Staring into the abyss (written by Amy)
BLOG TAKE OVER
I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.
**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**
Thank you Amy for your openness in ‘take over 1’
When I was little, I’d have a recurring nightmare where a malevolent force, an invisible dementor, would enter my childhood living room and levitate me away. I was paralysed, I was mute, I couldn’t call for help. I always woke before I found out what terrible thing it wanted from me, but I knew it wasn’t friendly. The nightmare would morph into different forms. In one, it took my mother away, swallowing her up in a sink in a burning hot room. I was four when I had that one. In another, it became a giant eye in the window, watching me and my brother. But as I encountered the nightmare over and over again, I gave up being frozen with terror. As soon as I felt that invisible force coming to get me, that malign manifestation intent on taking me away from all that was familiar and safe, I surrendered instead of trying to fight it. I gave in, letting myself be consumed by whatever it was. It could do its worst. I always woke up safe in my bed.
Now, after many years of suffering on and off from vile depressions that started in my teenage years, I see that the nightmares were almost a premonition of how the illness, and how I deal with it, would evolve. I learned to recognise it coming. I’d feel it as a creeping spectre, growing in strength. Easy enough to ignore at first; surely it won’t be as bad this time? Surely it will leave me alone? But it never did. It always grew, getting bigger as the vast dementor crept up on me, pushing me to stand at the edge of a colossal abyss. The inevitability of it so exhausting, knowing what’s in store, and that each time, this could be the one to break me.
Those recurring patterns occurred throughout school, then university, then work, then after my babies were born, as I tried to behave like a ‘normal’ person who gets up in the morning without having to first negotiate the crippling feeling of dread that is the depressive’s breakfast in bed. A ‘normal’ person who can simply get showered, dressed, and leave the house without feeling exhausted before you’ve put your shoes on. But each time, as I felt myself tipping over into the abyss, as the dementor shoved me closer with its creeping cold fingers, a small voice told me that I would see daylight again. That I would survive. That I would wake up safe in my bed again.
I had a lot of low points, but the worst came at a time when I thought I was cracking this ‘normal’ person thing. I was 35, a mum with two young kids, working part-time as a website editor with a great bunch of people. Then that part of me that always drives me to push myself further decided I could do better than this. That the balance I’d achieved after many years of striving needed to be tested. So I applied for, and was offered, a position as editor of a membership magazine for a major UK charity. This was my big break since qualifying as a journalist a decade before while pregnant with my first child. I was nervous, but I could do this, just like a ‘normal’ person. I ignored that part of me that was warning me that this time, I might be pushing myself a bit too hard.
The last day came, out for leaving drinks with my fabulous team. I’d miss them but my career must come first. On the way home, a nightmare journey that should have taken one train and a taxi ride but turned into train cancellations and replacement buses that took four hours, I was attacked by a drunk woman. She’d been yelling her head off in the bus, annoying everyone, and I asked her to please keep the noise down. I shouldn’t have done that. As I stood up to get off the bus at Brighton station, she appeared behind me, then kneed me in the back all the way down the stairs. Outside, I moved away from her as fast as I could, heading for the taxi rank as she and her mates yelled abuse. As I got in the taxi, she rushed forwards and slammed the door on my head. I fell into the taxi, confused and shocked, and he drove away. No one called the police. I suffered a concussion. Then it didn’t get better, but I was starting the new job in a week. So I carried on, acting like a ‘normal’ person, while post-concussion syndrome took hold, leaving me confused and anxious, unable to string a thought together for more than a few seconds. The depression dementor, strengthened by my weakened state, pushed me towards the abyss. I took leave from the dream job, explaining what had happened. “But you seem so normal!” said my boss. I’ve always been good at hiding it.
I realised I couldn’t go back. As I lay curled up in the dark, no one was able to reach me. I was being taken away again. It came to a head one night as I sat on the floor by my bed, sobbing, calculating if I had enough paracetamol in my bedside drawer to do the job. I could feel the dementor opening the drawer, inviting me to fall into the abyss. I thought of my children and I got up and walked away. I recovered by nurturing myself and my loved ones by obsessively cooking for them to satisfy the part of me that still had to achieve something every day. The dementor lost strength as mine grew. And I woke up safe in my bed again.
It hasn’t broken me. Each time I am better prepared for all that it can throw at me. Because it will happen again, I know that. But I also know I’ll come out the other side. And so will you.