Living undiagnosed makes for a difficult childhood. For the first nineteen years of my life I believed the distorted reality I was presented with. In my world I was unloved and life was bleak and hopeless. I never thought I was unhappy, simply because I had never experienced real joy or emotional fulfillment. You can't miss what was never there.
My disorder (dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder) makes my base emotional level depressive, so I was never capable of reaching stability. My distorted perceptions of myself and others came from a disconnect with reality, a constant low-level disassociation. Every facet of my life was poisoned by my illness, like out of a symphony orchestra one instrument was always off.
Great periods of stress, upheaval, or tragedy exacerbate my disorder and cause spikes in my symptoms. Terrible things walked into my life as they do for everybody eventually, but I couldn't keep my head above water. This intense depressive spike lasted for six months. Day after day I sunk deeper into the pit, and every time I looked into the mirror I hated what I saw more and more. I became afraid that people were talking about me behind my back, that they despised me. I stopped eating for a time, and the skinnier I became the worse I felt about myself. Every day was a challenge, a fight to be me.
The mental difficulties began as fatigue, a body and soul tired. Then it felt as if a fog had settled over my eyes, clouding my thoughts and judgment. Then as things worsened the drumbeat in my head began, a pulsing throb that exacerbated my misery. I couldn't pay attention, I was always distracted by the pounding in my brain. It felt as if a concrete block had settled in my chest and head, and the only thing I could focus on was that unbearable weight. I struggled through every conversation, fighting off the introspective pull that I had become so accustomed to. That incessant drumbeat became the soundtrack to my downward spiral, and it got harder and harder to keep myself in the moment, in my actual life. Every smile was forced, every moment spent in silence a trek through the sprawling maze of my own consciousness. I was living in my head and it was torture.
Perhaps the worst part of this struggle was that sometimes I would snap out of it. It felt like waking up from a nightmare, I was me again and it felt so good. I tasted the world properly, breathed in life, and could appreciate it for a moment in time. The problem was that those days always ended. It felt like an oasis in a desert that dried up in my sleep.
I tried distracting myself, hobbies and art and relationships, but it all tasted bitter in my mouth. One day I realized how easy it would be to end the difficulty by killing myself. I indulged myself in my head and imagined myself dying, slitting my wrists and letting the red curtain of blood flow freely like a waterfall. I imagined void, the cessation of consciousness and being, and it gave me comfort. I indulged these thoughts more and more, until that was what the drumbeat in my head became: kill myself.
Eventually, it was all I could think about. Life began receding away from me, and everything I did with friends and family felt like an act. I slept and then woke and then slept again, I worked and brushed my teeth but it all felt the same. The entire world had become this dull, pounding ache, and I was getting sick of it.
I was working on a normal day like any other and suddenly I felt a wave of calm. I was ready to die. I felt transcendent and zen, like nothing in the world could touch me anymore. I felt beautiful and indestructible. The drumbeat was gone, I had become it. I performed my duties and acted normally. I said all the right things, laughed when appropriate, but I knew that night it would finally be over. Whenever I closed my eyes I felt as if I was bubbling away, like I was dissolving into the stars and it felt right. I had been waiting my entire life for that moment, I thought, like the whole point of my existence was to die.
If I had not been in a public place that day I would be dead.
The feeling passed in a few hours, the horrible calm receding like the tide. I felt properly awake for the first time in months, and I was afraid. I got help and medication, and have gotten things mostly under control these days. There were tears, frustration, and hate; climbing back up from the pit was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done. I finally stopped suffering in silence, and I have properly felt joy.
But perhaps the most important thing to understand is that I am not cured. For many there is no cure, and I am no exception. I still have dysthymia, and I still feel that terribly familiar weight from time to time. Sometimes my mind wanders for a moment and suddenly I am back there, standing at the edge of that deep, dark pit. I hover at the edge, and I feel icy-bitter wind blow through the part of me that still feels empty and hollow. I will probably keep going back to that precipice for the rest of my days. But now it's easier to walk back up again to my life.
That's how I live; I keep walking back.