Depression isn’t something that just appears. The symptoms manifest themselves quite early on, slowly raising their collective heads as if in acknowledgment of each other. Sometimes you can spot it in the distance heading towards you, slowly gathering speed. Other times they appear suddenly, as if by magic, glaring at you directly in your face.
Everyone is different, everyone has different triggers. I thought I’d try to explain what my signposts are, how I feel as an episode creeps in. I’m not putting them in any order, I’ll just list them as they come to mind. Again, these are mine. Other people might have similar or completely different ones, but here the ones I suffer with to act as a guide.
It can go either way for me. I can start to get sleepless nights or I’ll want more and more (becoming what Sarah joking calls a greedy sleeper). It’s weird as hell for me as I also suffer from extreme sleep apnoea (basically my throat muscles relax that much that they close off my throat and I stop breathing) and have to sleep with a CPAP mask on every night (not as fun as it sounds) so my sleeping schedule tends to see me needing regular sleep patterns. I don’t cope well if I have a good few late nights (I’m often in bed around 10.30) and find that this can really affect my mood. I also often find that as I start a prolonged episode I’ll sleep as much as I can, almost like my body is trying to catch up on missed sleep.
The deeper I get into an episode the more I’ll find myself trying to avoid being around people, including my friends and family. I’ll find excuses not to go to places. Even talking to people can become a monumental task, and I don’t just mean talking to strangers. Everyone. When I do talk it’s quiet and mumbled, like I’m trying not to be noticed and heard. It’s not really a conscious thing, it’s just a sign that I’m trying to dissappear and not leave a footprint anywhere for a while. You’ll find me find me in the house, generally feeling spaced out, losing track of what’s happening. When I do go out I often find myself having panic attacks. Trips to the local shop become hit-and-run affairs. Leaving the house becomes a chore, having to focus myself before even stepping out of the door. At least social media provides a point of contact with the outside world but even then I’ll find myself using it less and less.
Yeah, I know, it sounds pretty obvious. Like I’ve said, I’ll become less sociable. But there’s other sides. I’ll become quite snappy and short tempered, not my usual laid back self. I become a real short tempered, irritable dick. Everything feels like people are having a go about something, I become unforgiving. Everything feels like an argument waiting to happen. I’m not good to be around, it’s almost like subconsciously I’m trying to find reasons and excuses to push people away. The more unlikeable I become the more people won’t want to be around me. Also, my mood will become quite manic. One minute I’ll be giggling over the slightest little thing, the next I’ll be wanting to bury my head in my hands whilst fighting back floods of tears. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster.
Don’t panic, I don’t mean I start cutting myself. There are degrees to this although mine is at a low level, there’s still signs of it. I’ll find myself subconsciously scratching at myself, particularly my hands and fingers, like to trying to get at an ever present itch that just won’t go away. My fingers become targets in other ways too. I’ll find myself gripping at my own fingers, trying to twist then into unusual positions that just aren’t comfortable as if I’m trying to break them. Shopping becomes an excuse to try and lock my fingers around the wire of a shopping basket or trolly, twisting and pulling them, channeling the discomfort I feel out through the extremities of my hands.
Crowds become a living embodiment of the torment my mind puts me through. I’m not keen on them at the best of times but the further I slip into depression the worse they become. There’s a quote attributed to Jean-Paul Sartre that says “hell is other people” that just sums this up for me perfectly. Any kind of crowd seems to trigger a fight-or-flight response inside me that keeps me on edge. I feel like a salmon trying to swim upstream against the current. I often end up having to bail out of anything that has a crowd, and it doesn’t even particularly have to be a large one either. I don’t know if it’s a case of feeling claustrophobic in these cases but I know most of the time I just need to get the hell out of there as quickly as I can.
There are others, but these seem to be my main ones. Everyone who suffers has their own and to different degrees. There’ll be common ones, some that overlap and others that are completely unique to a person. Quite often we’ll be aware of them but we won’t see the signs until it’s too late, until we’ve fallen. But other times we can recognise them and try to head things off before the black dog properly descends on us.
The title of this volume of my blog is from the song “Bad Mother” from the band Therapy? You can find a video of the song here Therapy? – Bad Mother (Live)
As usual, if you want to message me you can drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook, also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s a good place filled with other sufferers of mental illnesses and people who want to help and support others. If you would like to join us just click here. Also, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere where you think it might help.
The Order Of The Dog.