Thursday, 23 January 2014

The weight of the black dog

You apply for a job. A few weeks later, a message arrives inviting you for interview, and asking you to prepare an answer to the following question…

A sense of exhaustion washes over you. You can’t imagine how you would ever answer a question like that. Even reading the email is exhausting. You know you should reply, one way or the other, but the thought of replying is unbearable. It can’t be done. You go and do something else to distract yourself, while the letter niggles at your mind.

The next day, you read it again. “Don’t be silly”, you tell yourself. You try to picture yourself sitting there answering the question. Only defeated, hopeless answers present themselves. The idea of making it through the interview without simply giving up and leaving seems ludicrous, and if you try to imagine actually doing the job, you see yourself slumped at a desk ineffectually, wondering how long you can conceal your inability to do anything, particularly when you don’t have the energy or inclination to conceal anything. Hopeless. Best to reject it. But rejecting the interview is, you know, stupid. You applied! You wanted to change something. And anyway, rejecting it would be exhausting too. It’s impossible. You go and do something else.

A third day comes. The interview is only a few days away. You really need to respond soon. Even thinking about it makes you tired, and apathetic, and miserable. Do you have a headache? You leave the message on your screen, and avoid the desk because of the baleful glare of the words. You just want it to go away. To never have to think about it again. No interviews, no letters, no jobs. Just let it stop. It is a physical weight pressing down on you, bending your head and making your shoulders ache. Your eyes are tired and dry, and want to close.

It is the fifth day. There is a message on your phone. You know what it is. After ignoring it for two hours, you crack and play it back. The harassed yet apologetic official voice sounds in your ear: “…don’t seem to have a reply, wondered if…” until it slips from your fingers – they feel so clumsy, almost like they aren’t yours at all. The voice murmurs on as you shamble out of the room, unable to bear it. Maybe if you just ignore everything, it will go away. You know it won’t.

You sit at your computer, resigned to composing a reply. The message glares at you. You reread it, and wilt slowly as you do. Your fingers are numb on the keys. Your mind is frozen. The gears of your brain jam. Inside, a bird flutters helplessly and desperately as the grey fog rolls in, like treacle. One half panicking, one half numb. Your eyes fall on the furniture, and notice the dust of weeks. And after a while, you go to do something else, leaving the message unanswered.

The day of the interview comes, and goes. Something rages helplessly in a lost corner of your mind. A great, shapeless oozing weight has pinned everything else down; birdlike flutterings come, and are soon drowned. There is no sense of relief, because you know that though you got what you wanted, you lost. It's hard to care about that, either. So very tired.

It's difficult to understand what mental illness can be like. I thought I would take the time to write this down. Maybe it's hard to imagine skipping a job interview like this. This is the enemy, or at least one of its faces: a great and terrible apathy, a weariness of spirit. It's hard to imagine how impossible things can seem, until it happens. I struggle to remember myself, after the lead fog drifts away.

My symptoms are, officially, "mild".

And I had better go and try to answer that damned invitation, because it's still only the third day, and this is just another kind of procrastination.


  1. Thank you for sharing your pain. I know it's hard to share such personal details, especially on the internet, but I think it can help people comprehend, just a little, of what it can be like.

    1. Oh hey, it's you! Wasn't expecting to see you on here. There's not a whole lot of overlap :)

      It seemed like a thing to do this time, and maybe it even helped work me up to replying (I did in the end).