Me and the Big Black Cloud

Many of you who know me, know that I have spent many, many years of my life struggling with depression. Depression is still a very misunderstood illness. A lot of people think that because they have felt low for the occasional day this means they know all about depression.

I am NOT an expert, but having lived with depression all through my teenage years, as well as for a large proportion of my adult life, I can at least tell you about my experience.

Depression is not waking up feeling sad. Depression is waking up and feeling numb: everything is muted; the colours aren’t as bright; noises come to you through cotton wool; emotions lack depth. It’s like living in a permanent fog.

The big problem is, you’re not even sure that there is a problem a lot of the time. You can’t remember what it’s like not to feel that way… just a little bit dead inside.

And depression is nasty, because every now and then you’ll have a good day and think “great, I’m better now”, and the next day everything will be hopeless again.

When you feel depressed you know that nobody wants to know, or hear, about it. You get really good at camouflaging it. You smile harder so that no one will guess how hopeless you feel.

You don’t believe that anyone could really like you, not if they knew how low and worthless you felt inside. You keep people at an arms length, because you think they wouldn’t like you if they knew you, so you don’t let them know you, and you reinforce the whole cyclical negative thought process by telling yourself that the friends you do have only like the person you pretend to be, not the “real” you. And that way you nullify the love and support they offer you.

You have NO CONTROL over this! Sometimes you are aware of the way you are thinking, but you can’t stop it. The glass really is only half full – it’s not enough – but you can’t do anything about it. You’re living with a big black cloud that WILL rain on your parade any time it wants to.

And then there are those times when nothing is hopeful, you’re going to feel like this forever, you’re never going to have any real friends, no one will ever really love you, nothing good will ever really happen, nothing will ever change… and that thought, that last thought is so awful that you want to die. NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE. And you can’t bear it.

But things can change, and you have to hold on to that certainty with both hands. Life is change. Everything changes, all the time, often only little by little, but inexorably change comes.

I was lucky. In my life at different times I have had two brilliant counsellors. They both encouraged me to talk about myself and my feelings. They didn’t judge me. They accepted the bad, and the good. They waited with me when I wasn’t ready to move forward. They understood that sometimes I wasn’t able (yet) to pass a sticking point. They challenged me when what I said didn’t make sense. Until, sometimes in huge leaps and sometimes in tiny baby steps, I started to understand myself and to forgive myself for not being perfect. And I started to forgive the people, who, with the best of intentions, had set the foundations for my depression.

And I am even more lucky, because I have dear friends who have stood by me in really difficult times, and listened to me repeat myself, and not judged me, but understood that some things have to be said more than once, more than twice even.

And I am even more lucky, because my lovely daughter mostly forgives me for her less than ideal childhood. I think she knows how much I love her.

And I am even more lucky, because I found my lovely Tim. I have never been so loved, and I have never loved so much. And I am happy.

I know how fragile and precious happy is. I know how easy it can be to slip back into old habits of thinking. But I really do believe that this time I have done enough work, I have made myself (with everyone’s help) strong enough not to become depressed again, even when life challenges me with sadness.

So, for those of you still caught, hold on, KNOW life is change, your life, your mind can change. You too can find happy when you are ready to.

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