Insane in The Membrane: 12
The changing faces of depression
Image by @juliaveldmanc
What is depression? I get asked this a lot. All I know is that it’s never the same.
Each depression is multi-faceted and hard. It can be one emotion. Sometimes it is nothing at all. Sometimes it is a hundred emotions screaming for attention, whizzing around your skull, tapping incessantly for full control. Sometimes it is just three.
My depression has many faces. Many sides of me, that I select and wear as masks as if the whole world was a masquerade ball. In the dark moments, the face is overwhelmingly young. She’s panic-stricken and exhausted, that small child in me, who wants to crawl up and weep in the dark corners of my mind. She rocks back and forth, in hysteria, screaming for someone to help her. Then she slithers out and expunges me of my happiness. She leaves me hollow, in a deep cavern of doubt. She loves to be alone.
There’s the good-time face, one reserved for friends and family. She waves away questions of concern and is full of life and confidence. She will crack jokes and laugh and be the person you want to sit next to. Everything is kept at bay, and the good times can roll. She dislikes worry but loves to drink, all to prolong positivity.
There’s a responsible face. Kind and wise, she tells me that I’ll be ok, that I’ll make it through this hazy spell. She speaks of self-care and loves to bathe, and says, “I wish I could change the way you think”. She does my taxes.
And I have a wild face. The one that thinks, fuck it, I’ll face the consequences later. She is always wrong and chases a high that is unattainable. She is my university years and my destructive partner. She has no fear and lives for the moment. She is perpetually 19 years old.
The wild one is twinned closely with a guilty one. The one that feels shame and incomprehensible guilt. For indulging, for prioritising, for going off the rails, for not being a perfect daughter or friend, for always being slightly sad, for having to make excuses, for always wanting to scream, for having depression. She lives to apologise and agonises about every action. She is agoraphobia and social anxiety.
I never feel as though I am actually these faces, they are the personas I put on for others or who I am left with when energy is spent. My therapist calls them my depression moulds. How I shape myself to be what other people expect of me. How I am malleable, but never quite know who I am. Perhaps it is normal for a 26-year-old; to have doubts about themselves. Perhaps it is a “quarter-life crisis”. Perhaps it is just me – I reserve the good for others and the bad for myself.
I am learning to not do this. To keep some of the good in reserves for myself. To let other people know the small and the guilty. To share the burden, and ease the load. But it isn’t easy. We must prioritise ourselves. Don’t be around people who make you feel guilty or less than. Our lives are too short and too precious to spend with people who don’t care about you. Reach out, love each other.
I’ll leave you with Haruki Murakami.
CALLS TO ACTION
If you have depression…
Shout (@giveusashoutinsta) are always there, they reply within minutes and stay with you for however long you need. Text them. 85258.
SAMH and Action Mental Health are aimed at Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively, targeting mental health stigma on a more regional scale. Mind Cymru and Mental Health Wales focus on Welsh Mental Health.
If you just want to help…
Mental health always needs more support, socially and financially. Mind, Heads Together and Rethink offer easy ways to get involved/fundraise/donate/campaign. The Arch2Arch run, London Marathon and Tough Mudder can all be done in the name of mental health. Or, if you’re like me and not a natural athlete, you can use easy ways to recycle to raise awareness and donations alike. Petitions like Time to Change and the Survey of Mental Illness in the Workplace are a click away from de-stigmatising mental illness.
For the sofa activists…