Have you ever heard the saying the holistic therapists always wheel out, health is not merely the absence of illness?
The same goes for mental health.
It's all very well not having depression, not being on medication, not being of concern to your GP.
It's quite another to be mentally "well."
There is a vast chasm in between the two. A vast chasm filled with sticky, black treacle. It's hard to trudge through it and scale the cliff to the other side. Getting off the medication is just the start. And often, just when you think you're starting to reach solid ground on the other side, the treacle drags you back again.
I've written about my breakdown before. I make no secret of the mental health issues I've experienced. People have expressed surprise at my openness, but since the breakdown itself was fairly public (until I went properly cuckoo and deleted my Facebook, that is), I see no point in hiding it. Also for me, writing about how I felt formed part of my recovery.
One thing few people talk about, or possibly even give thought to though, is what happens once you're considered "recovered." Once you're off the medication, and you stop going to the counsellors, and people stop hiding the knives when you visit... it's not over. There's still a lot of fighting to be done.
A major part of my breakdown was the overwhelming feeling of loneliness. I was plagued by the belief that I was fundamentally unlovable; I believed I was just plain bad inside, and that I would be alone forever. I wanted to die, rather than face 60 more years of feeling this alone and disgusting.
If I'm honest, those feelings are still there. They've not disappeared. I've just grown better at coping with them. Or ignoring them. Pushing them to the back of my brain, and telling myself they're wrong. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. There have been times in the 2 years since I fell pregnant, that S has been literally the only thing keeping me alive. If she weren't here, neither would I be.
This blog is more successful than I ever expected it to be when I started it.
I have a blog on my local newspaper's website.
I've been invited to speak on radio shows on the issues I write about, and have written guest posts for several websites.
People tell me I am good at writing. People whose opinions I trust and respect; people I know would tell me if they thought something was shit.
I still don't think I'm good enough. I still don't understand where these readers come from each month.
I'm not depressed all the time, but I have waves. And the waves are still pretty bad. Before, when I was properly ill, the depression was more of a sustained period of absolute, soul crushing, abject misery.
This is more a couple of days or a week here and there. I am still horribly lonely. I still feel dejected and fed up and not good enough for the friends who make so much effort with me.
I'm nowhere near bad enough to go back to the medication, but I know I need to do something pro-active myself, to make sure I don't slip any further. Make sure those waves don't get any longer than a few days.
What I'm wondering is, will I ever reach the other side? Will I ever feel good enough? Will this bloody black dog ever die?