Depression: Marauder Of The Mind.
This was the year that I found out I was sick.
Although I can easily produce an amalgamation of very real, very wonderful moments from the last 12 months, this was the year I discovered I was ill. I have mostly moderate, rarely severe, but very gripping depression.
Gradually, I started to feel sick. I felt like what I imagine an eternally sick person feels. I had this image in my mind that I was having some kind of migraine, though my head didn’t actually hurt. I felt pain, but it wasn’t exactly tangible yet. It was like a pain that lingered in the air that I had to breathe every day.
My brain, mind and soul all had some kind of nauseating flu that makes you forget what it feels like to be healthy. It reminded me of the time I had influenza and was so convinced I was dying that I started to write my will (just to make sure my Tom Hanks DVD collection made it into respectable hands).
My mind begged me to find and reclaim its normalcy. I realized, in this flu of the soul, that I never understood mental illness. I never bought into the stigmas, but I wouldn’t have been able to wrap my head around it in the way it deserves. It is as real as a cancer. It is physically and tangibly painful. It kills.
And it hurts just as much as the flu, or pneumonia, or breaking a bone.
I know now. I know what it is and what it feels like, for lack of a lovelier way of finding out.
Sadness is not the same as emptiness.
Mind over matter only works with a mind that works too.
This is how it feels:
One by one, like a leak, things start to fall out of the soul. Hobbies. Family and friends. Normal pleasures.
Early on, joy.
Eventually gratitude, and with gratitude goes hope.
The only thing with which to replace it all is hollowness. Or fear. Or fear of the hollowness.
For me, it was truly unexpected how peculiar it is to lose these things. It’s a bizarre anomaly to lose even the things that have historically made you eternally sad. When you feel like you’ve lost everything, you still feel it. You can feel the sadness and grief.
I knew I was sick when I stopped feeling.
Losing the capacity to feel is terribly frightening. I felt like I was in some kind of reverse coma; my body could move and function, but my mind and soul had simply been switched off. I could barely get my brain to think about anything but a very real, very scary, black hole.
Mental illness is a disease of not only the brain and mind, but also of the soul. Left alone, it cripples. It wins. Don’t, for any reason, leave it alone.
Like with any illness, you don’t have to live this way.
Our souls, those that have been locked away by this marauder of the mind, are still wonderfully brilliant and full. They still look forward to making a comeback. And we can be grateful that we’re the ones who have been chosen by this world to be the ones built to withstand. We are the ones who have to cope in this way.
My gratitude and love to those who suffer, those who speak up, those who help, and those who heal.
Depression is a serious disease. To find help, or to deal with an emergency or the possibility of suicide, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911, or go to a hospital emergency room. For more information or to find help, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health.
Margaret Dempsey is a writer, businesswoman, runner, and lover of all things chocolate and Disney. Her writing zags between musings on her lovers, her mental illness, her unforgiving humor, and her unabridged gratitude for life. She travels the world alone, because it scares her and thrills her at the same time. The old city of Jerusalem makes her weak in the knees. She has a habit of sniffing bags of coffee in the grocery store for fun. She loves so much, she runs out of places to put it. She kissed a stranger in Budapest in the snow once. She loves run-on sentences and stories that are hard to follow, and writing in a way that makes you think she’s crazy… because she is a little mad, but adores being so.