Life is not easy. It’s difficult enough being an average person, working and bringing up kids. But when you’re not-so-average, when you’re ill, it’s a constant struggle. Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with depression and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Since then every day has been a battle. I fight to make it through the day with enough strength left to take on the next. I fight to try and overcome this illness. I fight for my son, for my daughter and for my family, because if I lose my battle, I let them down.
As with many depressive illnesses and other mental disorders it is difficult for most people, other than those closest to you, to realise or even begin to understand that you are actually ill. If you met me for the first time you’d probably think I’m shy, quiet, possibly even a little aloof. You wouldn’t instantly realise that I’m disabled. After all, I don’t have any outward indication of my illness. But it’s that shyness, the inability to open up, the awkwardness of idle chit-chat, the difficulty I have in maintaining eye-contact, that’s what should set alarm bells ringing. But it doesn’t. In our modern society of fear and apathy, you’d be mistaken for thinking I didn’t want to speak to a stranger. But I do. I yearn to socialise, to make friends, to be confident enough to talk about the weather or lament to my neighbours about the irregularity of the refuse collection. Yet my illness prevents this and worse still, it prevents me from openly admitting that something is wrong for fear I’ll be judged. It’s like a force field that shoots up between me and the rest of the World preventing me from communicating in the most natural of ways. Look carefully and you’ll see my hands shaking, or maybe I’ve even gone so far as to hide my hands perhaps in my pockets or behind my back, because I’m scared you’ll notice.
Since being diagnosed I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve been told to “cheer up”, “stop being so down” and to “look on the bright side”. I am not pessimistic by nature, and this illness is more than just a bad day. It is permanent torture. A nightmare from which you never wake. I can only liken it to a black hole. A great deep, dark, chasm into which I’m falling. I cannot see the bottom. I cannot tell my fate. I scream for help but something is muting my screams.
Then there’s the ‘fog’. You know the feeling you get after very little sleep or perhaps a heavy night. You wake up with a headache, you struggle to co-ordinate to make yourself a coffee and your concentration skills are poor. If someone shouts at you demanding your attention, you find yourself getting a little annoyed because your focus has been broken. The way you are feeling you can only deal with one thing at a time. Imagine having that feeling all day, every day that no amount of extra sleep, caffeine, painkillers or cooked breakfasts will ever fix. That’s the ‘brain fog’. The brain fog prevents me from remembering important things, like birthdays and paying bills on time. It makes it really difficult for me to enjoy one of life’s simplest pleasures and what was an enjoyable past-time – reading. I pick up a book but rarely will I finish it anymore. The brain fog makes sure that I lose track of the plot. When I say “I’m sorry, I forgot”, I genuinely mean it. The brain fog makes me leave shopping lists at home, makes me forget the calender reminder that appeared on my phone for the appointment I have later. The brain fog has cost me my job, hampered my post-graduate education and constantly makes my daily life a chore.
I was told by my mental health practitioner to keep a diary of my feelings. I found putting pen to paper to be almost impossible. At least by typing I can delete misspellings and experiment with my words. On paper it’s final. Typed words seem more anonymous than reading my handwriting. I can just about deal with that, so I shall be updating this blog as and when I feel I can.