One of the aspects of depression that is both a blessing and a curse is impermenence. When the depression is heavy on you, and you can see neither joy nor hope, then it’s helpful to think “This too, shall pass”. It’s comforting to have the knowledge that it won’t last forever, and that if you can just hold on a little longer you can push through it and reclaim your life.
When you’re feeling good, however, it’s not such a nice feeling.
One of the things I hate most about depression is the constant nagging fear at the back of your mind that at any moment you might descend into that horrible, heavy darkness. Even when the sun is bright and the birds are singing and you can see so clearly how beautiful and right and perfect the world is… you know that at any moment that might be ripped away from you. It’s a terrifying thought.
I’ve learned so many coping strategies. Little routines that make my life easier. I’ve learned that I have friends I can trust; whatever, whenever. All of these things make the crashes less likely, the highs more stable, the lows shorter and easier to deal with, but they don’t take away the fear. There’s something chilling about knowing the danger is in your own mind. For me, the greatest fear comes from the fact that all those things I know now (how to cope, what to do, even the mere fact that my friends care about me) I may not know later. It’s hard to prepare for something when you know that you won’t be able to think clearly when it happens. And I know I won’t be able to think clearly. I know I won’t be able to believe in things that are solid facts. I know I won’t be able to hope or imagine things being better. And I know that sooner or later, whatever I do to stop it, it’s going to happen again. Sometimes an emotional upset will trigger it. Sometimes an illness (even something as simple as the common cold) will take away my ability to cope. Sometimes it just happens, and I may never even know why.
That knowledge doesn’t just scare me. It also interferes with my life. I find it difficult to commit to things. It’s hard to feel comfortable making friends. How can you make friends with the proviso that there might come a time when you stop believing that they even so much as give a damn about you? It’s hard to work. How do you accept commissions when you know that at any moment you might be overcome with a complete inability to do any work on them? That you might, suddenly, inexplicably, become so terrified of dealing with the outside world that the mere thought of opening your email sends you into a fit? It’s hard to think ahead. How do you make plans when you know full well that although you can cope with something *now* you may not be able to cope with it when it comes up?
To which, of course, the answer is that you feel the fear, and do it anyway. Like anything else in your life there are times when you just have to gather your courage and steel your will and forge on through. But that doesn’t make it less scary. It’s still so damn scary.
These days I’m getting better at dealing with life. Learning to cope makes it easier to commit to things, and committing to things makes it easier to cope. It’s a lovely spiral that helps lift me that bit higher. These days it takes a lot to jolt me back down into utter misery. But the potential is still there, and still needs to be faced.