Depression is a Full Time Job.
I decided to take a break from this blog because over the last few months I haven’t been feeling great. Between going home for Christmas, leaving again, the stress of starting a new term and the New York winter things all started to get quite dark. But for the last three weeks I’ve been feeling better. And there are a few ways I know this. I smile more, I watch less TV and I don’t cry every time I see a picture of my cat. But the main reason I know I’ve been feeling better is I suddenly have a lot of free time. I have all this free time because I’ve had the last two weeks off, on holiday, finally taking a break from my unrelenting, full time, 24/7 job of being a person with depression.
Before coming to NYU I spent about a year and a half off school pretty much doing nothing except trying to get better and trying to watch as much Grey’s Anatomy as possible. Around this time a lot of my friends started to take gap years and every time I talked to them about how bored they were suddenly having all this free time off of school I would feel incredibly guilty and full of shame. I had been out of school for years, barely ever leaving my bedroom, and yet I never felt ‘bored’. I felt like I’d spent the last year of my life working harder and doing more than I had ever done and yet my actual, tangible achievements added up to baking a few cakes and a lot of therapy. I couldn’t figure out why I never had any time, why I was always ‘busy’, and yet why I never actually ended up doing anything. I would spend days just wishing I could ‘take a week off’ and have some time to focus and yet taking a week off was pretty much all I had been doing for 52 consecutive weeks.
I was the laziest person I knew, the least achieving one of all my siblings, there were sloth’s who had busier schedules than I did - and yet for an entire year I felt like I barely had a minute to catch my breath.
And I think it’s only now, now that I am feeling a lot better, now that I do have things to do, a (farely) busy life to lead, a schedule, plans, friends and classes, that I’ve finally been able to look back and realise that living with depression, fighting with anxiety, spending every day battling any kind of mental illness is a hellish, agonising, debilitating, full time, around the clock job.
When I was depressed I never got bored because I never had time to be bored. I never had time to do anything. I often talk about how un-motivated I am when I’m in a bad place but I think the reality of my lack of motivation was that I just didn’t have the time. My schedule was full; between panicking and self hating, trying to figure out a new recovery plan and trying to figure out how to avoid my therapists calls, painting my nails (because that was obviously the answer to all my problems) and ignoring my emails, I barely even had time to watch all the TV I needed to get through the day.
At the beginning of this term (I still refuse to call it a semester) I began to fall behind on my work. I would spend my days lying in bed or lying on the floor or just pretty much lying anywhere and then get to class and realise I just hadn’t had time to do my homework. But the last few weeks have been better, a lot better, better than the ‘better’ bits have ever been before. I think when you’ve been struggling with something for a long time you begin to get so tired and angry at the up and down cycle of it all that you just want to give up. But the truth is (and I never believe it until it’s actually happened) that every time I have another dark patch, the bit after it is brighter than any bit before it ever was.
I don’t really know what I’m trying to say. Except that I’m back. To blogging and writing and baking. And that if you are going through something like this, anything like this, or if you know anyone who is - remember that it’s not just a struggle - it’s work, really hard, gruelling work, but work that you need to focus on, and excuse yourself for. Depression and anxiety take time to heal and they take time to go through and they take up more of your time than you would ever wish something this horrible could. I never believed anyone when they told me things would get better. So I don’t know why anyone would believe me. But I think things will, and do, get better, for all of us. And if not, let’s all just be particularly grateful that Grey’s Anatomy hasn’t been cancelled and that Friends is on Netflix.
Love Scarlett. x
Stock image photo of woman at work from here.