They say that moving house can be one of the most stressful times of a person’s life. The anxiety started small. I couldn’t leave the flat. I would get ready to leave but then find excuses to procrastinate- got to grab this, I’ve forgotten that. It was mostly about putting off having to open the door. My other half would stand expectantly in the corridor, before realising that it wasn’t about forgetfulness.
Then it got worse. I’d be invited to things- social or work related. I would add the events to my calendar. But I wouldn’t go. I couldn’t go. Not sure why, just this heavy weighing anxiousness that wouldn’t let me.
I started becoming very concerned with housework and was doing way too much. I would complain about it but I think it might have been a subconscious way of the aforementioned procrastination- finding reasons not to leave the house, finding reasons not to do stuff.
That wasn’t the first time. I’ve suffered from depression intermittently throughout my life, often triggered by unexpected or disrupted life changes. When I finished uni, couldn’t find a job and had to move into my mum’s box room. I developed the depressive’s insomnia. You go to bed at a normal time but you wake up before 3am without fail. There’s no going back to sleep, you’ve just got to occupy your mind. It doesn’t end until the depression ends. I lost a lot of weight very quickly, my eyes felt like they were being propped up with matchsticks most of the time. In that fug of long term unemployment, there were sometimes days were there was no point getting up as the day wasn’t going to lead anywhere. Eating was a funny one too. I’d feel hungry but didn’t feel inclined to do anything about it. It wasn’t an eating disorder because there was no will power involved, just apathy. Life’s basic tasks felt like a mountain to climb and I couldn’t face it.
Things have got better for me since the unemployed days, but the depression hasn’t wholly left. I think it’s something I’ll have for my whole life as I’ve been dealing with it since my teens. Depression as a freelancer is precarious. It kills your creativity, robs you of the ideas, inspiration, drive and passion required to pitch. I’ve had amazing opportunities that have been difficult to deliver on as I can go AWOL for a month. You lose income, but you could lose a lot more than that if you don’t have someone around who loves you enough to let you lean on them. I’m lucky that I have that.
You just continue on autopilot. I’ve experienced depression thus far in my life not as sadness, but lack of any emotions at all. There are low points when you feel awful and a failure and just want to cry, but they’re actually not the norm.
It’s upon leaving a bout of depression, when you feel the old you coming back, that you realise how bad things were. When I grab your keys and pop to the shop without a second thought, I have to stop half way down the street and reflect. When I start enjoying things again and get excited about ideas, events and opportunities, I’m compelled to reflect on why these feelings were alien to me for so long. It’s only then that I realise how far deep I was.
I’ve expressed my distaste for confessional journalism, with my stance being that if it doesn’t serve a transformative purpose, it’s just a public diary entry. But I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think making public an issue that still so steeped in stigma serves a purpose. Discussing anxiety and depression is not a confession, because suffering from them isn’t a sin. The stigma around them suggests so, though. The commonality of the problem suggests quite a few people are suffering in silence. What I have- mixed anxiety and depression- is the most common mental disorder in Britain.
There’s enough stereotypes about people with mental health issues to keep the stigma thriving. I know that I’m competent and talented, and I also know that if I apply for a full time job after this post goes up on my blog, it’ll go against my application.
We don’t speak about unemployment, we don’t speak about mental health, but I think I’ve broken enough taboos on this blog to break another one. I don’t have any grand solutions, or even a wholly happy ending, but if this post helps one person talk about what they’re dealing with- that’s progress.