Depression: the scary movie inside your head

I do like a good horror film. I even like the odd really bad horror film. What I don’t like is feeling like I am living through a real-life horror story, which is what depression feels like.

You find yourself starring as the hero and villain at the same time – for the past three years it’s been me as the hero, trying to escape the clutches of my nemesis and alter-ego, Paul Brookes. You’re also the only member of the audience – just you, without any over-priced popcorn, in the darkened, locked cinema inside  your head.

Depression is nobody’s favourite scary movie. OK, it makes you want to scream and it’s pretty terrifying at times, but it isn’t very exciting. There are no edge-of-your-seat moments – just a nagging, deadening feeling, accompanied by anxiety, fear, self-loathing, anger and lethargy. Not exactly the kind of feelings people queue up to experience.

Fortunately, I seem to have outrun Brookes this year, and he was last seen scuttling off into the undergrowth. But depression is a lot like the vicious, creepy characters in horror films. You think you’ve got rid of them, then they suddenly leap out of the shadows and catch you off guard. Brookes has done this before, to shocking effect, and I have felt his presence a couple of times recently.

Thanks to counselling, I know when and where to look out for this skulking menace, and how to arm myself against him, so that I can – all being well – see him off if he dares to darken my door again.

There’s a delicate balance to being aware of the threat of depression and worrying about it trying to return. There’s no point being permanently braced for impact, but equally there’s no point forgetting everything you’ve learned and denying the possibility of it ever happening again.

This battle reminds me a lot of the Friday the 13th franchise of slasher flicks, in which a hockey mask-wearing ghoul called Jason wreaks havoc on a succession of unfortunate teens, slaughtering them in a variety of imaginatively gruesome ways. He is seemingly indestructible. No matter what happens to him, he keeps coming back for more. I’ve seen him chained to a heavy object at the bottom of a lake, the petrol-coated surface of which has been set alight, yet he’s mysteriously back for more in several sequels. I’ve seen him thrown from a boat in the middle of the ocean, then return remarkably quickly in the same film to kill off those who escaped him.

But here’s the example that illustrates my point about being cautiously on guard when necessary, rather than obsessively watching out for – and fretting about – depression’s comeback. One of the Friday the 13th films starts with a traumatised lad finding Jason’s grave, following his latest demise at the end of the film before. There he finds the brute’s body, quite obviously dead and being eaten by minibeasts. But is this enough for the boy? No. To make sure Jason is properly dead (note lack of rational thinking here), the young chap breaks off a metal gatepost and sticks it right through the corpse. Alas, the post gets struck by lightning, and the bolt jumpstarts Jason. Oops. Cue further teen carnage.

So, like Jason, depression can be killed off, but it can also come back from the dead given the opportunity. If you’ve got rid of this scourge, don’t let it get back in. Arm yourself (tip: not with a metal gatepost) and be aware of warning signs, but don’t panic if you have bad days or weeks. I’m learning this is the expected pattern of recovery.

There have been 12 Friday the 13th films so far. I wouldn’t bet against a 13th. It would just be so right, wouldn’t it? I’m hoping, though, that I’ve left my own version of this film franchise behind.


11 Comments on “Depression: the scary movie inside your head”

  1. expatlogue says:

    Recognising the signs is crucial to staying well. I’ve been taking part in a research project that uses mindfulness to combat depression relapse, take a look if you think it might help…

  2. F Watson says:

    I love the way you write. Do you have a FB or Twitter account? I’d love to follow you/keep up with your articles and maybe even chat.

  3. ♪ Kompani ♪ says:

    Great article. Good to read helpful information and to know others are progressing with this annoying condition.

  4. I’m struggling a bit right now with trying to ward off depression (for the umpteenth time). My usual response is to read more about helpful techniques, but I don’t know if focusing on feeling depressed and how to battle it is actually making me feel worse! I feel like I’m in a quagmire and while I *know* I *should* get out for a walk, get better sleep (I want masses of sleep), eat well (I’m getting fat through always being hungry ~ wanting control), I’m not very good at actually doing the right things (deny food = deny comfort).
    It does help to read your post, and others, but I feel like, why should people with depression have to feel like this in the first place!?!
    Thank you Paul.

    • paulbrook76 says:

      I know what you mean, Helen. Quite often when I was at my worst I couldn’t face reading about how I could help myself. It just seemed like too much to take in and cope with. And I know what you mean about always eating!

      All I can suggest is to watch or do something you know you enjoy. Maybe a favourite comedy or going to a place you like and feel comfortable. I tried to get out for a walk every day, even if I felt rubbish, but I enjoy walking. You could also take your camera with you if you have one, and then you have an extra – but undemanding – thing to occupy your mind.

      Just do what you can when you can, get the help and support you need, and keep talking.

      Take care

  5. ah yes, those signs. a crazy movie. each time tho, the ending gets better 🙂
    Noch Noch

  6. […] visit at a later date. But it’s also entirely possible that your enemies will become like the horror movie franchise villains who stubbornly refuse to die, and come back for seemingly endless […]

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