Why I (try to) recover

People might be wondering why I'm so damn happy for a depressive. The answer, apart from my being an anomaly in the universe and just generally bad at being a human being, is going through recovery.

And then people might wonder why I try to recover, where I find the strength to not just give up and die already.

Despite months of therapy, I'm still not sure I could give anyone a straight answer to that. Sleep, decent diet, and having less pressure on me (although my term's just started, so hello stress) all help, but they're not the main things. Actually, at times I've not been quite sure how the hell I made it through the last few months; I think my partner and family were basically dragging me by the hair through each day. Perhaps the one thing I could say is that at the time, I was very desperate; feeling like a dead, rusted machine and being ripped apart by psychogenic pain does tend to pull you out of your comfort zone a little, and it also tends to make you panic slightly and want to do something about it.

One of the problems I feel I've got to address is that of confusing misery with profundity, because I think a lot of people either feel that misery is profound and happiness is shallow (a trend being reversed with the emphasis on relentless positivity, though) or they think that all miserable and depressed people feel that way and are doing this for attention. That's certainly the impression that I got growing up, anyway: that sadness is profound and happiness is fake, childish, immature. It makes recovery more difficult, because I sometimes feel a little like I'm selling out, and it also makes me worry that people won't trust me if I'm too happy.

So, for anyone wondering if recovery is just a neverending stream of rainbows and ponies: Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Hahahahaha. No. If you're unlucky, you'll have to fight even to get help and persuade people that you're not okay, that this is not just a phase, that you are actually ill. That is probably the worst part of the process; you'll have to struggle constantly and resist other people's attempts to invalidate your experience. If you're like me and went untreated for years, you will somehow have to find the motivation to get out of bed, shower, dress, eat, get out of the house and explain your problems to various professionals while wanting to starve and die curled up in your own filth. (I know I'm being vulgar, but depression is not a pretty illness at all.) And this is why early treatment is so important - because you start off feeling worse than you did before. If you're already at your nadir, this does not bode well.

Another thing is that recovery can feel really weird. My depression kicked in when I was about 13 and I didn't really have a chance to see what being mentally healthy was like, so I was crying and nervous and wondering what it would feel like. Even now, when I feel better and I have a lot of good days, I still have trouble pinning down what health feels like and imagining life without guilt or self-hate.

Perhaps the easiest way to explain health is as an absence of something. Depression is a little like someone putting a giant lead weight inside your body as you're swimming. It hurts so much, and it pulls you down, and you find yourself drowning even as you strain every muscle in your body to break the surface of the water. And in the end you just give up and sink slowly to the bottom...

...Now recovery is if someone slashed your body open with no anaesthetic and took that lead weight out. Recovery is difficult and it hurts like hell sometimes - I've lost count of how many times I've cried in front of my therapist. I'm only lucky I don't take any medication. It hurts because you have to think back on everything that hurt you and work out why you are the way you are. And that's not easy. In fact, like swimming back up to the surface in that analogy after you're already exhausted, it's fucking knackering.

It feels good to be able to swim again, but you may still have setbacks and relapses. It hurts finding out there are things you can't do for the time being, or finding out that things you used to be able to do but found difficult are almost impossible. And every setback can feel like the depression's coming back again, this time forever.

So I wouldn't be surprised if you asked why the hell I'd try to do such a crazy thing as subject myself to all that pain in the name of recovery, when I could just stick to the pain I already know and die of despair. And I'd be more than happy to answer you.

I'm sick and tired of the pain of depression and I'm sick and tired of failing suicide attempts. I'm sick and tired of being scared that I'll lose everything to my illness. I'm sick and tired of constant pain. I'm sick and tired of wanting to give up and lie in the gutter all the time. I'm sick and tired of having my emotions fucked up. I'm sick and tired of being a prisoner of my own mind.

And I would rather take a chance on being able to deal with these things, even if it brings me pain, than on doing nothing knowing I can't deal with it on my own and that it'll just get worse.