If it’s broke…

“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on
Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'”
– Leo McGarry, The West Wing

This post is likely to be incoherent. It’s likely to be one I won’t advertise widely, mostly because anything people have to say has already been said. And what I’m writing about hurts. I pretend it doesn’t, because I know I have to be tough to hold it all together. If I admit how much it really aches in the depths of my chest, I might not ever claw myself away from the inevitable darkness that follows.

I have been clinically diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. It’s been with me for years, almost as long as I’ve had memories to recall. It gets bad and then it gets good. I have medication that seems to work then fails miserably to catch me as I flail past on a plummet to rock bottom. My family and friends all know about it, and if they didn’t, they do now.

Trying to describe the disorder is as straight forward as reading hieroglyphs without the Rosetta stone. Other than a convenient catch all phrase to make it easier to categorise me, it’s a pretty meaningless descriptor for something that’s eating away at the core of my being with more efficacy than any cancer could. It sounds bad, but it’s non-specific, and lacks any sense of accuracy. When I ask ‘What is wrong with me?’, I’m met with a shrug and and clinical garble.

Services for someone like me, an introvert painfully afraid of social situations and lacking any kind of self-confidence, are limited where we live. I am treated by one of only two psychiatrists responsible for the mental health of a patient population rivalry a small city. To get to my doctor, it takes a 4 to 5 month wait and a 4 hour return drive. It costs $200+ for a half hour meeting, that cannot in my humble opinion even begin to scratch the surface of my troubles, and inevitably sees me leaving with another prescription for an increased dose of the same expensive medication. I won’t see or hear from that doctor again for months. I can’t book last minute appointments when I’m having a depressive episode, I can’t change my appointment if circumstances change.

My referring GP hasn’t had a progress report from this doctor in the 2 years I have been trekking out to see him, and needless to say, my GP and I are less than impressed. Despite the seemingly poor care from my specialist, I do have a great GP, and he has been nothing but accommodating and helpful since I came to him a wreck, despite the 400mg of medication I shovel down my throat each day.

I had then, and I have now, reached the end of my rope.

I feel broken. I feel empty. I feel like a ghost. I feel as though the world is full to brimming with people who love and care deeply for me, but none of them can see or hear me. I am trapped under feet of dark water and they have no idea I’m down here.

My body is beginning to break under the strain. My bowel is hyper sensitive and literally turns itself into knots because of the stress. Any injury i sustain takes an age to heal, if it ever does at all. My hand, injured in a rather innocuous household incident, has been crippled for over a month now. Writing, typing, driving, cleaning, cooking – everything my life revolves around – are impossible without great physical pain. It varies from agonising aches and searing stabs to minute niggles here and there. Painkillers don’t work, and I’m hesitant to try anything too strong. We all know what happens when the despondent turn to chemicals to ease their many pains.

I eat everything and yet hardly eat at all. I’ve stopped drinking because I embarrass myself more than I can bear and the stuff gives me relfux – another condition I suspect hails from my mental state. It’s utterly shameful to admit the gross impact all this has on my marriage, but there it is. For years I’ve struggled to understand why my husband still likes me, let alone loves me or finds me attractive. How he can stand to live in a home haunted by this black beast of an illness, I don’t know, but I suspect the cracks in the paster are beginning to show. So often I wonder if he wouldn’t be better off without me. At least then he could find a girl who has what he needs, not simply endless needs he must fulfil.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about dying. I’m too chicken for that. But I’d happily leave the people I love in peace and go live in a cave if it meant they were spared the awful burden of my sullen moods and dour melancholy. I heard it said once, ‘Depressed people don’t laugh’, and they don’t; at least, not for real. They might smile slightly and look up as though enthralled. They might even for a moment have that old sparkle in their eye, fired by true enjoyment, but all too soon it fades and they sink back to a blank stare and a still mouth. I’m not all that good company and I never have been. Friends have never been my forte, and often those I come to trust turn away; some silently, others leaving a trail of tears.

It’s all very self absorbed, of course, which leads the mind back to self doubt and hatred.

“No wonder no one likes you, all you talk about is yourself. You have nothing interesting to say, so why speak.”

“You have nothing to offer this relationship except an emotional and financial burden.”

“You are nothing but a drain on your family and your friends. The only reason your family stick around is because they feel obligated to.”

My heart says those things aren’t true, but my unruly head, full of know-it-all and twisted logic, says otherwise.

I don’t want to be this person any more, and frankly it’s hardly what anyone would call ‘life’. It’s a prison built of flesh, its inmate subject to an endless torturous barrage. I won’t live like this and I can’t pretend to be ‘Ok’ any longer. I want something better than this and I want to do what it takes to get there.

I’m assembling a team of professionals around me, calling all my battalions to arms. There are wolves at the door, too many for me to defeat alone, but never would there be so many that surrender becomes an option.

Surrender is NOT an option. Fighting might be painful and bloody, leaving me with wounds and scars, marking me for life, but the alternative is far worse. I won’t surrender, I won’t give in. I will stumble and I will fall, but I will not remain beaten.

Soon, when I am asked, “R U Ok?”, I will answer “Yes”, and mean it.






3 thoughts on “If it’s broke…

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  1. I hope that by the time you read this you still have the metaphorical “fire in the belly” to continue taking on your challenge for yourself and that the inflammatory fire in the belly will shrink as your determination overtakes it and crowds it out! Good for you!
    Obviously you are attractive and have everything your husband needs or he wouldn’t have chosen to be with you. People love you for YOU and everything that means. That’s what marriage is. We all have flaws, weaknesses, physical vulnerabilities and emotional buttons waiting to be pushed. We also all have gifts, talents, beauty and passions. That’s part of the whole package of a personality. Everyone has dark places and everyone has carefree places. There can’t be one without the other – it’s like yin and yang. Rest assured that you are loved in your entirety, for everything that you are, the good and the not-so-good, because that is what true love is.
    I hope that you can quieten those demons and appreciate your lovability while focussing on your passions.

  2. I clicked on this cos I’ve been watching (and loving) The West Wing lately and is recognised the quote. I’m so sorry that things are and have been so hard for you, Alicia. It’s also really horrible to know that you’re in a situation where the help you’re looking for is difficult to get to – I’m really happy to hear, however, that you have a great GP. One of the things that I found really great when I was struggling with anxiety/daily panic attacks was an app called SuperBetter. You can use it online for free or pay for the app and it is incredibly good for building resilience and helping with difficult mental health issues. I don’t know if it’s possible for you to move closer to more health care professionals but that might help?

    I just wanted to send a hug (hug!) and let you know that I would be happy to have a chat or whatever if you ever need one. It was a real honour and a privilege to meet you at GenreCon and to have read your work after that.

    I really hope that things improve for you. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things, so good luck.

    Eliza also sends her love!

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