Have you seen the suggested posts on Facebook, I’m thinking of one in particular; “Are you depressed about the fine lines around your eyes”. I see red every time I see this. Why do we throw away words in such a thoughtless or careless manner, mindless of the implications and effects over others. Whether it’s using such a powerful word to describe a few lines or making promises to friends we can’t or aren’t prepared to keep.
Depression isn’t being upset over a few lines on our faces, it’s being alone with your thoughts and those thoughts are telling you over and over, you’re useless, worthless and unlovable. It’s pain and not just emotional, it’s physical, and your body aches all over. It’s finding it damn near impossible to put one foot in front of the other, let alone get out of bed in the morning. It’s exhaustion, physically and mentally, but not being able to sleep. You can’t eat and when you force yourself, everything tastes like cardboard. Every sense in your body is numbed, colours are faded, images dimmed, sounds muffled and then there’s the hypervigilence and every noise makes you jump. People talking around you is akin to a jackhammer pounding away outside your door for the last eight hours. You can’t leave the house because crowds make you panicky, shake and sob. Your dreams die and your passions and loves no longer interest you.
Then comes isolation, as people drift away from you, the few that stay around, well you can hear in voice and see in their eyes, their desire to be a long way from you. And why not, you’re not fun to be around and you sap their energy and they’re busy getting on with life. And the others, well they can’t be found, later they’ll tell you, “I didn’t know what to say” or “I wouldn’t have been much help anyway”. Don’t you know I would have given anything to hear you say, I love you and I’m here for you, if you need me. Why couldn’t you have given me that choice. You’re trapped inside this aching body and insidious mind and you just want the pain to stop, so you consider what is unthinkable to a healthy person, and the planning of it is as mundane as making a shopping list. And if things aren’t bad enough, people will tell you, there’s no such thing as depression, why don’t you just pull yourself together. Everybody has bad days. To my mind depression is a grieving process, and the loss is of one’s self. That’s the face of depression. To use this powerful word in any other way denigrates the suffering and desperation of those with mental illness.
But I was one of the lucky ones, I had a great GP, who kept in contact and who knew when it was time to hand me over to the experts. I got a proper diagnosis, my medications were changed and adjusted gradually till they worked for me and then months of therapy. A wonderful space to explore, talk and cry, where I wasn’t judged or hurried away. I learnt ways to process my thoughts and emotions in a more positive and harmonious way.
That was me two years ago, today I’m so much better, but I have to work at it everyday. I can never become too complacent, but I’ve learnt to recognize my triggers and I know when I’m beginning to sink again. What works for me is communication and open dialogue, the power of words, but sometimes it falls on deaf ears, and I’m left reeling from the emotional turmoil. I am overly sensitive and in this dog eat dog world, I struggle. Utopia to me is a world filled with compassion and empathy, what a caring and wonderful society we would then have.
I want to embrace life, it’s experiences and challenges, as well as new and renewed relationships, fully, but how do I do that without getting hurt. Is it at all possible? That is my challenge, I’m back looking for work, a somewhat disheartening process, but I keep my head up and move on to the next possibility. So I’ve got the experiences and challenges under control, but relationships are very different. I always seem to end up getting hurt. Why do I dive in head first, and get so emotionally involved, when I know it’s going to end in tears. Why do I keep making the same mistake. Words again, I get lulled into this sense of security, of believing and trusting, in what others say, but at the same time I’m scared of not believing and not trusting and missing out on something wonderful. What is the key, I really wish I knew. All I can really do, is keep positive and strong and in time too, perhaps my relationships will come good.
“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks…….”~William Shakespeare.
I had my last therapy session today, and I have mixed feelings. A little sadness for an ending, very few of us embrace change easily, but I am certain that though my journey in your safe and inspiring presence has ended, I will continue to grow in my own loving care. My journey hasn’t ended, it is transitioning to a new phase and as my life moves forward, I meet many other transitions and I think I’m going to be just fine.
I’m thankful for the space, the tools and awareness and the ability to transcend beyond that awareness to a place of contentment and strength and growth. I’m thankful for your humour, your wisdom and for pushing me just a little bit further than I thought I could stand. For the safety and trust you inspired, when I was at my lowest and stripped raw. I’m thankful for all the wonderful prose that brought tears to my eyes, not from sadness but from resonance. And finally I’m thankful, for your teaching me, that I’m not alone. That there is safety in numbers and there is always somewhere to turn.
I’ve learnt that forgiveness for me is not about accepting and condoning someone else’s actions or words, but in no longer giving them power over me. That my greatest demons weren’t my past, but myself, all that pain, shame, guilt, grief and anger turned in on me, till all I could see was a worthless, loveless, hateful tortured soul. Unworthy of any love or happiness. A mask of acceptance to the world, yet inside a seething mass of self hatred. I’m free from that today and if I ever feel myself turning in again, I have my toolbox, mindfulness, meditation, self hypnosis and breathing. Concentrate on the breathing and mind follows till I can centre myself again and move on. That which ails and troubles us, is not from without, but within and only we can make those changes. It’s not our past or events or people that bring us to our knees, but how we process and internalize and turn that against ourselves. External factors are not our enemy, but our mind can be, and it’s vital we make peace with her.
My last words to you, John was that you’ve given me back my freedom, something I haven’t had since my childhood. The freedom to take risks, the freedom to say no, the freedom to not have to make apologies for my choices and finally the freedom to get to know and love the me that is, still slightly broken but oh so lovable and so worthy of everything life will offer and no longer seeking the need for approval or acceptance.
Happiness today for me is the simple pleasures in life, mesmerizing stargazing; playing the piano; making time for relaxation; gazing at a beautiful scene or image; beautiful flowers; wonderful memories, and looking to the past only as it makes us happy and reconnecting and touching base with my dear friends.
Thank you John, for helping me to make this all my reality.
And now I think it is time for a song dedication, I know just the right thing, how about a little James Blunt. Yes!! No, ok I can hear the moans and groans from here. So that won’t do. Well then how about that infectious and boppy Pharrell Williams song, Happy. It seems appropriate and it’s playing away in the background as I write this. Farewell for now. So how about that certificate now.
I’ve been going back over my old posts recently, two reasons primarily, the first to reevaluate my own personal journey. The second to explore how I’ve developed as a writer. So today I’d like to revisit an old post and explore it further in light of my recent experiences, my own story rather than my growth as a writer.
I do like what I wrote back then, it spoke to me at that time, of how I wanted my life to be and I recall a feeling of being uplifted on completing it, but did writing it make any difference, the short answer is no, not then, not for a long while. We think if we say something often enough it becomes real. If only it were that simple, the reality though is that, we are what we believe we are and back then I still had to hit rock bottom before I could start believing in a better, happier, worthwhile me. Why are some people perfectionists, in a nut shell, we have low self esteem, we strive to prove our worth, to ourselves and to others by reaching for unattainable perfection. In believing in our low self worth we anxiously strive to prove ourselves, there is no in between, we’re black or white, all or nothing and success or failure. Low self esteem patterns of behaviour are extensive, but for me I’ve always listened to and analysed the words or statements of others. That was my trigger, my pattern of destruction, and believing myself to found wanting fed this cycle of perfectionism/procrastination. Words hurt, nuances and tones crush.
Harking back to an old mantra of our childhood and the schoolyard.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
If only we’d learnt to believe that, all those years ago. But words have the power to be the most inspiring or the most destructive force on earth. And the careless words of a thoughtless person, became the catalyst to all that came after for me. Do I blame her, not entirely, not even mostly, if my own worth had been strong, those words could never have held that much power, but we all need to take responsibility for what we say and the consequences that unfold. So were those words, derogatory, offensive or damning. No they were fairly innocuous in themselves, but to me, with low self esteem and reeling from having just lost my job and security, they were overwhelmingly devastating and undermined everything I had worked hard for. Those words only lost their potency in recent months, when I came to a powerful realization, so powerful that with the tears and release, went so much negative energy. That was the moment when everything started clearing for me, when I accepted and let go. In letting go of those words, everything else started falling away. The need for approval, the need for constant company, the need to always say yes and the need to be perfect, all gone.
My inner demon is quiet now, I hardly ever hear from her, and if she does make an appearance she gets ever so quickly gagged and pushed to the back of my mind. So how then too is the perfectionist in me fairing, I honestly don’t know, I haven’t been in contact with her for awhile. That feels so good to say.
I’ve completed my Advanced Diploma now, although it very nearly became another casualty, what kept me going, the support and friendship of the three very wonderful women that I met through my studies, without them I would have pulled out, without a doubt. The final part of my advanced diploma, a thesis on the practical application of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, was completed in April this year, was it perfect, no but I was happy with it. And the best part of all of this was when I stopped worrying about how good it was, it freed me up to do a paper that my teacher thought worthy of publishing on his website. Yeah I’m never doing that perfectionist rubbish again.
In letting go, I’ve also started taking more risks, and no longer living a life of ‘what ifs’, I’m ready to start working again, and to start seeing clients. And best of all, I’ve grabbed hold of nerves and doubts and reconnected with an old friend. To my memory, the sweetest and kindest boy I’ve ever known and it’s been great getting to know him all over again. I could never have done all this two years ago.
I’m coming rapidly to the end of my therapy. I was talking to a friend about it last week, she asked how I felt about it. In the spirit of positive thinking I responded, that I was great and it didn’t bother me, but the reality is a bit different. I’m scared, scared of retreating back inside me, with only my horrible critical self for company. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not admitting defeat, because I’m going to work very hard to stay positive and strong. I’m on the usual drugs, antidepressants to lift the depression and anti-psychotics to stop me from getting too high and I’ve no doubt they’ve helped me considerably, but having someone to talk to about living with bipolar depression has been a god send and without the therapy I don’t believe I’d be anywhere near where I am now.
Therapy has given me the space to talk, cry, howl in pain, to strip my very being down to the basics and start rebuilding and accepting and really living. It’s given me the tools that have allowed me to become once again, content, strong, independent and hopeful. Recently I was asked to think about what makes me resilient, to write about it, I was excited at first but as I sat down to write, nothing came to mind. I know I’ve developed great resilience but it was an unconscious enlightenment, I just was, I feel ready for anything right now. But that isn’t enough, to have any hope of meeting depression head on the next time, I need awareness. So I began journalliing, I forgot about an audience and wrote just for me. What a powerful tool a journal is, to write as thoughts come to mind, no matter the order, as you release one thought another comes to mind and another. What I’ve learnt is to be aware of all my thoughts, to challenge the negatives and challenge the critical thinking, don’t allow them to own you and never give power over yourself to any other human being. Be your own master and let others be theirs. To own who I am and make no apologies, to love my own company and to allow that aloneness to energize and strengthen me, to find lots to laugh at and always be hopeful, nothing is insurmountable. And finally hindsight, I’ve survived depression and suicidal thoughts, a few times now and I’ll do it again. That’s what makes me strong right now, and right now is where I’m at.
But right now, I’m still in therapy…..
I’m not a fool, I’ve had several bouts of depression over the years, and I doubt this recent one will be my last. If and when that time comes, will I be able to meet that challenge without my crutch, will I remember everything I’ve learnt or will I be doomed to repeat the cycle of pain and loneliness and descent down that dark and bottomless tunnel. Journal, hindsight and challenging the thoughts. Let it become my mantra.
When I first started writing this blog the superego in my byline was a very dear friend. And yes he’s still a very dear friend and still capable of some amazing superego qualities (you’re smiling aren’t you, Exultatron). I tended to live vicariously through him back then, to look to him for approval, he was the exciting to my questioning and doubting. But as I’ve emerged that superego has slowly become me, the me I am right now, right this moment, the me I want to continue being, an exciting and wonderful future that is my doing. I’ll still at times be that sidekick, because I’ll always continue to question, occasionally doubt, and maybe I’ll even hate me. To ignore that possibility, is to put my head in the lion’s mouth, a dangerous folly. It is strange that this is my blog, my journey and yet I made myself invisible. Instead of being a participant in my own life, I became a watcher from the sidelines.
The observations and obsessions of a Superego’s sidekick. I’ve come full circle, I’m the superego and occasional sidekick. I’m now an active player in my own destiny and this is my story.
Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear for I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them is me.
from the poem Please Hear What I’m Not Saying by Charles C. Finn
The world is reeling from the news of Robin Williams suicide. It’s impossible for us to reconcile ourselves to the fact that this man who brought such joy and laughter to the world, could have been in so much pain himself.
If this teaches us anything, it’s that depression does not discriminate. from rich or poor, young or old. Here was a man, so celebrated and loved, by family, friends and the world at large. A wonderful and beautiful actor and comedian and by all accounts a man filled with such great kindness, and yet he was not immune. Depression and suicide, doesn’t make sense and there is no point in trying to do so. Depression is not a life choice, but an illness that can strike at anytime in anyone. And sometimes it’s a fatal illness, we need as a society to become more educated about the illness, to take it out of the dark ages and lift the taboo and then maybe many others who suffer in silence may be saved.
There has been outpourings of grief, sadness and support from across the world, but sadly there has also been condemnation as everyone tries to make sense in their own way of what has happened. But condemnation only seeks to diminish our humanity, and yes we are all capable of finding some level of compassion for others, if not understanding.
If you consider this, each and every one of us has felt despair and loneliness at some point in our lives, many have experienced the devastation of depression and for some the pain is so intolerable and consuming that they consider ending their own lives. Some survive, others do not. Look to your own experiences, open your heart and mind and just for a moment walk in someone else’s shoes.
Robin Williams has me laugh and cry many times, but never more so than now, as I recall the maniacal, jubilant and vulnerable man who was Mork from Ork. I’m deeply saddened by his passing and the world is a little emptier and sadder for it.
Rest in Peace.
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.