Here's where it gets difficult.
I'm going to talk about depression, which I, like so many people, have had as a long-term companion.
I fear talking about it, because like so many people, I have an employer or worse, a putative future employer who might say “no dice.” I suspect today's employer, The Register, isn't going to flick me. Who knows what might be in the future?
And I'm not going to talk about treatment.
I'm going to try to talk about experience. I'm trying to describe the inside, because it's so hard to understand from the outside: and because those outside suffer pain that isn't theirs, because it's so easy to think you're responsible for someone's depression.
Just because you love us. Think: if your loved one had a cancer when you met them, why is it your fault, just because you didn't understand it back then?
In depression, there is no such thing as a small crisis or a reasonable perspective.
Perspective? I can do it very well, with one proviso: the crisis belongs to someone else. Call me to talk about your crisis, I'll be calm and rational, gentle and sympathetic, and I might even find the right words to say.
Drop a crisis on me, and I have no perspective whatever. I can lay out the steps I need to take and take them, but inside, I am lost in panic and suicidal thoughts.
Some crises are more equal than other, if you're on the outside of this damned thing. On the inside, any crisis – even the crisis you imagine – looks the same.
I fear I have offended a friend? That's a crisis.
Ms T has a fever? That's a crisis.
Something happened that a bunch of public health announcements tells me to treat like a crisis, even though I know it's a visit from a minor ailment I've dealt with every few years or so? Yeah, that's a crisis as well.
I want a hello from someone who's incommunicado because of travel and isn't answering? That's a crisis.
Lightning knocked out an expensive and crucial part of my business, and I don't know its insurance status? Also a crisis.
And so on.
Depression, at least how it hits me, destroys perspective. You don't even get the fake perspective of a painting. There isn't a perspective, there's just …
Fuck, I don't know what. I don't know how to describe it. Something happened, and suddenly I'm feeling like this, and my sons have decided that it's not a good time to talk to me, and Ms T (why do I fear her death? This is why) is trying to stroke my arm, but I want to pull away and get angry, but I don't want to hurt her so I stand still and listen to reassurance that doesn't help, and …
It frustrates the daylights out of people – I know from the experience of others – that someone feeling this way simply withdraws from everything. We, the sufferers, leave those closest to us, those that love us most and best and longest, outside the doors we erect against them.
And then, of course, we feel guilty for locking the door.
No, I don't have an answer. Not even on a good day do I know how to defend against the bad days. I fight my way through and, because I have the unbelievable good fortune of Ms T and never-ceasing talk, I somehow talk my way through.
Right now, the talk isn't finished and the dark hasn't lifted. And I'm not offering prescriptions or suggestions. I'm trying to describe the experience, and words are so bloody inadequate.