10th October is World Mental Health day. Depression is something that many of us will experience at some point in our lives, but is still something of a stigma, with many people feeling they need to manage on their own. I’ve tried to encapsulate a little of what it feels like.
You ought to know I put the washing on
In those few hours when you both were gone
And I, left in my usual cocoon –
The emptiness I craved, my cosy tomb,
With none to disappoint or to offend
None to stand screaming devil tears
When I’d forgotten something never said,
A friend uninvited, a party not arranged
For not-your-birthday, for failing time and time again
To bear you a living playmate like the rest,
And never knowing how to treat a guest.
None to set a stony face, resentment showing clear
That belies the words – “Your mother’s not herself,”
Oh you try, you try:
But I can feel the hollowness of the words I hear
And wonder if you really believe them.
And none to scold me gently on the phone:
“I haven’t seen you, it’s a shame,”
A clumsy ‘how are you’ that sounds like a j’accuse
And I retreat with some mumbled excuse.
No people to offend, stand in their way,
Park badly in the next-door parking bay,
Miss their invisible disability
Or fail to know they’re worthier than me.
No-one suffers the fact that I exist.
And so you went, left me alone
Gave me the space I begged for
“You don’t have to do anything”
And I can’t believe that either:
Or bear for to see you paper calmly over the cracks
To do the Herculean tasks that I can’t face,
And all without an effort, without sound,
While selfish me lounges tearfully around,
Too lazy to know what brings me to this state.
And so I did the washing, proved my worth,
Put towels on the line, and rinse, repeat,
Made beds with laundered, fresh-air-smelling sheets
In the hope that it might, just perhaps, atone
For all the hours I have been undone
And answering ‘What’s wrong?’
With ‘I don’t know’ –
Small gratitudes that your clean T-shirts show.