9. The scene is set.
In tonight’s reflection I was finally going to tell the story of coming to realise I needed psychological treatment, the one I alluded to previously. But after having attempted to write out a retelling of the story in the fullness it requires, I realise that I’ll need to put that off just one more day and use this post to set the scene first, by talking about my first experience of recognising depression in myself at all. This is necessary to a comprehensive telling mainly because the first experience helped me to understand what depression even was; as I described in the very first of this series of reflections, I’ve felt anxiety to a greater or lesser extent ever since I was very young (at least since I was about eight), but even though depression runs strongly in my family and has had substantive impacts upon it for at least thirty years that I know of, I had no understanding at all of the concept of depression while I was growing up. Indeed, nobody ever really taught me what mental illness was in a more general sense; these were things I had to discover for myself as I grew up. Consequently, I always thought of myself as little more than cowardly or even afraid, rather than having an anxiety disorder, and though I do remember times through all my years of school when I felt isolated and alone and incapable – and cried many tears of pain in those times – I don’t know that I’d have referred to those episodes as depression, not as such. Once older, though, I had a better grasp of what depression truly is, and it was after catching up with an old primary school friend in March of 2008 that I wrote this in my first blog:
I can’t remember the last time I felt something I could truly class as “depression”; whenever it was, it was a long time ago. But I began to feel it yesterday, and can’t yet shake it… Not sad, not angry, not upset; just drained and empty, like there was a black hole inside my head sucking all of the positivity out of me. Perhaps someone who’s had clinically diagnosed depression can say whether this is it, but it sure as hell felt like it. It was a horrific feeling, and I’m still trying to work through it.
For a few years after this I continued to experience phases of this sort; often (though not always by any means) it would happen as a result of a romantic failure. Always the potential of actively approaching someone in the hopes of kindling a romantic relationship has brought on deep and terrible anxiety in me, moreso maybe than all other challenges, though these reflections are not the place for me to go into that issue in great detail (it plays a role in tomorrow’s reflection, though). In any case, this event in 2008 was the first time when I felt the utter emotional deadness and sense of futility that more recently have become almost normalised for me. A most frightening and unsettling aspect of that first phase of depression was not just that it was so foreign to me at that point, but also that it occurred almost as a kind of neurotransmitter crash after an occasion that really was not negative in any identifiable aspect whatsoever. I’d spent a wonderful, pleasant, fun, deep, charming, exciting night catching up with a woman who I’d not seen in twelve years and yet seemed to have a great deal in common with me, from musical tastes to book preferences to hopes for the future to favourite foods and drinks; we were almost the same height (I stand 185 cm, 6’1″ in the old money, and she was shorter than me by less than an inch), and we’d even both undergone exactly the same type of spinal surgery at almost the same time in late 2007. I felt an extraordinary kinship with her, in addition to all the rich promise that romantic attraction conveys, and to have such an ecstatic emotional state collapse in on itself so devastatingly afterwards – and indeed, so rapidly – felt very strange and unwelcome. But it was only a relatively temporary phase, prolonged though it was by her ungraciously toying with my further attempts to get to know her better, and it passed soon enough without professional assistance. In 2011, however, I was not so fortunate. And this segues neatly into the Big Bad Tale.