Dad is waiting for the kettle to boil. Like waiting for the explosion to go off in the split second after a bomb’s been released. Waiting for a train. Waiting for a pregnant aunt to go into labour as you peer innocently up over the huge swollen mass of her belly at her half-hidden face, and wile away your new cousins’ final hours of incubation playing Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega.
All of these things have a definite (or at least, expected) outcome. Deviations may occur, of course, but ultimately they will resolve themselves in a relatively predictable way. The kettle will boil. The bomb will explode (providing it has been correctly assembled). The realtime screens at the station say the train will arrive in four minutes. The baby in my aunts’ belly (now a 6-foot, nineteen-year-old rugby player) will eventually decide that enough is enough, and try to get out.
The most terrifying thing about mental illness is that there is no certainty – no physical, concrete feeling, test or proof that something isn’t right; no way to determine if what I’m going through is a genuine illness or disorder, or just a broad term used to describe something that people generally have difficulty in pinning down using a few words.
I feel like I’m standing waiting for the kettle to boil, fully aware that it is in fact, empty, and that waiting with such fruitless prospects and hoping in vain for a cup of tea will amount to about as much as ringing the doorbell of a house you know has just been vacated. No answer. No response. No emotion…blank. What is it that I’m expecting to happen? Will these feelings ever be validated or nullified..?..are they even feelings at all? All the while I’m still waiting for something to happen, something to signify and put an end to the confusion.
Because depression is more than just feeling down for days on end. If that were the case I wouldn’t be as relatively functional and sociable as I appear.
I go out, I meet people in bars, I go to work Monday to Friday and I sleep in far too late on Saturday. I have plans to travel, I buy far too many clothes, and I don’t have any long-term goals past making it to the end of my 6-month contract in work in one piece. In many respects I am an average twenty-two year old, just out of college and struggling to find meaning and a way in a world where it seems every occupation and path is already clogged up with lines of other graduates and talented youths, all clawing their way desperately to payday and the prospect of a week or so of living in luxury and being able to buy those boots in Topshop we’ve been looking at since last month. But then the process starts all over again, and all of a sudden I can’t help but get down and slip back into bleak thoughts and dark spirals of wishing I didn’t have to get out of bed and contemplating absolutely every single other possible outcome of the day should I give in to the crippling apathy again and just stay there.
It got so bad one day last week that I was lying in bed, comfortable enough physically and not particularly exhausted – yet I was bursting to go to the toilet. I couldn’t even motivate myself to get into a vertical position to walk the 4 to 5 steps or so into the bathroom to relieve myself. I couldn’t see the point. Because there was none. Nobody was going to know or care if I lay there in my own filth; it wouldn’t make a difference to anyone elses’ day. Nothing else was going to stop because of it. In the end I got up and went, but the mental effort required to do so was only achievable because I’ve become somewhat accustomed to the ebb and flow of my own emotions, and learned how to recognise their irrational tendencies. At the time, however, nobody else would have understood if they’d asked me to explain why I’d remained in such discomfort for so long. I didn’t even understand. I just didn’t care.
Because even in that small and basic human need to relieve myself – I am alone. We are alone. We are all so isolated and terrifyingly alone in this world and in our heads that we have allowed ourselves to assume a facade of being ‘one’ and connected with one another by forming and adhereing to social constructs and boundaries. We need something to make us feel connected to the bodies around us; we need affirmation on a daily, hourly basis that the way we are living our lives is ‘correct’, ‘proper’, or ‘expected’ – because nobody has the balls or the recklessness to admit that none of us have a fucking clue what we’re doing or where we’re going. Navigating our way around this world using tools set in place for navigation by people who searched and searched and still found nothing…where exactly is it that we’re going? What am I hoping to achieve in life? Is there any requirement that says I must achieve anything?
For me, depression is a magnified sense of this isolation – it’s a simple lack of care or emotion, let alone any kind of hope or agenda. It’s hopeless and empty search for some kind of purpose and meaning, combined with a heightened sense of apathy and lack of will to complete any kind of day to day tasks that allow most people to keep beating onwards; a distraction from thoughts that don’t scream so loud.
These thoughts and questions melt my brain, blocking out any kind of rationality and making me want to stay in bed forever in a cocoon of physical comfort so as to ease the turmoil that continues in between my ears.
Their extremity is counteracted by an alternating surge of energy and drive for life that takes over at other times, a happiness and contentment that seems so perfect and blissful in that moment that the existence of any other emotion seems ridiculous – or does the high only exist because of the low? Are they relative to one another, the worst seeming so bad purely because of the bliss of the best? Is it even worth thinking these questions and wondering these things when I seem to have no control or sway over them whatsoever?
I’m not going to lie – I still don’t understand it. And I’m not sure I ever will. But sometimes writing about it like this kind of teases some sort of clarity out of the jumbled up mush of my head.