How Depression Destroys Relationships: My Interpretation of 'Skin the Shine of the Rain' Par
This post deals with a subject that I found very difficult to write about. It is a serious subject but - as I have a tendency to do - I've added in some humour to make it more palatable (and easier for me to write). So I'm not being flippant, it's how I cope with these issues.
To the outside world, when I suffer from severe depression I seem my perfectly normal self, well... as normal as I get. Which isn't very, considering my predilection for strange obscure films and my penchant for watching twenty-four hour board gaming sessions on YouTube (courtesy of The Dice Tower). My relationships with acquaintances and colleagues can appear perfectly normal too. As for friends, I've already written about my desire to isolate myself in my interpretation of 'Welcome' (read it by Clicking Here), but I don't think that they would suspect depression was the cause.
In fact, if I didn't tell you that I was severely depressed then it is very probable that you wouldn't even suspect it.
And yet, if I do tell you, then you will face the full force of the depression, much akin to a murky dark torrent of freezing cold water drawn up from the deepest depths of the ocean and blasted at you with ten times the force of the strongest water cannon. Oh, and the water's full of ten pound lump hammers. And razor blades. (Metaphorical ones of course.) I'm not sure why it's only the people who know about the state of my mental health who get battered. Maybe it's because I can show how I'm really feeling at that time. Which is not a pretty sight.
So, funnily enough, I've tended to keep it to myself.
My wife has taken the brunt of this force. I don't know how she's dealt with it. Depression destroys relationships. Or at least it tries its best to.
Here's how it went about it in my case:
It convinced me that I was worthless and a whole host of other negative traits such as villainy and fiendishness.
My social interaction was reduced as I isolated myself (more than usual for my unsociable self) and withdrew from life.
The pleasure I gained from hobbies and other activities was lost. I mean can you imagine how bad it must be to watch 'The Wicker Man' and not get any pleasure? Don't answer that.
And depression left me hopeless. The way I was feeling was never going to change.
You can imagine how hard it must be for a person who lives with someone who has severe depression. A broken leg is generally solvable: go to A&E, get a pot put on it (or whatever other medical treatment is needed), lounge around for a while watching 'The Rockford Files', remove pot, do a cheeky skip, hooray! Problem solved. Depression is not quite so simple. What can you do that solves the problem? What do you say? What about "Come on, cheer up, it may never happen." or " I don't know what you're moping about, there are people in the world with far worse problems than you."? Erm, no. Don't say those things. It's an illness and not something that you can simply snap out of. I'll write another post on how to deal with a depression sufferer in the near future, just realise the difficulties faced by not just the person with depression but also those surrounding him or her. For now though, let's continue with our look at depression's battle plan for severing relationships.
Once the depression had laid the groundwork detailed above, embedding it into my day-to-day life, it popped this logical little gem into my head: if I'm that horrendous a person then everyone would be better off without me.
It's hard to argue with the logic. Well, it was for me at the time. Now that I'm free of its influence, I can quite happily argue with the first part of the statement though. But when I was in the thick of it, I 100% believed that statement. My mind works in a fairly black and white mode normally, but with depression it's taken to an extreme. (For more on this Click Here for my interpretation of 'The Insidious Whisper'.) At times like this, I become a computer, dealing only with 1s and 0s. Binary is my language of choice. So just like a computer, I followed the logic blindly.
Seizing the upper hand, depression encouraged me to start doing and saying hurtful things, so that my wife would see me for what I really was. Now you have to understand that normally I am pretty sneaky and a big liar. Oh, that doesn't sound good does it? So I'll add this caveat: I'm sneaky and a big liar when it comes to good things, like surprise birthday presents for example. Phew, that's better. But depression is incredibly resourceful and it turned this sneaky lyingness (don't bother checking, it is a real word) into a much darker form of manipulation.
All of the above makes the whole process sound incredibly clear and calculated, but when I was living through it, it was anything but. A huge gloomy blurry fugged up mess is what it was. The opposite of incredibly clear in fact. I was certainly aware of why I did some things, and completely oblivious to why I did others. Looking back, I was a puppet of the depression and my subconscious.
No, that's not quite right. If I had been a puppet then I would be absolved of all guilt. Being a puppet means that all control is taken away. And that's not the case. Let me try again: we've all seen films where a pleasant fellow gets bitten by a werewolf and then goes on a rampage, killing his wife in the process, or maybe a film where a lovely lady gets bitten by a zombie and then chomps on her neighbour's dog, or when a demon inhabits the heroine and gets her to do heinous evil things (like repeatedly dropping pencils on a piece of concrete so that when they're sharpened, the lead constantly breaks off). Okay, maybe you haven't seen those types of films, but you get the idea. Let's take the werewolf idea as an example. Now let's say that after all of the wife savaging unpleasantness, he pops off to the werewolf clinic and gets cured. That's exactly how it felt for me when I finally came out of my depression. Yes, it was me inside my head doing and saying all of those things but it was a heavily modified, confused and manipulated version of me.
The guilt is still there - the werewolf idea isn't a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card - but now that I am able to feel a marked change in my thought patterns and behaviours, it suggests the illness has a lot to answer for.
As I said, I don't know how my wife dealt with all of this. But she did. And I'm eternally grateful to her for sticking with me. I'm glad that she could see through the illness to recognise that I was still in there somewhere. Hidden away and beaten down, but still in there. And now that I'm feeling a lot better, I'm able to cause her hassle in different ways, like constantly plying her with cups of tea until she becomes all tead out*, or by forcing her to watch Werner Herzog films, or by playing her a lovely bit of LFO. Hooray!
In the next post, I'll finally get around to filling you in on how this all fits into my painting 'Skin the Shine of the Rain'. See you then.
*'Tead out' is the feeling you get when you've drunk far too much tea and you can't face another cup, a feeling I rarely get.