Withdrawing from human contact is to depression what sniffles and coughs are to the common cold. I am no exception. Family life demands a certain level of interaction with at least some of the rest of the human race so I never become a complete recluse but the urge to interact fades rapidly away and I realise it has been weeks since I spoke to anyone outside the family beyond chit chat with a shop assistant or a quick hello to another mum at the school gate.
So my task today was, at the invitation of a very old friend, to meet for coffee with some other old friends. I looked forward to this, or at least didn’t anticipate it with anxiety, for the last few days and it was indeed a lovely two hours. We talked about all sorts of things, dropping back into the verbal shorthand that comes with long-standing friendship, laughing often and loudly. So I should be reporting what a positive experience this was and stating my intention to do it again soon. In truth, by the time I left I felt edgy and dazed. There is so much information to process in a conversation – body-language, nuances of tone, spoken and unspoken questions and answers, the dynamics of different relationships within the group… I feel like a specimen pinned to a sheet and examined closely by the others, unsure if I am sending the right signals, unable in the melee of conversation to take a step back and guage whether my reactions to things are just the whining of the Black Dog or my actual, true self responding. It exhausts me.
Maybe for now I need to limit myself to briefer social events, or make an excuse to leave briefly (phone call to make? baby needing a little push around the block in the pram? Black Dog about to pee on the metaphorical carpet?) and take a walk to relieve the tension.
I feel like a little hermit crab caught in the middle of changing shells – all my softest parts exposed and vulnerable but knowing that this is a process in which I must engage to move on.