The Days When Everything Is Too Much

I would like to explain how I experience depression, it’s important to recognise that not everyone experiences it the same way. My experience of depression starts with a gradual disconnection from some of my feelings, the good times just don’t feel so good, the things I’m sad about don’t plunge me quite so far. To the outside I seem quite normal, apart from sometimes I don’t engage properly when in conversation, I don’t seem to have heard everything that was said, I’m distant and vague.

Gradually this all gets worse until I feel like I’m living in a very foggy day, everything is deadened, everything is damped right down, and I have retreated to a tiny corner of my mind where hope is hard to find.

Any attempt to engage with the outside world, however, is terrifying. It makes me physically sick, I get panicked, I can’t breathe, I sweat and shake. I can overcome it, but it takes all my will power, and because of the level of difficulty I can seem quite angry to anyone I interact with.

I feel like everything is too difficult, I feel completely overwhelmed, I feel like I have been buried alive. I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m trying to reach out to those of you who do understand, so that you know you are not alone.

I’m also trying to reach out to those of you who don’t understand, to help you see that depression is not the blues, not a bad day, but a life threatening illness. You can’t just switch it off, most of the time you don’t even realise that you’re ill. You can’t just “pull yourself together”, it’s not that simple. Talking to someone is really helpful, but not if they are going to judge you in any way.

It’s an illness, and you can recover from it. I’ve gotten over it before, and I will do again. But, not everyone does. Not everyone is strong enough to hold on until their own mind starts to see a way out, starts to see that there is hope, starts to blow the fog away and feel things fully again.

This information is here so that it is easier to empathise with people who are depressed, so that you understand you cannot make that person better, you can be there for them, you can listen to them repeat themselves for the 200th time and not judge them for the fact that they are stuck. But neither you, or they, can force a change, it has to happen when their subconscious mind (back brain) is ready.

And there will be days when they seem fine, and then suddenly they are back at the beginning again. And there will be days when they are angry at everything. It’s not your fault, it’s not theirs either. And there will be days when they don’t want to engage with anything.

Just remember, both the good times and the bad times pass, change is the one constant in our lives. And it’s good to embrace that change, and work your way forward to a better place. It’s where I’m aiming at. See you there.

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This too shall pass…

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m struggling. My depression hasn’t left the building like I thought it had. The many and varied atrocities committed by our government, the precarious situation globally, and one or two personal stressors have got me down.

Don’t think I’m giving in without a fight. I have my lovely Tim and the wonderful Shelley G Shepherd, some fantastic friends and relations, who help buoy me up with their love and support (thank you all). I take great solace from nature, even stuck in the middle of this city.

But the world has gone so far down the wrong road, the current British government more than most, that my personal emotional resources are currently at a low ebb.

Because of the changes made by Ca-moron, Osborne, IDS (such a nasty disease) and their cronies, I’m going to have to stop being self-employed… just before Christmas. Not that we spend much on Christmas, but now we can’t spend anything.

I know “this too shall pass away”, but just at this moment I feel more like a mountain has been dumped on my head. I WILL get over it. I will continue to try and persuade people that we need a kinder, less judgemental world. There is (as Gandhi said) “enough for everyone’s need”, we need to sideline and marginalise those who are driven by greed. Not with hatred but with a sorrowing compassion. They are truly unhappy souls, I wouldn’t trade my depression for their unhappiness.

So, my friends, to all of you who are finding these times hard, know that you are not alone. We are the many (maybe even the legion) working for a better, kinder, more generous world. And know that I, and all our fellow travellers, are holding your hand.

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.