I am not good at being a person. A life spent repressing, avoiding and the like and I end up in my 40’s being a few life skills shy of an actual person. I have spent many years trying to work that out and the last one trying to own it and this year is where I start trying to fix that. One of the ways I have done that is by ending my therapy.
I know what you are thinking (and you’re probably right) that how was that a good idea? Here’s how.
Nearly 5 years ago I had a breakdown, I was diagnosed with depression and a general anxiety disorder. I spent a long time being misprescribed medicine and not really doing much to help myself (either through not knowing how, or not being able to in other ways) and about 2 years ago I met with the NHS’s mental health crisis team who put me on the road to getting the help I needed and not just the limited shit that they give you when you go though a GP. Seriously though, the state of mental health care in this country can shock you. I got on better tablets (which I have since come off) found a therapist whom I trusted and worked with me to put a lot of the shit that I carried with me to one side and then to leave behind. The truth is that I had been suffering depression for a lot longer than 5 years ago and my coping mechanisms were woefully inadequate for the task and so my breakdown was kind of inevitable. It has been a long and winding road, but with the help of the MIGHTY Rosie, my therapist Paula and several excellent members of NHS staff, I am in a place where I am moving forward in my life. I’ll get to that in a bit, but along the way, I have learned some shit that might come in handy if you are going through something, or wouldn’t mind learning the perspective of someone who has.
Depression is a liar.
It is a real thing, it has real and damaging effects and can follow you through your life. I still battle it myself and have low days, much like today, so I am in no way discounting how people feel while battling this illness and that is what it is. What I mean to say is, that depression tells us lies, in particular it tells 3 big lies.
You are worthless. Your mind plays tricks on you and tells you that you are value-less are worthless or deserve the shitty hand that you’ve been dealt. I see it with people I know and see wonderful people feeling that are less than worthwhile. It hurts seeing that, because I know that I have felt that. The MIGHTY Rosie has little time for fools and wastes of space, but has stuck with me for 5 of the worst years of my life. So maybe I have more value that I give myself credit for. We’ll get back to the worst years of my life comment later. But often, that lie, that internal betrayal, makes you feel you are not worth helping, not worth saving and that is blatantly not true.
You are alone: This is one of the biggest lies and it is as always the hardest one to get past. Mental illnesses are by their nature internal and invisible things. No one can see how you feel, nor be aware how much help you may or may not need. You end up walking the battlefield with invisible scars and unidentified wounds and you feel like you are the only one. Again, not true. Millions of people face their demons like this, some face worse, but that’s a context thing. Your pain is just that, your’s and no one can tell you it isn’t. This is a singular battle, but no one we always face alone. It could be a friend who you can talk about nothing with, someone who has been in these bad places. There are professionals out there who specialise in this and there are friends and family. They don’t have to get it to help, they don’t have to be a veteran of that internal war to help you wage it. The hardest thing to do when you are in need is to ask for help, because that links to lie #1 as well. We feel alone and that we don’t deserve help. But we do need it and that asking for it, well that’s the first step along the path.
You are always going to feel this way: This is the lie we think of the least, but at times feel the most. I heard it described recently as being underwater, the pressure pushing against you and weighing you down. Depression is initially like being in a steel drum and dropped in the sea. There is only darkness and you see no way out. But realising you are worth saving, that you are not alone, that makes a difference. For me now, it’s like being in a submarine. You are still underwater, you are still feeling that pressure, but now there’s a periscope, you can see the sky, see the lands in the distance and that horizon to move towards. Sometimes you need help to use that periscope, to look for that horizon, but that doesn’t stop the horizon being there and in the distance, you can surface and find that new place.
It’s that new place that we are searching for. When I was at a low point, I was asked what being ‘well’ looked like. I couldn’t imagine that. I have many times stated the goal of a better version of me. I have no idea what that looks like either. But what do I know? That I have seen the lies that depression has told me as what they are lies. I have seen better and worse versions of myself and the impact the good and the bad have on those who love you. I am in NO WAY ‘well’ as I would have once understood it, but I am better than I was. Maybe that is the real goal, not some great far off El Dorado of mental well being, but an ever moving horizon of better mental health. So, using the periscope I have set off for that horizon, that far off land, fully aware that I may never get to the promised land, but I am forever heading towards that better place. The place beyond this.
Worst 5 Years:
Told you I’d get back to that comment. Life is not TV, it doesn’t come in series or arcs and things don’t tie up quite as neatly as that. The worst 5 years have also been some of my best as well, these things are not mutually exclusive. Yes, these were the years I suffered the worst my mind had to offer, but it was also the time were I fought harder against it all. Yes, this was the time that strained my family, but it is also the time that I learned who really cared and how much. I have seen my illusions shattered and my life re-examined, but I have watch my son grow and the MIGHTY Rosie battle her demons too. (Obviously that’s as specific as I’ll get there). This was the time, I lost my joy, buy found my love of the gym, a desire to lose weight and feel more positive. I lost my nostalgic view of myself and gained podcasts, through that I got into social media, then writing and then also here. To you all. To whomever reads this, you have been a part of this recovery. Your words, your likes, your views have given me a connection to the world that I didn’t have before, I write now, because it’s a part of the person I am and being more healthy, more active and more positive has made that a person that I like being. (Though I clearly still need a lot of work.) I have faced fears beyond what I thought I could and I am still doing that now (a future post perhaps?) and the best part of it all? We all can do that. We all have the capacity to fight these battles, to win against the forces that beset us. I am in a more positive place that I have been in a long time and I still have bad days, but they are just days. They are not us, what is us, is what we do about it.
So do I have a point here? We were all wondering, weren’t we? There are three lies at the start, so lets have 3 truths to balance that out.
1: You matter.
Your perspective, your pain, your life itself all has value, beyond that which you expect. Your story belongs here as much as mine and anyone else’s and I suggest you share it.
2: You are not alone.
The Spartans of ancient Greece did a lot of things wrong, (seriously, not pleasant people when you look at them) but consider the phalanx, their basic battle strategy, which was that your shield isn’t there to protect all of you, you share that with the guy next to you, who shares half with the guy next to him. We don’t have to suffer this alone, we never did.
3: There is always a place beyond this..
You will fall, you will always fall and that is just the way life is. When you suffer, you feel fragile, like glass or porcelain, so any fall can break you. I have felt that way, for a long time. But what if you are not a porcelain doll, but a ball? You are going to fall, but you can also bounce. You can do whatever it takes to get past the place you are in. Those who care for you, will understand, those who don’t understand? They can take what the MIGHTY Rosie and I call the vegetarian option and F**k off! The only thing you can’t do, is give up.
When my little boy struggles, he often says he’s failed, I won’t stand for that, so I tell him “The ONLY time we fail is when we give up. Anything else is a setback.”
So don’t give up, you’re too important. There are 7.5 billion people on this planet. But only one YOU.
Keep going, who knows where you will be down the road?