This is the first part of a two-part post about my battle with depression. You can find the second post here.
The voice is sly and wheedling; if it weren’t for the actual words it would sound almost persuasive. ‘You’re right. Nobody cares if you live or die. You’re entirely alone.’
My response is both predictable and pathetic. Hot tears spill out of my eyes and I shake my head. ‘No’, I whisper.
My attacker is strengthened by my apparent weakness. The voice becomes louder; more snide. ‘Ye-e-e-e-e-e-s’, it hisses at me.
I put my hands over my ears and move away, but my attacker is strong and determined. It’s also attached to me, at the hip. You see, my attacker is someone who knows my every weakness; it has watched every moment of my life. It has ridden the highs with me, and coursed through the lows. It has witnessed the shame, the humiliation, the terror, and the triumph. It knows my deepest fears and it knows how I will react. You see, my attacker – is me.
In every great war story I have ever read, and in every great war movie, there is an overwhelmingly familiar refrain. Know your enemy. Know your enemy. Know. Your. Enemy.
But that, I discovered, was my first mistake. A disastrous end to a long-term relationship that held the promise of a great deal of happiness was the initial trigger to my depression in 2006, although I learned in therapy that I had probably been a borderline depressive for years. With my personal history, that was not an altogether surprising thing to learn. In 2007 I was diagnosed with unipolar depression, or serious depression, and I plummeted into the depths of despair with my bosom companion – an enemy that was out to get me.
As I began to feel earmuffed, quite literally, I began to notice changes. My brain was fuzzy. I couldn’t remember things. I didn’t want to go out, and when I did I preferred to take a taxi. I lost the confidence to drive my car. I distanced myself from everyone in the world who cared about me and gave myself up to my overwhelming sadness. I stopped writing. I tried, over and over again, with growing alarm, to recapture my effortless ease with words, but to no avail. I will never forget that day when I finally admitted to myself that I could no longer write. ‘If I cannot write’, I told myself, ‘I am nothing. I can no longer write, so I must be nothing.’ I put my head in my hands and wept.
I had little to no energy to do anything, and everything became a chore. It began with getting out of bed in the morning, which was something I didn’t want to do. Once I had forced myself out of bed, I lacked the energy to do anything with my day. It stared me in the face, long, and distant, and wanting to be filled up, and I stared at my shoes. I remember a feeling of almost being outside of myself as I watched myself slowly make the bed and brush my teeth at a snail’s pace. I was oddly detached from myself. It was bizarre, but at the time it felt normal. Nothing else was the same, so why should anything be familiar? It was not.
Everything suffered. I quit a successful job in project management and retired into my world. I had built up a nest egg that was capable of sustaining me, so I was luckier in this regard than most. I simply couldn’t face the thought of going to work any more, and I slowly lost sight of who I was. I knew I was completely gone when I forgot my basic recipe for a sponge cake I make, and had to look it up. I hadn’t looked that recipe up in years. I knew I was gone. Everything that made me Awanthi – was just gone.
Or so I thought.
Note: Thank you for reading this; it has been extremely difficult to write. Please find the second post here.