If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard or read the expression ‘write what you know’ I’d have enough money to buy a two-week supply of junk food and there’d be chocolate fingerprints all over my sheets and pillow. Last year, on track with that adage, I wrote a novel about Postnatal Depression and it will almost certainly never make it out of my bottom drawer.
I worked on that novel, I squeezed, I dragged, I cajoled, a story out of my Postnatal experience.
About the same time I got Depression myself. Again.
A depressed person trying to write about a depressed person is not unheard of, it can be done, I did it, but it isn’t easy. It’s…depressing.
Depression is like this:
If we walked about with rear view mirrors on our shoulders we’d see Depression coming up behind us, and maybe we could make plans to combat it, to get that black dog before she gets us. We could chuck ourselves into exercise, eat right, sleep better, look after our stress, get onto our medication, and maybe keep that black dog at bay.
Depression messes with your perspective, you can think everything is about you, you can become guilty about things beyond you – I remember years ago feeling way too terrible, personal, about the drought stricken farmers. Ridiculous.
And though you know you’re having a bad time it’s not until you come out of it that you understand just how bad your time was.
I’ve been on this new medication for four months and in the beginning, when I started to become better, the reality of how of how depressed I’d been, now that I could see it, was frightening. I had no idea I’d been that bad. I mean, wellness was eye-opening, shit, was that me?! Probably due to my sons and their cuddles and kisses on tap, I didn’t realise the struggle life had been. How I dragged myself through my days, doing what I had to do, interacting, working, writing, it was exhausting. The day I sat in my doctor’s office and accepted I was depressed I was relieved and exhausted, grateful, for finally letting go. I can’t do it anymore, say it with pride, because fuck it, you’ve tried so hard.
And now, months down the road, the jubilation of not being depressed has worn off into living like a ‘normal’ person, a person who has less than magnificent days, because, that’s life, a person who has great days, because that’s life. Did you know you’re allowed to be sad and it doesn’t mean you have Depression? I didn’t know that.
Is it self-preservation, a moving-on thing, that only months later, I cannot really quite remember how bad last year was? Is that an aspect of Depression common to everyone who experiences it? I know don’t want to go back there, but after those sobering, truth-telling, early days of no Depression, the clarity seems to have faded. Go back to what, exactly?
It was paralysing.
I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.
I’d be out of my mind if my kids got Depression.
But remember it properly? I can’t. Have to trawl, don’t want to.
Is that why we use the black dog metaphor? It’s mystical? It says everything and nothing?
Living in fear of depression is not stylish living. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for me to remember. And I’m not writing a novel about it. I’m going to write what I don’t know. Happy days, because writing what I don’t know will keep my typing forever.
what things have trees seen?