The matchbox was unknowingly claustrophobic. I wasn’t aware of the walls shrinking even as my person was pushing out from the confine of my skin, forcing me to grow, even if I didn’t want to.
Hello. This is part two of a three part series about my experience with clinical depression. I hope that topic doesn’t turn you off. I’ll do my best to keep it light – with the hope that this helps someone else through a difficult period through their life.
You can read part one here: Freedom of Direction
In September 2015, the final copy of the new rent agreement was signed and sealed. The ink dried on the prospect of me leaving the house in which I’d put three and a half years’ worth of effort, ten different roommates, and hundreds of memories. My first “owned” house was taken away by the neighbor as he bought the landlord out and my renting experience came to an end.
After a tumultuous run of over forty rejections and a mess of planning – Should I live alone? Or should I compromise everything to live with one of the other displaced roommates? – I rented a small one bedroom apartment not 500 metres from my office. I lived in that apartment for nine months – from 1st October 2015 to the morning of 4th July 2016, and it comes with its own set of memories. That tiny apartment is the matchbox, and this is the story of my exacerbated clinical depression in those nine months.
My first house was gone and I had over forty rejections looking for the next one, only to settle on the matchbox.
As I write this, I find it very difficult to revisit my time at the matchbox. On one hand, I was very happy to not have to slalom through the expectations of roommates. On the other, it was very lonely, especially with the different things that happened.
The strongest memory I have of the matchbox is dishes. Dirty, dirty dishes. Mountains of dishes lying in the basin of the 4 ft x 4 ft kitchen or in a tub in the bathroom. I was a sloppy cook at the time. Now that I think about it, the creeping depression made the unpleasant prospect of doing dishes very daunting. The house would smell terrible often.
Ancillary to the dishes, I was not aware at the time that my fridge wasn’t working correctly. The vents had frozen up and the freezer needed defrosting. As such, food in the fridge would spoil very quickly, and there was fungus everywhere. It was a disgusting thing, fit to underline the issues I had going on during the 9 months I was there.
Mountains of dishes stank up the house, filling up the tiny kitchen and the bathroom.
Last year, I threw myself into the blog, committing to 5 posts a week. I maintained that from January to March, until I burned out. In the December prior, my girlfriend of three and a half years and I had broken up. I was in denial for a while, and throwing myself into the blog helped to distract me.
Revisiting an old passion, I had also found a dance class and joined it. I attended it for 5 months, even performing on stage in February. I also started going to the gym again. Many, many things – as many as I could do to keep myself busy, to keep myself distracted.
There were some great memories too. I joined Toastmasters during that time, and I got my first tattoo. The stage performance was a fantastic experience. I made some of my best food during that time, and I started cooking with meat.
The effects of the breakup would begin to show soon enough. I developed full blown clinical depression in early 2016. I like to think I handled myself pretty well – finding a therapist in April, and a psychiatrist in July (but that’s a story for another post).
But it was a bad time. My weight ballooned by 12 kgs (26 lbs) in a few months, the effects of which I’m still feeling today. I hated myself most days and was on autopilot a lot. I found a blog post from March of last year, a week before I burnt out, interestingly. See it here: Heat and Dirt Make Jack Unhappy
The one other memorable aspect of the Matchbox, ironically, was heat. As mentioned in the linked post, my house was on the 4th floor of a 4-floor building, and the power was frequently out without much reprieve. I remembered my childhood in sweltering Kolkata and I grit my teeth through it, while the heat passed through me, invading every pore. Things got a bit better when I purchased a rechargeable table fan, but it was always hot.
The matchbox was important to me because it forced me to confront lingering and repressed issues.
The matchbox was an important phase of my life. It was when I separated from the person I thought I would be spending the rest of my life with. It was the second phase of my depression and the breakup was a trigger for other, older repressed issues to come up again. The breakup broke open a can of worms, which I began to exterminate one by one.
The best time of my phase at the Matchbox was in late May. At the time, I had a boatload of work from the office. I would go in at 8AM and come back at 11PM. Following the release of that project, my team lead asked me to take a one-week vacation, and I was miserable all week. I was even bedridden two days.
The best phase of my life was when I was working 14 hours a day, everyday, because it kept me distracted.
When I got up, I checked Facebook and I did what I had been debating doing for months – I decided to clean out my friend list. I deleted nearly 200 people, and then went to sleep. I woke up refreshed and clear-headed. Apparently one of my issues had been a lingering sense of inferiority when I would compare myself to fellow students from school. Deleting them was a way for my brain to free itself from that self-abuse.
The breakup with my girlfriend led me to remove lingering feelings of inferiority from school. It led to a breakthrough in my relationship with my father, where I realized he doesn’t control me anymore. In the end, that was the entire theme of the Matchbox – exposing the fungus of old issues and the heat of anxiety and depression, and starting to clean my dirty dishes, one at a time.
That led me to the third phase, which you can see here: My Experience with Antidepressants.
Thank you for reading.