Editors note: This is the fifth in a monthly series of guest posts on the subject of mental health. Rin Simpson is a Bristol-based writer of fact and fiction. As a journalist she specializes in crafts, home interiors and lifestyle subjects; she has had a short story published in Honno’s anthology Cut on the Bias, and is currently writing her first novel. She has experienced depression on a number of levels: her father committed suicide when she was a child, her sister is currently on medication for depression, and Rin herself – whilst loath to adopt a label and preferring to take action rather than anti-depressants – acknowledges that she needs to guard against those dark times that can so easily overwhelm. You can read her blog at www.nowiamthirty.journoblog.net.
Have you ever had a day where you feel so angry or sad or otherwise negative that you feel like your head might explode, but you just can’t quite figure out why?
As the hours go by the anger or the sadness are joined by other feelings – guilt at having snapped at your children, shame at having burst into tears on your boss, fear that you’re going crazy.
And then you have a light bulb moment: of course, you’re due on in a couple of days, you’ve just got PMT!
The relief is immediate. Sure you might still be snappy and weepy and all sorts of other things, but at least now you know what you’re dealing with, even if it is still meddling with your emotional wellbeing.
Nothing is ever quite as frightening when you turn on the light and face it out in the open rather than listen to it scurrying around in the darkest corners of your mind.
The same is true of depression, and that’s why one of the things I most despise about the disease is the way it sneaks up on you without announcing its true nature, so that for a few days or weeks or even months you live in fear.
Fear that you’re going crazy, that you’re a bad person, that you’re simply not good enough because suddenly things that you were managing to hold together just fine – a job, a relationship, a normal routine involving doing the dishes and taking off your makeup – seem beyond your grasp.
Depression makes you feel like you can’t cope with anything. Your judgment goes completely out of the window, particularly your perceptions about yourself, your worth as a human being and your ability to change.
Or maybe it’s just me. That’s another problem – the lack of dialogue about the disease, which leaves sufferers isolated and guilt-ridden, feeling that they really ought to just pull themselves together, that there are people with far worse problems and that they are just being weak and lazy and self-obsessed.
All of this goes on, for me, under the surface for an indefinite period of time. After all, you can’t let your crazy show, can you? You’ve got a job to hold down, kids to take care of, stuff to do for goodness sake. You can’t afford to have a meltdown and anyway, what would people think?
So you cope (and I use the word loosely) for as long as possible. But in time cracks start to show and eventually you come to the end of yourself, to the point where you simply can’t anymore.
And it’s often around then that you have that light bulb moment I was talking about: of course, I’m not going crazy, I’m experiencing a bout of depression!
That’s when you can stop blaming yourself for how you’re feeling, or for not dealing with things better, recognise that you have a disease and get on with the healing process.
Blame makes you feel trapped, not least because if you feel like something is your fault then you’ll probably be too ashamed to ask for help. If you can identify the problem, you can start to shake of the blame.
I am a firm believer that those who suffer from depression have to play a part in our own healing. Just as we can’t blame ourselves, we equally cannot simply blame the disease for all our problems and wallow in the unfairness of it all.
But it’s vital to recognise that depression is a disease, and identify it as quickly and accurately as possible – not just the first time it strikes, but every time. Only then can healing begin. Only then can we start to hope again for the future.