Welcome to our black parade

We’ve been speaking on social media recently about our depression and how bad it’s got. Churchill called it his black dog that followed him around. Sometimes it was small and he barely noticed it. Sometimes it was big. Right now, it’s about the size of a horse and it’s sitting on us. We can’t move or breathe. We call ours The Darkshines, after a Muse song.

For a year, we’ve been struggling. Really struggling. What’s surprised us though, is how very few people noticed. To us, it was obvious. We’ve been moody, angry, confrontational, quiet, unable to have fun and quite frankly, unpleasant to be around. At first, we thought that maybe our masking skills were pretty good. Then we thought “is this how people see us? To them, have we not changed?” Because we no longer recognise ourselves. Maybe The Pretenders were right. Maybe we’re only human on the inside. Whoever these people are that look like us, it’s not us. And we’d like them to leave.

We’ve suffered from depression and social anxiety for twenty years. We’re so used to it, we don’t remember the people we were before it. We sometimes wonder about the people we could’ve been without it, but those people will never exist now. Oh well. They would probably have been dicks anyway. But for the past year, the slide into the worst side of the Darkshines has been rapid and all-consuming. We normally have bouts that will last anything from a few days to a few months. But never an entire year. This is not normal for us. In fact, our depression hasn’t been this bad since we were teenagers. Back then, we were suicidal, self-harming, had a breakdown, and gave up everything we loved doing so we could live in a void of emptiness. It hurt less.

We’ve been living in that void for a year. We recognised the signs and hoped they would go away. We know the Darkshines. If we wait it out, it eventually retracts its talons. We’ve carried on, hanging out with friends, going to exercise classes, doing our usual daily routine, hoping it would pass. Hoping that if we acted like it wasn’t there, it would leave. We self-medicate – exercise is what works for us. Being out in nature, submitting work and doing everything we can to further our career. It all backfired. Cat tore her ankle ligaments in gymnastics and seven months on, it hasn’t properly healed. Our work continuously got rejected. At the beginning of the year, we were getting acceptances. Well, three. That stopped in April.

It got worse. Our therapist died earlier this year from an aggressive form of cancer that took her within four weeks. We thought “everyone else we know can live without a therapist, we’re clearly weak cos we can’t, we’ll prove we can do it.” Forgetting of course that the people we know who live without a therapist don’t suffer from chronic depression like we do. And this angry, empty void is a really shit place to live. We know it’s not weakness to have a therapist, but the Darkshines likes to make us think it is.

We don’t really enjoy anything. We no longer look forward to anything. There was a time when we’d excitedly plan adventures or ghost hunts or even the smallest, random thing would make us happy. Knowing we had a pole lesson coming up would make us happy. It’s gone. We’ve been desperate to travel since last year. We were supposed to be in Rome for our birthday in February. That was the only thing we wanted. And it couldn’t happen. It still hasn’t happened. We now can’t face it. We spend time with our friends and don’t feel like we belong any more (best friends aren’t included in this). We go out after gymnastics and sit there in silence, uploading our videos to social media. We don’t belong there either. We leave feeling empty and wishing we’d stayed at home. Our gymnastics friends have only known us 19 months. So for most of the time they’ve known us, they’ve had to know these horrible imposters. They probably think that’s who we are. Polefit has been the only thing that has brought us a measure of happiness.

And two weeks ago, we couldn’t even face going to class.

That’s when we knew something had to change. When we were kids and teenagers, we were obsessed with horse riding. You know our love for pole. That was our love for horse riding. We were going to be professional riders. And the Darkshines made us give it up. The crash after the high was unbearable. We haven’t ridden since. So when we didn’t want to go to pole, we realised it was time to get help. We’ve come so far, we cannot walk away now. We are not giving up pole.

Unfortunately, we have to wait a month for a GP appointment. This is a big thing for us. We’re not good at asking for help. We’re even worse when admitting how bad we’re feeling, because we don’t want people to know. Hence the masks. We can always tell when we’re not in a good place because we don’t wash our hair. We have short hair. It takes like five minutes. After around three weeks, we will then force ourselves to do it. But depression isn’t about feeling sad. It’s also not being able to do simple tasks. It’s feeling worthless, helpless, angry, tired, overwhelmed, and so fucking guilty about everything. Sometimes, like now, it’s feeling nothing. Then throw in anxiety to the mix. Depression is not wanting to do anything. Anxiety is finding lack of productivity unbearable. Depression is feeling there’s no point submitting work because it will only get rejected. Anxiety is the gnawing feeling that you’re not helping your career goals. Depression is not wanting to go to exercise classes. Anxiety is screaming at you that you won’t be good at pole if you don’t work hard at it. The two sides fight constantly.

Around the time we were told our therapist had died, so did our beloved cat, Spectre. She was 19. She’d been with us through the worst times of our lives since we were 16. And then she was gone. We needed to see our therapist. The hospital didn’t tell us she had died. We’d been trying to get hold of her for a while and it wasn’t like her not to return our phone calls. We only found out because our sister went to the physio department where she worked and at first, they tried to fob her off, until she told them we were her mental health patients, not physio patients. Then they admitted she’d died. That hit us harder than we expected it to and all of a sudden, we felt very alone. We would’ve liked to have gone to her funeral, to say goodbye, to say thank you for helping us. We never got the chance. We don’t even know where she is buried.

There’s been a few times recently where we’ve had enough and can’t face the thought of carrying on. But we’re too fucking stubborn to quit. Our stubbornness is what kept us alive when we were suicidal. People will tell us others have it worse and they do. But depression doesn’t care about that. Also, that sentiment is bullshit and all it does is make depressed people feel even guiltier. It’s like telling people they can’t be happy because others have it so much better than they do. Depression is a disease. It whispers to you, tells you people hate you, tells you you’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough at what what you do, you’ll never be good enough for people, you’re a failure, people only put up with you cos they have no choice, you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re boring, everyone will be better off without you and they won’t even notice you’re gone.

Maybe it’s right.

Maybe it’s wrong. And it doesn’t matter what others say to contradict those thoughts, their voices will never be louder than the Darkshines’. Because as they’re saying this, the Darkshines is whispering in your other ear ‘they’re only saying this to make you feel better. They don’t mean it.’

We find ourselves crying over stupid things. We don’t cry. We’ve never been ones to cry over anything unless it’s the death of one of our animals. We don’t want to hang out with our friends and the Darkshines tells us they wouldn’t miss us if we cut off the friendship. The temptation to withdraw from everyone and revert back to our reclusive selves is getting harder to resist. We don’t have to wear masks when we’re alone. We find ourselves pushing people away. We came very close to quitting writing. When the Darkshines isn’t that bad, rejections don’t bother us, it’s part of a writer’s life, but when the Darkshines is drowning us, each rejection is more proof that we’re shit and quitting will ease the pain. But there’s nothing else we can do. Writing is our life and if we can’t even bear that, something is very, very wrong.

Our warrior trainer, Si, has been really good for us. Despite the abuse we shower him with, we’re so glad he’s in our lives. He understands us. He understands the Darkshines. We signed up because he said it would improve our pole. And it has. But warrior training is more than just hard, physical exercise. It’s about building a mentality for when you’re on the battlefield, and it seems you’re about to be defeated, you have the strength to pick up your sword and keep fighting. We don’t have that strength at the moment, and we really want to drop that  sword, but we know we can’t walk away. So we’re calling in reinforcements.

We’re going to ask for a new therapist. They give you six weeks with one. We don’t trust people easily and it will take longer than that to build a relationship with someone new. But six weeks is all we’ll have, then they’ll cut us off. Yes we can pay for a private therapist, but with what? Tokens from a cereal packet? We doubt they accept Clubcard vouchers. We got lucky with our other ones. We’ve been in therapy for 15 years. We’ve been toying with the idea of going back on antidepressants. We haven’t touched them since we were 17 as we hated how they turned us into zombies. But they don’t prescribe those any more. Coming to that decision has been tough. But right now, we feel there’s no other option. We cannot go on like this. What always worries us is how much will they change us? Will they help us or make us worse? Will they make us even angrier or even more numb? Or will they bring back the version of us we like? We don’t know. But what we do know is we can’t live like this any longer. We do not like the people depression has forced us to become. So in a few weeks, we will ask for therapy and hope they give it to us. And we will ask for medication. It takes around 3 weeks to work. So we’re stuck like this until January or February probably. And they might not even work. It can take months or years to find the right medication.

Then hopefully we’ll be different people.

We don’t know those people yet but we hope they won’t be dicks.

See you on the other side.

9 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Peter Germany's Blog.

  2. Depression is a terrible thing. For what it’s worth though, it can be beaten, or at the very least, beaten back. As ahrd as it can be, hang in there, and you’ll make it through.

  3. Sending hugs. Yes, you’ll probably reject them, but I can’t find the words to say what I’m feeling right now.

  4. A simple and effect technique I use – it worked for me when I was in hell.
    Face yourself in the mirror – are you able to look your image in the eye and have a conversation. If you cannot honestly make normal eye contact, then perhaps you don’t trust yourself.
    I asked my alter image – Who can I trust to get me out of this hole?
    For every negative, your image must reply in the positive, and vice versa.
    it took me a few weeks, but slowly I realised that in this world the real enemy was myself and it was a battle I won.

    Sounds mad, but then I was mentally in a very weird place and perhaps I am still mad, although now I feel happier about it.

    Good luck and best wishes.

    • Thanks 🙂 we do struggle with eye contact but that’s something we’ve had since childhood. Not from not trusting ourselves, but making eye contact with people makes feel very uncomfortable. But you’re right – we are our own worst enemies.

      • As an aside, I enjoyed your book, Deadly Refelctions.
        You maybe be interested in doing an Author interview as a online promotional for your books.
        Gareth is very enthusiastic have a look.
        https://gjstevens.com

      • Thanks, we’ll have a look. We often do author interviews and they’re a lot of fun.

  5. So proud of you girls I have lived with complex ptsd everyday is a mission x say strong girls love nic xx

    • Thanks 🙂 you’re right, every day is a mission. That’s a perfect way of putting it. We’re proud of you too.


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