There is no shame in this. I have tried to tell myself that over and over. Many people who have been unemployed for a while feel depressed and despondent. And that's without the history I have. I've made it a year without giving up, persisting in my job hunt, making myself healthy, hanging on to a sense that it will be alright. But the demons have finally caught up with me. My depression is out of control. I've had my ups and downs over the past year but this time it's unmistakable. I'm constantly exhausted, and I feel almost permanently nauseous, if not dizzy. I don't sleep for long at night, and when I sleep, I have vivid dreams - not necessarily nightmares, but they're not good dreams - and wake up covered in sweat, feeling almost more exhausted than before I slept.
I've tried to explain it away by talking about PMT and then a 'reaction to my flu jab', which at the time felt sensible. Sometimes being depressed feels like being poisoned. But I'm rapidly realising that the truth is that my body and mind are shattered. Gwyneth Lewis talks about depression being your body's way of telling you that the way you are living is simply not working. It's unsustainable. Applying for unpaid positions I don't want and not getting them, slogging through applications only to have them be totally ignored, and continuing to pretend I know what I'm doing, that I know what I want to do, has finally become too exhausting to bear. Something has to give.
But the shame I feel in admitting that is hard to ignore. Having people like me who claim JSA being consistently portrayed as scroungers, or lazy, unappreciative spoiled kids with no real worth ethic is not helping with that but it's not the only reason. Shame is almost always a big part of depression. I feel ungrateful. I blame myself. I vividly remember trying my absolute best to pretend not to be depressed in my last relationship, and the guilt was unbearable. I poured every ounce of energy I had into pretending to be what he wanted me to be - happy, normal, whatever - and it was a train wreck. I became more and more desperate and it only made the rift between us greater. The more I tried, the needier I became, and the more aware I was that it was never enough to make up for the fact that I was unwell.
It's time to heed my own advice and accept that this is not my fault, in fact I've done remarkably well to keep going this long. I've tried everything I should have - eating well, exercising, getting myself out of the house, calling my friends, making plans to look forward to - but it's not enough any more. I need help. I need space to re-think my next steps in my life and I need acceptance from the people who love me,
Thankfully I already have that last one. I could not be more grateful.