Chimamanda wrote an article about depression. It was a beautiful piece, an intensely personal one that rang true on so many levels. But she didn’t want it published, and so it got pulled off the internet. I wish she’d reconsider, though I get where she’s coming from. Depression is a very private battle, and fighting it in front of the world makes it so much harder.
I’ve been feeling rather strange the past few weeks. Well, it actually started last November, but I’ve kept it undercover – even from myself – until now. Of course anyone that knows me knows there’s something wrong when my blog goes quiet. I need to write as much as I need to breathe, so when I’m not writing, it’s usually because something is seriously wrong.
I can usually spot my depressive episodes. Not this time. This time the depression had a make-over. It didn’t creep up like it usually does, shrouded in silence and nothingness. This time, it was dressed in red. It zoomed towards me clothed in rage and hunger, and inexplicable whirlwind of emotion and not-enough-ness. I felt inadequate, and that made me angry.
For weeks I’ve been storming around with a scowl on my face, slamming doors inside my head and not quite knowing why. I’ve noticed that in a lot of this year’s photos, I have this ugly frown on my face, which either means I’m growling more … or taking more photos. I’m always tired, and my feet hurt all the time, which made me think I was getting fatter, even though my workmates say I’m actually losing weight. I feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, and unsatisfied, yet there’s nothing on my to-do list to warrant it.
Then today I met someone I used to care about … and felt nothing. The encounter lasted minutes. I used to spend hours talking to him, suddenly he had nothing to say to me, and I had nothing to say to him. I hugged him, because it felt silly to shake his hand. I smiled at him, because it seemed appropriate. He smiled back. I tried to see whether the smile had reached his eyes, but the sun was too bright for me to tell. He talked about my hoodie and my hair. Then he walked away.
I wanted to look back, to see if he was alone, to see if he was rushing towards another girl. Luckily, my pride wouldn’t let me. Instead, I went and stood in line for the matatu. And instead of doing the smart thing and playing Candy Crush, I asked myself why I felt nothing. Which – naturally – unleashed all the feelings I’d suppressed during that one-minute-meeting. And the clearest one was loud, raw, unfounded bile.
Once I got to work, locked myself in the bathroom, had a good cry, washed my face, and came back to my desk, I thought about Chimamanda’s piece and realised this was a new phase of depression. The exhaustion I feel despite 8 hours of sleep, the lack of interest in anything, the unfocussed buzzing in my head, the vague desperation for something new – anything new, the conviction that nothing I do is enough and so there’s no need to try.
I wondered what the issue was, because there’s nothing specific to be furious about, and yet I am. I blamed it on my hormonal cycle, yet three cycles have come and gone and the rage goes unabated. I’ve quantified it, telling myself I just turned 33 but have no house and no car and am therefore unsuccessful, but I count my blessings – a well-paying job, a loving family, awesome friends, my happy pre-teen child … and I realise that can’t be it.
I’ve even tried to blame it on a man, looked around, found none, then blamed my anger on the absence of a man. But that’s never really bothered me before, at least not on this scale. A couple I know has been arguing for a year, having one little spat after another. I advised them to find out what they were REALLY arguing about, and they did.
So in my case, I needed to find out what I was really angry about. And the answer is … nothing. So when I read Chimamanda’s article and identified with her anger, I realised that maybe my anger was just the latest weapon in my depression arsenal. Maybe my deep dark space had realised I’ve learned to ignore the void, so it came back dressed in something else, just to get my attention. And maybe now that I recognise it for what it is, this baseless anger will go away.
I write about depression a lot, so I did a quick search on my blog and noticed something interesting. Most my depression posts are between November and February. The statistic rings true from 2008 to date. I didn’t have a blog before that, so I can’t be sure, but I suspect the pattern goes back much farther. I read about a condition called SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. Yes, I see the irony, and yes, it made me smile.
SAD generally attacks during the western winter. But … our winter is in July, and we don’t have snow during Christmas in this part of the world. So much as I’ve been called the blackest white girl, I doubt that’s what my SAD-ness is about. Maybe my end-year depressive episodes are more triggered by birthdays and reflection, that annual session of counting down what I have (and haven’t achieved – I’m a December baby). Either way, Njaanuary is over, so it’s possible my blues are too. Maybe I just haven’t noticed it yet. I wonder if chocolate and red flowers will help. I’m more than open to finding out…
♫ Mirrors ♫ Justin Timberlake ♫
121 thoughts on “A different kind of depression”
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