The Silent Years: Living With Depression

by Sharon Carter-Wray
Suffering with depression has changed me a great deal over the last 13 years. Maybe not so much in the way that people would notice, but certainly within me something has grown. I used to say to people that when I eventually came out of this darkness “I would be a newer, improved version of my former self”. At the time I don’t think I realised how true that was actually going to be.

This illness took me by surprise and completely floored me, in a way that I didn’t think possible. It made me shake up everything I had known, felt or understood in my life, in order to re-evaluate and re-access each individual piece.  Everything was scrutinised, and I decided what still held a place in my life, and what had to be discarded.  It’s still something I do now, but not on such a grand scale, and it has always helped me when I have feelings of being lost. Nowadays, I bury myself within something creative, whether it is writing, art or making something, or I will tackle a job that needs doing. In fact I will do anything that gives me the solitude I need to bash things out in my head, so that I can later re-emerge as being complete and sorted!  (In that sense I am also a very typical Cancerian crab…!).

In the early days, besides not being the happy, smiley person that I usually was, I think what people noticed more than anything, was that I had become silent. Unless I felt it absolutely necessary I hardly spoke to anyone, especially when amongst groups of people, including my family. No one had any idea of the turmoil and the noise that was going on in my head, just as well people can’t hear your thoughts as mine were making a racket!

I still find being in noisy situations or among loud chatty people, can feel like the volume has been turned right up in my head, a bit like being stood next to a huge speaker. I get quite distressed by certain sounds, something that having Fibromyalgia can enhance, as sounds can reverberate through me causing my muscles to tense so much, that it brings on a pain flare-up. It is the same with my sense of smell and taste.

During this time, I gained much clarity about myself and all the people in my life. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say, but for some reason my mouth refused to utter the words. This I believe was the outcome of fully acknowledging and accepting, that the majority of those close to me didn’t really hear or see me. This pained me greatly, and confirmed that I was on my own with this illness. They accepted my silence rather than try to address it, for me it was self-preservation. I didn’t want to waste my words on deaf ears, or on people who only listened to disagree or argue back. To a certain degree, I am still the same now; rather than compete to be heard, I would rather say nothing or simply walk away because it’s less painful. It was also incredibly lonely at times. But in spite of this, having always been known as ‘a good listener’, this didn’t stop people talking ‘at’ me.

I know I am not alone in experiencing this silent period, and I have yet to come across a talkative ‘depressee’, I think it is a phase we all go through, and somehow some of it stays with us. And no matter how far along on our journey we are, there is always an inherent fear of something tipping us over the edge or worse still sending us back to a place we don’t want to re-visit.

My silence serves to protect me, because regardless of how well I may feel at any given time, there is always an element of vulnerability about me. There is a part of me that remains very delicate and fragile, and when threatened can send me falling backwards down those steps again.  But at least these days, the time spent ‘fallen down’, is getting shorter as I seem to need less time to recover from each knockback.

The irony of this is that I have always ‘listened’ to people, my natural intuition helps me to pick up on what is not being said, (one of the gifts I have been blessed with!).  But I guess it took me falling down, to realise that I didn’t have anyone to talk to or confide in for myself. I didn’t trust anyone enough to handle my fragile frame of mind, so I remained there, quietly locked in to my darkness. It took a while until I found someone that showed me, they could handle me with great tenderness and the care I so needed.

My love of written word, has been one of my greatest salvations, being able to express myself like this or through poetry is a very powerful and useful tool. Just as well really, as conversations with my doctor and psychiatrist were futile, as their time was limited but it was usually enough for me to fall apart and cry. Leaving me to then go back home, back in to the darkness to deal with my angst-ridden emotions alone.

Being given the opportunity to ‘talk’ about myself is still something I struggle with, probably because I don’t want to spotlight all the negative things that have made me this way. Strong emotions still choke me, and force tears to well up, so I know I am still out there, lost in the woods somewhere, but now, I am not waiting for anyone to rescue me.

I was lucky enough to meet a remarkable woman, who to me, literally did save my life.  Without her, I honestly believe that I would still be trapped in a very dark, lonely and silent world. Because of her, I found my voice again.  I also found even more hidden strength in me that enabled me to start my healing process.  Sx

Love Sharon’s writing? You can read more of her work here

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