At one point I boasted a concentration level comparable to a goldfish on MDMA. I also genuinely thought that I was going deaf because I’d know that people were talking to me but I just couldn’t grasp the words being said. What? What? What?
I think post is more ‘Shit depressed people have to deal with’ than ‘Shit depressed people have to hear’, but this seems to be such a common concern among depression sufferers that I felt like I should offer my unwanted input on the subject.
“Is my depression making me dumber?”
I’d say yes, yes it is. I mean, I’m not a medical professional but I have seen MRI scans taken from depressed people and not-depressed people. Fucking hell, it’s like someone turned the lights out. So no wonder if you’re not feeling your sharpest. Also this question was very much prevalent in my mind, especially before hospitalisation. A few months ago I definitely felt that the few brain cells I had held to begin with had had enough of my shit and abandoned me.
When depression is at its worst there’s little energy left for anything other than the bare minimum. Your concentration is gone, your memory is gone. Every minute is so uncomfortable that you just want it to be over. Conversations with me must’ve been exasperating. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve stopped in the middle because I forgot where I was going with it because, ironically, I’ve forgotten.
Also my patience took off with my attention span and short-term memory. If someone had the audacity to walk ahead slower than me on the street, I was ready to put a curse on their family lineage. I also got annoyed with myself for being such a blockhead. Not just annoyed, I’d be fucking furious and felt like hitting my head against a wall both metaphorically and in practise. Luckily due to lack of energy these outbursts of rage were short-lived but annoying nevertheless.
At my sharpest I was able to work on ten stories at once and be able to jump into something I wrote two weeks ago at a drop of a hat when the phone would ring. Journalism is like that, you need to be on top of things constantly. Now I’d find myself standing in front of an open cupboard, not knowing whether I had opened it to take something out or put something in.
Moments like that do make you want to go back to bed and try life again tomorrow. Unfortunately if you’re like me and live alone, you still have responsibilities for your dumb ass to sort out. I’ve never been good at keeping a calendar because I used to remember appointments without a reminder. Emphasis on the past tense. Now I can’t imagine life without my phone’s calendar app.
I can personally vouch how incredibly annoying this little quirk of depression is. It’s not like you didn’t have enough on your plate. Now you’re thick as well. When a day is as long as a year and tomorrow is incredibly difficult to imagine, finding a pint of milk you had for whatever reason decided belonged in the cleaning closet isn’t exactly a silver lining on the bleak situation.
But, I can tell you it does get better. Once I was hospitalised, I couldn’t manage to hold my attention to watch a five-minute video. Let’s take a moment to pay our respect to the fact that I used to cover trials and inquests for a newspaper. God help us all.
A huge part of my concentration problem was that I was so exhausted due to my insomnia. Once that was sorted, I slowly started building my concentration back up again. I’d do this with videos I’d watch. A five-minute video, building up to a fifteen-minute documentary. A 20-minute episode of a program. Half an hour. This process took weeks.
However, I’m happy to tell you that this has improved massively. I can now watch a 90-minute film without a break, something that was unimaginable at one point. The milk ends up in the fridge once I’ve stopped using it, and I no longer constantly have to ask everyone to repeat themselves five times. Hooray!
This however doesn’t mean that I’m back to where I was. The days when I was able to jump between stories are still a faraway memory. If something is more complex, I definitely have to read and re-read it. Sometimes I get frustrated thinking how I used to be. I also worry is it ever going to come back but I try to remain hopeful. It’s not like I haven’t made massive progress. It’s just like everything else with depression: extremely slow.
Also speaking of memory, my memory also hosts massive gaps, especially before my hospitalisation and during it. I’m not talking about an odd day or two, I’m talking of months of complete and utter blanks. Clearly I haven’t died during this time period because I’m still here but otherwise I haven’t got a clue what’s been going on.
I think my energy was just redirected at that time for the absolute necessities regards to survival. There just wasn’t ability for anything else. Also I’m wondering how much of this is intentional. I was so ill. Maybe my brain is also trying to protect me by placing a blanket over certain time periods. Maybe. I’m sure that’s going to be addressed at some point during this blissful voyage called the recovery.
Don’t get me wrong. I still have my moments. I still forget where I was going with stories every once in a while and once had to once google the word ‘baby dog’ because I had forgotten the world held the precious thing known as puppies. Also there’s no point asking me which bird is singing outside or what a bank holiday is for because I don’t know and I won’t remember about five minutes after I’ve been told that for the third time. So let’s just say the process is still ongoing.
So to answer the question is depression making you dumber: Probably. The good thing is that it isn’t forever, it gets easier as you recover. However if stupidity was present to before depression, I unfortunately have nothing to offer. I’m still trying to figure that out myself.