A Depressive Episode


Well, it certainly feels like a while since I’ve written anything on this blog, though I don’t suppose it matters very much. The reason for this, however, is that for the past few days—or has it been a week? I’m not too sure, the days have all run together—I fell into the worst depressive funk since last year, and it took some awful scrabbling and scrambling, not to mention long nights of gritted teeth, to climb back out of it. My fingers are worn down to bloodied stumps, for I fell very deep this time, maybe even a little deeper than last time, during which I did not get the slightest bit of writing done and wallowed in extreme self-hatred and misery for what seemed a small eternity. I felt very small, and very stupid, very useless, for feeling the way I did, but I could not help it, it simply would not leave. An onerous little storm-cloud came sailing through the bedroom window one day, plonked itself onto my chest, and promptly proceeded to rumble and grumble to itself and shoot tiny bolts of lightning straight into my heart. It was torture. Not as bad as physical torture, but mental torture, mental torture of the highest degree, and it is a miracle I am even alive today, writing these words—on Christmas Day, no less!

I feel as though I am a different person. For some reason that always happens after a prolonged depressive episode, as though the misery lends me a little wisdom along with the cynicism. We die, and are reborn, each and everyday, someone somewhere once said, I think. As for what precipitated the funk, many different things. There was the usual fear of death, but overlaying that were my fears of inadequacy in regards to my writing—there was such a collosal gap between my ideas, and the execution of them, that I felt weak with despair—and homelessness, and so on and so forth. What I have found is that, when it comes to life, we all suffer tremendously, but silently, and I am no different in this regard.

While I was depressed, I didn’t eat much. I couldn’t swallow, it felt wrong to swallow, somehow, and whenever I swallowed and let it slip down my throat, I felt the piece of food lodged there, in my stomach, like a lump of gold, a foreign substance, and I wanted to throw it back up. I didn’t write. I didn’t read. I didn’t talk, nearly. Incidents and words which normally would have cut me to the bone slipped off my back like rain off a jacket. I mean, I felt the pain, but the pain meant nothing, it was just an emotional reaction of my brain, so I didn’t really feel it. Outwardly, I was a zombie. I stopped attending therapy, and, miraculously enough, my mother didn’t haggle me to go when I told her I needed a break. I didn’t feel any desire to kill myself, or cut myself; I just didn’t feel any desire to do anything, except lie there or sit there, and do nothing.

If you knew me in real life, you would know how strange this is. Usually, even in my most blackest of moods, when I loathe humanity, in all its pettiness, to the point where my heart feels filled with black poison, I am still writing, reading, working; and even when I am going about doing other duties, attending therapy, or cooking dinner, I am constantly thinking, daydreaming. Until my head hits the pillow and my brain slips into sleep, I never stop thinking. But when I was depressed these last few days, I stopped thinking. This was the most frightening thing, because I feel like a person who has been in a coma and only recently woken up, still a little drowsy, liable to sink back into the darkness. It’s as though the days did not happen. Time is always something that worries me a great deal, in the way it seems to turn everything into a dream, but even so, at least I have memories, no matter how faded, of the past, whereas I barely have any memories at all of the past couple of days, and it is so terrifying, you can’t imagine.

The only thing I do remember, the only incident, perhaps because it broke up the monotony of my days, was when I went out for a walk, one evening. By myself. Funnily enough, this depressive episode had a wonderful effect on my anxiety levels; I felt like I was tranquilised, so deadened and impervious to my surroundings nothing in it could really make an impression on me. So for the first time in months, I went for a long walk, all by myself. In retrospect, it was a very stupid thing to do, as it got dark by the time I was coming back, and I live in the kind of area where it isn’t unusual to hear stories of a young woman or someone getting stabbed while walking alone through the park at night. But at the time, I thought nothing of it. Briefly the thought of being stabbed to death entered my brain, and just as quickly it left, leaving no impression, no sense of fear, a hand placed in water and retracted again.

I feel an obligation to describe this walk. I’m not sure why. It was pointless, and ordinary, just like each of our small, miserable little lives, yet I feel the urge to, anyway, and if life isn’t about satisfying our urges and desires, provided they do not hurt others, what is it, then? I walked down the stairs from the unit, down the stairs, out the doors, onto the pavement. I walked. It was evening, so there were quite a few cars but not as many pedestrians. I recall passing a school, then some more houses, a quaint blue one with a little brown chimney, I remember staring up at the telegraph wires outlined against the deepening blue sky. I remember the road—such a lot of cars, so many lights, red and yellow, such noise, such infernal noise, but I kept walking, it bothered me, but it didn’t bother me, I just kept walking, and then I was at the park. It wasn’t really a park, there was no playground, it was just a great stretch of grass, ringed along one side by a twisting and turning path for bikes and walkers. On the other side was an abandoned building, erected for who knew what purpose, its windows and doors boarded up like shut hearts and shut eyes. I had never seen it before. I walked towards it. There were some bushes to the side of it, behind which I discovered a fire valve. It was rusted, the metal pipe part leading into the dirt and the grass, but the red wheel was shiny and new. I stared at this, for several long moments, then I looked up, back at the building. Halfway along it there was an archway, leading out to the other side where more grass and deepening twilight beckoned, and I walked through it.

I found myself in a sort of overgrown backyard; the abandoned building backed off onto an abandoned parking lot. In it were some sheds, with graffiti scrawled along its walls and corrugated roofs, and rising pu from it some abandoned watchtower, or something, all flaking white struts, reaching up into the sky. I stared at that, too. Then I stared at the back of the building, noting the details without consciously absorbing them, practising what my therapist would have called “mindfulness” even as I wished to bash my brains open against one of those sheds. There were more doors, doors set far up along the wall, the building itself cut in half by another tiny building erected in front of it, reaching out across it in a yellow, blocky structure. This tinier structure had a door, a tiny door, locked, set on struts on a rusted box far above the ground, only accessible by an equally rusted ladder. I walked across to look at the side of the building, and saw more doors, with a zigzag ladder running up from one to the next. I think they were fire escape stairs. Somehow this entire building, tucked away on this patch of grass in the middle of the city, seemed simultaneously the most mysterious, marvelous and fascinating object in existence, and the most boring. Who built you? I asked it, in my mind. Someone must have gone to a great deal of effort to build you, I would imagine, only for you to end up languishing here, unseen, unnoticed, uninhabited, boarded up and left behind. What is it like, inside you? Full of cockroaches, and dust? I wonder, I wonder, if I eat a cockroach, or let it crawl over me, or lay its eggs in my eyes, I wonder if that will help me snap out of this. I wonder what would happen if I went inside, broke through one of the doors, ate a handful of dust, I wonder if such an act would be startling and strange enough to smack some sense into this dumb and sullen brain of mine. I didn’t try to break in. I didn’t have the motivation to. Walking had been tiring enough. I had been walking, I realised, to find something worth walking to, and instead, all I had ended up with was this stupid, rusted, beautiful, little abandoned building, a husk of human effort, and I hated it and loved it both at once, even as I felt nothing.

And then I walked home. This is the part, like many other parts, which I don’t remember very clearly. I walked home, alone, in the dark, without feeling the slightest prickle of fear or anxiety, down the street, past the roads, around corners and then suddenly, somehow, I was back at the front doors of the apartment building, walking up the stairs, back into the unit. I came home feeling worse than I had when I left it, because my walk, like everything else, was insignificant. It didn’t matter whether I walked to the abandoned building, or all the way to Timbuktu—no-one would care, no-one would mind, it was all the same to them, and I found myself thinking how there was something very insignificant about freedom, something very small-making. Each of us are free to do as we like and please with our lives because we don’t matter, and our efforts, no matter how exalted and wonderful, in the end, are just little bursts of light in the darkness, a little variety breaing up the dream of life. And then I realised, for the first time in days, I was actually thinking about something, thinking about it with logic and common sense, not just staring at an object and hoping its colours and shape, if I stared at it long enough, would wake me up, or jumping onto ridiculous trains of thought.

I’m still depressed—I was born melancholy—but not mired deep in an “episode” anymore, and I still don’t think I can write, and feel like so terrible a failure, so stupid and talentless, I could scream my throat raw. But the cloud, though it has not left, has lifted somewhat; no longer is it hundering or shooting lightning, but just letting a gentle rain fall down on my head wherever I go, sad and grey and gentle, like it usually does, and for that, I am glad. A badly-aimed bolt of lighting can set things on fire, and I do want to keep living, I don’t want to burn to crisps, to ashes, no matter how awful life gets.


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