Ooooh, she’s a crafty bastard is depression. She’s been hitching her wagon to my giddy-up since I was in my early teens, so surely it’s about time for her to piss off and leave me alone? But no. Unfortunately she’s here again. She’s always here, really, lurking on the perimeters of my consciousness, waiting for me to lose concentration so she can sneak in and set up camp.
Sometimes she pitches up as a reaction to something specific, a big life event that would trigger a change of mood in most people. Or she might wade in if I obsess over an unsettling moment, compulsively replaying it until it’s escalated into a devastating spectacle, sending me into a potty-fog of self doubt, en route. Sometimes she manifests when my stress cup is runnething over. And sometimes she sneaks into sad days and won’t leave.
This time is different. This time she’s come back in a whole new costume. She’s not here because I’ve had some explosion in my life to drag me down. There’s the usual patches of tricky stuff that loads of people experience at my age – parents, kids, work, money – but everyone has a story they’re living through. No, this time she’s just medical.
Coronavirus: 'Watching teachers unite is awe-inspiring'
Lockdown day two: Trying to stay calm
'All I want to do is sleep'
In late January I had a kidney infection that knocked me flying. I’ve never had one before so didn’t know what was happening when I got a sudden sky high temperature, dizziness, exhaustion and abdominal pains that felt like early stages of labour. Antibiotics and a good kip worked wonders and I was right as rain in no time. But shortly after the infection shifted I got that virus. Not *the* virus, but the winter fluey thing that so many people have had – starts with a tickly throat and next thing you know you’re on your back for a week.
Both of these were something ’n’ nothing ailments, and physically I’m as fit as a fiddle, now. However, that wrong ‘un saw her chance and slipped in while I was off my guard. I’ll be honest pals, it’s a real struggle to get through the day at the moment without giving into the urge to sit cross-legged under a table and weep. Either that, or a have a kip. All I want to do is sleep.
What’s even more confusing and ever so frustrating to rationalise, is that I’m not at all sad. I’m not. I’m just as capable of enjoying a right laugh as I ever was. It’s weird. This time it feels like madam has gone into my mind’s fuse box, flicked on all her usual depression switches, but then she’s got to the big one, the switch marked DESPERATELY UNHAPPY and thought, “Nah mate. I know what’ll mess with her. I won’t bother with that.”
'Depression doesn’t give you the choice'
It’s a head scratcher, ladies and gents, I can tell you.
Teaching while I’ve got that old nutbag renting space in my brain is difficult. I feel an acute sense of empathy with every person I meet. I am empathy incontinent. You might think this is a good thing, but I can assure you, it’s not. Professional distance is an important means of self-protection.
I also have far less patience with people who put effort into being a dick, especially the people who should know better. I’m having to monitor every word that comes out of my face, in case a real life response, rather than a professional one breaks loose and leaps out.
I will evict my unwelcome guest from her current, puzzling sojourn. And I am being proactive about it. I’m medicated, I take supplements, I exercise, I eat well. I even see an acupuncturist who, against every sceptical instinct I have about alternative-medicine-flimflammery, works absolute chuffin’ wonders.
I wish I didn’t have to constantly keep my eyes peeled in case a visit from that crafty bastard is on the cards. But sadly, depression doesn’t give you the choice.
Sarah Simons works in colleges and adult community education in the East Midlands and is the director of UKFEchat