Despite the fact that I have had regular bouts of depression over the last thirty years, or perhaps because of it, you would think I would see it coming, or at least use a far greater self-awareness borne out of eternal vigilance and get me some help at the first sign of trouble.
But of course, that’s the nature of depression. Like the Devil himself, it approaches not by stealth but in plain sight and simply sidles up and whispers sweet nothings in your ear, like a familiar lover you know will be no good for you.
And the single, most compelling and most alluring thing Depression says is, ‘Who, me? Not this time. It’s just a small bit of the blues, it will go by the end of the week. Here, have this chocolate. No? Take a lover. Not enough? Be strong, darling. You are always the great survivor. No, not this time? Alright then, come, come sit by me. Let us talk long into the night. Unburden yourself.’
My depression is nothing if not seductive you see. It starts out as a fit of quiet desperation, a series of sighs and regrets and small annoyances and then, like a death of a thousand cuts, the annoyances become angry outbursts. The tears can’t be swallowed away, they spring from glazed eyes, only to be knuckled furiously away. I start bargaining, discounting, denying. It’s not, it’s not, it’s not. It’s just a bad day. A phone call started it. A night out will fix it. Perhaps a change of scenery. If only, if only, if only.
I respond by throwing myself into work. It feels like I’m swimming in treacle. My work rate slows.
I cry into my lover’s arms, the sobs won’t stop. It seems like a lifetime of regret has soaked his shoulders. I am furious with myself for showing such weakness. This scenario hasn’t followed our usual, more circumspect script. I’m mortified with embarrassment for unburdening myself like that. What the hell was that about?
My thoughts become more ungrounded. Instead of thinking about work and problem solving thorny issues of recipe development or brainstorming ideas and business plans, my creative ideas become hijacked by fantasy. I flick through movie guides, waste hours on Facebook, watch catch-up TV. Procrastination follows. It suddenly takes a lot of effort to stay on task, to get through an ordinary to-do list. Inevitably, the harder tasks – the phone calls, the busy patches, anything requiring me to be switched on - get put back and back and back.
Sciatica makes a spectacular entrance at this time and lays me out for over a week, but this time my impatience to recover is vexatiously absent. I do just enough stretches to ease the worst of the pain and that’s it. Before I know it, it’s been a week or two since I stepped out of the house. I let the phone go to message bank. Treacherously, my brain flicks the switch from sadness to Don’t Care. I have entered the dangerous twilight world of Can’t Be Arsed.
I can’t remember the last time I cooked. I think it was about ten days ago.
And so once again, my depression and I, the most familiar of lovers, have opted for cohabitation in my space and this time, it would appear it is already settling in for a bit of a stay. For the last week, the cortisol levels have surged through my synapses at such monstrous levels I can’t stop feeling sleepy. I alternate between sleeping fourteen hours a day and 36 hours of wakefulness.
Today, mercifully, I made two decisions. The first one, with my nerves frayed beyond all endurance, was to pick up the phone. I made a doctor’s appointment, the first recognisable step of the journey back to Me.
The second decision, much harder, was to decide to put this blog into hiatus.
In the past, when I’ve put the blog into hiatus (such as at Christmas) I’ve had a pretty clear idea of how long it would be for. This time, there is no end date. It could be weeks. It might be months.
Where before I craved the comfort of your company and community, your kindnesses and endless support, this time I must go it alone. That’s not to say I won’t seek out the company of dear friends and family, but this time I have to do some healing on my own, without the very real presence of a virtual world quietly beseeching me from the corner to come out and play.
Blogging is a great love of mine, but I have to come first. It’s a measure of how much I’ve lost sight of myself that I have forgotten to cook for me and instead cook for the blog. In every sense of the word, it is a madness.
I don’t want to be so much in my head. I need to do very simple things to nurture myself, in a life stripped away of diversions and attractions and pretenses, at least for the time being. It’s time to walk away from the amusement park and instead go and sit under a tree and watch the world from a small patch of earth. As spartan as that life might be for a while, at least it will be real and tangible, solid and nurturing.
I’ll leave the comments open and of course you can continue to chat amongst yourselves on our Facebook page and Twitter, but I will choose when and where I opt into the conversation. I thank you all in advance for your unconditional understanding and support and wish you all the very best in your own lives. I will be back, I promise. After thirty cyclical years of this, it’s the one thing I can rely on: I always come back.
I know that a great many reading this will recognise familiar patterns in their own lives. If depression is camping out in your head, get on the phone. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 (from anywhere in Australia) or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and start the journey back. Please.