If you’ve read anything I’ve written (almost anything, anyway) then you’ll know I suffer from major clinical depression and anxiety disorder. I was first diagnosed a little while after I broke up with the man I thought was ‘the one’, but it’s something that’s been with me for years. I used to self harm when I was young but I wasn’t sure why, back then. I would pull my fingers back, or close them in doors or stamp on them until the pain was beyond tears. I thought I just wanted the attention, the reason to stay home from school for a day or two – but I didn’t think it was important to work out why. I’ve done a lot of thinking about it since.
Depression and anxiety both come with a troupe of physical symptoms for me. It’s not true for everyone, but I find them almost as debilitating as the mental aspects. I go through phases when it comes to sleep. I will go for months with barely managing four or five hours a night, shambling through the intervening days like a zombie. I try to do things as best as I can but it’s hard to read or play a game or go anywhere or even have a conversation when your eyelids are drooping, your neck can’t hold the weight of your head, and it takes ten seconds to make sense of every sentence, but no matter how sleepy you are, as soon as you lay down and close your eyes, the thoughts start picking at you, making actual restful sleep impossible. Then there are periods of time where I sleep for eight, nine, even ten hours every night, and nap during the day, and lay in bed for hours in a state of semi-conscious tiredness. This happens more often if I’m left to my own devices – people can wake you up and force you out of bed much more easily than they can make you sleep.
Alongside that, I get appetite problems, going days with barely eating anything then having days where I want to constantly eat. It brings a lot of weird thoughts up for me, does eating. Again, people can force me to eat quite easily, but forcing someone to stop eating is harder.
There are other things too. Headaches are pretty much a 50:50 chance from day-to-day, severe ones or migraines less than that but still more often than is fair. There’s also, for lack of a better word, dizziness. Imagine your mind exists on a radio frequency, or several frequencies. Then the dizziness comes and it’s like your head has been put between stations, your mind is filled with white noise, up and down are indistinguishable from one another, the ground is coming up to meet you even as you’re floating away from it.
Then my body stops doing crazy stuff for just a minute and I get a chance to see what’s going on inside my head. And I miss the sleep deprivation and the dizzy spells.
Once again it’s cyclic. Sometimes I will have phases of such intense emotion (usually sadness but sometimes guilt, fear, worthlessness, impending doom, or even anger) that it is all-consuming. There is no space left inside me to give proper thought to anything else, even the most mundane of decisions. I can do things, but no matter what I’m doing, I’m on the verge of breaking down and letting it all out. The strain of being so controlled sometimes swells up over the barriers, and I will cry, or hide, or sometimes I will cut myself, because it feels like maybe there aren’t enough other ways for all this stuff inside my head to get out, and it needs to be bled out.
There is the flip-side to that intensity, a complete opposite – which is what I live with most days. A feeling of numbness and apathy. Almost laziness, but the feeling is coming from somewhere deeper and more vast than just the desire not to do anything. I want to do things, but my brain is caught up in loops and patterns of predefined thoughts and I just can’t break free of the circuits long enough to grab hold of something else. I want to cook for myself and my boyfriend, and wash up, and tidy the house and clean things, but it is as if some invisible, intangible force has me rooted to the spot, brimming over with so much passiveness and lethargy that I feel like a drone. I cannot make any decisions in this state, because I simply care so little about all the outcomes that it becomes a vicious game of working out what others want me to decide. (This applies even to decisions that only effect me, like what to do for an hour to beat the boredom that hounds me). In this state self harm becomes more of a test to see if I’ve lost all physical capacity as well as the mental ones.
There are a host of other, more minor things, like how irritable I am these days, or the nine days out of ten that having sex just seems like too much effort (no matter how good it feels, physically and emotionally, when we do it), the feeling that life is passing me by, that I am a disappointment to my boyfriend and my friends and family, the worry that I will dissolve into a heap of jelly if left alone for too long, or forced into too large a group for too long, and other things too.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that no, I don’t know if I want chips or pasta for dinner.