It’s not a huge secret that I, like so many of us, have a long standing relationship with depression. Fortunately and finally, we are in a safe environment to admit as much. The lifting of this stigma can never be underestimated in its importance.

The depression I experienced in the first half of my adult life was a crash and burn, rise and fall battle that I could never win and almost destroyed me.

The depression I have experienced in the second half of my adult life, has been more of an ebb and flow, coexisting, reluctant acceptance of one another.

I could inappropriately call the depression I experience now the ‘diet’ version. It tastes the same as the other version, but with less of the negative side effects. (P.S I really don’t care what you have to say about aspartame, this is a joke).

I’ve also come to accept I will never be totally free of depression, but then I don’t want to be either. That may surprise you, but I can assure you it is the truth.

In fact, if somebody tried to take my depression away, like brothers who fight over everything internally, from who gets the blue toothbrush to omnipotence of the remote control, yet fix ranks and stand together when attacked externally, I would defend ‘my’ depression against any and all external threats.

I would safeguard my beautiful depression, because from it has spawned every insight, every inspiration, every philosophy and every conclusion of any importance that I have ever experienced.

“Only in the darkness can we truly see the light.”

Yet, reaching this climactic point of coexistence with my own depression, required a paradigm shift of gargantuan proportions to precede it.

This shift contained three things.

I will call these three things ‘thingys’ for no other reason than calling things ‘thingys’ is painfully British and i’m British and if you’re reading this there is a 83% chance you are not (only 17% of our members are British) and you may find it delightfully twee.

If you are one of the 17% of readers who happens to be British, you can nod your head and say “I call things ‘thingys’ too. We invented the language and that’s the best we’ve got.”

Whilst no two depressions are the same, if these words resonate with even one person who has experienced the depths of darkness I have, they are worth writing.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thingy 1: The change of changes

Once upon a time, depression stopped me in my tracks in the entirely literal sense. When darkness struck, everything stopped.

I stopped working out, I stopped working, I stopped washing my clothes, I stopped having a shower, I stopped speaking to anybody, I stopped opening my curtains.

I just stopped.

My thoughts, emotions and visions overwhelmed me into a state of frozen inaction because every action seemed worthless, every relationship felt empty, every moment presenting as an irrelevance in an ocean of pointlessness that drained away into an empty oblivion.

...at this point, like a teenager rushing foreplay, I need to move somewhat prematurely into thingy 2. These ‘thingys’ are not linear, they intertwine, overlapping one another like fact and fiction in a politicians speech.

Thingy 2: All things must pass.

I can’t actually take credit here. Credit goes to the greatest Beatle, (no arguments please, all other options are wrong) George Harrison, for this.

“All things must pass. It's not always going to be this grey.”

It could be weeks or months, yet in spite of it all, for me at least, my depression did pass.

Yet when my depression passed, I had a problem.

I hadn’t exercised, eaten healthily, worked or paid my bills. I looked like Robinson Crusoe, if Robinson Crusoe had an unlimited supply of chocolate, crisps and ‘two minute’ microwave meals. So nothing like Robinson Crusoe really, but you get the point.

Internally life was now looking brighter, but externally I had a big mess to clear up.

So I cleared the mess up.

Then Depression struck again and I created another mess.

I cleared it up again. Then Depression returned. I created an even bigger mess.

Each time was a little harder than the last. Each effort greater. The toll on my health and body could not continue to compound exponentially.

The periods of depression were getting longer. The gaps between each depression shorter. I started to consider the ‘unthinkable’.

If you’ve ever had depression you don’t need me to explain what the ‘unthinkable’ is. For too many, the unthinkable becomes the thinkable, becomes the actual, becomes unimaginable pain for those who cared.

Now is the time to return to thingy 1, the change of changes.

“*£$# you depression. You’ve beaten me up for to long. You ain’t taking it all.”

I continued in my thoughts.

“What if, even though I am depressed, I refuse to change my routine. What if, regardless of my thoughts, feelings or emotions, I just carry on. Like a robot. A programmed automaton.”

That was it. And it worked. That 'thingy' changed everything.

Thingy 1: Have a routine. Keep it.

It didn’t remove the pain or ‘cure’ my depression, but that was never the point. The pain was still there, it always will be to varying extents.

The only difference was that I DID. Being the stubborn cockney that I am, I refused to let depression win. I imagined myself sticking my middle finger up at it as I went about my day.

I followed routine regardless of how much I wanted to, how little I felt like it and in spite of the darkness that followed me everywhere I went.

Something did change though.

Over time, the periods of depression shortened and the periods between them lengthened. Over a longer time still, the sharpness of the pain dulled. The stark ‘fire and ice’ of my life has become more like a ‘slightly warm radiator and a nicely chilled beer’.

Not quite as exciting, but what the heck, I’m fast approaching the age when slippers are a more appropriate gift than dancing shoes. In fact, that I call shoes ‘dancing shoes’, highlights exactly how little cool I have left.

Being compared to a radiator is comparatively preferential.

When depression strikes these days, my grip on routine is vice-like. I cling on to it like a drowning man clings to a dinghy. (The Dinghy Thingy 1)

I know that my depression will pass (Thingy 2), as the late Sir George said it would, and when it does the insights on humanity, mortality, resilience, bravery and perseverance, that can only be learned in the dark, can be applied to my life and shared with those they resonate with.

The insights I learn through my journeys into and out of the darkness are central to everything I do.

Without my depression, I would be a shallow version of the person I am. Any depth to my character (and some may argue there isn't that much of it) has not been found in the light, but in the darkness.

Thingy 3. The third lesson, therefore, can only be the beauty I see in my depression, if I know how to look.

It is easy to live with something you respect.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My friend, I believe in one thing above all others.

The power we retain to take action.

This belief creates an unbreakable confidence I hold, that every single person, regardless of circumstance or emotional state, can achieve and be whatever they want to be.

That includes you.

You can do. You can create. You can engage.

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11 Comments
  1. Hiba 1 year ago

    Beautifully expressed.. Thank you.
    We are on this earth to learn acceptance.. We are continuously bombarded with relentless waves of sadness, so much so that the wounds never heal. But happiness and relief does come in waves too, all are worth riding, embracing, accepting, otherwise how can we grow as human beings.

    There’s a quote by Rumi that I love:

    “The wound is the place where the light enters you”

    • Kathleen Connor 1 year ago

      What a beautiful quote….

  2. Cassandra Bush 1 year ago

    I agree with Hiba, very insightful and beautifully expressed. This too has been a battle for myself, on and off, and a quote I love, and follow is ” This too shall pass”. I think we are all made of the people we’ve come to know, and the experiences life has given us, good and bad. Getting beyond, and up and above those hard, painful experiences and moments, there is something so great to be said about that. Strength, Hope, Courage, and the determination to move forward despite it all, now that’s powerful. I feel for every bad thing that has been endured, it makes us just that more stronger, it changes us.

  3. STeve Mcnie 1 year ago

    Thank you so much Daniel. This really helps.

  4. Kathleen Connor 1 year ago

    What a beautiful writing, truly, I’ve never read such a take on depression before, I’m going to revisit this again and again. No argument on the favorite Beatle here. Waaa waaa!

  5. Claudia Gracia 1 year ago

    I have been on this same road… it is tough but definitely a good advise to keep going. I am so glad I found this community with lots of people I keep learning from.

  6. Annette Backmann 12 months ago

    wow! Thank you for that. My Mother battles depression, I have it and so do my two beautiful children ( 22 and 18 years of age ). I will encourage both of my kids two read this, I don’t know if they will but I hope they do. It has been a tough road but the worst is that I have to watch them go through those depression times and it is a hard, hard thing to watch. because there is very little I can do other then being their for them. I rather would have both of their depression and anxiety moments on top of my already awful depression and anxiety, then watch them one more minute battling this awful thing they have to carry with them.

  7. Roger Christie 11 months ago

    Well stated and good advice. I too use routine as in doing your exercises regularly, which alone lifts my spirits along with other very small or big goals to minimize depression. Well, having goals together actions and routines irregardless of how I feel. Recently I accomplished a huge goal that seemed impossible over my lifetime and even a few months ago. I sang and put on a concert with wonderful woman singer and great musicians. Well was a series of smaller ones over two years, Jazz and Broadway, then a few days ago, a big Broadway show with stories interwoven of me as a Kid singer growing up in my eccentric family. Think Wood Allen Radio Days movie. Received raves reviews about it being a classy and wonderful show with people loving the concert and the stories. Most meaningful was the gent who admitted a song I d sung I brought tears to his eyes, the best compliment I could hear as a singer is to know the heart one put into it was felt. Not bad for maturing 69 yr old guy! Lesson for me is keep to small realizable goals BUT sometimes raising the bar a lot let’s you achieve a huge goal…Dream Big esp, if it s a deep fear, then do the routines and small action steps.
    I remember a leader speaking of his son failing in math, so instead of expecting a small improvement as the key goal, he raised the bar very high for marks to acheive and the kid really rose to the challenge and did it…sometimes a bigger goal brings a bigger heart into going for it…and .thanks Daniel….great programs and advice!

    • Author
      Daniel Bartlett 11 months ago

      Wow Roger, what an astonishing accomplishment and inspiring path towards it. The heart sure does drive much in life…thank you so much for sharing this!

  8. Jill Pannill 9 months ago

    George is my fave Beatle too….

  9. Julie Watson 6 months ago

    Reading this was like drinking water. Refreshing and familiar. I have had a LONGGG battle with depression. I was diagnosed as a young teenager (13) and after trying 8 different medications over the course of 12 years- nothing worked. I left my (now ex) husband, lost my job, my car, and my house all in 2 short months. I never thought I would get so low but I also never thought I’d make it to see 24 years old. It was then I had my first attempted overdose suicide. My room mate had left for the night and I swallowed 16 Ambien 10mg. She had forgotten something and returned home sometime after this and found me. I was admitted and stayed in the psych ward for 6 days. I came home the day after Christmas (no fun to be in the hospital on Christmas day, especially a lock down unit) and found myself in the same situation 6 months later. This time, I was living with my parents again and my Mom found me. This happened once more about 2 months after that. Somehow, I got through. THREE times. I wasn’t reaching out for help- I didn’t want any. I really just wanted everything to end. I had the best years of my youth stolen from me by depression and anxiety- what was the point anymore? After this last time, I was basically forced to be on constant watch. No doors to me room, no phone, just me and my parents, who up until this point I didn’t realize how scared they were. What I was doing in their eyes, and most who have not been there before think I was being selfish. I see how people could believe that- but unless you’ve lived in the personal Hell that I had for my life and still continued to face daily, then it’s anything but that. By this time, I knew I had to find something to keep my occupied. I found drinking. I found smoking. I found a group of friends who made me feel better when I was with them. I found the gym. Then, I found working out. That has been my fuel. I got married and had a baby. I fell off the work out regimen, but I threw myself into being a Mom, Wife and Full time worker. I’d always felt something was missing, I knew i had everything I needed, but couldn’t find that one thing that was just for me. Being a Mom and wife is amazing, and rewarding, but exhausting. I now work part time so I am able to stay home with my kids. But, still, something was lacking. THEN I found Team Body Project. I’ve only been on my program for 3 weeks but I am addicted. Bad Day, work hard, Tough day, work long, good day, work while smiling. Every single day gives me a reason to press play- and I am so thankful to have found a group to work alongside who empowers you and reminds you that we are all real people going through real life wanting real results. Thanks for all that you do, I hope you realize how important you and the team are to all of us!

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