After completing my studies I have had to head home mainly because I am still looking for a job and partially because I need to rest, recuperate and strategise my life. The latter part of this process is hard because my anxiety keeps reminding me that I need to do something. With my finances dwindling having no source of alternative income but my savings I am acutely aware that I have to do something.
My depression looks like silence
I have had to remember our ancestors words, I have been chanting “rest is also part of my survival”, “self-care is not self-indulgence” but a necessary part of my mental health management. But how do I rest when rest is a privilege? When rest means living in a space where casual homophobia is a daily occurrence. How am I supposed to rest when “home” is a continuous trigger? When my mental health issues are silenced. My mother does not even know I have depression nor that I have sought help from a therapist and will probably continue seeing a therapist and taking medication from time to time because I simply cannot function?
“Speak child, your silence will not protect you.” Audre Lorde insists. But how do I speak when silence has been a safety net. My silence around my sexuality and mental health has been my shield, my armour. Silence has for a long while meant survival. But what use is survival when you cannot bring all yourselves and the truth they carry to the table?
For the longest time I understood my depression as silence. I had grown up understanding that there were certain things that must remain silenced, they were too dangerous to speak. Their articulation disrupted normality, they were an intrusion. My depression became silence. Every time I felt the silence sitting on my chest I would isolate, I would cut ties with friends. My depression looked like self-isolation.
#whatmydepressionlookslike is an attempt to speak truth into my experience. To open a space for my Trans*/Queer siblings that acknowledges our survival. Speaking is the transformation of our experience into language and action – speaking – in this case writing is the process of building and holding our experiences.
My depression makes me look like an imposter
Conversations about depression have always left me feeling like an imposter. I am not your typical depressed person – by typical I mean I do not fit into society’s expectations of how a depressed person looks; Depression is a “white girl problem”.
First I am Black and Queer/Lesbian/AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth). These identifiers already make me an anomaly. People like me should not exist and even more they are not to be cared for. How many Black lesbians had to die before South Africans outside the Queer community recognised that we were being terrorised. How many times did we have to be harassed out of our communities for people we grew up with to recognise their inhumanity. And everywhere I went I have realised how little my life meant.
I am also a high functioning depressive. Meaning my depression does not “show up” in the “traditional” ways. My depression feels like heart palpitations, a sweaty lower lip and sweaty palms on an ordinary Sunday. It feels like anxiety. My anxiety makes every email and phone call an emergency. Once I got an email from my department’s admin to rectify an issue on my registration – I dropped all my lectures that day, ran home, to find the details and respond. It was only later I realised it really could’ve waited. My depression makes every “we need to talk” a life/career ending event. I write, edit, redraft, delete and write and re-edit every email. Every effort feels mediocre, my body feels heavy, and every movement feels like I am fighting to see through a fog. Every.thing.is.really.slow.I.feel.behind.
My depression looks like an eating disorder & Dysphoria
My depression sits heavy on my body; I am bloated and disproportionate. A depressive episode is in full swing when walking past a mirror makes me want to take a butcher knife to my hips and ass. My depression used to look like self-starvation; I was so proud in high school when I had managed my diet to the point where I only needed an apple a day for survival. My depression feels like the persistent need to control everything because I am aware of how little control I have.
Sometimes it looks like an unmade bed; like putting a bottle of wine on a stack next to the bin. It looks like being unable to sleep because my mind will not stop. It looks like sleeping at midnight and waking up at 5 am.
But I have slowly learnt to change – no manage the face of my depression. Now it looks like making sure I jog on a regular basis. The jogging helps me connect with my body. I play music and allow my body to carry me. Now my depression feels like being in wonder as my legs carry my – as they hit the tar and I am in wonder that this really is my body.
Now my depression feels like understanding that my smoking habit is also my anxiety coping mechanism and realising that maybe I should get a Vape instead to ease the pressure on my lungs.
Now my depression feels like routine. It’s not fun, I have to run; I have to keep the routine up. It provides me with an outlet to sweat out the anxiety, it provides me with an alternative lever of control. I still have a difficult relationship with food but it is better. I still have a less than healthy relationship with my body but I can resort to running rather than starvation.
In speaking about my depression, my attempts to manage it and my continued work on it I have been able to transform its face. In speaking I have also had to realise the privileges I have, I am bodied making it much easier access resources. Through speaking I have been able to create a new language and forge networks of care and love.