My lack of energy is extreme. Either I gorge myself on sleep, seeking refuge in 10, 13, 16 hours; or I’m plagued by insomnia, thoughts drifting into the past, like a never-ending, never-ending panic attack. My dreams are obscenely violent. Normal things get expansive. I hate myself. I know I should ask for help. I do not. I am quite unable to do anything but work, which is a daily relief.
I keep a list of activities that bring happiness when my mind starts to wander: art galleries, the sea, Liberty’s button department. I try to maintain not just “sleep hygiene” but “life hygiene”: some degree of structure and nourishment, even where I lean towards anarchy.
I also refuse to lift the veil on the aspect of my illness that society still finds unspeakable. I have never been actively suicidal, but I can succumb to some suicidal thoughts. There is a big difference between thinking about something and doing it, between a little light ideation and having a plan (“Do you have a plan?” being the therapeutic question traditionally deployed here). However, to me such thoughts can be a canary in the coal mine; a sign that I should take my mood seriously, seek help. By acknowledging these feelings, hopefully I will be kept out of the act.
I realize this is hard to read. It’s hard to write. However, with my radical honesty, I gained some radical acceptance. Finally, I am better at being happy when I can be, I have developed this “gift of happiness”. It’s just not my permanent state. And it’s good. It’s OK. It’s who I am. I’m (almost) happy with it.
“Hannah’s depression isn’t her weakness, it’s her strength”
Hannah’s boyfriend Terence Derbyshire on what it’s like to live with someone who suffers from depression.