Depression is a cruel and crippling disease, but it is a disease, not a weakness. It’s still very much a taboo subject, and the days of institutions and mind numbing drugs still exist. We’re becoming more educated though to mental illness, and this is a very good thing, but we’ve still a long way to go. There are so many treatments out there, the right medication, therapy of all sorts and sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is find someone to talk too. Back in January 2013, my most recent bout of depression struck, I turned to my GP, a wonderful, wonderful man. He understood and recognized what was happening to me, and stayed with me, supported me, and listened to me no matter how long it took. And when the treatment wasn’t working, he turned me over to the care of people who could. I’m so much better today and am so grateful to him, I couldn’t have done it without him. My struggle was long and difficult, but I’m nearly there, but I would of loved to talk to someone who knew what it all felt like, to tell me things get better.
So if I could go back in time , just for five minutes to reassure and comfort myself. I’d tell myself this will make you stronger and more independent, more forgiving and kinder to and of yourself. You’ll be more understanding of family and friends, all those times when you think they’ve deserted you, they haven’t, they love you, but they just don’t know what to say or do. Be kind to them, they’re doing their best. That night, 3 o’clock in the morning, walking the streets in so much pain, you do have a choice and you’ll make the right one and life will get better. But from that experience, you’ll become more compassionate to those who are suffering. You’ll learn that it’s ok to put yourself first, because putting yourself last didn’t work, you became overwhelmed and broken. And you were no good to anyone, when you could hardly get out of bed in the mornings. Life is precious, wonderful and amazing and you’ll come to believe that again and there’s always someone who can help and cares. Do always try and find something to laugh at or some one to laugh with, the best medicine of all.
If my words and experience bring you comfort, then I’m pleased, look that person and ask for help. It will be given.
I have recently started therapy, a ongoing attempt at re-connecting with myself. CBT with John on Tuesdays, a space to talk and explore. No egos hurt, no damage done. Last week, a compassionate letter to myself, I sat for ages looking at a blank piece of paper and all I could come up with was I’m a good mother and a loyal and loving friend. Pathetic! Difficult! Apparently this is common, somewhat comforting, misery does love company. This week it was social interaction and isolation, that opened deep wounds for me. Then art therapy with Sarah on Thursdays. Art therapy shows me I can do contented isolation well, I get absorbed in what I’m doing, as I caress the paper with my charcoal covered fingers and I forget all around me, I become calm and at ease with myself. I also do it well, when I snuggle into bed with my faithful companion, my Kindle. I get lost in the worlds of Bilbo Baggins, Elizabeth Bennet and Scout Finch and I feel my pain ease and my breathing slow.
I can feel myself sinking again, I’m turning back inside, the critical and angry me, the hyper-vigilant me, the despairing me. I’ve learnt how to recognize the signs, and I attempt to self isolate, although that doesn’t always work out, in an effort to avoid further damage to my already suffering friendships.
I think one of the greatest losers in depression is friendship, the desolation that depression brings affects everyone. I find myself now very isolated, my children are grown up and I rarely see them. My family a long way away, my friends are few and even fewer are my close friends. And over the months I feel some backing away, retreating somewhat to protect themselves, I get this, I don’t blame them, I was horrendous, I only hope that when this is all over, I can regain what I’ve lost. My friends are precious to me, to me they’re my family and family is everything.
I lost Liz at this time to sudden death, the ultimate isolation. I get so angry with her, then I think of the senselessness and futility of this and I get angry with myself. I still see her face everywhere, and sometimes I forget she’s gone and I smile and start walking towards her and then I remember. I’m exploring my grief in therapy but sometimes I feel I’m moving backwards.
I know the greatest gift I can give myself is contentedness in my own company, the gift of being alone not lonely, see I know this, but doing it is something altogether different.