OK well it’s not going away so there’s nothing to do but write about it – depression, that is. Quite unexpectedly along with a chest infection I was recently plunged into a most unpleasant depression: not the kind of blank, grey blanket which descends like a fog, but a squirming black horribleness which threatens to engulf my consciousness and, though the infection has receded, refuses to go away.
I’ve not been so prone to depression in recent years, though I had plenty of it in my twenties: thanks to a firmer footing in life, a grounded family, a reasonable work life and a daily yoga practice I was able to keep myself on a fairly even keel. And although I had some psychotic episodes about a decade ago I’ve barely suffered an hour or so of depression since I got married.
But lately certain things have been spiralling downwards: a lack of material success in spite of huge daily efforts to make it as a writer; persistent poor sleep, struggles with my thyroid, a partner with gender dysphoria and a son with mental health problems have all taken their toll and I’m sure prepared my system to host the infection in the first place. I have never been so wiped out by a bug as I was by this one: I was completely exhausted for days. But as soon as the steroids and antibiotics kicked in, the depression made itself felt. I haven’t felt like this since my twenties when a promising career and love affair went completely into free-fall.
But this is different – and although I know what it’s about, I don’t know what to do about it. When I was eight I started to write a novel: that novel got squashed by huge and inexplicable forces which I still don’t understand. I’ve been trying to get back to it ever since and now I’m there: I just never expected the process to be so deeply unpleasant. I thought it’d be a kind of liberation but instead it’s utterly horrible, like opening the door to a deep dank hole with all kinds of monsters living in it.
All I know how to do is keep writing – and to believe that things are working out. As Marcus Aurelius says, ‘love only what happens. No greater happiness.’ In other words, believe that everything happens for your good, even though it may not feel like it.
I find great comfort in Marcus Aurelius when things seem grim.