Live blog from a depressive episode: Here’s what it’s really like to suffer from depression

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Usually, I write about my bipolar disorder when I’m well.

It’s much easier, then, to see the beauty in depression.

When I’m happy and vibrant and stable, I have an odd sort of respect for my depression and the compassion it’s given me.

It’s probably a bit like the way mothers remember childbirth; they forget the pain it causes and feel like they could do it all over again.

Between episodes, I forget how excruciating depression can be. That’s when I find the bravery to write about it.

I’ve never tried to write candidly about depression while I’m in the throes of it – until now.

Right now, I’m in the middle of a depressive episode.

Here's what it's really like to suffer from depression
(Picture: Mmuffin for Metro.co.uk)

The past three weeks have been a melancholic blur of heavy, tortured sleep, despondency and a numbness in my heart that won’t lift – no matter how many pictures of dogs I look at on the internet.

I could feel it coming before it arrived – I sensed little shifts downwards in mood and it became harder to get out of bed each morning.

I could feel the exhaustion setting in, like a thick fog around my brain.

My limbs started feeling heavier, along with my heart.

Sitting in my therapist’s office, my face leaked big, fat, salty tears, because the more I spoke about how I was feeling, the clearer it became that depression was settling in.

It’s weird, when you can feel an episode coming on, because there’s nothing you can do but brace yourself and wait.

You know you’ll need to be kind to yourself, you know you’ll need help, you know you’ll need to somehow access that courage you keep somewhere deep down for special occasions.

Here's what it's really like to suffer from depression
(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk)

You have no control over it – just keep on taking your meds and hold onto the promise that this too shall pass.

This episode is a bit of a shock, to be honest.

I’d been doing so well. I’d been stable for a full year – a year! – and now this.

I was foolish or hopeful or naive enough to think that perhaps I’d tamed depression for good.

I practically kissed the packet of my medication every day, and said a quiet little atheist prayer every time I swallowed my smooth, turquoise pills.

I felt like, 11 years after my diagnosis, I’d finally found the right combination of medication and support from my mental health team.

But then antidepressants can be unpredictable, and support can be nice but insufficient to ward off the nasties.

The medication I am on apparently has a tendency to ‘konk out’ after a few years.

Here's what it's really like to suffer from depression
(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk)

It’s quite common for it to simply give up and stop working. And so I find myself thrown into this depression without my usual armour, without my usual defences.

I am left begging my GP to search the NHS for the solution. I am left waiting to see a psychiatrist. I am left clinging to my boyfriend and my television and my bed, waiting for the storm to pass.

If you’ve never had any experiences of depression, let me try to explain what it’s like.

The illness can manifest in different ways in different people – our chemical constitutions and our characters are different, so of course our depression is too.

Mine, for instance, has never really made me angry. Some people get angry –with themselves, with the world, with the closest person in their lives. I don’t.

I retreat into myself. I recoil from the world. I get distressed, timid and incredibly fragile. I lose the ability to live my own life.

I alternate between bouts of severe insomnia – the kind that makes you feel as though you might never close your eyelids to sleep ever again – and rounds of extreme oversleeping.

Here's what it's really like to suffer from depression
(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk)

In the months leading up to this depressive episode, I wasn’t sleeping. Barely at all.

Sleeping pills didn’t work; my body was like ‘babe, please, don’t even bother’. I was fragile and lonely, in that unique way only insomniacs will know.

But now? Now, I could sleep all day if life would let me. I go to bed early, sleep all night, wake late and then start making plans for my daytime naps.

You might think, ‘come on, Kate, just get out of bed, everyone else does it’. I can’t tell you how hard that simple task can be.

It’s like my bed is my refuge; my only safe space in a cruel and overwhelming world. My body conspires to keep me there. My head aches, my limbs feel leaden and I pass out into a deep, heavy, empty sleep for hours at a time without being able to rouse myself.

My mood is stubbornly low.

Depression is so much more than sadness. It’s more insidious than that, and more consuming.

It’s the opposite of vitality and it’s the absence of the energy or will to participate in your own life.

And often, it doesn’t correlate to anything.

Here's what it's really like to suffer from depression
(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk)

My life is quite lovely at the moment: I’m in love with an extremely delightful man, I’m getting a book published, I’ve got somewhere to live, I have magnificent friends and I’ve even had family visit from Australia.

Objectively speaking, it’s a lovely life and I’m extremely, stupidly lucky.

But because the chemicals in my brain are all out of whack at the moment, I can’t feel the joy or the love or the pride I should have in my life right now.

It’s like those feelings belong to someone else, or like I’m having an out-of-body experience, watching someone who looks very like me live my life.

This depression numbs me and pains me at the same time. It hurts, my heart hurts, but I also feel utterly incapable of feeling anything at all.

Depression has visited me many times in my life; I was seeing a psychiatrist by the time I was 12.

I’ve come to know this state of aching numbness so well – and yet, here I am, taken aback that I should feel this way again.

Every time it comes to me, depression feels inevitable and familiar, and a rude shock, all at once.

After all these years, it still has this eerie ability to knock me off my feet.

It’s a powerful, merciless thing and I cannot, right now, see the beauty in it.

My only option is to wait until it passes, keep seeing medical professionals, adjust my medication, ask for extreme kindness from anyone around me and fight for my right to participate in my own life.

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