Sixteen weeks have elapsed since I last wrote about depression. Since then I have repeatedly slipped into deeper local minima, first five weeks ago, then a fortnight ago, making previously awful states seem like manageable annoyances in hindsight. The following further documents my decline, as I belatedly decide to ask for help.
One theme of this discussion is depression’s ability to create absurd juxtapositions.
How can the fall be so terrible, yet to allow it to gain momentum and devour its host is occasionally and frighteningly more alluring than fighting against it?
How can it induce an intense hopelessness which does not relent when faced with the knowledge that at least some amount of the alarm is undue?
How can it completely quench pleasure from that which one knows is enjoyable?
How can it cause such wretched pain, yet neuter one’s ability to cry?
How can it be imagined as an impending beast, yet also a complete void?
Many of my friends gave me valid advice, and for that I am grateful. They urged me to improve my sleep, diet, and exercise, while seeking professional help. These may seem obvious, but it was necessary to hear them from external observers.
I never took their advice because I remain overwhelmed by a constant, continuously intensifying fatigue, both physically and mentally, far eclipsing my capacity to thwart this vicious feedback loop. This is most regrettable, as if only I had been a little stronger, a little earlier, those measures could have spared me from my current state.
Twice I have opened myself to a friend who I hadn’t regularly seen in several months. This is important because he was thus impartial to my daily responsibilities and interactions with others. Both times I was afraid of how my disclosures would affect his opinion of me however, so I attenuated the true extent of my thoughts and feelings.
Perhaps due to that, at times I felt frustrated by how we weren’t really on the same page. He too had dealt with periods of low energy, productivity, and ambition, but perhaps for different reasons, and he mitigated them differently because of it. I was unsure if I was clear about the extent of my underlying depression, as opposed to simply the secondary symptoms. On the other hand, perhaps it was necessary perspective which I had lacked.
Having someone to whom I could voice my thoughts was invaluable, but I am left with more pressing questions than I had beforehand. With experience doing this to another person in the past, I constantly grow fearful of destroying a second friendship by overusing him as a sounding board, lest I am seen as a child wanting a parental figure.
While I previously only lacked the motivation to engage in enjoyable activities, I’m now unable to feel pleasure while doing them, even while I’m adamant that they are enjoyable on a higher layer of thought. Consider the concert which I went to on Monday, or ice skating with friends last night. I knew they were great, but I didn’t feel that way.
The absence of happiness is a far more insidious adversary than the overt but simplistic feeling of misery. I wish I had known this in advance, because the former builds unseen over time, culminating in an abject emptiness once noticed.
I’ve always been a lonely person. I have no siblings, I’ve never had a serious relationship, and I’m not as close with my friends as I’d like to be. Having nobody to provide emotional and physical affection is normally a bearable flaw, but it feeds on depression to yield a universal loneliness that can only superficially be restrained by being around friends.
Panic attacks were a new and very unpleasant experience for me a few months ago. Shortness of breath, xerostomia, intestinal discomfort, temporary tachycardia, and uncontrollable shaking were all phenomena which I became acutely familiar with.
Now they’re a regular occurrence, while just as unpleasant. They are easily caused by anything from important meetings or the prospect of meeting new people, to predicting how depression will affect how I perform academically in the year to come. Mundane factors, such as speaking to others in person, negatively modulate them further.
The release of the list of final year software engineering projects last week was followed by the most intense such attack I’ve had yet, as I realised that without serious help, I’m in no state to productively complete a project, and I would let my group down significantly.
I would argue that my pool of responsibilities is trivial for any healthy and competent person in my position. For instance, my job purely consists of training for now, essentially by reading relevant technical books and trying my hand at penetration testing.
Nobody really depends on me — not even myself — and yet I feel grossly inadequate and poorly equipped to complete my small handful of tasks.
My level of productivity was dismal, so rather than mislead those whom I answer to, I suspended all of my roles earlier this week, both paid and unpaid.
‘Why haven’t you killed yourself?’
He asked me this bluntly but without incitement, as he genuinely wanted to know. I too genuinely wanted to know. After all, while thoughts of suicide were once a small part of the back of my mind, they have grown to dominate not only every waking moment, but also some dreaming moments.
Having given the question what seemed like a minute of thought, I settled for lethargy as my reason. ‘It requires too much effort. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.’
While I don’t think that’s the only reason, it has worryingly become the dominant one. Thus I remain alive, with no will to live, for the near future.
The new university semester starts on Monday, timing which makes this a very awkward balancing act. The final year group project is what I’m most concerned about by far. If I decide to delay it and needn’t, I’ll delay my graduation by a whole year. If I decide to persist without the support of urgent treatment, I will harm my group’s performance.
I’m working with another friend to undergo triage on Monday, with a following appointment as soon as possible. Without his help, I will probably never climb out of this deep hole. I hope that there exists appropriate medication which can give me some initial momentum reasonably quickly, so that I needn’t sink into permanent withdrawal.