Notes On Depression

Not published in LIFE. Pilgrim State Hospital, Brentwood, NY, 1938.

It’s rather difficult to explain depression. That’s why when you look it up in a dictionary or navigate a web page that will provide a so-called technical preciseness of it you will often find…

“Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.

Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.”

This bland description was taken from an NHS website. They offer fantastic support for people living with depression but lack a complete understanding of what it feels like to bequeath this information to others.

They often eschew responsibility of this for several reasons, most likely because there is no-one-way to describe how every sufferer lives with it.

But of the many people out there, I can at least divulge my personal account of the banal and vapid life I live, combined with OCD and PTSD exacerbated by my work in hostile places.

Everyone experiences mental health differently. But personally, today is the best day to ask me what it’s like to live such a life. I find the word ‘issue’ a perfect word to combine as it rhymes with tissues, and it’s something I rarely get to use because for some reason I can’t seem to cry. It would be incredibly therapeutic for me to weep a little, and the closest I have come has been a couple of sweat like exhausts. Not even enough to drain a minute amount of sagging below the eyelids. If I can conjure some dark eyebags for a second, I will be ecstatic and maybe it will inspire further lachrymose sentimentalities.

It’s the perfect day to ask because I am feeling completely numb. Brain activity fails to muster dopamine and there are no uplifts in mood. I have lost my appetite, the regular deep setting of stiff muscles in my neck have taken hold and a constant headache loiters as if some negative physiological convention organised.

There is a pain in my back, a constant sadness, fear of everything and panic at closing the door the wrong way, and getting up out of bed, getting dressed, brushing my teeth, spitting water out, eating my food, walking around, wiping my ass, pissing, running, lifting weights, looking at my phone, typing, writing (as you read this), calculating, booking hotels, making dinner reservations, sitting, jumping, thinking, designating, watching movies, watching Netflix and chilling, being happy, being sad the right way all takes effort and is excruciatingly exhausting.

OCD amplifies simple behaviours, to which I sometimes feel like I am standing in slow motion but moving at regular speed. It magnifies experience and damages confidence in decision making and in practice. Washing hands; a common symptom of classic OCD which can cause confusion through repetitive actions restricts free movement and defines the ordinary through a reluctant clarity. Water droplets sharpen their presence. They are individually highlighted as if illustrated by a pencil, slowly smashing into the porcelain basin as a hyper awareness grips my senses, but in acquiesce continuing, ignoring everything else.

Imagine running 5 hours straight in a sad state of mind and then, only then, will you never imagine how it feels. It’s like running or going to the gym for the first time in years but the next day, you feel sore, achy, sad and wallowing without cause (and this is being light in description). But even then, you can’t begin to imagine how it feels. I wish you can, but I also wish you can’t, and well, quite frankly glad you can’t.

The most frustrating part of living with these conditions is not being taken seriously, being dismissed as if I am weak-minded, craving attention or that it’s all in my head. And that’s the point – it is all in my head and much of it hidden away from friends and family with very little I can do.