Thursday, 21 April 2016
Simply a bad day
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die - to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come...
Shakespeare died 400 years ago on Saturday so I thought I would borrow his words as I talk you through a bad day; no I am not suicidal but Hamlet so brilliantly puts into words not just our very fear of death, but fear itself. Here he fears both what he knows and what he does not know, which is basically how depression itself operates. The ability to decide if you want to be in company or alone, at work or home asleep, want to watch the funny film or the one that might let you cry. On a bad day, the depressed person is scared of every decision, lest they make the wrong one. Here, Hamlet is afraid of life and afraid of death, even as he contemplates it he cannot imagine it and he fears it could be worse. This talk through the pros and cons of being and not being makes a very human argument for life. Even when it is difficult, it is a known versus an unknown. And fear of nothing is not as scary as fear of the unknown.
To sleep is to dream but as Hamlet worried, to sleep eternally could be to be stuck in an eternal dream, one you didn't choose. One of the side affects of depression can be some extremely violent and scary dreams, what if those are the manifestation of hell after death? His thought process here brilliantly highlights the eternal doubts of the depressed mind, although here, Hamlet is contemplating life or death, this thought process could work if he were contemplating simply whether to stay at home with 'the fear' or go to work and try and drown out 'the fear'. Which can be a daily argument of the person with depression.
Hamlet's fear of death is a fear that can save lives. No matter how difficult life is, what if death is worse? When I was little I had a real fear that death meant I would be floating in the blackness of space forever more. I never believed in heaven or hell or God, from as young as I can remember. And with that atheism came a fear of nothingness, being nothing, in nothing, because to be able to contemplate not existing is to not be human. It is an alien concept because our very survival depends on us being unable to contemplate our own demise. Which is what makes suicide so unfathomable, as Hamlet muses, to be, or not to be, but how not to be, even in our imagined death we cannot imagine not being. There we are, floating in darkness, stuck in a nightmare, walking through the pearly gates, floating in clouds, burning in a pit, whatever we believe it is that comes next or don't believe, we still picture ourselves there as if we will always be.
This week is Depression awareness week and I have woken to one of my anxious days. A day like today starts with a nervous feeling that won't go away. It is like waiting to go on stage to speak publicly but without the event you fear. You fear but you have nothing to fear.
I am in my flat and I don't need to leave until this evening when I am meeting a dear friend, nothing at all scary about today. But I am scared: of nothing.
That is depression on a bad day; a fear of nothing. A fear of the words on this page because even as I write them my mind is not clear but a jumbled mess, a fear of watching TV and not being able to concentrate because words are hard to process, a fear of reading because I already feel too tired to understand the writing on the page, a fear of working because all my ideas are unoriginal and boring and there is nothing I have to offer that can't be done by someone else.
This is my depression. And when it talks so loudly you just have to lie down somewhere quiet and let it scream and rant until it's worn itself out. In fact, days like today are often best spent sleeping, like you would if you had a cold or a bug, you would sleep until it passed. A bad depression day should be slept away. But often we can't do that because we have commitments and jobs and bills to pay. Sometimes we have to face the World even though just eating is terrifying. But you won't spot our fear; you'll see a smile. We might even tell you a joke, talk loudly and appear super confident, but inside our stomach is telling us to be afraid, be very afraid and our brain is telling us we are useless and nothing we do or say has a point.
As I write each sentence I am plagued by doubt and the butterflies in my stomach, which have accompanied me since my dreams last night, intensify. This is pointless.
Every sentence feels like climbing the peak of a mountain, only at each full stop another mountain peak appears. That is the tiredness of depression; the smallest of jobs feels like a gargantuan task. These are only words, nothing at all scary about them, they will be read, they will be forgotten, they will be followed by ever more words.
But even as the end of the page looms and the need for a conclusion, a point gets ever closer, the butterflies begin to dance a little faster. I don't have a point because on a day like today there is no point. It is what it is, and the kindest thing a person with depression can do on a day like today is to accept that it is happening and know it will pass. Tomorrow will come. The butterflies will stop dancing; the fear of nothing will go. It will be okay.
And look, I wrote a series of words, a thing I was scared to do as I stared at the empty page an hour ago. That will do for today.
Love me (and the butterflies) xx
I would probably not have written this post were it not Depression awareness week, but in honour of that fact, this is a jumbled mess of a look into my mind on a bad day. I hope in its confusion, it sheds a little light on how depression can feel.