Hair of the Dog

What it's like

I wake up. And wish I hadn’t. For a minute I panic about where I am. Work out I’m in my own bed. Should be relieved. Feel like I’m in hell. What time is it? Far too early to be awake. I’m exhausted. Thoughts are racing through my mind. I’m too tired to open my eyes. I should be asleep. Try to remember what I did last night? And what I’ve to do later? It hurts my head to think. I feel sick. My heart is pounding. Reach for the glass at the side of my bed. It’s a struggle to lift it up to my dry mouth. The sips of water don’t help. It doesn’t matter. I don’t deserve to feel better. I’m never drinking again.

Remove that last sentence, and rather than describing how it feels the morning after the night before, I could be writing about how it feels when I’m depressed. My meltdowns are short-lasting, fortunately, but they are intense and share a lot of traits with a particularly hellish hangover. The inability to function properly, the paranoia that nobody likes me, the self-loathing, the struggle to sleep, the loss of appetite, the nausea, the headaches, the tiredness, the not wanting to leave the house. And that’s not to mention the awful symptom where I suddenly develop a phobia of my phone. I have to put it on silent and just glance at it occasionally, cause although I don’t want to talk to anyone I couldn’t cope with the guilt if I switched it off completely and later discovered that someone had been trying to contact me urgently. Then of course there is the disastrous side-effect that I’m unable to go on Facebook cause I can’t bear hearing about how happy everyone is and how much they enjoyed what they had for tea.

Probably the only difference between suffering after a night on the lash, and being depressed, is that you know your hangover will eventually go. Whereas when the black dog is around, you can’t imagine ever feeling better again. Oh, and also with depression there was no great night out beforehand to make it even a teeny weeny bit worthwhile to feel like a bag of crap.

Obviously it isn’t the same for everybody. No, the nature of the big snarling dog-beast means that depression comes in different formats with different specs. My friend in her sixties says that hers is nothing like a hangover. I did argue that as the last time she was steamboats was forty years ago after a night on the Cherry B, (a drink so old it’s practically extinct) she wasn’t really in a position to compare. Another friend succinctly describes his down days as ‘feeling like someone is sitting on you, making it difficult to even make a cup of coffee.’

I read an article t’other day from a woman who had stopped discussing what depression feels like to anyone that hasn’t experienced it, cause she claimed that they just couldn’t understand. I think that’s a real shame. I may have said in my last post that it is impossible to properly relate without going through it, but I strongly believe that we have to try and explain it (and please do share your experience in the comment section below).* Otherwise those not in the know will continue to think that being depressed is just a lot of moaning about feeling lower than a worm’s tit.

I took my opportunity when I met a guy, lets call him Gavin, cause that’s his name, who had just been on a lad’s holiday. He said one of the group had behaved totally out of character and had been really quiet and dour-faced. When they arrived home this guy had seemingly confessed to a recent diagnosis of depression and had apologised for going on the trip. I explained to Gavin how hard he will have found it to ‘come out’, and how he’d likely be hating himself due to irrational thoughts that he’d spoiled everyone’s fun. Gavin thought for a minute and replied “Nah. I don’t think it was anything to do with depression…he’s just an arsehole.”

*Please proceed with caution. Some people will never try, or want to, understand.

I can’t tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
And right now it’s a steel knife in my windpipe
I can’t breathe but I still fight while I can fight
Eminem – Love The Way You Lie ft. Rihanna