I was going through some personal papers yesterday and it dawned on me that this month is an anniversary of sorts – 15 years to be exact – with “crystal” as the traditional gift. The gift on this occasion is a fitting analogy as we all know how strong our crystal wine glass is, while at the same time being quite fragile- living proof being the experience of dropping one on a tiled floor!
Equally, with a finger dipped in wine, we have all tried to elicit a “humming” sound by gently rubbing around the rim of one too. The glass, in reality, merely hums because the vibrations generated are not enough to exceed its strength but if the vibrations are at the right frequency, it overwhelms the glasses strength – and shatters! We could relate this to the effect of depression on an individual. A person with strength of mind can often be shattered when overwhelmed by a rising tide of mental distress.
This month dubiously “celebrated” my 15 year relationship with my diagnosis of Clinical Depression – wow – 15 years of putting up with anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia to say the least! It has not all been doom and gloom though. Looking back over the years of dealing with “it” has given me a view on life – and a life – that maybe I would not have had without my “mental” problems.
And I am not alone. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people will suffer at sometime in their lives from depression. It is something I have learned to live with on a daily basis. Some days are naturally better than others, and when it is a black day, the one thought I hold on to is that this is only my perception of today and tomorrow is another day where I will have a different take on the world.
Depression is a complex problem and no two people see or suffer it in the same way. I can only comment from my perspective and on how it affects me and makes me feel. I have found that there is no “super prescriptive” solution – I have taken the prescription drugs, I have tried drowning it in alcohol, I have changed my diet and I have joined clubs of various sorts to assuage the isolation that can feed depression. I also maintain a fitness regime, have stepped back from Social Media and have travelled far and wide to view the world from different perspectives.
In actual fact all of these things are positive interactions that the “depression” has motivated me to experience, despite the fact that I often feel drained of energy, optimism, and motivation. There are also periods of euphoria when days glide by and I feel I have at last banished the black dog. But still it refuses to stay silent and we continue to dance together, like an old married couple, where I have learnt to accept life for what it is.
Going from an upbeat, social person to one who now has an inability to truly express emotion and empathy for others – yeah well, duh, that is depression in a nutshell – causes more emotional stress! The paradox is that I know I have this problem, so I compensate by forcing myself to be social but at the same time I feel like I am distributing fake news! It’s not that I don’t care for other people it is just that I feel apathetic in participating with them. Often I would much rather be doing my own thing on my own. But that is not a good way to be and the social connections will only become more tenuous.
The help guides on depression are often directed at the friend or family member who is worried. Sadly many of those with depression do not have close relationships with people who are that concerned for them. As a result there is no-one there to notice. And when you do come in to contact with them you are able to up your game for that time to show a brighter side. How often do you hear said, when someone finally pulls the pin, “if we had only known!”
I used to enjoy a regular drink and mate-ship at the bar but due to health concerns that has been curtailed somewhat. The result is that I have found that I have now become more reclusive as I have gotten older, although maybe that is just me getting older! I think though, that the putting up of walls is not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down. Rarely does anyone ask how you are in a meaningful way if they are not aware there are problems. People are busy with their own battles. It is depressing to say the least!
When I begin to feel the panic rise – I step back from the situation and do something else, relax or, meditate – do things that give positive feelings. My coping strategies include giving up regular employment to become a contractor which enables me to go with the flow of my internal demons when need be. I also planned well enough, financially, to be able to pick and choose when and how I work. If I perceive it is a dark day when I wake – I can stay in bed till it lightens up if I wish.
I give myself small dopamine hits by buying inexpensive things – I love books so will spend hours peacefully browsing opportunity shops and the like to find books I enjoy – and pay no more than a couple of dollars for the privilege. I put my feelings and thoughts on paper to purge and alleviate the negative emotions. Mostly though I plan my days in detail so that I accomplish something everyday – no matter how small – to maintain that feeling of control.
For me it has been, and still is, all about the mindset. I practice mindfulness and listen to my body. I have learnt to recognise the signs for any incoming storm. This is not another person’s battle, it is mine. I do not believe there is a “cure”, only a level of acceptance that comes with self management and self awareness.
In short I currently know what to do to pull myself out of a dive, although it more often turns into a glide than a recovery. The important point is to know yourself, your triggers and your moods. It’s as Socrates stated: My friend…care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves.