I was NOT getting out of bed. There was nothing to get up for, except pressure and worry and lack. I pulled the quilt up and over my head, and when a friend called my mobile, to ask what I was doing that day, I told her. Absolutely nothing. I am staying here, with the curtains drawn, all day.
She put on her firm and assertive voice, and said “Now come on, get up, get dressed, and get out somewhere. It will do you the world of good.” I said “Catherine, I love you to bits, but please f**k off!” And she did, bless her. I can’t remember how long I stayed holed up in my miserable pit, but I must have kick – started myself eventually.
I have to say, however, I am lucky to have had only the odd days where I felt such a need to completely switch off and hide. I have been overwhelmed, sad, exhausted and temporarily without a single helpful idea…….but then, who hasn’t? It isn’t possible to live on planet Earth and NOT be in that place, occasionally. But I do have first hand experience with others who have ongoing periodic bouts of what can only be described as internal hell. You can see them but you can’t reach them. Their eyes darken, and carry a silent warning……”Leave me alone!” In his hugely despondent state, someone once told me “I can’t feel any joy at all.” And I knew he meant it.
And I once tried what my friend tried on me, with a woman who experienced regular bouts of helpless, hopeless emotional darkness. I thought “I have three options: ignore it, sympathise with her, or reach in and try and pull her out.” I opted for the third, and she looked as if she wanted to kill me with her bare hands. There were days when her husband would arrive home from work to find her huddled on the kitchen floor, where she had been lying, for hours.
I know that this is real depression…..not a bit of sadness, not a touch of melancholy……not born of boredom and lack of motivation and inspiration. It comes from deep within, easing off for a while, then sweeping back in like a tsunami. And it is incredibly hard for the loved ones of those who suffer this affliction, too. There will be days of helplessness, frustration, worn patience and exhaustion, especially when it seems that just when things get better……they unravel, AGAIN.
Of course, those with severe, ongoing depression will need genuine help, from the appropriate authorities, but if willing, do seem to be able to make a good degree of progression. Telling them to cheer up and look on the bright side is about as productive as making a sponge cake with cement, rather than flour. But through conscious, ongoing effort, and with loving support, I have seen utterly depressed people make great strides, and even though they will still experience some lows, they enjoy a more consistent sense of well – being. It is what it is. It is a condition that has to be managed, as do many other conditions, be they mental or physical.
My interest in the subject comes not only from family and friends, but also from the huge numbers of customers who have talked about their own feelings of depression……..maybe 50% of all those who have consulted with me. Many of these are not severely depressed, but down – hearted, unmotivated, lost, and without a sense of direction. I am wary of labelling, because we humans have a tendency to live up to our labels, be they allocated by others or self – imposed! And there is a belief that we should be happy all of the time…..and if we’re not, then something is wrong! It IS okay to be sad sometimes, to feel disconnected, to struggle to find our way. That is part of being human……and it is how we evolve and grow. I have noticed that there are generally certain factors present, where feelings of ‘every day’ depression is concerned (as opposed to severe, ongoing depression), but if they are recognised, big improvements can be made!
1) Focusing on the past, over and over again. Reminding ourselves how often we’ve been let down, believing that things ‘should’ have been different. Science reveals that the mind cannot differentiate between imagination and reality, and if we consistently think the same thing over and over, especially with emotion behind it, it becomes real to the brain, creating neural connections that spark everytime anything even remotely linked to our ‘issue’ comes up. The pain (some of which is not even completely fact – based) is re – visited and re – experienced, even up to years after the actual events took place. We can train ourselves away from this habit by consciously and consistently removing our thoughts from the thing(s) we can do nothing about, and placing them somewhere more positive and productive. It requires commitment to our own happiness, of course, but well worth the effort!
2) Allowing a largely negative flow of information into our mind. Absorbing ‘true life’ magazine stories about horrible things, inflicted upon others, by horrible people. Reading only popular celeb biographies, or glossy, air – brushed celeb magazines, filled with human ‘peacocks’ and their stories of struggle, and opulent lifestyles. Watching soaps with nasty, vindictive characters, and murderous plots. How is it possible to feel good about ourself, and the world around us, whilst filling our mind with such relentless poison and false impressions?
3) Listening to other people’s limited viewpoints. “There are no jobs, life is tough, the weather is awful, just work for security, don’t have fancy ideas about doing what you want to….you have to live in the ‘real’ world. All men are b******s, women can’t be trusted, everyone will let you down…….” etc etc. The ‘real’ world is what we perceive it to be. You have to imagine and create your own real world, rather than inhabit a dark version of someone else’s. And if in doubt, find a few role models……the internet is awash with stories of those who rose from the ashes, those who came from nothing to success, who fought back against all the odds. Listen to THEM, not the naysayers.
4) Not being pro – active. Making excuses. Wasting time. Using lack of confidence as a reason to stay put. We can only gain confidence through familiarity. We become confident when we have learned how to do something, and not before. If we don’t learn and practice, we can’t become confident. No – one has NO confidence at all…..because no- one has learned NOTHING at all……we all know how to do something well, be it making a cup of tea or washing the dishes…..at which we are now confident! But we had to learn how to do those things in the first place. Okay, some achievements may take longer than others, but it is the same principle…..and pro – activity is the answer!
5) Not having a carrot at the end of our stick…….the pot of gold at the end of our rainbow. We have to have something to aspire to. If we are going to train our mind away from unhelpful thought patterns, we have to replace them with something more encouraging. The thing we are DEFINITELY going to make happen (not just liking the idea of it!), step by step. The future we intend to create, be it a satisfying, mutually supportive relationship and loving family life, or a best – selling book, or a business…..the thing that most inspires us and fires us up! And we will need to seek out mentors, people who know what we need to know, and are willing to share. You don’t have to know these people personally, but you can work with them through books and Youtube. Seek, and you will find!
6) Not spending enough time doing creative or fun things. Following the same old routine, doing the same old stuff, day in and day out. Make time to listen to music, write a poem, go for a walk or a run, make cocktails (and become great at doing it!), bake cakes, dance, swim, paint, strip some furniture, go and see a comedian or a concert, learn something new. PUSH yourself through the apathy and inertia, as often as it takes, and for as long as it takes, until new habits are formed!
7) Having a sense of entitlement, of deserving. All human beings deserve to have love and respect, food, water, clothes and shelter. Nothing else is deserved…….it is earned. And yes, some have to work harder than others, at certain points along the way……it is just the way it is! You deserve the reward of knowing you have consciously made the effort to prove to yourself what you can do……..and you will love yourself for having earned it! #7waystohealdepression