I've hidden it reasonably well, as one does. I even hid it from myself as best I could but I'd reached a point where tears were rolling down my face and I didn't even notice until I'd be thinking, "what is this wet stuff all over my cheeks?"
Going to the supermarket was an exercise in timing and control because bursting into tears near the V8 vegetable juice is slightly embarrassing.
Recently I reached a point where I simply had to admit to people I was very unwell. I've written a lot about depression in the past and I'm not in the mood to cover it again, so instead I will tell you about my interactions with the World of Medicine.
There is a rich vein of mental health issues running though my family: depression, bipolar, addiction.
You haven't lived until you've heard a family member babble on about wishing to open a shop selling love and demanding to see the Lizard Queen because she wants to hand back her sovereignty.
Some Kiwi families have holiday baches. I am convinced ours should buy a timeshare unit in a psychiatric hospital.
Anyway, I finally visited my doctor. He is so good with me. When I'm at my worst, we go this usual routine.
He sees me in the waiting room and says "hello Beck, how are you?" and I say "good thanks" – both of us knowing that within the next two minutes I will be in a flood of tears in his office and he will be passing the box of tissues and delivering his time-honoured pep talk.
It runs along these lines: Life can be tough at the best of times and it's not fair but some people just have to work at life on a daily basis. After a crisis you are destined to take a bigger knock than most. This makes you vulnerable but that is part of your talent. Then he veers off to discussing Celtic poets and their various disorders. It is heartening and it helps. Just telling a medical professional how bad I'd become was an enormous relief. Of course, there is a lot of work I have to do myself if I want to be Old Beck again, and I do. She wasn't such a bad stick and I will find her again.
I know I am feeling better because I have had my aunt staying and she has needed a bit of nursing from me. She earned a jolly great gash in her leg after slipping on some seaside rocks and it has infected. Pieces of her leg are dying.
Now, I am a queasy sort. I dislike considering the fact that under our skin there are pulsing, mushy, squishy, runny things. Disgusting! But I have found myself fascinated with my aunt's revolting wound.
We've been to the Moorhouse Medical Centre every day. We're there for about two hours each visit and it's starting to feel like home. We know a few of the nurses by name and a bit about their lives.
But mostly I know about open wounds. I've learned how to identify a pseudomonas infection by smell and that you can clear that stink with a mixture of malt vinegar and water. I know what necrotic flesh looks like and it's not attractive. You can dig out dead flesh with a scalpel and tweezers and it is fascinating in a stomach churning way. I can't tell you what a difference it makes to encounter people who are kind when you are in a position of vulnerability.
So while I recover my brain and my aunt recovers her leg, we are both sickos in our own way but we are getting better. The kindness of medical professionals and the kindness of friends and strangers has brought me to tears. The good sort of tears. I recognise that the wet stuff on my cheeks might not feel great sometimes but it is the start of healing.