My first experience of depression was at the age of twelve, out of the blue, on an otherwise mundane day. It was sudden and it was frightening and, at 12-years-old, unlike anything I’d ever felt before. This initial child-like experience of depression felt like I’d had a translucent rose-tinted veil over my face my whole life, only to be made aware of it when someone had lifted it from my face, revealing the world in its true, dire form. The truth being: that living was pointless seeing as our inevitable death would eventually negate everything we did or said, that we simply exist without purpose. Happiness and humour went, then sadness and anger, and finally hope. The array of normal human emotions disintegrated, their place taken by (paradoxically) an overwhelming sense of numbness. And on such a seemingly mundane day, a pin dropped and everything changed.
A life-changing, mediocre day
Through my own experience of mental illness, the most guilt-inducing aspect of it is that, often, there is not an external or situational entity reflective of your internal struggle. This is something I struggled to reconcile and understand when I was first faced with depression at the age of 12. How could such a mediocre day so fundamentally change my perspective of the world? There was certainly a situational influence that acted as a motor which set the depression into motion, but it was soon left to run on its own terms, long after it was switched off. The illness then drove itself round in a vicious circle, making days that were externally mediocre become internally unbearable. This is perhaps a misconception that is embedded within the stigma surrounding mental illness: that an individual’s mental well-being and state of mind are necessarily proportional to the life situation they are currently in, a myth that serves to invalidate and undermine the sufferer’s experience.
After a few months of experiencing mild depression from a child’s perspective, it fell almost dormant in a sense, though it lingered, resulting in the depression not being caught early, meaning it would eventually return, with a greater intensity. Eight years later, I have come to know “The Black Dog“ in all of its myriad forms, a constantly changing entity, impossible to make sense of in my head. Once I think I’ve pinned down exactly what it is and therefore how to tackle it, it mutates, always two steps ahead of me, taunting me. Sometimes it feels like a losing game of tug of war.
In the past, the most difficult aspect of my depression has been the complete and utter contrast between my good days and my bad days. Many of my days were filled with a personality-leaching numbness. Whereas on other days, I would be blessed just to wake up feeling like me again, throwing humour, energy and enthusiasm into everything I did, even if most of the time that just meant work. There were days, however, where the cumulative result of keeping things bottled up is an enormous feeling of dejection, like a weight that I was unable to carry. As such, I would question the point in my still being alive, tell myself I did not have any value in the lives’ of others and generally just feel like I did not want to be there any more.
At this point in my life, where I do feel closer to my true, happy self, I grab life by its horns and exploit such positivity whilst I still have the energy to make constructive steps in my life to help me manage – and maybe one day overcome – my depression and anxiety. Because these days, I never leave the steps to recovery for tomorrow; choosing life starts today!