To get to my office from the main reception you must traipse down a corridor that is flanked by mirrors on all sides. Most people surreptitiously glance in the mirror as they walk by to check whether their hair is in pristine condition, or whether that annoying spot that emerged in the morning has been successfully hidden away. For myself, I try not to glance sideways as I’m afraid what I will see. It’s not so much my physical appearance (although admittedly I have always had nothing but disgust for that), but more the fact that it causes me to visualise who I have become, and to analyse my life, including where I have come from and where I’m going. In the fleeting moment I gaze upon my reflection I don’t merely see myself as I am now, but instead I’m forced to rocket through the years from childhood to the present, the snapshots berating me for for how much of my life I have wasted, and taunting me for how much of it the demon inside has taken. I don’t see a young face looking back full of promise, but rather a tired face looking back full of regret.
I’m in one of my dips at the moment, which frustratingly has come so soon on the back of my last one. Usually I get a few months respite at the very least. It’s kind of like quicksand, the more you struggle to get out, the deeper you sink. For example, socialising or going out somewhere only leads to further feelings of low mood as you inevitably see what you perceive that others have (relationships, friends, hope, happiness) and the unavoidable comparison with your life proves too much. So what am I supposed to do, just shut myself away for ever in order to avoid these things? No that won’t work either as that will merely create a blanket of isolation that would smother me, and simply serve to ratify to myself the idea that people don’t care about me. What are you supposed to do when you reach a fork in the road with the option to go left or right, when you know that which ever path you take it will lead you to the same outcome?
I saw a quote that said “If you are searching for that one person who will change your life… take a look in the mirror”. I think that epitomises the difficulties of depression. A mirror doesn’t just reflect back an image or reality, it offers up a perception based upon your own insecurities and fears. You chose what you see, and how you interpret it, depending upon your own internal thoughts and feelings. For me now I can only see the negatives, the missed chances, the defeated moments, and the lack of optimism. The face morphs into my younger self and leads to a yearning to go back to a time where pain was less intense, and a positive future still seemed within reach. Looking back is much easier than looking forward. The key is not to change the image that the mirror reflects, but rather to change your way of looking at it.
So perhaps that’s why it is so difficult for me to pull myself from the quicksand; there are just too many reminders out there which trigger feelings of regret, envy, sadness and a inconsolable anger at the existence of the beast inside. Afterall, people themselves also represent mirrors, as you see reflected in them the person you want to be, and it merely reiterates your own weaknesses and failings. The ultimate goal for me, and a far greater aspiration that wealth or success, is to be able to face myself in the mirror without turning away in disgust. However, if that day should ever come, then I fear an old man will be peering back at me, as it seems that such an achievement would take a lifetime. Or more.