I have pulled myself out of major depression twice now.
The most recent episode lasted two years, and it had extracted my passion, my spirit, my joy, my ability to love music and my words before I recognised the name of the beast that had captured me. The process of loosening myself from its grip and eventually finding freedom was a battle that I had to grudgingly accept before I could even begin, and the fight lasted many long and painful months. It may have been my journey, but I needed people in my ring, cheering me on as I took the punches.
It was a lonely time in my life, which meant that few were around to hold me back from the self-loathing freefall I had tripped upon. I had been in Sydney for less than two years when things came to a head, and my life revolved around the fashion industry in which I worked, where every friendship seemed to be based on some intention. The false – and nonexistent – connections were both a cause and an effect of my depression, as once my joy slipped from under me I lost the ability to relate to others. I had a wonderful partner and puppy who reminded me that my existence mattered, but other than them, it felt as though I was in a stand-off with the rest of the world. One of us had to give in; I reasoned that if I killed myself, we both would.
Death weaved in and out of my everyday consciousness. My partner was able to pull me off the ledge, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to jump. I confided in one other person – someone I considered a best friend – but she simply told me to “toughen up”, and reminded me that the hell I was in was of my own making.
She was partly right – my thoughts were the culprits of my torture, and I couldn’t blame anyone else for them. I couldn’t blame the boss who had been sexually harassing me, or God for taking away the woman who raised me, or the fashion industry for giving me no real friends, or my businesses for inflicting more pressure than I knew how to cope with. My feelings were my own reactions to those things, and I had to take responsibility for them.
But in other ways, she was wrong. I needed her to listen to me and to tell me that everything would be okay, even though my depression lasted a long time and, as she described it later, I began to sound like the boy who cried wolf. I needed her to tell me that she would know and care if I died, not that she would check my Facebook to find out. I needed her to understand that I couldn’t be as happy for her as I liked, because I had forgotten how to be happy and her good news made me feel my own unhappiness intensified. I needed her to call me and to pick up her phone, but she cut me off because I was in “such a foul mood”. I was, but her avoidance made me so much worse.