For me depression isn’t just an illness, it’s also a mask. It hides behind smiles and laughter just as easily as tears. I’ll never be one to tread the boards or quote the bard, but my mental health, when it’s in decline, does turn me into a performer of sorts; an illusionist. For a long time I presented what I thought people expected from me and hid the rest. I was Golum with his ring, it was my secret.
The only person that saw through the two-way mirror was my husband. I had tried for so long to battle it on my own for fear of others’ reactions. But eventually we all reach a tipping point, I lost two babies, my father, my health, and the scales weighed against me. The house won.
In that dark time It felt as though not just the mirror was cracking, but the very foundations of my soul. The skin that covered me felt stretched too taut, liable to fray.
With a bad decision came a moment of truth. I can’t remember the words as I was still under the fog and the mania which it had cultivated was only just receding, but I do remember saying I can’t do this anymore and my husband resolutely assuring me that I could, and that I wouldn’t be on my own.
For me great communication is often best applied in listening than speaking. In those quiet moments of companionable solace. That night my husband began as a confidante, my confessional booth; minus the sermons and rosary beads. Not an eyebrow was raised or judgement handed down, just a quiet comforting silence as in his steadfast presence, I surrendered what I assumed was damning evidence of my dire nature.
It wasn’t enough to ‘fix’ me. I knew that. All my life I had secretly searched for anything that could suppress what plagued me, but it was a start, a tiny footprint in a new direction.
With painstaking patience my husband became more than a confidante, he became an advisor, a friend as well as a lover.
He held my hand through it all. Through the doctor’s appointments and counselling. Through the nightmares and shaking.
I’ve given birth to his children, but I can honestly say compared to childbirth, reaching out to him and saying that this, this horrible mess, is who I am, was the scariest admission I’ve ever offered to anyone. What I never expected, was that he would stay, at least not without necessitating I change the locks and become Khaleesi, Maker of Chains and First in Line to the Toilet.
For me people don’t prove their worth when life is plain sailing, it’s when everything goes to hell in a hand basket that you see your true value to another.
They say some people are in your life for a season, some a lifetime; my husband definitely falls into the latter category.
He’s more than a spouse, he’s a caretaker, a curator of my heart, always there with an ear to listen and a hand to hold.
Reaching out doesn’t come easy or natural, but don’t feel you have to suffer alone, sometimes regardless of our health or financial status, we all could benefit from a willing ear or a reassuring embrace. That network of support is particularly important when it comes to your mental health.
As Frodo himself quickly cottoned on, importance must be placed on the integrity of your chosen circle, not on the numbers in attendance. You don’t need a ‘squad’ or to rival Skepta by selling out Wembley with your mandem. You just need to make that start, to break the habits of a lifetime and reach out that first painful time and go from there.
Because one thing I have learned through the parlor tricks of my own depression, is when you hide it, you are also colluding with it to a degree, in the sense that you are feeding into the misconception it breeds within you, so that you might as well be staring into a carnival mirror, as the reflection projected back is always going to be corrupted and not a true image of yourself.
However, once you have begun your network or resistance if you prefer, you have a clean pair of eyes that aren’t clouded by your own illness and can offer an impartial view.
Whatever you decide, just remember, in the words of the immaculately coiffed Jessie J:
There’s nothing wrong with who you are.