I have never blogged about my struggle with depression before and I don’t do it now to garner pity or sympathy. I do it so others can gain an insight into some of the day to day struggles that sufferers face, even when they are considered by their doctors, their family and themselves to be ‘well’.
Right now, I am meant to be down the road, at the other end of my suburb at the Social Media Unconference day. I had been looking forward to this for a few weeks, even changing the date of a knitting stitch and bitch so I could attend. But I am not there, I am in my house, in my bed. Why?
That is a very good question. I could list trivial excuses; I am tired as I stayed up watching the Tour de France, I haven’t had a shower, I just don’t feel like it, parking will be hard… but they are all trivial.
The truth is that I am terrified. I don’t want to go somewhere where I think I may only know 1 other person out of 170. I don’t want to have to put on that mask that says I am the coolest, funniest, life of the party, HAPPY, WELL-ADJUSTED person. (or even the mask that says I am a competent human being). I am terrified of getting there and sitting by myself, standing around alone – pretending to be intrigued by something on my phone do I don’t look like a loser.
This fear of meeting people, interacting with strangers, making strained and stilted small talk; the anxiety that comes with any social event has meant that I often bail on events – even ones that I have paid for. Most of the time I am desperate to attend them, but due to the stress of anxiety, by the time they come around I am so worn out it is all I can do to keep my eyes open and get out of bed, let alone function like a human being.
This is another side of having depression. As I look (both exited and terrified) at going back to work in a week, I am asked am I well? Yes, I am well. Enough to go back to a familiar environment with familiar tasks and familiar people – but after over 18 months off work I am not ‘cured’. There is no cure for depression, only management. And this, my second ‘attack’ has been worse than the first 10 years ago. I have had much more to lose, I am not in my home town. Yes, some days are better than others, when I feel back to 100%, but some days are not – the trick is to have more ‘on’ days than ‘off’.
So how do I get out of the house. A lot of the time I don’t. I need help. If you say you can do it – that helps. If you offer to drive me to the event – that helps. If you say come with me – that helps too. If you pick me up or meet me at my house and we travel on public transport together that helps even more. If I can host a gathering that is even better again.
I have beaten some anxieties that came about when I got sick 2 years ago, the fear of catching public transport, major crowd claustrophobia, and even driving but some – like going out to strange events by myself still remain.
In time they will be overcome, but please excuse my absence while I still battle them.