When The Smoke Creeps In - An Extract From Emily's Book

Please note, this extract contains what may be considered sensitive information and is recommended for mature readers.  The intention of this information is to give a broader insight into the inner workings of depression for those that have not experienced it.  This information has been written from personal experience, and we encourage you to seek professional help if you are suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts.  Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, White Wreath (SMS service) on 0410 526 562 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 for immediate assistance.

Here is a big secret… I am just as sick of depression as everyone around me that has to watch me deal with it, who feel like they’ve done something wrong or that they’re somehow to blame for how I’m feeling… who wish I could speak more clearly to them about how I’m feeling, and who feel so frustrated when the inevitable down precedes a state of “normal”.  Anyone that experiences depression will know what I’m talking about, and partners of those people will surely relate.  So, I wanted to take the opportunity to explain it from my end… from our end… and what happens when that familiar pit starts to open.

I am as frustrated as you are… debatably more frustrated than you are.  That just adds to the whole tumble-down effect of the mood.  Firstly, I hear the dark stuff come up from seemingly nowhere, for seemingly no reason, like a leak of smoke coming under a door.  You don’t notice it’s there until it’s filled the room and you can’t breathe.  I start listening to the dark stuff, usually to try to debate or challenge it in an attempt to stop the leak.  Before I know it, I’ve lost the battle and I’m sitting there feeling totally f****** insane.  How am I supposed to actually tell those around me, those that love me, that just want to support me and help me… how am I supposed to tell them what’s going on, especially when I can barely grasp the process myself?  I fear judgement… I feel frustrated… I feel powerless and completely hopeless that I can’t fight this battle… and most of all I am completely paralysed with fear that they will finally realise it’s a battle that can’t be won, and they’ll leave.  In that framework, I act to push them away.  I don’t want them to see me upset.  I don’t want them to see me cry, because when I open those gates, there’s no knowing when they’ll close.  I hate crying in front of people anyway.  It’s so vulnerable and it makes my jaw hurt.  I hate crying at all, to be honest.  But, eventually, the tears just come.  They’re welling there and ready to break the flood gates at any minute.  That’s usually when I know I’m not coping. 

The whole time this is going on, which can be a process of a few minutes, hours or days…. I am actively trying to fight this.  I am actively, with all my might, trying to tell those dark thoughts to shut the f*** up, you’re not right, you’re not true, it’s just me feeling this way because of x-y-z… I can explain, somehow, why these thoughts have showed up, can’t I?  I can make it better, can’t I?  Shut up! I have a life, I have all these amazing things and I am grateful for the good in my life… Why don’t I feel better?  Isn’t gratitude a magic wand?  I think every happy thought I can, and, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t help. And, I feel more hopeless than ever.  I feel that I am useless, powerless, worthless, valueless.  All of the less-ness… I am.  And, there I sit, engulfed by smoke, choking. 

I think of those around me that love me, I think about how I am affecting them, or more accurately how I perceive to be affecting them, and I am immediately filled with sadness.  I think of the unconditional love that we share, and that all I want in the whole wide world is to see these people happy, and yet here I am, believing I am causing them pain, making their lives difficult, making them doubt me, making them doubt themselves… Can’t you see how easy it is, when the smoke fills that room, to wish to escape?  Can’t you see how exhausting it is to be battling this fight that I can’t win?  Knowing full well that when the smoke has cleared, eventually it will come back and I will have to summon the strength to do this all over again.  Suicidal thoughts breed like mould over a good thing in these states.  All I want is for my loved ones to be happy, and feeling the complete onus upon myself that I am even a small reason as to why they are not, fills me with enough grief to think some terrible things.  And, then these thoughts fill me with so much shame, so much hatred… And, finally there’s not a single inch of space in that room for any more smoke.  That’s the end.  That’s the saturation point… for me, anyway.  For others, it’s much worse.  And, for others still, it’s a little better. 

I suppose a good metaphor for this is thinking of that smoke filling the room… thinking of those dark thoughts trickling in, one by one, softly and slowly.  When you have depression – when you have other factors that are influencing your mood, from hormone imbalances to not enough neurotransmitters to chronic pain, and your ability to feel the reward and the purpose and the fulfilment of life that others feel so much more easily… that smoke will always fill your room too quickly.  Some of us have more fire on the outside of that room, and we may or may not be dealing with it.  Either way, there that damn smoke is.  You can’t protect your space by welcoming the smoke in.  We all know how that ends.  The thought of trying to beat those depressive tendencies by challenging them with logic, in a battlefield of emotion, is like trying to dissipate smoke by wafting it quickly around a room while the fire still burns.  The smoke will fill the room, and the dark thoughts will most likely win.  They are more powerful, more cunning than the softer thoughts of logic that we are trying to sharpen the blades of.  We feed strength to the negative thoughts from a lifetime of entertaining them, and it takes time to change the focus from negative to positive. 

With time and practise, don’t get me wrong, we can certainly carve powerful weapons of our minds.  But right now, it’s important to not let the smoke in.  Know it’s there, and make the extra effort to do everything you can to keep the daily grind going, stay in momentum, keep in communication, and know… truly know with every inch of your body, that this, like everything, will end.  Find a plan.  Utilise professionals.  See a psychologist and learn some new tools to deal with those thoughts and those tendencies.  Understand the power of movement and the power of nutrition on the mind.  Learn about inflammation, learn about pain, learn about all these factors that affect the mood, and know that these tendencies are not a part of you but are something that happen to you.  Know, most of all, that you are not alone… not for a second.  Start to learn about your relationship with your mental health, and find someone to talk to.  Start the conversation and be amazed at how many people feel the same way.  You are worth… everything.  You have more power than you can imagine – often the hard part is finding where that strength lies and what you have to do to feed it.  This means learning, and learning means growing.  And you…. are worth it.