My own war
Posted Friday 23 April 2010
To mark depression awareness week, four Mind volunteers have agreed to share some of their experiences of depression.
Depression was a spiralling into myself as a numb nothingness enveloped me; I was alone with my thoughts. Low self esteem has a way of hurting more than the knives and broken glass I dragged across my skin. This self harm was always a way to feel something, anything, but I was left only with the stinging of the cuts as I woke from another nightmare in the night.
Nightmares and this numb nothingness characterised my seven months on antidepressants, which were all that was offered, it was as if talking therapies were a dirty word. The doctor’s belief in chemical imbalance trumped any insights I had. If deeply sad is imbalanced, then why do we not say happiness is imbalanced? As by balanced we have to be implying a middle ground.
A hatred for antidepressants developed. Whilst I now see how they may dampen down distress for some, they are still dirty drugs, developed as much by luck as by trials. For me they clearly dampened down my world too much.
At the centre of my depression was a spilt and insecure sense of self; who am I? What am I to do with my life? I was with a beautiful girl, now my wife and we’ve just finished university; we were young, but I felt no excitement, just pressure to be someone. Everyone appeared better than me; I was a failure, in a job that wasn’t me, though I liked the people and struggling with my writing. A creative side screaming to be explored, but restrained by another self that thought I was useless at it – get a graduate job and get on with life. I used depression as a way of silencing these conflicts; the ridiculously loud infighting in my head was destroying me. So I stopped and for seven months I was numb shell.
There is an intense loneliness to depression, which at times feels like you are sitting in death’s waiting room. If this was my life, what could be next? Despite the presence of my now wife next to me, holding, talking, trying to make me smile, laugh, all I felt was alone. This was my own war, played out like so many over power and possession.
It has been nearly six years since the end of those seven months and there have been periods of great insight and movement and periods played out in the dark, full of self doubt.I have come to see depression as a set of behaviours, which I used to help myself, but over-reliance proved them to be maladaptive. Therapies and the support of loved ones provided me with a place to explore my issues of existence and the depressive behaviours, I have learnt, developed and own, as a way of displacing the painful self-exploration that I needed to undergo.
Through exploring my low self esteem, anger and split sense of self, a greater self awareness grew, as did a belief in my creative self, leading to a more balanced sense of self. I became responsible for my depressive behaviours and am now aware when their ugly heads rear.
My depression is those seven months, which I hid for fear of ridicule, and the intervening six years where much of the healing has taken place. Depression has proven a fertile ground for my writing and study, with the aim of becoming a creative therapist. There is no quick fix to depression but if time is taken then it can be left behind and with a security that allows us to be who we are and exist in a world we enjoy.
Mind media volunteer Andy Harrod (http://decodingstatic.blogspot.com/) is currently writing his first novel, studying psychology and training for the Great North Run, for Mind.
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