It is back. They are back. The awful days, the ones I cannot beat with reason or determination. I don’t know why they are back: my medication hasn’t changed, and I am, I think, on the maximum safe dose of oestrogen and progesterone. So it must be my body that has changed. I thought I was getting stable; I thought the keel was righting itself, and I was wrong. For the last two months, I have been very wrong. Two days a week at least lost to profound, frightening depression. By frightening I mean the kind where I want everything to stop. I am not suicidal, not at all. But on these days where I flounder around wondering how to make the time pass when I cannot bear noise or conversation or books or TV or food or life. I don’t even want to run. All I can tolerate is darkness and quiet and the warmth of my cat. I try to fight it. Really I do. I don’t know why but Mondays are bad, Tuesdays sometimes. But on Sunday night I felt it come slowly like a wave: the seeping and rising sense of grief, the draining out of pleasure in anything, the irritation at nothing, the tears in the throat. In case those signs weren’t enough for me, I am sleeping badly too. My skin is peeling. I sleep but patchily. I wake up and when I sleep I know I will wake up. It is sleep but a distorted unrestful kind. And I sweat too, and wake up stinking. All these signs are the menopause yelling at me: I’m BACK. I remember all those from before the HRT.
It makes no sense that this is happening when I am bolstering my sputtering ovaries with oestrogen, when I am bolstering my falling testosterone with Testogel. I don’t understand. I don’t understand and I can’t predict it, and on the days like today I cannot work.
I try. This week on a bad day I got up and out and went to breakfast with friends, and I performed. I chatted. I smiled. I seemed human and normal. I thought, it might be OK, and I went to the library and sat there for half an hour and wanted to weep. I tried some more but it beat me, and I went downstairs to the basement to fetch some books and it was a huge effort not to flee into some dark corner of the basement, somewhere where someone would not notice me, and drop to the floor and howl. But I didn’t, and I got back upstairs and chatted with the library staff, while I tried not to wonder how the hell I was going to get outside into the world and onto my bike and how I was going to find the strength to cycle home.
But I did. And I went to bed, and I closed the blinds, and I closed my eyes, and that was the safest place for me.
That day was very bad. I didn’t want to eat. This is new. Nothing appealed to me, no flavours or smells. Only when my stomach was so empty it was disturbing did I eat some cereal, with no enjoyment. Yesterday was very bad because I found myself thinking, what if I were sectioned? What if I were somewhere where all responsibility was removed? What if I were so drugged I didn’t have to think? Wouldn’t that be a relief?
Today is Tuesday. It’s better but not right. I have the fear in my stomach, the blackness, but I can function better.
I can’t stand this. I can’t stand losing all this time, cancelling things, cancelling friends. I can’t stand how little confidence I have, and how easily it is derailed. I can’t stand feeling fraudulent because I am fine on Saturdays and Sundays but not Mondays, fine on Wednesdays and Thursdays and sometimes Fridays but not always. I can’t stand having to apologise to my boyfriend, who is always kind and patient and understanding, to my editors and agents, who are forgiving. I can’t stand being so unreliable. I can’t stand not knowing how to fix this. I can’t stand it.
Today is Wednesday. Wednesday should be fine. I can always rely on Wednesday. I schedule things for Wednesday because on Wednesday I change my oestrogen patches and I feel the new oestrogen seeping into my bloodstream like a kindly wave, lifting me.
But today is not fine. Today is not remotely fine. Today I cried over my keyboard. Today I tried to work and couldn't for the panic. Today I retreated to my bed and felt stupid and childlike but did not get up. I felt awful and ashamed but pulled the covers over my head and stayed there, my eyes wide open, because everywhere else was intolerable.
In my head as I lie there with my eyes open and my ears blocked and my cat warm at my feet, a comfort: I am a failure, I am lazy, I am faking, other people manage, other people go to work with troubles and depression, other people live in slums and get up at 4am and feed five children and walk miles, other people cope, I am manufacturing this (god, why would I?), I am weak, I should fight this why can’t I fight this
This is why I let editors down, I cancel appointments, I buy tickets but don’t go, I put things off, I make excuses again and again and again, I stare out of my window and know I don’t want to go outside, that I dare not go outside. This is why, because it’s back, because I am writing this while crying. At nothing, for nothing, at everything.
I have made an appointment. I have asked for help.
Because I want it to stop. When will it stop?