I always say that writing is my vocation, that it’s always the thing that’s come most naturally to me in all walks of life. I’m a good listener (or so I am told) and an even better talker (sorry to everyone who’s ever heard me tell a story only to go off on a tangent and slowly veer back on course, like right now) but I’ve always been able to best articulate what’s going on in my head when sat with a pen in hand or my fingers tip-tapping away at the keys.
All those years ago – ten to be precise, because, y’know, I’m SO OCD – when I was diagnosed with depression and OCD, the OCD scared me the most. Why? Erm… maybe because it was the one that was having the biggest impact on my life at that time, but maybe also because it’s what I knew least about. We fear what we don’t know, right? I didn’t have a fucking clue as to the massive shit storm that was on the way, heading straight in my direction. And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t so naive to think that labelling my problems meant that I thought they’d go away any faster. I just kinda assumed that I’d have had a grip on them by now. And partly, that’s correct.
You see, throughout the course of those ten years, ninety percent of the time spent doing battle with my arch nemesis, mental illness, was devoted to tackling the thoughts. Not the general ones, but the intrusive, invasive, plague-like thoughts that NEVER FUCKING STOP and just go round and round and round again and again into a never-ending and infinitely tightening gyre (thanks, John Green for TATWD, it’s beautiful). The OCD, by virtue of its nature, consumed my waking, sleeping and dreaming hours and didn’t let up. I hadn’t the first iota how to fight this mother fucker that was like an RKO, always hittin’ me outta nowhere. Day after day after day I’d struggle with the constant toing and froing, doing the bidding of the thoughts but consequently betraying my health and means of recovery.
You get so used to fighting this one thing, this one embodiment of all your fears, rage, worry, angst, stress and anxiety that everything else just blurs into the background. Anyone that knows me knows I hate spiders, but my fear brought on by OCD has given me the strength over the years to kill spiders with my bare hands at times (all you spider lovers can do one, they’re fucking devil creatures) and negate the arachnophobia, that’s how powerful the fear drivers are when OCD kicks in. The fear is so real, so tangible, so all-encompassing that often times, fighting it is useless.
But you keep fighting, you keep taking those baby steps that therapists say are so important, you keep making progress. And I did. I fought it like my life depended on it because numerous times, it really did almost get the best of me. But living with a mental illness, especially when coupled up with more than one, is like playing a giant game of whack-a-mole in your brain. You knock one lil’ shit down only for another buck-toothed fuck to pop its ugly head above ground and scream in your tear-stained face. My trouble? The next set of buck-toothed fucks didn’t scream in my face, they all popped up at once in a whispering chorus of despair and repeated the mantra “What’s the point?” over and over until I couldn’t distinguish between the buck-toothed fucks and the voice that was mine. Because that’s the crux of depression, it seeps and creeps and rolls in like a fog until you aren’t aware that you can’t see.
You don’t feel anything really, not joy nor pain nor sadness or love. You’re a lobotomised version of who you were (minus, you know, actually removing some of your brain which sometimes I think would’ve been nice for me if they knew which part to take out. I mean, it would’ve saved a whole lotta heartache let’s be real). OCD is easy to spot for me, my brain is hot-wired to flip a switch and go full on fight or flight. The thoughts are akin to a pack of hyenas, coming at me from all directions with bone-crunching force, demanding I react to each bite and snap and scratch. And then I fight back and they scatter a few feet and cackle and laugh like hyenas do, but then they return and on the dance goes.
Depression? That’s like a tiger, stealthy as fuck. Once it’s got its jaws around your neck, you’re toast. You kick, spit, scream, claw and holler as much as you can but it just feels like your blood stops pumping, your heart beats slower and your breath gets tighter. I could always try and rationalise my OCD, come up with some ridiculous internal logic as to why I acted on the thoughts and how that made total sense to me. It’s so much harder with depression though, because none of it makes sense. I’ve got people that care about me, I’ve got things to look forward to in the future and I do find happiness in my life, I am able to laugh and smile. Yet, every day for weeks and weeks, it all comes back to that same old question.
What’s the point?
And I don’t know if I’ll ever find out, I don’t know if we’re meant to. But you keep putting one foot in front of the other, don’t you? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? And who gives a flying fuck if you rely on meds to help you get through the day?! If you had a physical illness, you wouldn’t give two shits about popping some pills to ease the pain so why do we get so caught up when we’re talking about a broken brain? And before you start, because I know there are some of you out there; I am fully aware that taking SSRIs comes with the risk of side-effects and all that jazz and yeah, it would be great if I didn’t have to take them but fuck you if you judge me for doing so. You’ve clearly not been so desperate to get out of your own head, or if you have, you’ve forgotten that depression is different for everyone. So keep your bullshit holistic, medical and practical advice to yourself and just be there for me. If that’s too hard, then thank you but I don’t need the negativity, that’s the one department I excel at right now.
So if you’ve got depression, please note; keep going. Keep enduring. Keep hoping. If you’ve got a friend/relative/loved one with depression? Just be there for them, ask them how they are, let them know you’re not going anywhere and LISTEN to whatever they tell you, it’s probably taken a lot of strength for them to get the words out.