I’m standing in front of the mirror doing my make-up before meeting friends for dinner. So far, I have only scrubbed my face clean and started again once. I notice this because, when I’m well it isn’t an issue. When I’m well, I barely spend 5 minutes getting myself ready to leave the house. But, when I’m not doing so well, it’s harder. Noticing it tonight reminds me of the times in my life when I have spent over an hour trying to make my face seem presentable to the outside world. I am reminded of the times I have nearly rubbed my face raw, starting again, trying to make it look right.
There is a voice, inside, giving a running commentary as I apply my make up. Are you serious? You can’t possibly leave the house looking like that. You are fat, you are ugly, you are repulsive. People will stare at you in the street; you are that much of a freak.
But tonight it is different.
Later, sitting at a table with my closest friends, I hear that voice again. This time, it is telling me how stupid I am. One moment, I am stupid for not entirely understanding the conversation (how have I come this far and not fully understood tax situations when it comes to housing?) The next, it is telling me that I am stupid for not quite hearing the waitress, or for being self-absorbed and talking over someone else. What kind of horrific person are you that you just interrupted someone else to make a joke that wasn’t even funny? Do you see the way they’re looking at you now? All of them? That pity? That scorn? They are embarrassed for you, embarrassed to be near you. Wow. You’re stupid.
But tonight, something is different.
There is little doubt in my head that I am suffering depression again. I struggle to leave the house, I can’t find joy in anything, and I am followed around by that voice everywhere I go. It is dark and lonely and exhausting.
But this time is different.
This time, I hear the voice and I see it for what it is. I listen to it, I am momentarily thrown by it, but I am a little more able to ignore it. I am a little more able to say You know what? You’re not telling me the truth. You’re a big old idiot.
This time, although I recognise the signs of depression I know I’ll survive. This time, I don’t think Alright, we’re here again, things will never change, there’s no hope for me, I might as well jack it all in. This time I think Ok, it’s probably entirely reasonable that you’re depressed, given all the change, and loss, in your life right now. And that voice is really annoying. But, you know things will change again. You know you can win this. It’s a little like flu right now: you’re ill, you’ll recover, you’ll see the sun again.
This time is different.