I’ve been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose
I’ve been forcing myself not to forget just to feel worse
I’ve been getting away with it all my life
– Skin*, Getting Away With It
There’s this dumb saying, said with good intent; ‘you are not your diagnosis’. It’s one of those flimsy feel-good sayings doled out with affection and aspartame, occasionally erupting on Facebook and twitter. It’s cute and comforting I guess, I guess the intention is good and I don’t believe in Hell, so hell, go for it, I guess. But it is bullshit.
My first distinct depressive episode was when I was 15 – over half my life ago. Try living with something overshadowing your life, directing your life, changing your life – something that might one day kill you – try living with that for your entire adult life and tell me that it’s not part of you. Because this – whatever it is – this, this is as much a part of me as my smile or my friendships.
Sometimes I’m crying and it’s foul and black and furious; once in the kitchen, hugged my flatmate goodbye then collapsed sobbing, howling, clawing my face, spittle and snot on cold tiles. Sometimes I’m sobbing and I’m howling and I don’t know why and so I guess that’s pathological, I’m told that’s pathological. But let me tell you, tears all taste the same.
I think I must be faking it. I think I must be faking it because everyone else seems to get on fine and they’re living their lives and I’m sat, doing nothing, lazy and layabout. No job, no career, no skills. Malingering. I must be faking it.
I must be faking it because you know, right now I feel fine. I must be faking it because I’m smart and I know I could get ahead if I applied myself, I just cocked about in 6th form and messed up at uni and messed my life up because I’m lazy, because I must be faking it. Because I can follow through on plans and I can hold down a job and I can complete studies when I apply myself. When I stop being so lazy.
It’s not as if, you see, there was a scan that said ‘now you’re ill’. It’s not as if there was ever a blood test that said ‘now you’ve relapsed’. Even in hospital, crumpled and faint, I’ve never needed to wait for the lab results. Just told I’m ill, told I’m ill because look at me, it’s obvious.
So I worry I must be faking it. Because there’s nothing there, nothing other they can point to and say that, that is to blame. All there is is a shadow of myself. My diagnosis is me.
It’s hard to believe you’re really ill when your tears all taste the same.
*Yes, the original was Electronic, but Skin’s cover is transformative. Honey and rage.