After the huge response to my blog on mental health, I started to think about depression. I have been told many times before that I write as though I have lived a long time, and I have often thought about why that is.
For me I feel I have lived several different lives. There was my childhood. A time when everything was light, and free, and I would run wild around my family farm, always full of life, always happy.
Then there was my father’s suicide, and the 3 years that followed, years in which my mind remind light, just more mature, wiser, more aware of the world, and the fragility of life, and of the world we know as our own.
Then there were two years where everything got slowly more complex, and dark. My thoughts no longer let me feel the freedom I once knew, and over a very long and gradual process, I found myself suffocating from within my own self. I had depression.
Recently I had a very interesting conversation with someone who asked me how I got over depression. Here is the truth that nobody really addresses…You don’t! An alcoholic might not drink, but they will always be an alcoholic.
When I was seeking help for depression people would tell me, “you will get better”, “your mind can work again like it did”, “there is hope”, “now take this pill and talk it out”.
Nothing helped. In fact, the more I wished that I could get my old mind back, the worse I got. I would be filled with more guilt because I couldn’t snap out if it, and a sadness because I couldn’t remember how my mind used to be. I knew that it used to be different, that it used to work differently, and that suddenly, it just didn’t work anymore.
I think that belief that it could go back to the way it was, actually stopped me from pulling myself out of it. For me, depression is when your mind gets stuck, like a cd that gets scratched and keeps playing the same moment over and over. Typically the thing this is being replayed is the thing that you fear most, your greatest weakness, whatever it is in you that is the source of your inner most shame, or vunerability. For me it was the fear that I could have stopped my dad from killing himself, and that if I had of been more, or meant more, or done more, then he would have stayed.
This of course wasn’t literally what was playing on my CD, but it was the route of all the rest, and it would drag me down, again and again, making me feel useless, and guilty, and black, until I really didn’t feel I was worth anything at all, to anyone.
Then, once the depression has you, it uses that fixation to seep into everything else in your life…You are not good enough for that person, for that feeling, for that job, down and down, over and over, until you are so tired of your own self you can hardly find the strength the breathe.
You don’t want to see anyone, you can’t explain to them why you are so down. You can’t tell you family because it is a burden that they can’t see, and why should they have to worry anyway about someone so utterly useless and pathetic.
You don’t have cancer, you aren’t physically sick, how can you explain to them that some days the black is so bad you can even start to think about the peace that death might bring. How selfish is that, you are horrible, how can you think like that!
These are the thought patterns that appear over and over, and even though you know it’s ridiculous, that doesn’t stop it from taking over everything that you are.
This mind, the mind of someone who is mentally depressed, doesn’t dissappear. You can’t just undo it, or reverse it, or re-program it.
Am I happy now? Absolutely. Do I remember back to a mind before depression? Sometimes. Do I still search to get that mind back? No.
The key to curing mental illness for me, is first excepting it, embracing it, and then using it to get things done.
Sure, my mind can overanalyse, it can focus on one point and stay there, and if I let it focus on the bad point, I, and most people with a mental illness, can go straight back into a black hole.
Instead, I decided one day that I would be an international horse rider, and I had to get fit and healthy to ride my horse. Every second of every day after that I channeled all my mind energy, that was previously used to belittle and suffocate me, into my goal. I used the same amount of drive and determination, and strength I had put into going down, into my decision to go back up.
It was time consuming, and it takes work. You have to learn to listen to every thought, turn it around to make it useful and positive, and then put it to use.
Every, you don’t deserve, becomes, you deserve because. And this process, has to happen 100,000 times before it starts to actually shift the balance in your brain between bad vs good.
I think one of the greatest hurdles of depression is that they want to find a cure. Or that the person themselves want to be cured. When I realised that that was never going to happen, I got proactive about using the mind I had, to get where I wanted to be. If I didn’t have my mind would I have been able to move overseas alone, find a horse, start competition, and actually make it onto the international scene? I can’t answer that question.
Did my mind, one that could fixate on something and never give up, one that could drive me so far into darkness I felt no escape, did that mind, when put to something good help me? Absolutely!