27 Nov 2017
I sit at Coffee Bean, listening to upbeat music on my tablet while I type, and honestly, I’m just a heartbeat away from tears in public.
See, I had a good day yesterday. I completed one of my Nanobrick projects – the Athenian Parthenon, or a good representation of it sits on my side table, with beautiful highlights from my table lamp shining on it. It felt good to use my hands and mind to complete something, albeit with instructions to follow. It felt normal. It felt like I had some semblance of control back over my life.
So why, why oh why, did it take just one careless remark and 15 minutes for the whole world to come crashing down again?
I had been resting after dinner and I felt unable to deal with the boys even though I’d been better earlier. The energy somehow had bled out, and I was struggling to just feel normal. By 9pm though, I heard my wife yelling at the boys in an exasperated way. When I went out, she told me that she was overwhelmed and she needed my help.
Through the next 15 minutes, I only heard the words “I’m overwhelmed” in my head. And I started to collapse inwards. By the end of the 15 minutes, I could only come up with “It’s my fault you’re overwhelmed.”
If you don’t have depression, you won’t understand how the logic goes. My wife doesn’t. My therapist would, and would have advised me to think it through more rationally after I calmed down. There’s a series of thought analyses and disputations that can happen that would help me to see things more clearly. But at that moment and to some extent even now, my mind was locked, as was my body, in that stasis of guilt and hopelessness. That depression had once more won. That my depression had overwhelmed my wife.
If you think this is making a mountain out of a molehill, and that it’s a very whiny thing, congratulations. You have understood what depression ends up doing. Depression takes small crises and makes them big. It minimizes what is positive about the sufferer. It minimizes positive interactions, and takes advantage of any small crack in the veneer to strike deep and hard, like a precision munition. And like a precision munition, once it has penetrated, it explodes and causes a huge amount of damage.
I managed enough to spend some time with the guinea pigs, just reaching out my hand when they walked past, oblivious to my brimming eyes. When my wife climbed in to the fence and put her arm around me, the tears fell. I shook silently, and I wept. I wept for myself, I wept in pain, I wept because I could do nothing else but weep. I wept because it was either to weep, or to harm myself to end the pain.
The rest of the night, I stared at the wall while lying in bed, and finally when I had a bit more energy, I managed to turn on music, and do some light puzzles to make myself feel tired and not despondent. Sleep came easily. Waking up was a lot harder.
So here I am, in Coffee Bean, trying to pick up the pieces and start again. My boys had arranged for a playdate with their friends and I don’t want to be a wet blanket and ask them to keep the noise down.
You know what though? It sucks. It sucks to be positive. It sucks to have to look at life again and say, it’s still an improvement over weeks ago.
I’ll tell you what sucks. Rant alert.
It sucks to have this much pain and not know what to do with it. It sucks that it sometimes hurts to breathe and not have a physical reason for it. It sucks that people say that I will heal, and expect that it helps me to get through the minutes that stretch for hours because time dilates so badly when the depression is a huge monster rearing in my heart and trying to slash at my eyeballs and arteries so that I can die. It sucks when I plod, trying to find a place where I can settle down in case I start crying in public.
It sucks that fifteen minutes can undo days of feeling normal. It sucks that every moment I feel normal, I feel hey, I can take on this demon after all, I feel like I am moving up, I know that the depression just needs *one* single mistake, one single misstep, and it’s howling in laughter, whirling my heart in a circle above its head, crouching on my dessicated corpse, screaming its victory cry until I can finally assemble enough of myself to pick myself up to stretch up and draw yet another painful breath to slay the monster again. It hurts that such small things, no fault of my wife, can hurt so badly. It sucks that my pain isn’t visible, that you can read this and wonder how I can let such a small thing take over, that my faith, my life and my maturity is questioned because I choose to put this out so people understand just how *STUPID* depression can appear, how weak it makes me seem, how vicious and how small minded this part of myself that is occasionally on display can be.
This, is the daily truth of depression. No matter how well things seem, no matter how many pats on the back I give myself, no matter how much I improve. Depression. Sucks. Big. Time.
I hate it. I don’t regret the path my life is taking. I don’t regret the lessons I’m learning. But I hate this rotten bedfellow. I wish I could kick him out of my life and wave bye bye with a prayer and a wish. But I can’t and I keep getting reminded that I’m nowhere close to being able to do this. I hate that Christmas is approaching and my bonus is… Gone. I hate that the tools I use to remind myself that I’m alive and real and that my hands can work cost money that we don’t have. I hate burdening others, whether family or friend, financial or time or spirit. I hate that my wife wakes every morning wondering whether the beast will rear its head this day. I hate that my family has to worry about my life. I hate that every single day, I test myself to see if I wish to live this day, and heave a sigh of relief if I do. I hate to know that I put my wife through the emotional wringer every time I shut down and shut her out and I hate that my tears are meaningless because they only release my pain, and don’t mean a damn thing, effectively. Other than I’m ill.
See, I have to try to be positive. I have to see the upward trend of my overall recovery. I have to recognise that I’m getting better bit by bit. But it sucks so much at times I wish I could cover my head with a pillow and scream myself hoarse and then scream some more. While kicking the wall hard till my toes break. It sometimes hurts so bad trying to bend my head to my will, trying to think of all the good that has happened, that a specific spot on the back of my right brain hurts whenever I’m screaming “I *HATE* YOU, DEPRESSION!” on one side of my brain while I’m also working to put facts in front of my addled and stricken brain to gain some perspective. If you could understand that last sentence, well done.
I’m thankful though. I’m thankful that the book of Job was done during this period, where I could explain my pain alongside Job, while trying to remember that God is good and God is unchanging. I’m thankful for a wife who loves me, and who puts up with the silent treatments when I struggle within myself. I’m thankful for a best friend who isn’t here in Singapore but who keeps reminding us both that she loves us even though she struggles with being an expressive person. I’m thankful for 2 beautiful boys who aren’t mature enough to understand the whole picture, but who don’t complain that this Christmas will be a lean one.
I’m thankful for a loving family, extended and otherwise – generally. I’m thankful for friends who have given and offered financial help or just their company, and definitely friends who pray and ask after us. I’m thankful for a roof over our heads, that my CPF should cover the payments for two years. I’m thankful that I’ve never been blamed for not having savings as a breadwinner. I’m thankful that I can still serve church in a small capacity which reminds me that I’m not entirely useless. I’m thankful that we can afford to have me sit in Coffee Bean on a Monday.
It sure as hell doesn’t mean depression doesn’t suck big time, and makes me feel like something you scrape off your shoes before entering a polite place. With a loud disgusted sound while doing it. Preferably with a disgusted look.
Rant over. But my heartache goes on, and I struggle to breathe, yet again. One more day. One more time. I’ll live for as long as God wants me to live. Not for myself, but maybe that’s reason enough.
Depression, you’ve won this time. But I’ll get up again and kick you in the arse. I promise. I owe it to you. And I’ll let the world know that it’s possible to do it again and again, each time diminishing you till one day I only have to step on you to squash you.
For now, I’ll just weep silently. And try not to disturb the neighbours with my tears.
Oh, and depression? Just so you know?