The Cowardly Lion, The Which and The Front Door
It’s not too long until I have my first appointment with a doctor about my depression. The 13th of March is going to mark a pretty big day for me. I have set myself the task of chronicling my treatment of depression, through all the ups and downs and hopefully to an end and final victory for me. However I’m not totally convinced one ever has total victory over depression.
But there’d be no sense in beginning at the first appointment when the depression began many years ago… I think. So in the run up to my appointment I hope I can set out everything I know, understand, don’t understand and think about my depression to date.
I’m pretty sure it started when I was 17, but as you may or may not know it can be hard to tell. It slowly creeps over you like a dark cloud lethargically encroaching on the landscape, blocking out all the sunshine. It’s not really a matter of being fine one day and the next deeply miserable. I have three older siblings, two of which I know for absolute certainty also began to be depressed at this age. And a younger sibling who a few years after me hit that same point in their life. So it’s entirely possible I suppose that my depression was inevitable, some kind of genetic disposition that I could not avoid.
It’s also possible it began as a result of me losing all direction in my life. Right up until that age I had always been the most ambitious of my siblings, I had always had a life plan and I was going to stick with it. I had numerous extra curricular activities , pretty much all were sports, pretty decent grades with minimal input and a goal. That was a lot more than most of the other kids my age. I had decided some years previously that I was going to be a doctor, not because of any selfless desire to help people or a real interest in medical science, but because it was a respected career that paid well and I suppose human anatomy was interesting enough. But by the age of 15 I knew I hated physics and somewhere between 16 and 17 I realised chemistry really wasn’t of much interest to me either, not the real study of it anyway. Not many doctors are made from solely studying biology so that was pretty much the end of my entire life plan in one fell swoop.
I was fortunate however, in amongst the chaos of not knowing what my future would hold, in stumbling into an English Literature class. There I found a subject that enthused me and kept my attention. There I found a love of writing. But I was ambitious, naive and realistic, if I was going to be a writer I wanted to be a proper one, one that was internationally known and not begging publishers to just look at their manuscript. And how many of those were there? Not many, so perhaps I should come up with a better more realistic life plan. And that’s where I lost direction. I had no plan and no idea where I could start a new one.
Whatever the reason for it’s beginning, begin it did. Depression was soon subtly taking over my life. Confidence seemed to be sucked out of me daily, every day I woke up less sure of myself, my talent and my future. I had always been a bit of a class clown and if anything the depression made me act out more. Determined not to let anyone see me vulnerable I exuded false confidence, shoved a joke into every sentence and avoided letting anyone get to know me too well. On the one hand I have to give myself props for being courageous enough to stand out and be a class clown when the last thing I wanted people doing was looking at me too closely and judging me. But on the other hand it’s pretty cowardly stuff, I was scared to let anyone see the real me so I wrapped it up in bubble wrap, shoved it in a cardboard box, over-zealously taped it up and hid it away at home. Easier to let people dislike the noisy class clown than to know that they disliked me for me.
Once you realise you have depression you have a big decision to make. Which route do you choose to deal with it? Which path is it that you will take to aim for normality again? Do you follow the yellow brick road and pay a visit to the wizard of oz (or the doctor because actually the wizard is a hack) or do you stand around under the lamp post in Narnia hoping Mr Tumnus shows up even though you know he’s actually made of stone right now? Well I think you can guess that as the theme of this post is very much Narnia inspired, I stood around under the lamp post waiting and expecting things to just get better while I got colder and colder in the snow.
So by the time I was 18 the depression had reached a point that my front door had taken on similar properties to that of the wonderful wardrobe. On one side was the outside world, the world that made me anxious, nervous, miserable and very much like I was stuck in a forever winter. But on the other side of the door lay the safety of my home, no possibility of social interaction with strangers or acquaintances, no busy or crowded places. Just warmth, my bed, comfort and familiarity. I found myself agreeing with Edmund, ‘it’s not like there isn’t air inside.’ And once you start agreeing with Edmund you know your life has gone wrong somewhere.
So that was the beginning of my depression. But that was still years ago, there’s so much more to tell. There’s so much more to work out before I see the doctor, even though I know this first appointment will likely only last five minutes and have me only about a millimetre closer to an actual therapist…
I’m not sure I can remember enough about Prince Caspian in order to continue this lovely Narnia theme next time but we’ll see what happens.