Understanding A Misunderstanding

All of these words whispered in my ear

Tell a story I cannot bear to hear

Just ’cause I said it, it don’t mean that I meant it

Adele, Rumour Has It

Being accused of something you are not is heart-breaking. Especially if the accuser is someone you trust and consider yourself close to.

My depression is a topic that, while I am very open and honest about on here, is extremely difficult for me to talk about in the ‘real world’. I have not told many people and sometimes when I become emotional discussing it, I may not clearly articulate everything I mean.

When I felt close to another person recently, I was comfortable enough to tell her about the many issues I’m currently having. The conversation was full of a number of things; the self-harm, the suicidal thoughts, the suicide ‘list’, the medication, the therapy, the past, the future, the reasons I feel this way. And one of those reasons is my fear that I’m failing, that I’m less than what other people are and what I should be.

Within this section of the conversation, I explained I was applying for an opportunity at work because I wanted to better myself, to boost me, to make me feel more fulfilled and to progress. This was a point I had raised with a few people already who knew about my situation, so it wasn’t a new idea for me to share it.

When this later came back to me, what had been a genuine admission among many others, had allegedly been interpreted as an attempt on my part to deliberately manipulate the other person into not applying for the same position. And I don’t think anything has hurt me as much as that in a very long time.

As this interpretation was relayed to me, I was completely shattered. Both the person I had originally spoken to and the one who was sharing this with me (who both know of my issues) had thought me to be manipulative. I may think I’m a terrible person, I may have numerous flaws, I may be full of self-loathing, I may say hurtful things without thinking in a state of upset but manipulate I am not.

It also hurts that two people I trust have been discussing this topic behind my back. It makes me worry what others may be taking from what I say when I discuss my depression with them. This is not playground gossip or a light-hearted water cooler topic; this is my failing mental health. I need people to be upfront with me. I need them to come to me if they don’t understand my reasons for saying something. I overanalyse and dissect small snippets of life enough without adding this to the list.

The one who communicated this to me has known about the depression, and known me, for a while now. He knows how hard I find it to talk about how I feel. I was getting to a place with him where I was being more open, I found it easier to speak more freely, there was less effort involved, it was becoming more natural. The fact he thinks I could be so calculated while talking about such a personal issue, one he knows I struggle sharing, is distressing. I thought he knew me better than that. Since this conversation, I have cried multiple times, worried so much I have woken up through the night and been ruminating over it constantly.

My depression is not an easy topic to discuss. It is not a weapon I wield to get others to do my bidding. It is not the strings on which I control people. My depression is its own weapon that turns itself back on me and tries to destroy me from the inside. It is the strings that control me and I still haven’t found my way out of its grasp.

Even though I know it is just a misunderstanding, a breakdown of communication, a game of Chinese whispers gone wrong, the dominating, over analytical part of my brain is tearing me apart for it. It’s my fault for bringing the subject up in the first place. My fault for speaking so candidly to someone who might misconstrue my feelings. My fault for not picking up on this and clarifying my intentions.

I want to still be able to share my thoughts with him and trust him but I am also very wary. I’m scared of saying something the wrong way because I don’t want this to happen again. I know I need to concentrate on pushing those feelings aside. I have made so much progress in relation to talking through my issues that I don’t want this to hinder that. But I can’t help and think that something has changed; we have gone a few steps back. I hope this idea doesn’t last long.

Conundrums

These voice trapped inside my head, tell me to run before I’m dead

Chase the rainbows in my mind and I will try and stay alive

Pink, Runaway

The thoughts I’ve had are coming to fruition. 

It’s not as bad as I think it is. It is as bad as I think it is. It doesn’t matter. It does matter. It’s a small thing. It’s the biggest thing imaginable. Don’t listen to rumours. They’re rumours for a reason. It’s all in your head. It’s in everyone else’s heads. People want to help you. They only want to play the sympathiser. It’s good to talk. They’ll use it against you. You need to trust people. Don’t trust anyone. I want to stay. I want to leave. I want to live. I want to die. 

Part of me thinks I should stay where I am, sort myself out, become a better person, focus on myself more and move on when I’m ready. The other part wants to run far away, away from everything I know and become someone new.

Sometimes I think my situation is relatively stress-free, comfortable and there is a number of people I can be honest with, who care. Other times I think my situation is toxic, it’s poisoning me, it’s not as good as I tell myself and those same people would stab me in the back with little thought.

My brain is messy. It’s the only thing I’ve got but it’s royally screwed up. If I’ve not got that, I’ve not got anything.

I know I’ve said it many times before but I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m a broken record, emphasis on the broken.

How was I so indifferent yesterday and now I’m the opposite? I fucking hate being on this rollercoaster. I want to get off, it’s no fun.

Where do I go from here? 

Indifferent

All the voices in my mind,

Calling out across the line,

Tell me when it kicks in

Bloodstream, Ed Sheeran

I feel better. I have felt better for almost three weeks. I have not had any serious suicidal thoughts, not had an urge to cut myself, not felt completely in despair.

And yet, even now, while I do not actively want to do anything to myself, I hope I don’t wake up tomorrow morning. I am almost nonchalant about it. If this thought were an action, it would be a shrug. I’m not praying for it, or crying about it, or wanting to tear into myself; it would just be quite a nice thing if that were to happen.

I almost feel like I’m too bored with life to live it. What’s the point of it? Thinking about it, I’m bemused more people don’t feel like this. There’s nothing to it, just time and things we try to fill it with, pointless things that in the end are meaningless. 

Why make connections to people? I know I talk about how lonely I am, so bear with me here, but if we all die in the end anyway, what’s the point of it? Our deaths upset those we love but, unless you are contributing to the world through art or science or law or charity, there will never be a legacy for any of us. We will be forgotten in a few generations time, existing only in the etchings on a gravestone.

I always hear people say how much the world has to offer, how no matter how you feel, there will always be something out there to be discovered. That the simplest pleasures, like the smell of freshly cut grass or the melody of a song, can be the purest. And that might be true. But the offerings of the world and its simple pleasures are starting to lose their glow for me. I do not care for them. I am indifferent towards them.

My indifference to things used to worry me. That in itself showed I still had some sense of reality but now it doesn’t. I’m not sure what that says about where I am now.

Oh well, tomorrow’s a new day and all that. Except I’ve never really understood that saying. Tomorrow is a new day due to the constant turning of the Earth on its axis; it has nothing to do with new beginnings or hope. I wonder if the Earth ever gets bored of being on the same path for all eternity?

Another Kind Of Crazy

I was on a roll, the words were flowing, it came easier than it has in years. But it’s been a bad week, the flow has been plugged, it’s like drawing blood from a stone. Inspiration has evaporated so here are some thoughts I’ve had this week. 

I want to be free 

From desolation and despair.

When will this loneliness be over?

Muse, Map Of The Problematique 

I feel like life is passing me by. It distresses me. I see other people progressing, developing, growing while I feel stuck and trapped. How I feel is stopping me from pursuing opportunities but not pursuing them fuels how I feel. It’s a vicious cycle.

——————–

The way I always thought I would kill myself was by drug overdose. It just seemed so easy but now I’ve read up about it, it’s obvious so many things can go wrong. I could fall unconscious before it turns fatal, I could throw up and become too ill to continue, it can be long and slow and torturous.

Although I realise the best way to ensure death is by a gunshot to the head, I wouldn’t know where to find a firearm. The past two weeks I have become obsessed with hanging myself. Images plague my mind throughout the day, without any conscious effort; they just float in front of me, tempting me. I know I need to drop from a height to break my neck, otherwise it’s just being painfully asphyxiated for several minutes. That doesn’t sound fun.

——————–

Sometimes my vision is clouded with anger and jealousy. It makes me want to skin myself, leave me raw. I can’t compete with perfection.

It’s not like the world is against me, it’s just so unmoved by me that it doesn’t acknowledge my presence.

——————

There are moments when I think I’m fine, that I’ve made a mistake, I’ve hoodwinked myself and those around me, it’s not actually depression or anxiety, I’m just another kind of crazy. 

I’ve always relied on my mind and now I fear I’m slowly losing it.

——————–

The times I feel hopeful are becoming few and far between. I’m running out of options and the lights are going out. 

I’m coming to terms with the idea that I will die by my own hand.

——————–

The earth is shifting beneath my feet and I’m going to fall through the cracks.

——————–

When I first started this, on good days I wanted to get better, on bad days I wanted to die. Now, on the good days I want to die and on the bad days I want to kill myself.

——————–

I told my parents the other night that I’m suicidal. I’ve never said that so explicitly to them but I saw them realise how severe this is. I don’t want to hurt them, I don’t want to take their eldest child from them but I also can’t deny that this is how I feel.

I know they’d be heartbroken but I don’t think the knowledge of their pain would keep me from killing myself. I’d have to lessen the blow by doing it at a place where someone else would find my body. That’s all I could offer.

——————–

I need to be useful, have responsibility, have a purpose. I’m just floating, not connected to anyone or anything. Everyone around me has attachments; I do not. Everyone else is a top priority for someone; I am not.

——————–

There are times when I feel something similar to happiness, even if it’s just the odd laugh at a shit joke or holding someone’s attention with a story. Half the time I wish I didn’t find pleasure in the small things.

I don’t feel strong for making it this far. I feel weak because I’ve not been able to commit suicide yet.

The Weight Of Sadness

I need you to hold
All of the sadness I cannot live with inside of me.

Sia, I’m In Here

This is not depression at its most violent or at its darkest or at its most desperate. This is depression at its most despairing.

I am hollow, empty and bare. I’m practically convulsing on the bed, clinging onto the blanket, damp with tears, as if it is the only thing tethering me to sanity. I feel wholly bereft.

I have no idea why I’m crying. I just know that I am overwhelmed by sadness. It has engulfed me, seeped into my pores and is holding me down. It is not rough or forceful, just heavy and I’m pinned down with the weight. No amount of tears can accurately portray this feeling; cry me a river indeed.

I want to float away from here, become emancipated from this life. I want to be somebody new, someone better. I hate being like this but I am too exhausted to hate anything in this moment. There is too much effort in hate.

I’d like my mind and body to be separated, attached to something stronger. The same mind with a new body; would I still think the same or would my worries dissipate? The same body with a new mind; would I see things differently or would it still be unbearable chaos in my head?

Crying releases emotions, manifests despair into water, unstoppers the bottle within you. But the bottle is cursed and it can never completely empty, continuously filling, overflowing with abandon.

I feel like all the progress I have made over the last few weeks is swiftly being undone, unravelling before me. I’m trying to hold onto it all, the positives and the breakthroughs, but there’s too much, I can’t possibly keep my grasp on it all. It’s slipping through my fingers, flowing effortlessly away from me. I’m being dragged back around the corners I’ve turned and saying goodbye to the cobblestones of progress.

The tiredness eats away at every part of me, yet falling asleep requires a remarkable amount of effort. I’d have to stop my brain from whirring; that takes effort. I’d have to relax the mind; that takes effort. I’d have to let go; that takes effort.

I’m dreaming about death again but quite passively in contrast to what I’m used to. I won’t do anything to myself, not tonight, there’s little energy left in me. I have just enough strength to repeat my nightly prayer: ‘Please don’t let me wake up’.

I feel utterly alone.

Someone help me.

Raw

Help, I have done it again
I have been here many times before
Hurt myself again today
And the worst part is there’s no-one else to blame

Sia, Breathe Me

I gave in. After trying to distract myself, I was weak and I gave in and I cut myself. My mind feels as raw as the wounds on my legs.

I got to that place where I don’t want any help; I want to hurt myself, I want to feel pain. The rational part says ‘take a breather, speak to someone, let it out, calm down’; the louder part says ‘nah, get the scissors, go for your legs, it’s what you want’.

My heart hurts and there is only pain. I cannot feel anything else. I wish I could numb myself, anaesthetise the anxiety away. No one can see the depression, not even me, no one can see the pain, so I tear through my skin with scissors. If it were a true representation of my mind, my whole body would be bleeding and weeping, all flesh hacked away, bones and nerves exposed.

The anxiety that swells in my stomach makes me feel sick. It swoops up and down, swirling through my insides. It can make me light-headed and dizzy, parched and hot. My hands shake, my face burns and my stomach churns, an imaginary rollercoaster existing only within me. I want to cut that feeling out. If I could slice at my own stomach and scoop out the dread, I would.

Depression is clever – it makes me think that I’m ok, maybe the dark points aren’t that bad, I just have down days like everyone else, it’s not really depression. It tricks my mind; it makes me lose sense of what is real and what is not. And then it hits me and the whole world crumbles and caves in. It doesn’t just make me sad; it gets its claws in me, tearing at me, chewing me up and spitting me out before caressing me, whispering that it’ll all be ok then beating and trampling on me.

I can feel the darkness coming, And I’m afraid of myself

Hurts, Help

Matt Haig describes it in his brilliant book, Reasons To Stay Alive, as like Jenga; stable but slowly being chipped away and then one false move and it all comes crashing down. It’s also like a vessel being slowly filled with water and you don’t know how full it is becoming before it’s too late and the whole thing overflows.

My depression scares me. I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know if I ever really have. And if I don’t know the answer to that, how will anyone else? I worry that I won’t make it through. What if the suicidal urges become so potent I act on them? What if the depression warps and twists my mind so much I lose sight of what is real?

I hate it. It hates me. It feels like an unwanted visitor has taken up residence in my body but it won’t see itself out; this is its home now. It’s like it’s been absorbed into every muscle, every vein, every cell. It really needs to un-absorb itself and fuck off.

I’ve given myself a few days distance. The first day I was shameful, raw and apologetic. I realised how unwell I am, tearful and scared. I need help. The second day, I was stronger, speaking more openly without emotions taking over. I could get through the day. But late at night, the sadness infected me. I was crying again, alone in my darkened bedroom. I was curled up and holding myself, almost as if I held on tight enough, the broken pieces of me would mould themselves back together.

Most of the time, I feel numb, neither happy nor sad, joyous nor particularly depressed. I will myself to feel something, anything, to remind me that I’m alive.

And when it kicks me over the edge, knocking the wind out of me, I wish to get back to the neutral ground of numbness. I’d forgotten what this feels like, only remembering fragments of a dream, the outline, not the illustrated, fleshed-out reality. This is real; it’s not imaginary, not a dream, not exaggerated, not falsely thought, not a nightmare. The pain is real and so is my depression.

I cannot forget that, even in the lighter moments. I have depression. I must remember that.  I have depression and it terrifies me. I have depression and it is black. I have depression and I am exhausted. I have depression and I want to die. I have depression and I want to live. I have depression and it is not stronger than me. I have depression and it will torment me, torture me, chip away at me, slice at me and poison me. I have depression but it will not destroy me.

Distractions

I hurt myself today to see if I still feel,

I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real

Johnny Cash, Hurt

I am writing this now as a distraction; the urge to cut myself is here. I’ll barely edit this, it’s just going straight out. I won’t be trying to structure this well or add humour or make it flow, this is just raw and I need it out of me.

It’s been triggered by something I’ve seen on Facebook and it’s so ridiculous, it makes me want to cut deeper. Why do I react like this? I hate it. It’s always that familiar sense of my stomach dropping and my cheeks burning. Mental illness can be very physical.

This is pure distraction, I’m just trying to keep my mind focused on something. I’ve showered to attempt and calm down, as if the hot water would wash away the tension and the urge. Part of me wanted to turn the temperature up high to scold myself. I was recalling songs in my head, singling out lyrics to get me through.

I messaged friends and I want to read my book. I want it to take me someplace else and then I remember that it’s about two sisters, one of whom is desperate to kill herself. It can be both cathartic and painful when you relate to a character so much. The novel also brought my attention to another book called Final Exit. In all my numerous trawlings through Google, I find it hard to grasp that I did not come across this before; it’s a book on ways to commit suicide. This is literally what I’ve been searching for for what feels like forever, it resembles The Bible to me and, now I know of its existence, it’s taking all my willpower not to reach for my phone, open the Amazon app and click ‘Buy’. I read reviews for it earlier today from distraught relatives of those who put the book to good use and it’s fuelled the longing within me.

I don’t cut myself regularly. I scratched my arms and legs when I was a teenager if I was particularly frustrated or upset. The worst time was this year when I took a pair of scissors to the inside of my right arm at work. On good days, I wish the scars would fade away; on bad days, I want to make them deeper, to add to the collection.

Since using scissors, I’ve wanted to upgrade to a sharper instrument, and by sharper, I mean a knife. Sometimes I look at them slightly too long or find myself feeling how thin the blade is. I just want to feel that release.

Whenever I get to a bad place, I can’t think clearly. My brain is completely clouded and physical pain eases it. It’s something real and tangible. It’s like there’s a build-up inside my own head and as I press my fingers or the blade into my skin, there’s a release of pressure. Everything I’ve been feeling slowly seeps out of me and so does my desire to do it again. I wonder if self-harming has stopped me doing something worse. I wonder if self-harming is me preparing for something worse.

I’ve run out of steam and I don’t have anything else to say right now. I just hope I can keep this feeling at bay a little while longer. It’s times like these when I don’t want to wake up when my head hits the pillow.

A War Against The Mirror

I can’t take the person staring back at me,

Don’t wanna be my friend no more,

I wanna be somebody else

Pink, Don’t Let Me Get Me

I know I have a lot of things to offer. I’m not stupid, I have my own opinions, I like to be well-informed, I can make people laugh, I listen to people, I always try my absolute best at everything. I think I am relatively kind, I would never wish to inflict harm on anyone, I am fiercely protective of those closest to me, I believe everyone should be treated fairly regardless of gender, age, race, religion, sexuality, ability. And yet I feel all of that is redundant as I do not fit the stereotype of what beauty is. My worth as a woman is measured in my body and, by society’s standards, it’s not up to scratch.

As a woman, my currency is my physical appearance – something to trade, to offer, to bargain with, to entice, to exhibit, to distract, to promote. While there are a lot of voices out there championing body positivity and self-love, there has always been the subtext of the media, of those around us implying the opposite: women are only worth something to society if they are pretty.

I have been hyper-aware of what I look like for as long as I can remember. This is probably not helped by the fact I was an ‘early bloomer’; two weeks after my tenth birthday if we’re being precise. I was a D-cup by the time I was 12, and my breasts and hips grew so rapidly that I’ve been left with stretchmarks in both areas. They objectively don’t look that bad but they are on my body so therefore they are the worst and I hate them.

I’d erase every follicle of hair from my entire body bar my head, my brows and my lashes. I want creamy smooth skin with zero blemishes, except the odd mole or freckle. My stomach would be flat but not to the point where you could see my ribs and my waist would be distinct. My thighs would be rid of the dimples that adorn them and they’d be strong and toned, alongside my slimmer calves. My hips would not be as wide but still curved enough. My arms would be tighter and have no unwanted movement in them, while not being too muscly. My boobs would show just the right amount of cleavage when I intend to show it, my bum would be rounder and my back more shapely. I’d have a more defined jawline and cheekbones; I wouldn’t have to contour because I’d look like that naturally. My eyesight would be perfect so I’d no longer have to wear glasses or wrestle with contacts. My pupils wouldn’t be so big so the green of my eyes, which I actually like, would be seen more vividly. My lips would be fuller and plumper, and my mouth slightly wider. My hair would be thick and luscious, think a Herbal Essences advert, while still being manageable and willing to go into the style of my choosing. If anyone knows someone that can do all this for me, let me know.

I could always fall back on being intelligent. I was top of the class through the majority of my school years, in the top sets for most subjects, I’m relatively articulate, hard-working and can understand things quickly. This is my domain, yet I would have traded all of this, and maybe still would, to be a girl who was considered attractive and worthy of attention.

I have always struggled with my own image and more importantly, how others perceive me. If I don’t like what I see, that’s fine as long as others do. I shouldn’t care about what others think and that as long as I’m happy and healthy, that’s all that matters. But I do and I’m not.

One memory stands out very clearly in my mind. I was playing around with a make-up set I’d been given as a present and was smearing my lips with the brightest red available. At the time, the celebrity most synonymous with red lips was Angelina Jolie. Before we get to the next bit, I would like to point out that I actually realise now that Angelina Jolie is stunningly beautiful and as a heterosexual woman, I so would. However, this took place around the time she got together with Brad Pitt and I therefore believed she was a slutty homewrecker who had so little respect for other women, she went around stealing their husbands. I loved Jennifer Aniston very much and I could not bring myself to betray her by admitting Angelina Jolie was pretty. I apologise for the internalised misogyny I had as a ten-year-old. As you were.

The following is me paraphrasing:

Me: I look like Angelina Jolie now.

Dad: No you don’t, she’s gorgeous.

Me: Er no, she’s actually ugly.

Dad: Oh, well maybe you do look like her.

To this day, I am unsure if this event took place. My head says no way, I dreamt it, imagined it and the dream has stuck. My dad would never be so callous as to say that to his ten-year old daughter who he loves dearly. He has never said anything like this before or since. But my memory of sitting on the floor, opposite the TV between my mum’s legs as she perched on the chair behind me, me looking at the sofa where my dad was lounging, drink in hand, and the large box of cheap make-up lying open at my feet, is so vivid and so distinct in my head, I feel and know it to be true.

The ritualistic way young girls and women highlight their perceived flaws to their inner circle (take that scene from Mean Girls as an example) was something that I’ve never taken part in. As my friends around me gave out cries of ‘I’m fat’, I never once said the same thing. I may have quelled the others’ fears by genuine denial but the whole concept of sharing our insecurities unsettled me. I knew I was the fat one. If I voiced this fact, I’d either be met with futile protests and empty compliments or worse; silence. Both these options, the first of lies, the second of hushed confirmation, terrified me so instead I remained quiet.

That’s one thing I hate – false compliments thrown at me. How I look has never gotten me anywhere or opened any doors, so why should I believe them? If I ever do hear a compliment like that, which is rare in itself, I feel that everyone else in the room has turned to stare at me, scrutinising me, trying to conceal laughter. That they’re all in on one big joke and I’m the punchline.

I hate the fact that I can’t take a compliment. While I might smile shyly and thank the person, I don’t feel their words: if they’re not saying it as a joke, it’s only out of pity. And this is where I get angry; why can’t I feel good about myself? Why can’t I just appreciate and enjoy a compliment when it’s given? Why can’t I see positives instead of negatives? Maybe I don’t look as bad as I fear I do?

The beauty industry would die if our perceptions of femininity (and masculinity) did not exist. The media creates the illusion of what the perfect woman looks like and implies that any deviation is less attractive and less valuable. Then the cosmetic industry chimes in with their goods that will make us slimmer, extend our lashes, redden our lips, make our skin glow and our hair shine, capitalising on the insecurities they have created and perpetuated. They will continue churning out their false images, rolling in their piles of money, while the rest of us are left crying and desperate because the products did not make us look like the models in the adverts, we are not Amazonians, not ethereal, not beautiful. And the vicious cycle continues.

I know all this. I’m aware of the tactics the media and businesses use to create inferiority. I know it’s all a bullshit ploy to make money. I don’t really believe it. And yet I am still upset that I don’t look like the girls in the adverts. What if no one else can see through it? What if that is what people really do expect us to look like? Are we a disappointment because we don’t look like that? I worry that people, specifically men, view the women in the media as representative of their gender. Whether they are exposed to these images through film or TV or music or porn or advertising, there is always the concern they will expect all women to look and act like that.

Even though women have more rights now than we’ve ever had before (unless of course Donald Trump gets his way), even though we can become CEOs and politicians and artists and doctors, even though the world is more open to us now than it ever has been before, I think that despite all the progress we’ve made, we are still judged for the way we look. When we walk into a room, the size of our tits, the length of our legs, the curve of our hips are all assessed. It, whether we like it or not, can still determine how far we get in our career or how many rungs up the social ladder we can climb. The whole thing is based on how fuckable we are.

It makes me angry. I’m angry that we calculate our worth by how many people fancy us. I’m angry that feelings of self-love are pushed aside in case we look vain or arrogant. I’m angry the thoughts of others are given precedence to our own. I’m angry for the young people who can’t enjoy their childhood like they should because they are worried by their appearance. I’m angry for the young me who stopped swimming, even though she enjoyed it, because she didn’t want anyone to see her in a bathing suit, who only wore black because the magazines told her it made her look slimmer and who no longer wears anything that may show the back of her thighs because her mother mentioned when she was 12 that she had cellulite. I’m angry that I think about what I look like approximately 75% of the day. I’m angry because I genuinely cannot remember a time when I didn’t care.

For me to get to a place where I am proud and confident in my own body and appearance is unthinkable. I envy those who are happy and content with how they look, and who do not constantly worry with what others think of them. I could settle with just getting to a state of neutrality, neither loving nor hating what I see when I look in the mirror. I think I could be content with that.

The Blackness

You see it’s easy when I’m stomping on a beat,

But no one sees me when I crawl back underneath

Paramore, Fake Happy

On the outside, it’s business as usual; smile wide, telling stories, joking, laughing with friends. But the smile is stitched on, the stories and jokes are shallow and the laughter is forced. All features of a carefully applied mask. A mask that is so frequently worn it’s hard for even the owner to tell what is real and what is not.

On the inside, you’re perched precariously on a ledge, being ever so careful not to make any movements that may send you careering over. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, the ledge crumbles beneath you and you’re spiralling down, out of control. You’re falling and you’re not entirely sure where or when you’re going to land.

It’s dark and lonely and terrifying. You don’t know how to get out of here or even if you will. You’ve done it before, you’ve survived but this time it’s different. It feels never ending, numbing and excruciating both at the same time. There is no light and you’re stumbling about in the darkness, so lost and so alone, hoping and praying for someone or something to come and save you. And you feel weak because why can’t you pull yourself out of this? Why aren’t you strong enough to help yourself? Because you don’t think you’re worth it. You can’t be dependent on other people, you don’t want to rely on them but you need to feel close to them, to anyone because the loneliness makes you ache; a hollowness inside you that has been there for as long as you can remember. It’s an emptiness that spreads throughout your body, bubbling beneath your skin, a burning rising through your neck and face, tearing into your stomach, pulling you in all directions.

Everything is black, the blackest it’s ever been, and there are voices all around you, angry voices, persuasive voices, dangerous voices you know you shouldn’t listen to. The hopeful, reasonable, logical ones are drowned out, barely audible, like they’re on another frequency entirely, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t quite tune them in properly. The bad voices are the loudest and the most overwhelming, pervading your every waking moment. They continue their cavalcade, telling you to hurt yourself, that things will never get better, don’t bother trying, the only way out is to die, you’re unlikely to slip away in your sleep even if you wish hard enough, so kill yourself, make it as painful as possible because you deserve pain, there is no other option, best get it over and done with before someone can try and ruin it but better make it good, better get it right first time, we don’t want any failed attempts now, do we?

The blackness is all-consuming. It’s pushing into you from every angle, blocking you from seeing behind or ahead. It clouds your brain and bars you from thinking clearly. It has you on fire and drowning and falling and bleeding all at the same time. It stops any rational thought from being heard, all the while it continues to tear into your skin and burn you from the inside out, polluting your every thought and memory as it does so. It seizes any positive thing you think you have and twists and distorts it so badly, you can’t remember what the truth is anymore. It tortures and torments you by destroying so completely the thoughts you hold on to, whilst you look on helplessly, too weak and damaged by it all to put up much of a fight.

Other people go through this, have battled it and survived, but that doesn’t help in the slightest when you’re like this. The knowledge of that won’t make these feelings vanish or ease the blackness that has its claws in you.

Sometimes it doesn’t hit you as hard as other times, it just lurks in the background or manifests itself into another destructive emotion. It’s jealousy, a searing hot knife slicing into the sides of your face. It’s loneliness, slowly cutting at the strings of your heart, the dull snap echoing round your chest, sending an aching pain coursing through your body, leaving behind a gaping chasm where your heart used to be. It’s a self-loathing so intense, it’s a wonder it hasn’t destroyed you before now; a need to slice and hack at your own flesh in an attempt to transform you even slightly into a different person. Anyone will do. Because this can’t be it, this cannot be what you will be like for the rest of your life, otherwise what is the point of clinging on for much longer? There will be nothing left to fight for.

But then, far off in the distance, a small flickering that may be called hope. It’s an effort and a struggle to get to that one thing that may save you, but you think maybe it might be worth it. You have to crawl across the ground, pulling yourself along, attempting to get to your feet, your legs a dead weight beneath you, and trying to make it out before you run out of oxygen. And then, after the longest, hardest journey of your life, you get there, exhausted. You’ve finally reached stable ground again, away from the blackness. You’re bruised and raw and the wounds are startlingly fresh. Hopefully this time, you’ll have time to rest, to clean yourself up and look after yourself, try and focus on the good things, make a start towards getting better. Hopefully you’ll have enough time to prepare yourself before the ground starts to crumble and the cycle begins all over again.

If you’re lucky, the mask will not have slipped an inch. Those around you will be none the wiser, oblivious to the battle that rages on beside them. Even if it does crack for a second and they catch a glimpse of what’s beneath, no one will ever really understand.

You will find that some things take your mind off the agony inside your own head from time to time, and others even make you feel an emotion similar to joy. They will keep your spirits up, but the more you get used to the routine of this, the quicker the effects wear off and it’s a desperate search to find the next thing that will administer a diluted version of happy. Because there is always the inevitable comedown and the familiar feeling of inching towards that ledge again. This is not sustainable and you know it. It’s no way to live.

This is what my depression feels like and it terrifies me.