Smiles can be happy, loving, poignant, brilliant, welcoming, brave, uncertain, comforting or just plain simple; they can encourage us and help us feel better. They exercise more muscles than frowning and help to mould our faces over time. Who can forget their baby’s first gummy smile or the gap-toothed grin of early school photos?
People have often commented on my smile – “dazzling”, “lights up your whole face”, “you have a wonderful smile” etc, etc but at the moment I’m finding it difficult to smile at all, especially those wide, ear-to-ear grins for which I am (apparently) well-known. The reason for this is quite simple. One word, actually:
There – I’ve said it.
That one word conjures up so many thoughts and feelings in me that it is quite overwhelming at times and makes me despair that I will ever be back to “normal” – whatever that is.
In my experience, depression is far more than just feeling a bit down, or low or sad and is not necessarily triggered by a tragic event or difficult circumstances – although obviously these things have an impact too –
- it’s the feeling of overwhelming indecision when faced with a supermarket shelf stacked with ten different varieties of apple or fifteen different sorts of milk;
- it’s knowing that you have shopping, cooking, washing and ironing to do but not being able to decide which to do first, so doing nothing instead;
- it’s looking in a fridge full of food and then having a packet of crisps for dinner because “nothing appeals”;
- it’s realising that you’ve read the same page of a book three times because you can’t concentrate;
- it’s realising that the conversation has ground to a halt because you can’t find the words you need;
- it’s the feelings of sheer frustration because you used to be such a “doer” and now all motivation has deserted you;
- it’s waking up feeling as though you’ve never been to sleep and wanting desperately to hide under the duvet all day;
- it’s the dull, slow lethargy that creeps around with you all day;
- it’s the irritability and snappishness that can’t be due to PMT;
- it’s the inability to laugh over things you used to find hilarious;
- it’s when you find yourself crying over something so trivial that you’d normally barely even notice;
- it’s feeling useless and incompetent;
- it’s wondering why on earth your friends should like you;
- it’s losing interest in hobbies;
- it’s when you make excuses not to go out and maybe even enjoy yourself because you don’t feel up to talking to anyone;
- it’s the feeling that you need to escape from your own head because all creative thought has gone and you’ve become an automaton;
- it’s the feeling that your head is full of cotton wool;
- it’s the feeling of dim-wittedness that is normally so alien;
- it’s putting on a front so that no-one will ever guess how you’re really feeling because you’re just too ashamed to admit that anything is wrong.
I could go on…
This time though, it’s going to be different. I have drugs and I’ve been referred for cognitive behavioural therapy. I know it won’t be a permanent “cure” but hopefully I will learn ways to recognise and deal with my symptoms before they reach crisis point, and ways to modify my thoughts and behaviours. It’s going to be a long journey but I think I’m ready to take the first step.