I cannot explain how bad things are right now, but I’m going to try. As you’ve probably guessed already, this post isn’t about sex.
A number of bloggers I like and admire have written about the January Blues – that crappy, post-Christmas come down where the whole world seems a little greyer and it’s hard to find much to be joyful about. People have various ways of coping with this: write about it, see friends more often, be grateful for the little things. I should say here that I have been loyal as hell to the #100happydays project – but then, I’ve always had a fairly clear grasp of the little things that make me happy.
Little things aside though, I’ve realised that what I have going on is not a case of the January blues, it is a world-shattering bout of depression/anxiety.
I’ve always been lucky with depression before in that it hasn’t really crossed the divide between my personal and professional life – the last time I had it badly I worked for a small company where most of my colleagues were friends. Unlike most depressed people, I didn’t struggle with getting up in the morning – the blackest moments came on the drive home from work and more than once I had to pull into a lay by on the way home from work and cry solidly for half an hour until I had no more tears and could trust myself to focus on the road.
This time, that’s not the case. My job now is more stressful and I work for a much bigger company where I have a professional and fairly distant relationship with my colleagues and I’m part of a much bigger team than I would naturally be comfortable with at the best of times.
At the start of this week, I mentioned to someone that work was becoming an increasing struggle – I’d wake up feeling like someone had removed a layer of skin and that if I had to do so much as ask the bus driver for a ticket, the tears would start to flow. Sometimes it fades by mid-morning, other days that feeling shrouds me the whole day.
I kept working – going in, sitting quietly at my desk, doing what I had to do and avoiding contact with other people. I was just about keeping it together – I’d come home in the evening, have a couple of glasses of wine and instead of feeling soothed, it would feel like my heart was breaking.
And then, just to put the final nail in the coffin, yesterday I had to go on a team away day. Twenty two people sitting in a circle in a conference centre is my idea of hell at the best of times – yesterday I struggled with the part where you have to say who you are and what your job title is.
By lunchtime, I was desperate to escape. We were supposed to have lunch as a group – I made some excuse about desperately needing to pick up some work from the office and, as soon as I got outside, I headed in the opposite direction, and walked aimlessly for about a mile, despite the fact that it was pouring with icy rain and I didn’t have an umbrella. At that point, I should have called in sick. Instead, because I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of sick leave for mental illness, I went back.
I tried to maintain a low profile in the afternoon session, but apparently, even that doesn’t let you escape from other people’s attention. A senior manager came over at one point and said ‘Are you ok? You seem very anxious.’
Yeah, no shit.
Of course, I didn’t say that. I smiled, told her I was fine and that I was sorry if I seemed distracted. Part of me, though, wishes I could own up to what’s actually going on in my head without feeling so damn ashamed.
And it’s not just my job I’m worried about. The anxiety means that I’m sabotaging my relationships with other people too – begging friends to back off and leave me in peace, turning down invites to the pub, shutting the world out, basically.
What terrifies me most about that? That those people will decide of their own accord that either a) they’re to blame in some way for how I feel and therefore it’s best if they extricate themselves from my life or b) that I’m just too hard to handle and therefore it’s best if they extricate themselves from my life.
They wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that – it’s what I ask for most of the time. I’m scared they’ll make me talk about it, and I can’t – I can’t find the words to explain why I feel so awful and why I can’t find the will to get help. I want affection and distraction and people are generally really bad at providing that – probably because I’m like a bear with a sore head and who in their right mind would give affection to that?
Tonight when I got back from the away day and ran a bath. I sat with a glass of wine in ginger-scented bubbles and tried to remember what I used to be like before this. Was I ever a calm, fun person to be around or have I always been an anxious wreck. I want to get better, but I worry that if I’m ‘better’ I won’t recognise who I am anymore.