Since adolescence, I’ve had a couple of periods of depression every year. The black dog days are always in December or January, and again in April or May, although these days I often get away with the latter period. It is not bipolar disorder, because I don’t have intervening highs where I sleep only two hours a night and pass the wakeful hours composing symphonies. When I’m not depressed, which is most of the time, I am even-tempered and, as grumpy, misanthropic, reclusive bastards go, reasonably sociable. When I am depressed, I am a pain in the arse and it’s just as well I live alone, because that way there is only me to be irritated by me.
The depression can be of two kinds. One is a complete cessation of emotion. There is no feeling, just dullness and indifference. Food has little flavour, colours look washed out and everything smells faintly putrid. The second type impinges more, a nagging anxiety, ranging in intensity from butterflies to wall-climbing paranoia. If I were given the choice, I would go for the former every time: you just sit it out like a spell of bad weather. The anxiety and occasional paranoia are harder to deal with, because I constantly have to remind myself that what I am feeling is not real. The anxiety exists of itself, no reason for it, and the mind keeps looking for ways to justify it. Walking down a corridor at work I feel I am the object of everyone’s contempt – but steady on, the corridor is deserted, there is nobody here to exude disapproval. A colleague’s routine ‘morning’ will sound to me like ‘oh, Christ, him again’, and unremarkable thoughts like ‘got to get my hair cut this Saturday’ or ‘need to renew season ticket this morning’ will cause my guts to roll almost as much as would the phrase ‘you will go to prison for twenty years’.
I am just now emerging from three weeks of depression of the second kind, feeling guilty, feeling in the wrong for no reason I can name, ‘mumblepaws, teary and sorry’, and I’m glad to see the back of it. I don’t think anyone else was aware of it, because these days I just wait quietly for it to pass, as it always does. I do seem to get away with much less depression than I used to, and I’m hopeful some day soon it might just stop for good.