God I was bored.
If you’ve got some idea of where you are and what’s going on, psychiatric wards are incredibly boring. An old timetable stuck to a wall told me that on Mondays there was a cycling group (organised by Alyssa), later on in the week we had yoga (headed by Alyssa), and depending on interest an art group (see Alyssa). I never saw any of this, or any sign of Alyssa.
What I did see was daytime TV through a scratched plastic protective screen, dog eared books no one in their right mind would want to read (make your own joke), and a selection of board games with all choking hazards removed, featuring such slogans as The great family game that’ll drive you mad!
I was bored and I wanted to go out, and as I wasn’t under section I was entitled to leave. Hell, I was entitled to discharge myself if I wanted.
“We’d rather you didn’t”
The nurses looked at me sympathetically but firmly. Naturally they appreciated that being stuck pacing a few rooms for days was frustrating. And of course, they explained, I was allowed to leave. Should I want to go for a walk then they certainly wouldn’t dream of stopping me. But still. “We’d rather you didn’t”.
I gave up in the end, sat down in the peeling-paint communal area and gazed through that scratched plastic screen at Location Location Location. Kirsty and Phil were helping Sue and Jeremy find a weekend retreat in Hertfordshire. Sue worked in hospitality and Jeremy in marketing. I was still wearing the jeans I’d been dragged in on, and hadn’t showered or shaved for days; there’s no point when you’re stuck on ward.
Besides, they take your razor.
Folks who follow me on Twitter will know that I’m currently in a pig of a depressive episode.
This kind of feels like the refractory phase of the mixed episode I exploded into at the beginning of the year, and it sucks. It really, really fucking sucks. I’ve not had such a stretch of depression in nearly a decade and this explosion has left me once more unemployed, debt-ridden (thanks hypomania!), inhibited. While hypomanic or mixed I can act wild and strange, pulled by a strange puppeteer. Now, strings cut, I collapse.
Fortunately I’m rapid cycling, which means I have bursts of profoundly low mood mixed with coasting normal mood – so I at least get a break. Unfortunately I’m rapid cycling, which it one of the more dangerous states to be in since I’m more likely to act on my (now easy to implement and violently fatal) suicide plan.
It really, really fucking sucks.
I’ve been kicking around my current city for years now, a city that, post London, feels like a quiet town. While my family live nearby, my social network is threadbare. I’ve never integrated into this place and for the time I’ve been up here I’ve just been drifting through my life. Depressed, I leave the house in the same unwashed joggers I’ve been wearing for weeks, I haven’t shaved for days. What’s the point?
Last year I tried to get some semblance of an independent life back – financially standing on my own two feet, I was gearing up to move into my own place, start saving for a mortgage, oh it was all going to be fine, I was going to be fine. And now I’ve got knocked back and knocked down and you know, you know I’m just tired now. I’m tired of trying and falling, I’m tired of getting my hopes up and being pushed back down in a cruel reminder that no, no I’m fucked.
This is the lead that depression pours into my heart. This exhaustion, this fear of the future, this dead weight over me. It crushes my life then tells me not to try living, because it’ll just get crushed again. Depression isn’t just neurochemistry and genes and brains going wrong. It’s lives, it’s history, a cruel story we tell ourselves over and over.
This lifted these past few days; I was in Manchester and I got a thrum of a city, a vibrant living city, and thought I could live here, thought I could move here. Thought I could be happy here, to the extent that I could be happy anywhere. I could have a life, find the centre of myself again, no longer a ghost. Depression is neurochemistry and genes and brains going wrong, but I could at least start living a better story.
As soon as the thought settled I saw faces of family and friends looking sympathetic and stern.
“We’d rather you didn’t”
The frustrating thing is, they have a point; it might destroy me. But my identity as an adult has been chipped away these past few years, as the repeated waves from psychological storms have washed away my job, my studies, my home. I’m left dependent and infantilised, even as I get older and older and watch my peers progress in their careers and their studies and – god help me for envying it – their material wealth. They advance, I regress, and Jesus Christ you don’t need a history of mental illness to get depressed about that.
First year of my Psychology BSc – Prof. Green stands to the side of the podium; hands in pockets he pauses to take in a whiteboard covered in scribbled flowcharts and simple brain diagrams, arrows and underlined words.
“I mean there’s all sorts of associations. Reduced hippocampal volume is a popular one these days. Low serotonin in the cerebrospinal fluid of suicides. There’s interesting gender differences – women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men, but men are more likely to kill themselves – all sorts of interesting theories about that. Lots of this stuff.
But ultimately you have to accept that sometimes people are depressed because their lives are depressing”