When I was in the midst of surviving “by my pen” in London for 5 months between full time roles, I fell into a deep mental void.
At times it was like a great black shadow descended on me, and I couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t do anything. I’d think about how worried I was about one situation or another, or one of the people I was living with at the time (horrible Hephalump Hannah, usually) would make a negative comment about something I was doing, and I’d feel paralysed by fear.
Speaking to a psychologist friend at the time I described what I was feeling. The constant nightmares, the stress, the desperation, and he informed me that what I was describing were the symptoms of clinical depression.
That sparked my brain to an interview I’d seen years ago with JK Rowling, where she described her memories of her depression as inspiring the dementors of Harry Potter. I’d never appreciated before how horridly accurate that description is.
Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.
It’s odd but I’m exceptionally glad I began this blog, as I can look back on the columns I wrote then and remember. Because when I cast my mind back I can’t really recall specifics; it’s all just black memories.
It was a harsh awakening to the realities of mental illness. Part of it is picking yourself up and using your own willpower to make yourself send that application, do that interview, attend that event. But part of it is also needing a little help. Help from family but, possibly more importantly, help from friends.
Friends can be more understanding than family as they are on your level. Often they can see your situation in a more clear light than a family member and approach with greater sympathy and understanding. For the small handful who helped me through what I went through I will always be grateful.
Depression is a foul beast which you can’t know until you’ve been there. Depression is not feeling tired or pissed off. Depression is waking up in the middle of the night to see a demon sitting at the end of your bed and knowing it is coming to get you. Depression is being more terrified than you ever thought possible. Depression is being unable to remember a time you were happy. Depression is wanting to just find a way to end the pain. Depression is the very real consideration of ending your own life.
The only advice I could give about such an experience is to surround yourself with as many positives as possible. Keep moving forward, no matter how hard it seems. Listen to your head and your body sometimes. When it tells you it wants to stick on that crappy movie and stay in with your favourite comfort food, do that. Your brain is putting you through hell when you have depression, so there is no harm giving your body what it wants every now and then.
Because if you are strong you will find the light at the end. In whatever form it manifests itself you can fight through and destroy the foul, evil disease that is depression.
If only it was as simple as conjuring a patronus.