The Desire to Go Deeper Down: The Meaning Behind 'I'll Walk Into Your Parlour' Part 1
Depression plays the long game. It doesn't have to rush. Gradually chipping away at a person's defences is its modus operandi. Its long-term strategy against me was so effective that as it reached its ultimate goal it actually enlisted my services. I'll explain:
If you've read my previous entries in this series then you might have guessed that by a certain point I was deep into severe depression. What you might not have guessed is that I was enjoying it. Yes, enjoying it. And so we reach the meaning of this painting:
Now this is not the sort of enjoyment that you may get from seeing your favourite football team score against local rivals, or from eating a really gorgeous sprout covered in mustard and gravy, or indeed the pleasure derived from blaming a sneaky trump on a small child and getting away with it.
No, it was an odd, perverse enjoyment. The key to this enjoyment comes from the foundations that the depression had patiently built up over time.
Let's imagine a scenario: Bob lives down the street from you. He seems like a nice enough fellow, pleasant to talk to and is good to his mother. Terry is another of your neighbours, a trustworthy type of guy. Terry often talks to you about Bob. "Often" is an understatement. He talks to you about Bob constantly. If you're not distracted by something else, Terry's there, popping up and telling you all about Bob. And what Terry has to tell you is not good. Bob is a bad chap. He's worthless. Everyone who knows him hates him. Bob is the lowest piece of scum that ever dribbled off the underside of a rancid hummus machine (is there any other type of hummus machine?). Terry tells you about Bob constantly for months and months filling your mind with his vile invective.
But the logic is simple: Terry is trustworthy - you believe that completely - therefore Bob is evil.
The next step is to pretend that all human compassion has been surgically removed from your brain. Okay? Done that? Then let's continue.
Now imagine the pleasure that would be derived from watching someone as completely irredeemable as Bob suffer. How delicious that would be? Mmmmm...
Back to reality. As you have probably guessed, Bob and Terry were parts of my psyche. Bob was my self-perception and Terry was the depression taking control of my inner monologue and constantly telling me how bad I was. The depression also removed any form of compassion for myself. It's not that surprising to find out that I enjoyed my own suffering.
Now let's take another logical leap: if I enjoyed my own suffering then surely going even further down would give me even more pleasure. It makes sense. In an odd, perverse kind of way.
And so I set off on a journey to see just how deep I could go, to see just how severely depressed I could become. What does this look like? How can you envisage this mental process? Well, for me, it had a physical component, one that was visible to anyone with a secret drone spy-cam. I would lie down on the floor. Anywhere on the floor. It could have been in the kitchen, bathroom, hallway, living room or even in the smoking room.
Okay, I don't have a smoking room. That was a lie. A fantasy maybe. If I smoked that is. Anyway, you get the idea. I would lie down wherever I happened to be and just lie there. For a long time.
Some people may think that lying down on the floor for long periods of time doesn't sound that bad. On its own, it's not. But it was accompanied by severe mental pain. The best way to describe it is as being surrounded by a thick fog that exerts tremendous pressure on your mind accompanied by constant repetitive thoughts of how awful you are. The mental pain was different to the worst physical pains that I've felt which have tended to be sharp and unendurable. This pain was dull, ever present and intense. It was also unbearable.
“We don’t even ask happiness, just a little less pain.” ― Charles Bukowski
There was another component mixed into this: the depression told me that being on the floor was safe. It would relieve the pain. If I could sink into the floor, let myself dissolve away, everything would be okay. In reality, all it did was make me suffer even more. It gave me no escape route. I had no inclination to do anything that may give me positive pleasure or even distract me from the pain. Lying on the floor as an escape was a dead-end that served only to take me further down, which is exactly what the depression wanted.
Yet miraculously, I still managed to get myself to work without fail. I think there was a small part of my brain that was fighting for me. It knew that if I had a day off work, I would spend the majority of my time on the floor. I would never go back to work and that would be the end of me.
In writing this, I'm trying to unpick what was happening in my brain during these times and I'm making everything sound logical and neat. But in reality, everything was a huge gloomy mess. Making sense of what was happening while I was deep into depression was impossible. Even with support from a ninja depression master, I don't think that I would have worked out what was going on in my head. If everything was clear it would be easier to fight and depression doesn't want that. It's got an end-game like many other physical illnesses and this will be explored in the final painting of the series.
I'll finish on a positive note. During the times detailed above, I never thought that I would get better and yet I haven't partaken in any floor-hugging antics in the last four years or so. As I've written before, this doesn't mean that I'm cured - I'm going to be on my guard against depression for the rest of my life - but it does mean that I've taken steps that have helped me. If this extreme mental pain returned I would at least have some knowledge of the depression's methods and aims, that might allow me to fight back. It's a bit like fighting a boss battle in one of these new fangled computerised videographical games: the first time you go up against it, you've got no idea what's happening and it hammers you into submission, the next time you enter the battle armed with information and a chance to beat it. And in hopeless times a chance means hope, which has to be a good thing.
For Part 2, Click Here.
In my next post, I'll look at how all of the above fits in with my painting 'I'll Walk Into Your Parlour'. See you next time!
I'd be interested to know whether this post has developed your knowledge of mental health issues or whether you have had a similar experience. Let me know in the comments.