Depression is a screen that’s formed in front of me. I’m not sure what it’s made out of. Sometimes it seems like paper, sometimes rubber, sometimes concrete. My life is on the other side of the screen. So if I want to live my life – live it properly, healthily and enjoyably – I need to somehow get through the screen.
But right now I can’t get through.
Often, I can tear a little hole, poke my face through, and get something that I want. Perhaps a walk, or some Pilates, or an afternoon with a friend. But I can’t fit the rest of my body through the hole I’ve made, and I’m not strong enough to make the space bigger. I withdraw my head, but when I try again the next day the hole has closed over, and I have to rip it open again. I’ve realised that if I want to keep the hole open permanently, or even make it bigger, I’m going to have to keep picking and picking at it, working every day. But surely I’ll never find the strength to do that? Surely I’ll never have the patience. I’m impatient, sometimes I just punch my way through. It’s risky, I frequently cut myself on the jagged edges, I’m getting more and more scars – and usually, as soon as I’ve removed my hand, the hole closes straight back over.
Then some days I can’t break the screen at all. If I pick at it, I break my nails. If I hit it, I break my bones. I’ll want to get dressed, or feed myself, or write, or talk to somebody, but the screen simply won’t let me. I’ll hardly be able to move or speak. I slam my hands against the stone, again and again, but it stays solid. I scream, but nobody on the other side hears me. I can hear them, calling to me, but I can’t reply, my voice just echoes on this side. I fall to the floor, bruised and fractured, dizzy and aching and scarred.
On the worst days, I’ll push and I’ll push and the wall will start to give, start to stretch. I’ll flex it out like elastic, but I won’t be able to break it. Sometimes the wall will mould so well to my body that it’ll seem like I’m through. I can even try to do the things I want to do. I look like me in the world, but on closer inspection, there’s the filmy, waxy coating of the screen still on me. My hands are slippery, and everything falls through my fingers. The people on the other side try to help me, but they can’t rip the surface either, and soon their attempts will just be too painful. So eventually I’ll give up, and let the screen hold me. I’m swinging face down in a rubbery hammock. Just about able to see the world through the stretched surface, but not quite able to get through. And I’m suffocating.
Header: sunset behind poplars near my garden, Cornwall, spring 2012.