This is what it’s like on the edge.
“There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” Hunter S. Thompson
The Edge has almost become an actual place for me. A low, seedy little dive bar that no-one really likes to admit they’ve been to. I’m a regular. I’m the one in the corner, replaying the same pitiful song on a battered, old jukebox, between knocking back cheap whiskey and staggering off to pee.
The sad reality of it all, during these times, is that I make myself a prisoner in my own house, trying and failing to distract myself, occupy myself… something, anything, to shake the fluctuating tides of numbness and pain. Sleeping is too difficult, yet getting out of bed is equally as difficult. Talking is too difficult, and the mere sound of someone else’s voice on top of the cacophony in my head is enough to make me cry and squirm like a cowering animal. Sometimes, I cry endlessly. Sometimes, I zone out. Sometimes I lock myself away with books, despite knowing that when it’s really bad, it’s too difficult to even read; the words on the page are nothing more than shapes and squiggles, and I give up after re-reading the same paragraph seventeen times over. Other times, I’m able to use books and movies to escape—so I do—and I ask not to be disturbed. Or I freak out when I am disturbed.
Needless to say: my husband is a saint—an actual fucking saint—which is a good bloody thing, since both life at The Edge, and living with someone who frequently visits The Edge, is no picnic.
Sometimes, when I visit, I don’t want to leave; I have to be dragged out kicking and screaming, and on very bad benders, I’m brought back slumped like a sack of potatoes over an unfortunate shoulder. When I’m there, it is as though the Real Me has truly gone to die along with three buckets of over-medicated sweat, and eighteen badly-sung choruses of ‘Things Can Only Get Better‘. When I come back to the real world, the land of the living, I can almost pretend it didn’t happen. It’s written off like a blip. I apologise as necessary, I bundle my guilt into a creaking, overstuffed closet, and everybody tries to move on.
No-one wants to talk about The Edge… and that’s where it all goes wrong. It really is. There should be a fucking rule:
Everyone should talk about it.
I have depression. Dammit, I HAVE DEPRESSION. I don’t expect sympathy. Hell, I don’t even expect understanding. What I’d really like, though, is acceptance, and tolerance. Not just for me—hell, no. I want this for every sufferer, for every family member and friend of every sufferer. The feeling of being able to talk about exactly how you feel without judgement, and without having had to make a bloody appointment with a health professional to do so. To be able to discuss it as freely as people discuss the common cold – wouldn’t that be bloody fantastic. Not that I’m in the habit of harping on about common colds, just so you know. It’s more about the misconceptions of mental illness. It’s almost taboo… Mental health has come a long way, sure, but that god-awful stigma is still there. The whispers, the derisory comments… the blatant disrespect, even disbelief.
Maybe she’s making it up?
Maybe he’s just lazy…
There’s no such thing as depression…
Pull yourself together!
I get depressed all the time—I still ‘get on with it’.
These things, small as they may seem to an outsider, a bystander—a non-sufferer—can become very crippling. It makes you feel small and ashamed, even more so than the depression itself has made you feel. It makes you want to do one of two things: hide away from the world, or put on that ‘brave face’, and pretend that it’s all okay.
|Illustration from ‘I Had a Black Dog’ by Matthew Johnstone
The trouble is, with depression, isolation is the enemy, and quite frankly, putting on the brave face is quite likely the very thing that escalated the illness in the first place. Whatever your trigger—whether this was a physical trigger or a traumatic event, a bereavement, an overwhelmingly stressful situation, all of the above, none of the above—an altogether different experience that became the catalyst for the downward spiral of depression and anxiety—putting a brave face on it, and smiling through the pain, and striving on, forward-march, hoping that if you covered it up with that mask long enough, it would fuck off on its own…. exactly that, is what doesn’t help.
I know this because it’s exactly what I did. It’s what I went through; it’s what I’m going through, still. Yet, instead of being able to talk about it in the same way others can discuss their illnesses with no fear of judgement, I bottled it up. I have yet to meet someone with similar struggles as those I have, who hasn’t felt this way. Depression is a very real thing, a very real illness, and yet in some form or another, there’s a wall of idiots prepared to tell you otherwise.
Imagine a person with a broken leg being told to ‘pull himself together’: ‘Don’t be a moron! You’re making that up! Your leg isn’t broken. Now—WALK.’
Nope. Never happened, and not likely to happen.
So, this is my stand. Right here, on my public blog (with a readership of two… husband; cat; (and I’m pretty sure the cat pretends to read it)), I am making a stand. I am standing on my fucking soapbox like an imbecile, and saying it aloud:
I have depression. It is an illness. I will not be ashamed.
Sure, it won’t solve the problem, and it won’t change the world’s opinion, but just maybe, it might change my outlook. Affirmations can be powerful. So I’m doing this for me, and maybe the next person who reads this (other than the aforementioned husband/cat), will feel inclined to make the same personal commitment, and to everyone who has a similar battle, be proud. Yes, proud. We have just made it through another day, and we’re still fucking here. Still fucking miserable… but hey, tomorrow is another day. So here’s to tomorrow—bright and breezy, full of partially fake smiles and occasional sarcasm. And if you’re lucky… a small handful of wonderful people at your side who love you exactly as you are. ‘Black dog‘, and all. 🙂