“Everyone gets depressed,” my dad would say, rolling his eyes at me and my mother when we spoke openly about our mental health. He didn’t understand depression; the closest he had gotten to mental disorder was in the long ago loving embrace of her arms, his fingers tickling the fine hairs on her pale skin.
Dad never understood, and to this day, still has difficulty grasping the concept of it. He buys into conspiracies, thieving pharmacies with money hungry schemes monopolising; and preying on the naïve and the vulnerable.
It’s a plausible scheme, he supposes, and something that perhaps even I would buy into were I not on the losing team. I don’t blame him: understanding mental illness when it is not something you have ever struggled with can be difficult, maybe even impossible.
I envy those that will never have the chance to understand this sick mind of mine. For a competition I never entered, it seems unfair that the grand prize would be awarded to myself.
Creased sheets and tear soaked cheeks are details present in my first memory. A door bolted shut and a worried, curious child knocking politely. Careful steps and metal sliding as the lock was unlatched.
I don’t know if that was when I had definitive proof of my mother’s mental instability but it was chalked up as evidence. After all, what does a six year old know about depression?
Staring off into the distance long enough that my vision blurred and breathing slowed was a common phenomenon as I lacked the motivation to do anything else.
My mother wasn’t like others that I knew. Her love unconditional and protection fierce. My mother is, perhaps, my best friend, a statement that would probably leave her speechless and bring tears to her eyes. She confided in me, shared her deepest secrets, and as a young girl, impressionable and eager to make a difference, I soaked it all up; I allowed it to change me, mould my personality and consume me.
There’s something fascinating about the way mental illness takes hold of you. It’s not instant. It’s not like a cold where you wake up with a stuffed nose one day, and then the next you have a sore throat, and then the next a cough, with the whole process taking only a few days and lasting little more than a week.
Depression consumes you over time: months and years. The excited deals of “Sure, I’d love to come!” slowly becoming un-enthused broken promises of “Maybe another time?”.
Rolling out of bed becomes a challenge and remembering to eat another. How does one forget to eat? you may ask. Quite easily, as I soon learned. Distracting myself enough so that I could not get out of bed was one of my favourite pastimes. Staring off into the distance long enough that my vision blurred and breathing slowed was a common phenomenon as I lacked the motivation to do anything else.
“It’s quite normal for people your age to feel this way. It’s your hormones and it will pass,” the first doctor I begged for help told me. She gave me the notorious Depression Form, a black ballpoint pen, and time. “It doesn’t seem too serious. Seek counselling if it bothers you so much.” And away I went, ushered out of the cramped doctor’s office with no more than what felt like a Goodbye, please don’t come again.
I sought out counselling. Then, and again.
And again, and again, and again.
I was diagnosed with depression the day before my eighteenth birthday. A harrowing quote reads, ‘At eighteen, everything is possible and tomorrow looks friendly’; the only possibility that I found was that my doctors and counsellors had been wrong, and tomorrow looked less than friendly.
There’s something fascinating about the way mental illness takes hold of you. It’s not instant.
My mother cried quietly to herself in the dead of night when she learned of my diagnosis and she blamed herself. A clever irony, really, as I blamed myself for her own depression all those years before.
It has been one year, three weeks and three days since the last “I love you” fled from my lips and my mother, my best friend and confidante, sobbed, holding me closer to her chest and promising that she would see me soon.
“Does depression run in the family?” Yes. “Immediate family?” Yes. “Who?” My mother. My grandmother. A handful of aunts.
And now, me.
Rivka hails from the north east of England and she spends most of her time cooped up in her room. A dog enthusiast, gamer and avid reader, Rivka can be found rambling about these topics and more on her Twitter at @rivkae_