It had been a long time coming. I have been feeling out of sorts, disconnected and isolated for an extended period of time. I had been covering it up as a “dip” for far too long, and this past weekend it all came crashing down.
I woke up on Sunday morning with that usual dread in my stomach. Is it a weekday? Do I need to go to work? Do I need to take a shower? Can I even get up to take a shower? How do I get out of work?. It’s a bit of a mental mind maze, where you talk yourself out of wanting to do anything, even before the day has even started. Thing is, usually when I get up, and get going, I get into “military mode” – I show up, I get the job done, I do it with a smile on my face, hell, I even make a couple of people laugh. I genuinely enjoy my work, and that’s what makes the depression diagnosis so difficult to understand. Surely it shouldn’t be so hard to get up to go see people you enjoy spending time with, in an environment that is supportive and understanding? It’s not that simple. Depression does incredible things to your mind, and it take a hold of you in a way that is nothing short of paralysing and utterly debilitating.
When I got up on Sunday, I had a temporary moment of relief, where I realised that all I would need to do today would be to walk the five steps over to my landlord’s house (I stay in the garden cottage on a big property) to throw my washing into the washing machine, as I do each week. Problem is, this week I was trying to talk myself out of it. I was trying to find every excuse possible not to get out of bed. And we’re not talking, oh, I’m tired, I’d like to just lay in bed and watch TV all day. Or even just going through a wobble. This eventually became a two hour battle in my head, about not wanting to get up, and throw the fucking washing in a machine. I consider myself to be an ambitious, high achieving go-getter, who works full-time, plus runs his own company on the side, but on this day, I just couldn’t talk myself up out of bed. I decided to give over, and let the day pass, so I stayed in bed, until at about 5pm, I had the strength to get up out of bed to throw the laundry in. Please don’t let my landlord be home, I thought to myself. I can’t face anyone right now, I can’t have a conversation. My landlord and her husband are incredible, kind people, who have opened their hearts and home to me since I moved to Cape Town about nine months ago, yet my mind is telling me that I wouldn’t even be able to cope with a simple “Hello, how are you?” today, as I fear they’ll see through me. Of course I ran into both of them in the five steps it took to get to the machine, and of course they could spot that something was off, but I had become very good at hiding my illness, and somehow managed to carry a short conversation and to get the job done.
Back to bed I went. My mother had sent me a message and I replied with the most generic response ever, hoping she wouldn’t see through my message. She would later tell me that she had been worried about me for a very long time. I got back in bed, and so carried on spending the rest of the day there, going into the night, falling asleep and waking up, my mind racing with a million thoughts, unable to process why I was so comfortable and happy to essentially spend what became 41 hours where I only got up to go to the bathroom and throw in the bloody laundry.
On Monday morning I got up with the usual dread, though I was also struck with the realisation that I had spent Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday in bed. Something had changed when I go up though, as I knew that the time had come for me to face the fact that things were off, and in a very big way. I had gone through weekends like this all throughout the year, scheduling social commitments for the Friday evening to make it seem like I was still managing a healthy social life, while then having the absolute relief of being able to clear my schedule for the rest of the weekend, only to lock myself away in my apartment, shut the curtains and hope that I would miraculously feel better the following day. It hasn’t worked for a very long time.
I woke up Monday and I grabbed a notebook and pen from a nearby drawer. I scribbled “Prioritise Your Mental Health” in big, bold letters. And it just flowed from me.
- Get GP appointment. Get anti-depressant.
- Contact [insert therapist name here], set up appointment.
- Call [line manager at work].
- Call mom, [best friend], [sister], [sister], [brother], [other best friend].
I didn’t quite do everything in that particular order, but before I knew it I had gotten myself off’ work for two days, set up an appointment with a GP for 12h45, plus written a letter to my mom about how I had been unable to see past my 30th birthday (June 29th) and had been living with suicidal thoughts for a while now. I managed to reach out to the rest of the list throughout the course of the day, asking that everyone give me some time to got to the doctor to get things checked out first.
On my way out to the appointment, I bumped into my landlord again, and knew that she should have been the fifth point on the list. “Can we have a cup of tea when I get back?” I asked. “I need to talk to you about something”. I knew what my diagnosis would be, and I also knew that she would be a crucial part of a new support system I would need to build as I navigate this new chapter in my life. Little did I know how interesting her reaction would be when I sat down and told her – more on that in a post to follow.
Off I went to the doctor, with the biggest fear that she was about to tell me that I was “making it all up” and that I should just get on with it.
Conrad was here.