A lot of you might know, I’ve tried to spend a lot of time thinking about how to best articulate what depression and anxiety can feel like. In my blogs ‘boggarts and buggers’ and ‘Just Breathe’ I talk about how crippling and all consuming anxiety can be. In today’s world of mental health awareness we see actors, doctors, public figures talk about the seriousness of mental health. But not so long ago, the idea was that a mentally ill person was only found in a psychiatric ward. Freud himself was known to have conducted some insensitive experiences on his patients. It’s only very recently that people have come to realize that mild to moderate mental health issues can plague anyone at anytime. In this blog I want to talk about something called the ‘veil of depression’, in which you end up looking at the world through what feels like a permanently bad (sad) mood…
The easiest analogy that I can find for non depressed folks to imagine what depression feels like is Harry Potter’s famous dementor’s kiss. Every time there’s a dementor near by, Harry would feel like everything had turned grim and cold. Like every ounce of happiness had been drained out of him. He couldn’t remember when he was happy last and he felt like he would never be happy again. It’s famously known that J K Rowling struggled with her share of poverty and depression. She is known to have taken her experience with depression as motivation for adding color to the Dementor characteristics. In fact, much like dementors, depression can be pushed away only when experiencing joy and happiness (more serotonin).
How do I know all this? It’s simple – I lived it. Two years ago I had terrible panic attacks, but before that my depression was at it’s peak when I was in school. I remember times when I was in a perfectly safe and supportive environment, but I still couldn’t gather the courage to open myself up to people. There were many folks I would have loved to have been better friends with. But anyone who seemed perfectly approachable and happy intimidated me – I felt like they wouldn’t understand how broken I felt inside. Or even if they did, maybe they’d just leave me and run away, which would be worse. What if I shared my secret and everyone found out how miserable I was? Worse yet, what if they judged me for it? I wasn’t able to explain why I would cry my self to sleep every night. What about my life felt so miserable. I wanted to open up to friends, I wanted to be loved and supported and cared for, but it was too difficult to just walk up to someone and ask for those things.
The possibility of rejection threatened to worsen my depression, so I kept shut, and the cycle went on.
I remember sitting in class, feeling this heavy disconnect from everyone around me. This happened on numerous occasions. Now that I remember, I was actually sitting with friends. I could have been content and happy, and at times I was (there’s no doubt – I loved their company), but often I was miserable inside. When you’re in a situation like that it’s like you can see people being happy, you know you ‘should’ be feeling happy, but you just don’t. Imagine being inside a glass box with a fruit basket outside it. In that basket lies all the world’s love and happy relationships. You can see it, you can try to reach it, but you can’t smell it, feel it or eat it. It’s morbid. Which is why people use the analogy of a veil between you and the rest of the world for depression, separating you from it emotionally.
I only started tearing down that veil in university when I felt like I didn’t want to deal with the loss of not giving myself the relationships I deserved. I started telling friends when I was feeling low, saying things like ‘I don’t feel well’ – and then crying. It didn’t help at first, but slowly it got better. Being seen, heard and empathized with helped.
I would have bouts of depression where I would have these dementor like reactions – I’d feel empty of all joy, like the life has been drained out of me. In those moments, I’d feel like I’m falling down a bottomless pit. An endless abyss I’d call it. And it would feel really really scary, like I had nothing or no one to hold on to. Like if I just faded out of existence, no one would notice.. much less care..
I know now that I was wrong about that. I had friends and family who would have grieved tremendously if they lost me. I always thought that my parents don’t care, only to realize over time that their crime is that they care too much. So yes, my parents would care. My sister would care. My aunts and uncles would care. My cousins would care. My friends would be devastated, and maybe some exes would cry as well :’)
That is the nature of depression, to make you feel disconnected from everyone and everything you love. It’s not simply a veil between you and the world but an insidious division that suffocates you and chokes you until you give into it.
So don’t give in to it. Don’t believe the lies it feeds you about not been wanted or loved.
And Lift the Veil so you can the see the world for what it is. Full of love, opportunities and happiness.