Depression. Black. Cloud. Fog. Hover. Dark. Above. Hover. Fog. Dark. Head. Cloud. Rests. Unrest. Hours. Minutes. Days.
I can tell when it's coming, my body knows, senses sharpened and attuned to the feeling, we know each other well. I've lived with depression since I was a child, not knowing it's name, but it's always been there.
As an adult, I did what a lot of adults do; I forged a relationship with alcohol on the basis that I would consume as much of "it" as I could, as long as "it" would get me completely wasted. We had an agreement and both parties kept to their end. It wasn't long before alcohol and my depression had formed a Holy Alliance. Depression being my silent partner, they really got on, and the three of us had an open relationship. Our union wax sealed and off we went on our merry go round adventures for years......and years.
Depression bubbling under the surface, or hovering above, never seen by any, only felt by me. I was used to it. Familiar. At times I would think, "I need to sort this out" and alcohol would come along, "remember our agreement? I can take care of this for you." And it did.
It did until I experienced my first adult traumatic life event. I had become acquainted with grief. Everything changed. All bets were off. That dark cloud that I referred to at the beginning? That turned into a thick fog that stayed with me for two years, no light in that time. It got really bad, bad to the point where nothing made sense, least of all waking up every day. I wasn't going to do anything silly, still in the clutches of grief and aware of what that was doing to those around me, but I had to do something and if I wasn't going to die? Then I was going to have to live, and I had to find a way of doing so.
I contacted my GP who was incredibly understanding. It was suggested that I might try going onto medication, but having enough awareness of my relationship with alcohol, the thought of adding anti depressants to the mix seemed like the worst orgy ever. So I declined. I didn't trust myself, didn't trust that I wouldn't get dependant, and worried about what might happen when the time came to come off of them.
So instead I was to undergo a few assessments to see if I qualified for therapy.....a series of questions to suitably grade the severity of depression, which would ultimately lead to counselling, or not.
This took some time. Six weeks, to be exact, for my first assessment. A lovely day in London. I'm at work. My phone rings. I answer. "Can you talk now?" a lady enquires. She needs to take me through the preliminary questions... "On a scale of one to ten...' and so it goes - "How many units of alcohol do I drink a month?... Have I had any suicidal thoughts?" I wasn't entirely prepared for the line of questioning and responded in my most pleasant, "How may I help you?" office phone manner. Even with Stepford tone my responses couldn't lie, and it was decided that I be referred for a face to face assessment for the next phase.
Too much time was left in between. Thinking. Thoughts. Time. Space. Filling. Space. This structured process of assessment of half an hour slots, six weeks at a time was not enough for me. Pandora's box had been opened, and no one knew where the key was.
There was more drinking. Heavy drinking. Tears. A lot of tears, and a desperate need to expel whatever it was surfacing through the pores of my skin.
I picked up my pen. Paper. Sitting. Sat. Sat back. Think. Think... What was I feeling? "Just write it down." Look down. Eyes closed. Eyes open. Write.
As soon as I started, it was difficult to stop. Before I knew it, I had written pages of poems, musings and anecdotes. I was reflecting on my experiences, trying to connect the dots and connect with myself, working out who I was. This was safe. This was my therapy.
Scott Le Crass directs Maya Thomas above, in rehearsal for Chantelle Dusette's play 'Cancel The Sunshine' which opens at The Hope Theatre, March 15th - April 2nd.
Photo image by Joanna Dudderidge.
See the trailer for Cancel the Sunshine by Chantelle Dusette and Johnny Atto, music composed by Kris Di Angelis.
The play supports the Amy Winehouse Foundation - www.amywinehousefoundation.org
Please take a look at the Kickstarter campaign and help support this play on mental health.