I’d probably been on the skids for a while because all I wanted was to be hermetically sealed in my room (except for maybe a cat flap).
I don’t recall it being so acute for years - tight chest, nausea, headaches, anxiety, the complete inability to do basic tasks and make decisions, the wretched, circular argument with myself: “Am I just lazy?”
Worse yet, it was so bad I actually had to tell people. Things were past faking it and beyond lying. I was doing some Olympic sleeping though. Gold medal stuff, an achievement to be proud of but speaking to people was the wall I could not climb.
Then someone texted: “I’m in Christchurch, see you at 1pm.”
“No,” I wrote back. “I’ve been a bit depressed lately and I don’t feel like company, I’ll have to see you next time.”
My stress was compounded by the reply: “OK, I’ll come over.” Followed by a visit that, given my hip-hip-hurray levels, was thankfully brief.
This particular bout affected my brain in irrational ways. My laptop had broken beyond repair and I had to visit the service centre to retrieve its lifeless body.
I got dressed, put on make-up and chose a lipstick called Sunset Strawberry, not because I particularly liked it but because it meant two more minutes in my safe house.
I got in the car and sobbed the whole way there. I pulled myself together for the 10-minute exchange and burst into tears before I could unlock my car door and continued thus until I was home again.
I should be grateful for tears, they are about the only visible symptom.
Try this. I needed to get some cardamom for a recipe. It should have been somewhere in the “c” section of the herbs and spices in Countdown but every word was hard to read. My brain is usually a fast scanner, my memory impeccable but the cardamom, nowhere to be seen until a slow finger trail past the dried basil, coriander and cumin.
In the past, I’d been single during the really bad bits. The smaller dips and troughs I’d been able to hide from my partner but not this time. He was all full of beans and engaged with life. I was the incompetent slob in bed.
I’m sugar coating a little here, it wasn’t pretty. Getting me out of the door to work was a scene, hysteria at the door, hitting the deck crying and making all sorts of promises to him and myself that if I could just have one more day, one more day, I’d be back to myself again.
Work sent me home. I was grateful for the understanding but there wasn’t enough on the home front. I don’t blame him, I suppose it’s not an easy thing to see but the day he forgot to ask if I was ok was a sad day indeed. Kind of like crossing the road when you see a recently-bereaved acquaintance.
The next day, I slipped in the bathroom and jammed my unfeasibly long second toe into the side of the bath. “Ouch!” he said, holding me and kissing me through the pain.
It was the cliché, right there, in my sick face. People understand a broken leg better than a broken head.
My best friend Hayley saw me through this one. She knows me. My `patterns’, she calls them. “You hibernate, you go underground, you come back out. It's a waiting game,” she says.
When I was ready, she came to pick me up. We can talk about it. Or not. I can cry. Or not. We can even laugh. Depression lets you do that too. That’s its devious trick.