Those of you with depression, of whatever form will know immediately what I mean by the void. As an experienced sailor can look at the dusk sky and know tomorrow he’ll have a bumpy ride the depressed can look up into the dusk sky of the self and know that the storm is coming.
As those of you with clinical depression will know motivation has nothing to do with those days when you can’t wash, never mind go to school or work. With my dysthymia I know that for me I have depressive episodes which is basically when my depression goes above it’s usual ‘mild’ level and it basically paralyses me. It’s awful and I can absolutely say it’s the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life and unfortunately I have this experience at least once a month and it can last days.
When someone with depression enters one of these episodes there is very little they can do. If you have depression you know what I mean. When you exit the episode you are confused, you may not be sure what day it is, you may be unaware of what has happened around you or in the world for however long you were enveloped in the void, your body will stink as you have not washed, your hair is matted and knotted, your teeth feel like sandpaper, your underwear stink, your clothes stink, the blanket you’ve been wrapped in stinks, you’re starving, you’re dehydrated, your joints hurt, you have a headache, you feel nauseated, you may even feel guilty for being the way you were and then you have to try and pick up the pieces of your life again.
I’ve heard those who’ve never had depression saying ‘get over it’, ‘you’re lazy’, ‘just man up’ etc. etc. etc. We all know the insults. The only thing you can do is say loudly and proudly ‘Screw them!’. I mean it, you can not listen to the ignorant, they will wear down the best of men and beat them to keep them at their level of ignorance forever. Nobody has the right to belittle your mental health. Nobody who hasn’t been there has the bloody right to tell you to just get on with it when you’ve just been swallowed by the void and spit back out. For coming out the other end I say ‘congratulations, you survived it again’.
That is the only thing that matters, you survived it. I even say it to myself nowadays. When I get through the void I stand up straight, I look in the mirror and I say ‘Well done!’. I bloody deserve it!
After I pat myself on the back for not giving up when I was being eaten alive I get in the shower. I waste no time. I clean myself so thoroughly Intel could make computer chips on my naked body. Then I get dressed into an outfit I really like, I’ll put on a pair of my favourite jeans and a nice t-shirt with my favourite shoes and then I’ll do my hair. I’ll go downstairs, I’ll eat a light but enjoyable meal. It might only be Coco Pops and a yoghurt but I like it! I then make sure I get a nice cold glass of water into me to rehydrate and then I grab my keys and I go outside. If it’s raining, snowing or the sun is splitting the stones, I go outside. This part to me is vital. It’s the final part of my reintegration not just to society but to the self. To me.
As you all know that have been there, you are not you in these moments. The real you is either buried deep down, screaming to break out of your mind and take back control of your body or you’re outside watching yourself in the fetal position rotting away. So at the earliest possible moment you need to try and take back full control. Once you see a crack of light you must contrive with every ounce of energy within you to rise up and make that crack a blinding beam.
End your own suffering as quickly as possible. By getting washed, dressed and walking outside your house with your head held high, you will feel so awfully uncomfortable, walking past people with your head up is painfully awkward and you’ll want to drop your eyes and run home. But trust me. I’ve been there. I’m not talking from a silly textbook, but from experience.
Take back control and let yourself know that you are worthy of happiness, you are worthy of contentment and you don’t just deserve to live, you’ve bloody earned the right to live. So hold that head high and walk, just walk. Take back control and live.
Unfortunately many of us have very little control over when the next storm will hit but by using tools elsewhere on this blog you can help keep your mood as steady as possible and prolong your time between each episode. Once you have a depressive episode you are statistically likely to have another. But that is just a reason to live life to the fullest in the moments when you can. And when the storm is coming batten down the hatches and ride it out. Then repeat the cycle, get up when it’s over and head up proud. You are braver and stronger than any sports star, mountain climber, setter of feats or front line combatant.
Every day you win a battle in your head and sometimes the war leaves you ravaged but just as London rebuilt into one of the greatest cities on Earth after WWII, you too will rise and you will be stronger and more courageous. Just never stop fighting for the island in the void that is you.
We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender – Winston Churchill