How can you Get A Life when you can't take a shower?

Depression: an outsider's perspective.

Posted Jun 09, 2009

I have lived with Depression for most of my life.

I am lucky.

I have lived with it; it has not lived within me.

It means the difference between being able to get up and walk away. And being stuck with it: day after day after unrelentingly black day. It means the difference between being able to get up in the morning and face a new dawn. And never wanting to get out of bed again.

It means the difference between being able to get on with life and wanting, sometimes, to give up on it altogether.

My mum first got sick when I was thirteen. I know that because your mother's admission to the psychiatric ward of a large unfriendly, sterile-scented, mostly silent, white-walled, hospital is a difficult thing to forget. Besides, I recorded it in squat, childish, carefully executed (testimony to the weighty import of the entry) handwriting in my diary:

My mum has Depression. I hope she gets better quickly and never gets Depression again.

She did. And she still does - almost thirty years later - get Depressed. Again. And again. And again.

My mother's diagnosis has morphed from Depression to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) which means it is both debilitating and stubbornly resistant to the various weapons she has employed in her artillery against it: lithium, assorted SSRIs, ECT, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, fish oils ...

I don't know what MDD or, for that matter, any kind of Depression feels like.

Cold, Mum says, and distancing - you can see life going on all around you but you are rendered quite unable to join in. Like living behind glass, she says.

I only know what it feels like to live with it. It is isolating; as if the short distance between you and the sufferer has been stretched to near breaking point: you can no longer hear them. Nor they, apparently, you; if they could perhaps they would heed your reassurances that life is not as bad as their illness has persuaded them it is.

Depression has detached them. Loose of their anchors, they're in freefall, plummeting to unfathomable depths where they will be quite out of your flailing hands' reach.

You, I, who live with Depression still have the energy to keep grasping, clutching to catch a hold of our slipping loved ones. They, on the other hand, consumed by the Depression which has taken firm residence within often don't have the energy, the enthusiasm, the interest to take a shower.

Only then - when we observe such lassitude in that which we find effortless and automatic (hopping under the shower, having tumbled easily from our beds) - can we begin to understand the dead-weight apathy that suffocates their desire to take active part in the demanding business of living.

About the Author

Anthea Rowan

Anthea Rowan is a British journalist based in Tanzania.

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