Depression. It’s a loosely used term. It’s bandied around a bit, used to add a touch of drama. I’m guilty of the charge. I’d forgotten that drama feels far too draining when you’re depressed. I’ve become blasé with my terminology: you don’t take depression lightly.

It’s bitterly cruel.

It’s totally indiscriminate.

It’s an emotional and physical and mental hijacking.

“There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons —
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes —

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are —

None may teach it — Any —
‘Tis the Seal Despair —
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air —”

Extract from Emily Dickinson

I never worked out whether my eating disorder caused depression or whether the eating disorder was caused, in part, by an underlying depression. They got all tangled up somewhere along the way. It became a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.

It’s hard to dispute that an eating disorder presses all the right depression buttons: it’s isolating and draining and frustrating and desperate. But maybe the isolation and drainedness and frustration and desperation triggered the eating disorder. As I said, it goes both ways.

It’s also somewhat irrelevant. At the heights of my depression – which, I’m glad to say, were few and far between – I wasn’t particularly interested in psychological dissection – I just wanted to feel better. Depression didn’t get me at the mysteries of my mind level; it was a far more physical kick.

This is the thing that you don’t expect.

It’s a strange kind of flu where nothing feels quite right. Where even your own skin feels quite uncomfortable. Where you’re slightly off balance. Where everything looks a little different – hazy with distance or sharp with unreality.

It’s like visiting a parallel dimension: everything is the same and different; you’re there and you’re not; it’s all real and unreal.

It’s like an invisible wall. It’s like an impenetrable barrier between you and the world. It’s like being totally out of kilter with the world.

I dreaded that first Robin, so,
But He is mastered, now,
I’m some accustomed to Him grown,
He hurts a little, though –

I thought if I could only live
Till that first Shout got by –
Not all the pianos in the Woods
Had power to mangle me –

I dared not meet the Daffodils –
For fear their Yellow Gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own –

I wished the Grass would hurry –
So – when ‘twas time to see –
He’d be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch – to look at me –

I could not bear the Bees should come,
I wish’d they’d stay away
In those dim countries where they go,
What word had they, for me?

Extract from Emily Dickinson

I couldn’t really articulate the experience at first; couldn’t really make sense of what I was feeling; missed the telltale signs.

I haven’t unravelled it’s mysteries – that would earn me a fortune in absentee management for starters – but I certainly get the link between eating disorders and depression. I get the inevitability of the relationship. Starvation – great for energy drainage; anorexia – fraught with frustration when it’s got you; Bulimia – shame and secrecy and isolation: you get the idea.

Over the years, I have learnt that depression can come and go as it pleases – but I can give it’s going a helping hand. And I can not be quite so welcoming.

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