News services are always keen to provide details of hotlines for help or assistance when reporting on the passing (especially when it’s the apparent suicide) of a well-known person, news of the passing does little to inspire those who are also are experiencing depression. When these well-known people appear happy, married, rich, famous, well liked (if not beloved), successful and couldn’t possibly want for anything, except maybe for the paparazzi to stop taking photos, their passing makes little to no sense. This is normally where the lack of inspiration for those of us who are depressed kicks in.
The truth is depression does not discriminate and is insidiously generous with both its time and attention. No matter who you are, where you live, your economic background or situation, your ancestry or racial background, religious beliefs, your physical wellbeing, etc., depression can (and clearly does) impact the lives of anyone, including family, friends and co-workers, etc. of those experiencing depression. Add to this the common misconceptions about depression very reason why such a condition is able to so easily and frequently take hold.
As someone currently in the throes of depression, hearing that well-known people have taken their own lives is of little help. Sadly, this makes any attempt to contain and defeat one’s own bout of depression an almost pointless endeavour. People can’t help but feel trapped, even doomed to an inevitable fate. Unfortunately, this is all it seems is needed for depression to claim yet another victim. This leaves the vice like grip depression has on us all ruthlessly intact.
For those who may not have experienced depression first hand, here are two ways one can look upon it. The first: as a disease, similar to the black plague, but with a tendency to form cancer like clusters within the individual experiencing it. The second: as destructive and powerful cyclonic storm that seeks out and destroys all light and all hope within those experiencing it. Personally I choose to go with the latter, as I believe it provides an ideal metaphor for my personal experience.
Whether you know them as a cyclone, hurricane or a typhoon, all cyclonic storms are both potentially dangerous and unpredictable. They can vary in size and severity often resulting in widespread damage and / or potential loss of life. These storms commonly form in area of low atmospheric pressure, also known as a depression.
Much like in the atmospheric weather event, depression can, for example, form in people as the result of poor self-esteem or emotional upset which builds in intensity from there. They consist of metaphorical dark clouds which can rotate in a circular motion, spiralling inward and fanning outward, blocking out any source of light. In an emotional sense, light is: anything positive in life; the source of all logic and reason; love, the ability to give and receive love; and most importantly the drive (and energy) to keep on living. Once the storm has passed, should light return, that’s when true recovery begins. Unfortunately, light doesn’t always return.
In my experience I do not believe there is a safe haven in which to seek shelter from Depression as it simply can’t be ignored. The only true way to overcome depression is to face the storm head on. Medication induces a kind of suspended animation and a false sense of security, which prompts a form of denial. Medication only eases the impact of the storm momentarily. At some point, it is necessary to seek a more permanent means to end the storm once and for all. Otherwise, it’s possible to become drug dependent and never truly heal.
So, how can we wait out the storm?
I’ve found it helps to have something outside of myself on which to focus and to distract myself from the dark swirling clouds. To many, switching focus may seem like a means of denial. Personally, I have found being momentarily distracted provides me with both peace and quiet with a curious side effect, the incentive and energy to fight back. There’s nothing better than being able to silence the storm inside my head. Finding a means to steal back the time and attention Depression commands is a powerful weapon for me. It reduces the negative impact Depression has, making it easier to break free.
Exercise is not exactly what I imagined the art of letting go to be. It has provided me with a way to separating myself from my inner turmoil and focus instead on what my body is doing. I am able to turn off my thoughts and channelling my emotional energy into my workouts and my technique. The physical change is greatly outweighed by feeling that life is worth living because I have something to commit myself to and I’m able to happy about. Furthermore, the drive and momentum of physical achievement has led to another unexpected paradigm shift. I find that I invest more of my time and money on my own health and wellbeing because I feel worthy. Better still, committing myself to exercise allows the light back in to my world.
It’s one thing to want to recover, it’s another to choose to recover. Actively seeking to recover, that’s the difference because that is when recovery can happen. I found a place where I feel safe and welcome. Where I’m encouraged and supported by people who are genuinely interested in me and want nothing more than for me to succeed. Most importantly, they know I can succeed and want only for me to continue to succeed. Having others willingly invest their time and care in you when you are at rock bottom, feeling worthless, miserable and on the precipice of despair. That’s when the storm clouds start to clear and the sun shines once again.
News services are always keen to provide details of hotlines for help or assistance when reporting on the passing (especially when it’s the apparent suicide) of a well-known person. Wouldn’t it be better to report on the survival of some who sought such help?
“It sometimes takes more energy to fail, leaving less to succeed. Always look to succeed” – Jason Turner 3 October 2014.
First diagnosed with mental illness in his late teens, Jason Turner is living proof that recovery is possible. This ongoing process has been facilitated with the assistance of an internationally recognised psychosocial rehabilitation service which promotes self inspired recovery in tandem with clinical therapies. Jason has presents a yearly lecture about his lived experience with Anxiety and Major Depression to undergraduate psychology students and has travelled to the United States and connect with others seeking psychosocial rehabilitation.
Jason lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Jason, your article is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Glad to see your insights being spread more widely. Well done! Trish