This post represents a milestone of six months of writing, so it’s a retrospective of that time. Actually maybe I should be bold and describe it as a celebration.
Why ? Because at the end of 2016 I couldn’t say the word depression, even when the GP told me and it was obvious I was suffering a full breakdown (no-one likes to use that phrase any more but it describes where I was). I wasn’t even comfortable using the word depression with my therapist back in February. So it is amazing to me now that I even started writing and have now reached a stage where to be honest, I don’t want to stop writing about it. My aim of the blogs hasn’t changed – a self-therapeutic help, to share experiences to help others and raise awareness to help reduce stigma and discrimination.
I occasionally wonder if the W.H.O had not made depression the theme of their international health day would I have written the first post ? There is no answer to that and it show’s that things just happen, whatever our inner thoughts and plans. That first post was only to friends on Facebook and the reaction was more than what I expected. That prompted me to write a few more and then after a nudge from my therapist, one of those subtle messages they sometimes leave to work through your brain, I moved onto the public blog you are reading now.
That is a massive step from what I could articulate in April and a world away from what I couldn’t even say for months before that.
When considering this milestone, I thought about the content of this post. Do a summary of the most popular blogs ? But that would be a false view, as it would only be off WordPress statistics and not truly reflective , as some people read via email. How about my top five favourite post’s ? But that would be impossible for me to do – each one takes a few hours to write and all have meaning to me.
No, I will use this as a reflection (not rumination) of progress. Whether you call it recovery or management (I tend to favour the latter) where I am now is different to where I was. It’s small steps, but each one is a success. It’s not like some big moment when you wake up and think “that’s depression sorted”. You learn gradually to note each time you get back up, learning from each dip in the recovery/management. You learn to accept that it is fragile, it can be cracked by small, almost inconsequential things but each time you pick yourself back up can make it just that bit stronger.
That happened this week. Within the MBCT session last Friday we were asked to imagine a scenario, of being ignored by someone in the street and the associated thought, feeling and action. My immediate reaction (I’ve done something wrong to the person, am hurt and will now worry about this for days) really threw me, as it wasn’t what I would have liked it to be. At which point Judge Bear (remember, the visualisation of the self-critic) dusted off his bow tie and started with the “see, not doing so well as you thought” speech. That lasted into the weekend, until I remembered something someone said to me about visualisations. They suggested that while I used the image to take some power off the emotion/thought, perhaps I could take it further and it become helpful. So as I visualised Bear changing from the grizzly judge into a more cuddly teddy bear it went further and Bear became more compassionate in the words, so the inner dialogue became “Okay, so your initial reaction wasn’t what you would like. That is alright as you became aware of that, so if the scenario actually happened perhaps take a pause and think, ‘is that reaction actually useful or perhaps a more useful action should I go over and ask the person if they are okay’. See the difference?”
So while it took a day or two to move from a judgemental to a compassionate view on the scenario, during which time I wasn’t great, this was a success – I got there in my own time and probably a shorter time than I would have a few months back. Break out the macaroons, celebration time with the Bear!
That illustrates another point from the blog writing. Feedback. I suspect that more people now read my blogs who I don’t know than people I do know, which for a while felt a bit weird and uncomfortable. It isn’t now. I am aware some people have gained help from my writing, which makes me feel both humble and proud, happy and surprised. I have received comments back that have made me think about some of the thoughts and experiences I have shared in a slightly different way. The use of visualisations to not just reduce the impact of negative ones is an example, which now seems very obvious but came from a suggestion from a (wise) reader.
If you are a regular reader of this blog (and thank you very much) you will know that I like music, all kinds, but with a soft spot for big anthems. So following the recent success and coming out of a down period of the weekend there is a song that has come into mind.
For each success there is a moment, an amazing moment, when you see through the depression with a clarity that increases each time. These are small successes but it’s when you look back you realise they start to add up. So the song is Amazing by Aerosmith. If you don’t know the song, it’s a full overblown rock anthem, with orchestra and guitar riffs all over the place, overlaid with Steve Tyler’s voice. The whole song has lyrics which resonate with depression, from the down feelings through to the chorus which reflects the moments of success:
“It’s amazing ,with the blink of an eye you finally see the light
It’s amazing, when the moment arrives that you know you’ll be alright “
I was further reminded of this while reading the book on ACT (see last week’s post) which referred to life as a journey. The song includes the line :
“Life’s a journey not a destination And I just can’t tell just what tomorrow brings “
For me I don’t know what the destination is for my depression, a full recovery or the ability to manage it so it doesn’t affect my daily life, which it does. I still find it hard to go out, especially somewhere new or where a lot of people are, it often helps if someone else is with me. I still get upset more than I feel comfortable with. But I do know that being able to talk as I can now about depression is a form of progress.
What I also know is that while the journey is often hard, it’s my life and I am going to participate in every single step of the way.
So let me offer this final thought, for anyone reading this with depression and as a reminder to myself : it is possible to recover from and manage depression – it will take time, self-care and the belief that what depression tells you is not the truth.
And that is amazing.
This is an acoustic version of Amazing , with a violin replacing the guitar riff and Steve Tyler’s voice at its most fragile and emotive.