Some people are not going to like this entry and I suspect that if you think it’s going to upset you it probably is. If you read it, own the choice you made to do so and don’t blame me please.
First, I suffer from Depression, had it all medicalised for me over ten years ago.
Second, I made the decision for good or bad that I no longer wanted to take pills, again, over ten years ago.
Third, I do not believe that you ever get over Depression I think that it’s a condition to be managed in the same way as I manage my asthma and my various skin conditions. I admit, I may be wrong about this but my experience with doctors has not been happy and I do not want to go back.
A note about vocabulary: I do not like to use the term Depression, I like Melancholy or Melancholia. I frequently talk about ‘heading Swampwards’ because to me being Depressed is like sinking into a Swamp.
I am not always in the middle of the Swamp, I spend a reasonable amount of time avoiding it actually. But every so often I end up in the Swamp, often having blithely ignored the warning signs telling me to head back the way I came, I may manage my Depression, but like my asthma, sometimes I don’t manage it very well. Due to my methods, which work reasonably well for me, I don’t think that people who are experiencing Depression (especially not from the outside) should really talk to me let alone read this blog entry.
I have been sinking into the dead centre of the swamp for sometime now. I suspect it’s partly down to low-blood sugar (I’m dieting) and when I have low blood sugar my will-power is low as well. I manage the swamp, keep it at bay via willpower alone (another reason I think sufferers of depression shouldn’t talk to me) and when it’s not there often the Swamp comes rushing for me. Anyway, for a while now I’ve been putting into practice all the strategies I’ve learnt work for me: socialise, keep to a timetable, be enthusiastic even when you’re not really…and I’ve been feeling worse and worse.
Grandma helped the other day by telling me how proud and impressed she is with my desire to work hard no matter the job. Kept the sinking away for another day.
Then I went on the Princess’s hen do. One thing I love about Da Bitches is how enthusiastic and how true to themselves they are, I’m completely blown away by their determination to be themselves and to be sucessful within the context of themselves. They are such amazing girls and I’m always fascinated to hear what they’re doing and proud to know them. Of course…then there’s the inevitable comparison between these successful young women and myself.
So what are you doing these days?
I’m manning the safety boat for David Walliams/I’m hoping to work as a vet overseas for a charity/I’m working and partying in The City/I’m organising my wedding in a castle/I’m loving living in London…
It goes on. They are all working hard to achieve their dreams and having the most amazing experiences on the way, and they’re all pretty close to achieving them as well. The question turns on me, a good two or three years older than most of them.
What are you doing?
I’m cleaning in the mornings and still trying to write in the afternoons.
I thought you were:
*teaching – yeah a guy tried to stab me and now I can’t face classrooms
*working in Social Services – yeah it got a bit too stressful and I resigned
*working freelance – yeah it didn’t work out
Or worse – Are you still doing that?
Yep. It’s not going so well as I hoped.
And then I sunk so far that The Swamp closed over my head for the first time in a while. And I remembered something about how I really manage my Swamp and why other people should not talk to me about their close friends and family committing suicide.
See, when I hit rock bottom I think about killing myself.
I really upset a GM and a player in a roleplaying game I was in earlier this year by seeing this as a valid choice for my character but I find it very difficult when I think of it as a valid choice for myself to not think of it as such. Certainly it’s an entirely selfish choice and it would hurt people – but I have to remember it’s a choice, I cannot let the potential hurt of those people take the choice away from me. Let me explain.
Now, my experience of the Swamp is that there are two ways of thinking about suicide, there’s the way you think about it when you’re skirting the edges (and that seems to have been more common in my adolescence) which is ‘huh, if I killed myself then everybody would see how much I was really suffering’ and you imagine how everybody would really understand you at your funeral. Thinking about it that way is more of a warning sign that the real Swamp is up ahead and you need to get out and have a life. I haven’t actually done that in that way in quite a while so I’m wondering whether that’s not so much a sign of the Swamp or a sign of experiencing the Swamp at a different age. Not sure about that. I do know that fantasising about my funeral is still common but it’s changed it’s mood, it’s not so much about imagining that everyone would understand me suddenly but more about imagining what music would be played, what readings, wondering whether people would follow my directions or how they might change things. It’s still a sign the Swamp is around.
Then there’s the second way of thinking about it and to me this indicates that I’ve sunk and am at the bottom of the Swamp unable to breathe. This is when you actually imagine the peace of being dead, the notion that at any moment you could just leave, get out of this crap you call life and not be. I like to plan out how to do it, I’ve varied over the years – pills is not an option for me, far too likely to be brought back, also I’d rather my last actions on this universe were less passive, possibly more bloody as well, depending on my mood. So, I had had a bit of a cry and then I’d worked out how I’d do it this time, and I realised that I could do it, it’d be relatively simple to arrange and I could just go. That’s when I remembered, this is how I really manage it. Because it’s so relaxing, so relieving to remember that I can always kill myself.
This is why when people have talked about others committing suicide I’ve been hideously aware that I’m not the right person to talk to. I have a split reaction to it, part of me thinks – I bet that the person who killed themselves felt so good in those final moments, part of me thinks – hah, still here, still here by choice.
My Swamp is with me for two reasons, which are ultimately one. On the outside I think I deserve to be suitably punished for some undefined or very specifically defined (depends on mood and situation) wrongs – this is why I never got along with cutting myself, burning (which is what I did when I self-harmed) always felt more like a punishment. Cutting was to me, too obvious about what the Swamp is really about, and for whatever reason my psyche doesn’t like that. My other forms of self-punishment are always on surface level about a sense of guilt and punishment. However, they aren’t really, that’s just a disguise that the Swamp likes to wear.
What they’re really about is a lack of control. When I have been at my most independent that’s when the Swamp has really been kept at bay, when I have been least in control of my life thats when the Swamp envelopes me and brings it’s own kind of comfort with it. That’s really the problem with the Swamp, it’s familiar and it’s familiarity of hideous, negative emotion is comforting. The Swamp likes to pretend that I’ve done something wrong and I deserve to be punished – it’s really a reaction to my feeling out of control – essentially I think it goes a little like this, The Swamp takes note of what I control and what I don’t in my life and when the out of control tips further than the in control it approaches from behind (I picture it looking a little like a Groke at this stage), it swirls it’s skirts in a spiral around me until I end up walking straight into it intent on punishment for illusionary wrongs (ie. responsibility for loss of control) and thus ignoring the warning signs.
I can often still pull myself out from the edges. Hell I’ve pulled myself out from chest-deep before now. But, when I can’t breathe for the mud, the only hope is to sink and hit the bottom, so far it’s always been a solid bottom and that means a good kick-off point. It worries me that one day this bottom is going to crumble when I try to kick-off and I’ll end up where Hunter S Thompson did. But not today, today is remembering how this is an active choice I’m making, to not kill myself and thus retaining a certain amount of control. Enough for now anyway.
My apologies if you read that and were upset. I did warn you.