feel a mess of conflicting and unidentifiable emotions that are painful and lead me to meltdown. I prefer numb.
My thoughts tumble lower and lower, into the darkest realms. I hit a point that I call suicidal logic, where it feels logical that the world would be better off without me. Sometimes the thought of my cat in a rescue centre is the only thing that stops me, all the humans will be better off without me, but I can never convince myself about my cat.
And this place where I desperately need help is hardest to reach out from. I can’t find the words, I stumble and fumble and get angry and meltdown because it is so damn hard just to say “help me”. My anger turns those who would help me away. I argue and shout. I want flight but I can’t get out the door so I fight instead. I’ve been accused of being like a porcupine. Spiky, refusing to let anyone help me. I want someone to help me but I lack a means of making a connection, of finding words to explain how it is. Sometimes I give up trying to talk at all.
It’s painful. Feeling so alone
I am depressed because I’m lonely, lacking someone who ‘gets’ me, tired of being alone in a world that’s not made for me. I can’t find the person who listens to me and says ‘me too’. The balance of my life is wrong. I’ve been spending too much time alone. Restful solitude became loneliness and in this place it becomes hard to reach out and connect.
At other times spending too much time being social with people who don’t understand me is a trigger. Wearing a mask, losing myself in the demands of other people and people-pleasing can lead to burnout and depression.
It’s just the strain of living in a society that fails to recognise my autism or to understand it and accommodate me.That rejects me for being different, turning me away. Bullies me.
There’s also a biochemical component to my depression. I have a brain that’s wired for depression and anxiety. I remember first feeling anxiety when I was about 3 or 4 and had annoyed my play school leader. I had a serious bout of anxiety aged 10. My first depression was during my teenage years. I wonder if this would have been better had my autism been recognised and supported.
If you’ve found this and you’re feeling as bad as I do, I’m sorry. I hope it’s at least made you feel less alone even if it isn’t the most hopeful of pieces. I hope you can find some light somewhere. Just as the year turns and we move on from this darkest time of the year, the light comes back and the days get longer, so streaks of light can appear in the dark sky of depression. I’ve lived with depression long enough to know it does improve. There are things I can do to make it better. Exercise, medication, meditation, being in nature being with my cat can help me. I try to hold on to that in the darkness, even when depression pushes my mind towards black things. As the late, great Leonard Cohen said: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”.