People are often surprised to find out that I live with depression. “But you are so cheerful and you smile so much!” – a common expression of surprise. The “so” emphasising the impossibility of it all. I would say they are misinformed about how depression looks but I also wanted to turn the reflection inward.
I was formally diagnosed in 2010. Since then the diagnoses have changed shape and size to anxiety and depression to trauma induced anxiety and depression to some form of depression or the other to some form of brain fog; meanwhile I have learnt to not hold any diagnosis too close to my heart.
I am often told I am too functional to be depressed. I look happy even. I would love to write what all depression looks like but turns out it has so many forms that would be pointless. Plus, it morphs itself from person to person.
My own depression and anxiety have many faces. A black cloud settling on me after travelling for long. The rocks weighing down on my heart, lower back and knees. Very little sleep. The lack of language, especially for writing. The inability to focus on a singular activity. The outpouring of poetry. Difficulty in doing routine tasks. The distracted-by-everything mind. The rats in my stomach craving food eternally. The socialising to forget. Unable to eat or drink enough. Sleeping a lot. Isolating myself. Focussed overworking spurts.
Mostly, you cannot see it in my functionality or demeanour. My sister would giggle at the number of people who told her I was the happiest person they knew. The truth, I knew, was more complicated than that.
I wouldn’t call myself happy or unhappy. I sprinkle my good phases with activity I enjoy doing. I am better equipped to recognise my difficult phases and deal accordingly. I improve self-care; I try to spend more time in company; I meditate. But the darkness-is-a-friend phases have stuck around and come around as often if not more. However, I do think I have difficulty pulling back on the pretending. I can act as if everything is normal for a long time. Till my body physically cannot do it anymore. Loved ones can enquire if I need anything, and I might never reach out. I have a stubborn independent streak.
Happiness, darkness, light and depression are all friends who visit, stay and leave. My inability to find a balance and project a balance are two different issues that need my attention. I would also like to not isolate myself through the difficult times and reach out to kind, loving, dear ones who want to help.
A lot of progress needs to be nudged into place. I am working on myself as much as possible, each day. That should give me some solace. Or so, I tell myself.