I find that trying to articulate aspects of depression helps me to understand myself better. It gives me a perspective. I don’t feel this way right now, but I like to write about how I have felt at times. And here you have it, something that I’ve written that goes some way towards describing one of the things depression does to you…
There are times when I know what to say, when the words flow from me like snatches of a song, and they work together as a harmony; they work.
But then there are times when I have no idea what to say. When words fail me and feelings overwhelm me and I can’t get the air in my lungs to voice a single thing. The world swirls around me in a relentless whirlpool and the words slip from my fingers before I can get a hold on them. The words are everywhere but always beyond my reach.
And then there’s a third type of moment, a time when the words fail, but not because there are too many. Words fail because they are not there to draw upon. They don’t exist. There is nothing but emptiness and cold and a blank canvas.
I think this third kind is the most disquieting. What do you say when you feel nothing? It is an aspect of depression people rarely speak of. People know about the crushing misery, the devastating hopelessness, the mental and physical pain of shattered dreams and life and meaning. But there’s something else depression has in its arsenal, a less well known weapon; sometimes it takes everything. It sucks you dry and leaves you a husk, a shell that looks like a person. Sometimes the only thing you can feel (if it can be called feeling) is this intense lethargy, this complete lack of interest. You want to cry, but you can’t. You are numb, a weak and ineffectual shadow. You want to cry and scream and shout because anything would be better than this cruel wasteland. It’s like you’re still in agony, every breath and blink still hurts, but you’re disconnected from it. You are floating an inch above yourself, close enough to feel the pain but incapable of expressing it.
I think this is one of depression’s worst moves. Because then the numbness will suddenly disappear without warning, but you can’t feel relieved because the full extent of the pain and despair is back with a vengeance. With depression you are always selfish, in the sense that you cannot see anything beyond your own suffering. You can try, and you can glimpse the outside world, but always from a distance. Other people’s mental-illness-free lives are like a myth, they’re there but untouchable, unreachable.
One thing though: there is hope. If you feel like this, if every day is a struggle, trust me it can get better, because it has for me. I’m not ‘better’, but I have made progress and I know you can too.