The Functioning Depressive
I have this dream that one day I’ll live in a cabin in the woods with a wraparound porch, where I’d sit sipping whisky and smoking a cigar in my dressing gown. This is my desire to actually turn into an all American granddad, an odd one I admit for a 20-something British lass.
I’ve been picturing it more and more lately, swimming in lakes, running up mountains shutting myself off from the world and all of its interferences. It’s been no secret that I’ve had a tough few months managing situations and my wellbeing. This dream is the introvert in me screaming for quiet when all I’ve felt is noise.
Sometimes I catch myself in the mirror and wonder how others must view this reflection. For the most part I’ve mastered the skill of functioning in my own skin; but I wonder if people know how much I have to consciously think about this, how much I think about everything? I might make a joke, or tell a story and maybe people laugh and I feel relieved that I’ve made it through that challenge of being the funny light hearted Clare. Or I make the perfect point in that meeting and I can sleep knowing I’ve done my bit as the competent professional Clare.
Then there are the days, far to frequent recently, where I don’t tick any of the boxes that my outer shell requires of me; when I feel like I’m not doing anything well. Then this skin begins to feel incredibly uncomfortable, like I’ve actually borrowed it from someone else, someone more deserving of it, and any second now I’ll get called out. That’s the child left behind from my 10 year relationship with depression/anxiety and like any good parent I have to pay attention and nurture it into something better. Else it may turn into a delinquent youth hell bent on causing havoc (in my mind).
This is what functioning is for me and I don’t think I’m alone amongst the many functioning ex/depressives. It’s our truth below the often polished exterior of a job, life, home, ambitions and dreams. You see because we’ve lived it all, the ugliness and darkness; we understand all the highs, lows, pitfalls, and now we know it like an old friend.
I unfortunately will never be able to experience the whimsically care-free life I lust over. I have to carefully monitor all of these thoughts and moods that wash in with the tide, and the stones and shiny objects that are left behind.
This really is somewhat of an impossibility for people who haven’t lived through depression to understand. That feeling that you don’t fit anything that seems such a perfect fit for everyone else. That you’re fine, functioning, productive and even happy! Whilst at the same time being on an ever crumbling cliff edge, occasionally taking one step back to avoid the fall.
After years of perfecting what my normal is, I’ve grown to be ok with this, and I’m so glad it’s so difficult for people to understand. I wouldn’t wish those feelings on anyone, not even to experience them second hand.
I remind myself often that it’s ok that I am different, that my life experiences have altered my wiring, and that I experience things in a different way. I remind myself that doing my best every day is enough, and from day to day my best may change, and may be simply just showing up.
There are always going to be times when the cabin in the woods is calling my name, when I feel like I’m losing control of my suit of armour, and when I’m worrying about everything and nothing and all that infuriating blank space in between! In these moments I remember how many times I’ve walked this road, and although each time it bends in different ways, the scenery remains so familiar. There is some kind of comfort in that, comfort that I know this route, and at the end of it i’m stronger.