For me, as I'm sure for anyone else who has experienced a depressive episode, there are varying levels of bad. As a good friend once put it - 'are ya bad, or are ya bad bad?' (Thank you good friend, you know who you are and I miss you!!) And I knew exactly what she meant. Today I'm going to do bad bad, the place I was just before I went to hospital back in February 2013.
The best way I can think to start describing it is that it feels like being in a bubble, or behind a glass wall. I can hear and see everything that's going on, but I can't join in, it's as if there's something physically blocking my way. I can't engage, and what's worse, don't want to engage with anything, any part of my life. I have a lot of things that make me happy, and that help me to be well - Hubby, my kids D&M, good friends, my family, my dogs, reading, walking, yoga, and from a more clinical point of view, a very supportive counsellor and medication. But when I get to bad bad, none of that matters any more.
At the start of the slide I'm more irritable. I've less patience with everyone around me, and none at all with myself. My inner critic (you know, that little voice we all have who likes to question how we're doing things) who I affectionately like to call Bitchface, gets progressively louder. Nothing I do is good enough for Bitchface, nothing at all. So my confidence takes a hit. This in turn leads me to withdraw from my friends and family. Mam said to me before that she always knows when I'm not feeling great because I go radio silent, and it's so true. Walking stops. Yoga, my great escape, stops. It's not a conscious decision on my part, I'm not even aware that these things are happening. My sleep starts to get erratic - I'll find it hard to fall asleep, then wake frequently and find it hard to get back to sleep. When I'm tired I completely lose perspective. I either lose interest in food or comfort eat. I find it increasingly hard to focus on work. And then one day I'll decide that there's no point in taking my medication any more, so that stops too. Do you want to know the very definition of a bad plan?? Coming off antidepressants cold turkey, without telling the doctor first. It feels truly horrific, physically and mentally. Extreme nausea, dizziness, brain zaps, mood absolutely plummets and there are generally a lot of tears. This usually coincides with deciding I don't need to see my counsellor any more, although thankfully thus far she's always been able to persuade me that this isn't necessarily the right time to stop. I have to say it again. At this point, I'm generally still not aware that there's something wrong. All of the above seem entirely rational and logical actions, I honestly believe I'm still in control.
And so I find myself back at the bottom of a really deep hole. While the trip down here hasn't been all that pleasant, being here is infinitely worse. By now I will have had to stop working. Things at home have really been affected. Poor Hubby takes the brunt of it - I'll either be angry with him, withdraw from him entirely, assume the problem is with him or need constant reassurance. In short, I am not a nice person to be around, and he is a saint for having stood by me through the multiple times this has happened. But the hardest thing of all is my kids. I would walk through fire for them. I cannot begin to describe just how much I love them, and how much joy they bring me. But, when I'm depressed, I can't handle being around them at all, and that hurts like hell. They want me to play with them, to read to them, to hang out, to cuddle them - to be their Mam. All I want is to be left alone. Enter guilt. Massive, all consuming guilt. And Bitchface loves this one, she thrives on it. So now not only am I completely mired in depression, there is a constant loop going round my mind of all the ways I've failed, all the people I've let down. My thinking is completely black and white, I can't see a way out. Words like 'always' and 'never' feature a lot, eg, I'm always like this, things are never going to get any better. I'm like a zombie. I look like me, I sound like me, but the essence of me is gone. I can sit for hours staring at a wall. Inside, I can be screaming at myself to get up, get moving, but I may as well be tied down for all the good it does. It's a short hop from here to feeling there's no hope any more, that really, the people I love would be better off without me. I feel utterly lost, alone, helpless, hopeless and worthless.
So why am I telling you all this? Hubby pointed out once that there may be people reading this who are trying to understand what someone who is depressed is going through, why they are acting the way they are, and I hope I've been able to give you some insight into that. I'm sure it's different for everyone, but for me, this is how it manifests. There may also be people reading this who can completely identify with what I'm saying, but never knew what it meant. If you ever, ever feel like this, don't wait till things get so bad there's no sense in the world any more. Get help. Please, please, get help. Talk to someone. It does get better, it does go away. Unfortunately for some, it can come back, again and again, but each time it does, we learn something more about how to fight the next time. I have a lot of information on my blog about sources of help and self help, but if things get as bad as I described above, you will need professional help to get out of it. The hole is too deep to climb out of alone, but, with support, it can be done.