The Thinnest of Skins

Recovery and Serenity can be as fleeting as clouds

I think that I let my guard down and became lax – lackadaisical that is; carelessly lazy. I let a couple of months of respite from the roller-coaster ride I have been on for the last number of years, lull me into a sense of full recovery.

I thought that the calm sense of nothingness was the new normal and meant that I was finally on top of my game. I was over my depression and anxiety. It was all under control.

The truth of the matter is that you don’t have to dig deep to find it lurking beneath my skin. In fact, you only have to just scratch the surface.

It creeps in surreptitiously, perhaps starting as a niggle about an upcoming event, one that you have agreed to attend but want to avoid at all costs; an event that your inner introvert is crying out that it can’t manage to get through. Then there is another event and then another and your child’s birthday on a tight budget, when you are used to splurging on the celebration. The time spent wondering if your “baby” will resent you for spending so little in comparison to past years. If your efforts will meet the grade that you set for yourself in your head. If you will disappoint them.

The icing on the cake is when carefully laid plans for a house move fall apart, coupled with a minor work stress. You wake up one morning and realise that for a month, the nagging feeling and shallower-than-normal breathing is actually your depression back. Eating is a chore; shopping for food is a chore; in fact everything is a chore. You are tired, so tired, every night. But sleeping is giving yourself permission to escape all this. So I don’t go to sleep. The voice of castigation resounds through my head. It tells me how I don’t measure up and how I let people down and how I expect too much of others when not doing enough myself and how doing things for myself is selfish and that I should be putting my family and friends first and how going to sleep is a pleasurable thing and that I don’t deserve such pleasure.

The voice of reason whispers that I need to sleep to heal. It says that I need to do things for myself to fill up my own cup too. But it gets drowned out by the shouts of how ridiculous those ideas are. That I just need to grow up and act like an adult instead of a self-indulgent child. I already have a crutch in the form of medication – such a sign of weakness not being able to control my own mental stability. Pathetic.

The most pathetic thing of all is that it just takes a few things to scrape off the veneer of recovery from my past. Beneath, there is all the darkness, lurking and beckoning. It feels so easy to just slip from the edge to the familiar warmth of the dark places. The allure of hiding from the world and not dealing with it. Cocooning under my blanket with mug after mug of tea, watching the changing light and shadows on the wall as morning turns to afternoon to night. Cancelling everything and not seeing anyone, not even my children, seems so appealing. Days feel like wading through a thick swamp – you can’t easily get one leg in front of the other and as you try to move forward, you get pulled back by reeds and your feet and legs catch on roots and grasses. Try as you might to clear it, your brain is stuck in its own pea-soup fog, so you can’t even plot a course out.

I was offered extra medication this week. It crossed my mind that I could accept the prescription and start a stockpile. The urge to say yes was so strong, but I blurted out that I couldn’t have that temptation in my draw. When I am teetering on the edge of full on depression, it takes everything I have to just stay on top and not sink. Once I let go and immerse myself, then it is a long haul back. It calls me though; asks me why I am bothering to fight it; I won’t win. I never win. I may as well resign myself to my fate.

Yet that little whisper, that quietest of voices, provides a small spark that keeps me in abeyance – not wallowing in happiness but just afloat, bobbing millimetres above the dark. Looking down on it, but kicking up just a little, hoping that I can feel settled, even for a short time, to grow a thin veil of skin over the darkness, enough to allow me to rest and catch my breath before the next onslaught.

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