This is a blog post from Mia. Her original post is found here but it is in Danish and I have translated it because it is so important, so essential that 6 million danes benefitting from it simply is not enough.
Mia is this wonderful friend of mine. So smart, so sharp, so unbelievably caring and engaged in everything from politics to human rights. Always, and I can tell you it is really always, ready to lend a helping hand. To hold you when the bottom drops out of your life. Mia has a wonderful husband, Søren, and 4 beautiful crazy kids, one of which is a multiple diagnosis special needs child, not unlike my own Noah. She battles with her daughters insomnia, the incessant desire to give everything that’s right for each of her kids, to be a fun and loving wife – and she does all of this while battling this crippling disease called depression.
Yes, she is wonder woman. And you should listen to her. If you think you have this illness. If your loved might have it. Your co-worker even. This is what is important to read.
I am so fortunate as to have gone free of this illness. I praise each day I am spared. But my empathy with those who have it is no less than for those who suffer from cancer.
Thank you Mia for being my friend. For showing me kindness and for fighting your stupid illness so I can keep you in my life.
Screw my depression.
My task in life lies somewhere between finding the will to live and living with the life I have.
I have written about depression before. Celebrated openness and tried to advocate knowledge of this illness that I suffered from in the past and am suffering from again.
And yet I still fear when people ask me how I am. I am caught in between the impossibility of a superficial answer and the enormity of an honest answer.
I feel like a member of Alcoholics Anonymous: “Hi, I am Mia. It’s been five years since my last depression.”
I am back. Back in the company of the ugly mean depression.
I knew it could happen again, that it probably would. But I kept hoping and pushing it away.
Most days I wake up heavy, tired and despondent.
Sometimes little events like phone calls can lighten my day.
But I can only manage very few things and forget the rest. I forget tasks, people, lists, phone numbers, emotions.
I become confused, get heart palpitations and shortness of breath. I get upset, doubtful and feel a piercing loneliness although surrounded by lots of people.
I feel inadequate and cannot feel their intent when others say something nice, warm, kind or fun to me.
I crawl into my cave whenever I get the chance.
I get scared but fortunately I do not feel the anxiety that crippled my life last time.
Mostly, I am afraid of my own thoughts when I think that everything would be easier if I was not here.
Even though I know, or maybe just because I know, that these thoughts are part of my illness, I fear that they will overcome me.
I desperately contemplate how to get better.
But what I have learned is that I cannot contemplate my way out of everything.
It takes treatment. And when you, like me, have learned to accept most things in life, the greatest challenge is to not just think and learn but to act. To do things a little different.
At the same time I am so incredibly tired. Partly for reasons I cannot change.
But I am also tired at the thought of having to leave my comfort zone more than I already have to to create the space necessary for me to heal.
It is so hard, takes so much and still these are baby steps. And I have to accept that these baby steps will carry me through.
Did you tire just thinking about it?
Welcome. Or something.
My first baby step is medicine. Not only the medicine that sits in a box on my shelf but the medicine my body can provide for me.
Søren looked at me sternly the other day and said:
“Tomorrow, you go for a walk. Or bike. Or run. 30 minutes in parting from the house and 30 minutes back. And you do that the next day too. And the next. And Saturday. And Sunday. And Monday. Every day from now on. In a month you may still think everything is hopeless. But you will not think so in 2 months.”
I have decided to believe in him which apparently is easier than believing in myself. So he better be right.
Screw this depression. I am done being screwed by it, I hope.
You? What can you do? Do not be afraid to think, wonder, ask or have an opinion about my illness.
As long as you remember that it is an illness.
Like cancer, psoriasis, colitis or a broken leg it cannot be cured by willpower alone.
Willpower might save me from drowning completely in the sea of hopelessness. But to have this illness is much more complicated than that.
The balance is so delicate.
Sometimes you might not notice at all. Other times I am sad. Some days I can even be happy. But not without considerable effort to ignore the heavy cloak. And yet other days there is nothing but darkness and silence and a wish to disappear.
My lesson is to kick, rustle and box rather than hide in the dark.
To get up instead of letting the rocks dig into my knees.
To breathe instead of holding my breath.
I hope I pass. Again.
“Lonely? I get invitation cards through the post almost every day. I shall be in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and I have serious and generous offers from friends asking me to join them in the South of France, Italy, Sicily, South Africa, British Columbia and America this summer. I have two months to start a book before I go off to Broadway for a run of Twelfth Night there.
I can read back that last sentence and see that, bipolar or not, if I’m under treatment and not actually depressed, what the fuck right do I have to be lonely, unhappy or forlorn? I don’t have the right. But there again I don’t have the right not to have those feelings. Feelings are not something to which one does or does not have rights.
In the end loneliness is the most terrible and contradictory of my problems. I hate having only myself to come home to. If I have a book to write, it’s fine. I’m up so early in the morning that even I pop out for an early supper I am happy to go straight to bed, eager to be up and writing at dawn the next day. But otherwise…
It’s not that I want a sexual partner, a long-term partner, someone to share a bed and a snuggle on the sofa with – although perhaps I do and in the past I have had and it has been joyful. But the fact is I value my privacy too. It’s a lose-lose matter. I don’t want to be alone, but I want to be left alone. Perhaps this is just a form of narcissism, vanity, overdemanding entitlement – give it whatever derogatory term you think it deserves. I don’t know the answer.
I suppose I just don’t like my own company very much. Which is odd, given how many times people very kindly tell me that they’d put me on their ideal dinner party guestlist. I do think I can usually be relied upon to be good company when I’m out and about and sitting round a table chatting, being silly, sharing jokes and stories and bringing shy people out of their shells.
But then I get home and I’m all alone again.
I don’t write this for sympathy. I don’t write it as part as my on going and undying commitment to the cause of mental health charities like Mind. I don’t quite know why I write it. I think I write it because it fascinates me.
And perhaps I am writing this for any of you out there who are lonely too. There’s not much we can do about it. I am luckier than many of you because I am lonely in a crowd of people who are mostly very nice to me and appear to be pleased to meet me. But I want you to know that you are not alone in your being alone.
Loneliness is not much written about (my spell-check wanted me to say that loveliness is not much written about – how wrong that is) but humankind is a social species and maybe it’s something we should think about more than we do. I cannot think of many plays or documentaries or novels about lonely people. Aah, look at them all, Paul McCartney enjoined us in Eleanor Rigby… where do they all come from?
The strange thing is, if you see me in the street and engage in conversation I will probably freeze into polite fear and smile inanely until I can get away to be on my lonely ownsome.
Make of that what you will.”
Thank you for reading./ Mia