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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