"When going through hell, keep going."
The quote above is attributed to Winston Churchill and is believed to be related to his depression. Whether he said it or not how this quote has kept me strong! Even during my darkest moments I had a sense that it was easier to keep moving forward than turning back or giving up.
I've been shying away from this post for some time now. I avoid tough subjects. Depression is one of those tough subjects. I am well and have been for many years now -- that, however, wasn't always the case. My intention in writing about depression is to share my experiences frankly and openly in the hope that something inspires or supports another going through their own private hell.
Depression is a serious illness and one that sadly carries a huge stigma. It frustrates me that people are fearful. If you have a heart condition, diabetes or a broken leg you wouldn't dream of not attending to it, or of taking advice from experts on how to repair the damage. No one is going to call you weak if you are unable to fix your broken leg. Then why is it that so often I hear people saying they won't see a professional therapist in order to gain an insight into their troubled mind, or they won't take medication for depression to help them begin to make sense of where they are. If you are depressed, seek medical help.
Depression is not about feeling sad. It is not about feeling a bit down or being in a bad mood. Depression is a blackness. Depression sucks all emotion from you. You are left feeling hollow and numb and with a deep sense of hopelessness and loneliness. Depression drains the world of color and sound and taste and smell. I have experienced some very black and bleak places in my mind. I spent some of my teenage years with depression. I suffered chronic postnatal depression and I suffered again as I was battling with a deteriorating marriage. There were days when I could barely get out of bed. I went around in some sort of coma. I would have panic attacks collecting the children from school. I couldn't face anyone, especially those closest to me. At times I couldn't even speak, such was my fear of opening the flood gates of my tears. I lost a huge amount of weight. I developed asthma and I had tonsillitis permanently. Simple, every day tasks became my very own Everest......and still I battled on.
I have spent time getting myself to where I am today. I have taken medication and I have spent time with a variety of therapists. All these helped me piece my life back together again. Today, I know the triggers and I know how to handle them. That's not to say that I live my life in a perpetual state of blissed-out serenity. I'm realistic, yet I won't let a 'blue' day affect me in the devastating way it used to.
"You are not alone in this, as brothers we will stand and hold your hand." -- Mumford & Sons.
Here are my thoughts on what helped me through those bleak periods and on what keeps me focused today. I make no claim to be an expert, these are simply some ideas that may in turn give you strength. Take your pick and create your own too.
- Realize that some days are shit days and that's ok.
- Fresh air on a daily basis. Thank goodness for my dog, who is often my reason to get outside everyday. Come rain or shine, snow or gale, we're out walking.
- Alcohol solves nothing.
- Gratitude every night before bed, a list of all that is good in my life. It always gives me a different perspective.
- Have a buddy -- when I was ill after the birth of my youngest I had a friend who was my lifeline -- literally. I'd phone her number and whisper the words "it's me" and she'd reply "get in the car, the kettle's on". I couldn't have got through those times without her.
- Carry a picture with you of those you love, and one of yourself when you were happy or a picture of yourself as a young child.
- Create a nest for yourself -- candles,warm blankets, good smells, remember smells from your youth (seaside, ground coffee, baking bread for me).
- If you can bare someone to touch you, then have a regular massage. I was truly blessed that my sister was training to be an aromatherapist when I was recovering and I became one of her case studies. We cried a lot and whether it was the healing oils or the simple fact that I was allowing someone to touch me and nurture me I slowly began to heal.
- Hold somewhere in your heart the belief that 'this too will pass' -- however 'impossible' it might seem.
- Visualize a candle flame burning somewhere -- a sign of hope.
- Carry a token or pebble, something that has tangible meaning for you, it will act like a connection to better times.
- Somewhere stored away deep inside trust that you are not alone -- I am not religious, I am spiritual and even on my darkest days I trusted that I was protected.
- Learn (with the help of another) to not judge yourself and not compare yourself with others. We are all different. This was one of the greatest lessons for me during the tough days.
Depression would not be my lifestyle of choice! However, even though writing this blog has brought back some excruciating memories I am grateful for the experiences I had. I am the woman I am today because of my experiences, ALL my experiences -- the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
If this blog has inspired you in anyway do let me know, leave a message or email me. It is a subject close to my heart. Share it with anyone you know might be silently suffering. I am not a therapist I work as a midlife coach and have guided many women towards a more fullfilling second half of life once they have healed from their depression. How can I help you?