Depression has been an almost constant companion for over thirty years. For the first dozen (or possibly more) of those, it went undiagnosed; I was simply aware that my mood, which while never especially light, would descend into prolonged dark spells where I would withdraw from the world and become even more reclusive and introverted than I already was.
In my teens, it was easy to dismiss this as part of adolescence; responding to hormonal changes, dealing with the stress of exams and getting the grades I needed for university. Once at university, again it was easy to dismiss as just part of the stresses of academic life, combined with a social awkwardness and general shyness I have when I am around people I don’t know.
After university, it could easily be ascribed to work related stress, having responsibilities such as a mortgage, and then a family. It took being diagnosed with hypothyroidism when I was 28 for the depression to finally be recognised for what it was and for me to start getting help for it.
In the 20 plus years since that diagnosis, I’ve had counseling, I’ve tried CBT, I’ve had the support od community psychiatric services, I’ve even tried hypnotherapy. I have been almost constantly on one type of medication or another since I hit my absolute lowest point in the autumn of 2004. I have had a lot of very dark and bleak days since then and I have shared details of quite a few of them here and on Twitter in the intervening years.
I have been known to joke that I’m not seasonally affected, but that I’m a miserable fucker all year round and, sadly this true. That said, I do find the period from now until the end of they year particularly trying.
As I said, I’m not particularly outgoing, I tend to prefer my own company. I find the additional social commitments that come with the lead up to the year end particularly taxing emotionally. The mask of forced joviality becomes increasingly heavy and harder to maintain as the year draws to its to it’s conclusion. When the festivities draw to a close, and the lights get switched off in early January, there is a degree of cold comfort in that darkest of months; a knowledge that once again I have endured, I have weathered the storm of engaging with my fellows, and that I now have eleven months until it starts again. Of course, during those months, the inevitable cycle of bad times and not so bad times, along with the occasional good time will continue. The roller-coaster ride of emotions goes on day after day, sometimes even hour by hour. Each brief period of light is simply a momentary relief from the darkness into which I will inevitably sink again and again.
The holiday period is one of my least favourite times of year, but, if I’m being completely honest, there aren’t really any times that are actually better. The positive interludes are brief and have to be made the most of; always overshadowed by the fact that these will inevitably reverse, and I will sink below the surface and into the darkness again.
It is a cycle, but not one with any easily discernible pattern or frequency; all that is certain is, that as night follows day, darkness will follow light and, for me, dark is the prevailing state.