The highly ironic thing about suffering from depression is that you are very often the last one to recognise that you are back in its grips.
A key clue, for me at least, is when I find myself unable and unwilling to communicate. It’s that thing of announcing ‘I’m fine’ to everyone whilst looking like you’d cheerfully assassinate them. It’s the piercing resonance of the slightly shrill “I’m OK”.
Sometimes it even seems loud to me. And I’m deaf.
Whilst we go on strike verbally, struck dumb by our latest encounter with the Black Dog, our bodies tend to shout our feelings loudly.
We don’t want to get out of bed. We don’t want to talk. We want to eat comfort food and watch the same ITV3 drama repeat over and over again letting it wash over us like morphine.
The Husband has become pretty shrewd at working out when I’m about to plummet. He knows the signs better than I do. For the person who suffers from depression, so locked inside our experience are we that everything seems normal – even when it clearly isn’t.
You know, those days when washing your hair seems unnecessary and hiding behind the curtains so you don’t have to answer the doorbell is entirely normal.
Equally odd is the slow drip, drip, drip of the latest malaise as it builds up without you noticing. Like leaving a tap on in the bathroom, you never quite know when to expect the flood.
Also confusing is what exactly sets it off – whether it’s the effect of a period of poor self-care, or the kids going back to school, or the gradual fading of the sunlight into autumn, I can never pinpoint when I crossed the line from slightly anxious and definitely grumpy, to morose, gloomy and downright unapproachable.
All of this has to be hidden behind a painted smile, of course. But, gradually, phone calls get ignored, letters remain unopened and packet noodles replace any attempt at cookery.
The kids are, happily, generally unaware of all this. Caitlin though, approaching the grand old age of 10, has a way of looking at me knowingly and asking “Mum, are you ALRIGHT” in that cadence which hints she knows something is up.
Many of us rely on anti-depressants to see us through. I have never been able to take them. I don’t want to be beholden to chemicals to make me feel better, particularly since the side-effects of some of these drugs make you wonder why they are prescribed in the first place.
I say this with absolutely no judgement of those who do take them, by the way. We sufferers all find our own way through as best we can, dodging the bullets of depression like ninjas when we can and sinking like a donkey stuck in quicksand when it all gets too much.
I joked recently to my sister’s partner that whilst, for many 2016 was a dreadful year and t-shirts were being printed with “I survived 2016” on (funny, but not really if you see what I mean), I’m already starting to feel like I need the 2017 version.
Hospital visits, builders, noisy neighbours, family illness, endless problems with my glasses, tinnitus – ah – a veritable catalogue of potential triggers. There’s even Blue Monday in early January designated as the most depressing day of the year where we’re all likely to feel miserable!
So where is your tipping point?
When does the Black Dog return to sit faithfully at your lap, tail wagging, damp cold nose insisting you pay attention?
One thing’s for sure, I wish someone would let the bloody dog out.