Do you know, remarkable things can happen when you stay off the internet? After three weeks of “digitally detoxing” (as it is now funkily known), my brain started to work more effectively, my mind cleared, and I realised things about myself of which I’ve not been cognizant - like the fact that I’ve been depressed, and I never even noticed it: not an inkling. And it’s been going on for at least six years, since I got my Asperger’s/adhd/obsessive-compulsive diagnosis, so you might have imagined that some smidgeon of awareness might have penetrated the cloud of obliviousness in which I seem to be semi-permanently cloaked. But nope.
I guess this confirms that I really do have an appalling lack of self-awareness, and an incredible ability to misidentify what’s going on inside of me. Oh, and stick in there my limited emotional vocabulary to further enhance my ignorance, while I blunder around in the dark, thinking that the reason I’ve not been very well (emotionally, mentally, and spiritually) is ‘cos of my autism, or my adhd, or… (fill in blank space with appropriate response).
So, anyway, back to the depression (as if I can get away from it). A few weeks ago I had the vague notion that I’ve been suffering what I called a period of low-level depression (don’t ask me what this means, it just sounded vaguely appropriate, and cool). My best friend agreed (she knows me very well - literally better than I know myself, most of the time!), but then she added the killing blow - it’s part of my nature. It’s who I am. I am a depressive. It’s in my genes. There’s no escaping it, just like autism, and the rest. I am doomed, doomed, doomed I tell you… (Don’t you sometimes wish you could just return your genes in exchange for new ones? Seriously, who needs this extra shit?)
I was hoping that it was only a passing phase (long time passing), simply related to trying to accept my autism and whatnot. Or that it was just a deeply entrenched, negative way of thinking that I’d learnt to copy as the result of years of living with my dad, who was hardly a bundle of laughs himself. But no. It couldn’t be that easy: nothing ever is with me (another delightful trait of mine, apparently).
So I reflected back on my whole life, and it became blindingly obvious that it is innate. From childhood onwards it has plagued me in varying degrees, manifesting in various forms - usually along the lines of infrequent lighter periods to break up the dark moods (sounds like the English weather - generally overcast with frequent heavy downpours, possibility of storms, and the occasional sunny spell). Being too serious, gloomy, finding the negative in everything, and expecting the worst are not generally considered the indicators for a sunny disposition, no matter that I might well insist that I can’t be a depressive ‘cos I have a sense of humour (thank God, otherwise my outlook on life really would be bleak).
Unfortunately the evidence is firmly piled up against me - beginning with the memory of wishing I were dead every day, after my mum left when I was seven. Not the standard reaction of a relatively well-balanced child. This evolved into being my default state - the feeling that the world held very little hope or meaning, whilst I wandered purposelessly through each day, entombed in my own little grey cloud of fog. Trying to numb myself to the reality of my existence (using alcohol, food, and whatever other obsessions I acquired) were ultimately ineffective, and simply developed into separate problems.
I eventually contemplated suicide (as you do), but didn’t have a clue how to go about it. I also worried about upsetting my family, and what might happen if I did succeed: would God punish me and, horror of horrors, reincarnate me in the same body? Or worse? Was there anything worse than being me? I couldn’t imagine (of course not - hello? Autistic). And what if I failed?
I did eventually try, and failed (obviously - otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this); and, whilst it wasn’t meant as a cry for help (I was convinced that nobody could help, ‘cos I didn’t even know what the problem was; this makes it kind of difficult to ask), it did result in me getting help, though it was initially only for my alcoholism.
Of course I was frequently mislabelled (which doesn’t help) - shy, sensitive, withdrawn, serious, introverted, gloomy, negative, and a misery guts being the most common appellations with which I was bestowed. Of late, my friend has also mistakenly attributed my attempts at alleviating my condition via the internet as being due to boredom. On my part I just blamed it on having ADHD (don’t I always?)
Turns out it’s been more of an unconscious and misguided attempt to find some inspiration, hope, and answers; to rekindle a spark of interest in life and the things I used to love, for which I have lost my enthusiasm; to find some respite and escape from the constant self-analysis, guilt, worry, obsession, etc; to get my bloody brain to stop bloody thinking in bloody circles all the bloody time, ‘cos it’s bloody annoying.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that being diagnosed with Asperger’s completely knocked my world off its axis, more than I imagined it had done; and that I’ve also been REALLY angry with God for having, as I interpreted it, ‘dumped’ that and the rest on me when I felt I’d already got enough with which to contend (but not known it, ‘cos I ‘do’ anger extremely quietly).
So it makes a perverse sort of sense that I would choose to seek guidance from a bunch of total strangers on the internet (mostly non-autistics) on how to live my life, rather than ask God (the Source of all power and knowledge) for help. Cutting off my nose to spite my face (or, perhaps more aptly, removing my frontal cortex to spite my brain) is one of the many endearing qualities I have. It’s also an example of me being ‘quietly’ angry, which could be interpreted as a loose definition of depression - anger internalised.
I find it remarkable that I’ve managed to get as far as I have, given that I seem to spend half my life blundering around in the dark, with an incomplete map to guide me. But I guess that’s just evidence of how God will always lead me to where I’m meant to be, no matter how much I may baulk, and get distracted along the way. In AA we describe alcohol as being cunning, baffling, powerful, and patient. Fortunately, so too is God.