Content warning: mentions of depression and all it comes with
I have been thinking about this post for two years and then for the past three months, respectively. The first time I decided I wanted to share my age-long epic battle with depression was in 2019. I wrote a whole post about all the things it took away from me. In it I talked about my indifference to life, how the depression had evolved with me and how I had learnt to live with it.
I showed the first draft to my mad genius best friend, Ngasa, who loved it and said I could make a guest appearance on her blog when I was done polishing it up. (Check out pastichemode.com, btw). Sadly, I never reworked it for some reason.
Fast forward to three months ago. I once again fell down my personal never-ending abyss and started contemplating the call of the void. It had been five years since I had last answered it and the ringing was driving me mad. In July I was convinced I just about had it with this life thing. Having learnt from my past tries, I realised if I answered the call that time around, there would be no mistakes and that terrified me.
I was in a dark scary place and albeit being there before on too many an occasion, it took all the willpower I had to crawl out of it. I was exhausted after this particular bout. I considered going to therapy again but my bank account laughed in my face, so I settled on the next best thing – writing about it.
This time I wanted to write a post that was more or less a letter to my old therapist (the second out of three who had proven to be my favourite). I decided to call the piece “Jenga” because I thought I would start from the beginning to where I was now. Well, not the actual beginning, but from when I was first diagnosed with high-functioning depression caused by PTSD.
To be honest, I am definitely misremembering the sequence of events. But I do know the diagnosis happened at the same time that the jenga tower I was building with my therapist collapsed. Okay maybe not the same time but definitely the same day. I was twelve years old. It was October, and until now I' m still in awe at the coincidence.
When I wrote this the first time, it struck me that holy cheese! It had been a decade of doing this dance. I put the pen down and contemplated what I actually wanted to tell my therapist and what she would think of the person I had become.
The traumatic nightmares that robbed me of peace at night for eons had stopped since the last time I spoke to her. I was also working on being a kinder person (read that post here). Oh and I was no longer trying to cut myself with a blunt knife in the desperate and dramatic cry for attention that had led me to her door in the first place (I cringe at the memory, breh).
But other than that, I really couldn’t say I had gotten better. Sure, my ever-burning pain of wanting to die had diminished significantly, but I still experienced the dull ache of not particularly wanting to be alive. And how would I begin to explain to her the quasi-addiction to painkillers I had battled when I was sixteen that still reared its ugly head ever so slightly even in the present. Or that despite the nightmares being gone, I was still hit with vivid spontaneous flashbacks that had the power to freeze me in place.
If she asked me if I still blamed myself for the abuse I had endured, the answer would still be yes even though I fully knew it wasn’t my fault. And all boy did I still cry a lot. Perhaps even more than when I was twelve. I didn’t want to admit that the fear, the anger and the misery still had a grip on me- that there was a hole in my being that still felt as though it was leaking and would soon bleed out.
I concluded I could no longer write that post because my therapist would be ashamed of me for not trying hard enough to get better. All through July and most of August I found myself lost in the repetitive thought pattern of:
My therapist would be ashamed of me?
What would my therapist think?
My therapist this.
My therapist that.
At the tail end of August, I somehow got over the obsessive mental fog of what a woman I hadn’t talked to in about eight years would think of me now. I realized I was using her as a placeholder for what I felt towards myself. The shame was and is still my own, because despite everything I know about mental health, I still think, “Goddamn it Tamanda! It’s been a decade, you should be over it by now!”
(Just to be fair to my therapist, she most likely wouldn’t be ashamed of me - she always believed in me that one. In fact she would probably tell me I was being hard on myself- something else that hasn’t changed so much in ten years.)
As I write this now - after thinking about it for three months and two years, respectively - the only thing I feel like saying is how I should have taken antidepressants when they were presented as an option in therapy. Maybe it would be easier. Maybe I wouldn’t find myself rocked and tossed in this ever shifting abyss. Maybe I wouldn’t still be thinking of the Great Fall of Jenga as a metaphor for my life – cause wow can I be more of a stereotypical depressed, pretentious writer who believes all life is but an allegory?
And don’t get me wrong, some days are definitely better than others, but all days are quite hard. Good days require a lot from me, and then some on the bad ones. Behind buzzwords like self-love, self-care, be kind to your mind, et cetera et cetera, there is work to be done. Difficult work that can even fatigue the most vibrant and tenacious of souls like mine – no wonder I sleep a lot.
There’s no particular big wholesome lesson at the end of this post. I don't even think there's much of a point. I just thought it would be something real to share for mental health day: That I am quite exhausted with this never-ending battle if I am being honest. But I guess having a chronic illness that flares ever so often is bound to be aggressively consuming and tiring.
Every day is a constant struggle of trying to get through it. It’s not fun. It’s not romantic. It sucks for all parts but it has to be done, and sadly I have to be the one doing it. Nobody is going to fight this good fight for me. Through it all I am glad I haven’t completely given up on getting better or living with it or whatever. And that I still have a sense of humour at the end of the day. Good God, imagine if I was all at once despondently morbid and unfunny.
I am trying my sheer hardest every day to take care of myself and not to overlook my own effort. For ten plus years it has somehow been enough. I won’t lie that I know how my story with my long term pal depression will end. But I hope it will be a happy one. At the very least, I hope to come out of it alive.
P/S, here is a twitter post with a list of mental health services in Malawi, just in case you need some help.