Everybody hurts… Hold On… my thoughts are with those for whom depression is a long-term if not ongoing chronic condition. I was lucky: it was temporary and, in the overall scheme of things, not that severe.
When I was walking around a regeneration area of Liverpool with that happy, slightly giggly, feeling in my stomach I knew I had finally said goodbye to depression.
In fact it’s not just the return of the giggly feeling (that returned once before – see my post Feeling Good two months ago, and others) but perhaps more importantly the fact that in the past couple of weeks I have coped with setbacks and criticism far better than I would have done even a month or so ago. Rather than becoming a jelly of tears, fear and angst I am now able to be more objective about things.
The past few days I have had moments when my heart has felt light and I have felt carefree – something which has happened so rarely over the past 8-9 months or so. Previously when it happened it was almost because I was trying to convince myself. Now I know it is a genuine feeling. For a few days now I have noticed a new acceptance, calmness, even optimism and joy; feelings which deserted me in the winter and were too easily snuffed out on the rare occasions they appeared in the late spring. That’s not to say that I don’t still feel sad and weep at times; nor is it to say that I don’t have regrets. But I feel inwardly stronger and more at peace with life, and therefore able to deal with setbacks and ‘attacks’ better.
As I look back over the past three-quarters of a year I can see how I have progressed, and how my mental and emotional health has improved. I fell into a dark place back in November, a gloomy twilight world where I was too low to see more than a glimmer of light behind a grey haze. I was too compos mentis to go completely loopy but each day (and during the night) I would wake to an almost physical pain, like the pins in the Little Mermaid’s feet, my heart feeling shattered and my mind a whirr. I had no energy and no appetite, lost a lot of weight, and even the smallest things took a huge effort. I remember one day when I really just could not get out of bed, and if it hadn’t been for my daughter pestering me, I probably wouldn’t have done.
While suicide crossed my mind, I don’t think I seriously contemplated it. Someone in a YouTube video commented that suicide isn’t because you want to die, but because you want to stop hurting. I toyed with the idea, but I think that’s all it was: trying to imagine what it would be like no longer to exist and how I would achieve that end. Not existing doesn’t appeal and nor do any of the ways one might achieve it. I want to see my children grow up, for a start – I am curious about how they are going to turn out, and I’m curious about how my own life is going to turn out. In addition I’m not ready for complete oblivion, if that’s all that happens ‘next’, and the good things about life are really good whereas I suspect that heaven might be a bit boring.
By January I had decided I wanted to come off the anti-depressants. I’ve never been a particularly avid drug-taker, and I wanted to feel my emotions genuinely rather than in a kind of numb haze. The main emotion now was one of grieving anger though: I easily felt hurt, betrayed, belittled and criticised. Sensitive and vulnerable to any criticism, I returned it. If anyone hurt or criticized me, they got it back. I would plunge into wound-up angst or fly off the handle, often with the children or at the smallest thing. My moods were not stable. At least I had more energy, but I did and said some things I regret – though some also ironically opened new doors for me. I can understand how and why, though. I was scared: scared of my own fragile emotional balance and that perhaps I really was ‘losing it’; scared of losing my children; scared of being out of control both emotionally and in terms of my life. One Sunday in February, when I hit rock-bottom and felt as if my life was falling apart, I phoned the Samaritans. I bless the sane, calm voice at the end of the phone who told me he thought I was being too hard on myself.
I carried on trying: trying to be cheerful; trying to put in more hours at work; trying to earn enough money; trying to keep it all together. And writing – reading and writing about all sorts of things, trying to find some answers to the big unanswerable question which is ‘life’ and why mine had fallen apart in quite the way it had and how I could move forward. Thank goodness it got no worse – but I realised how easy it would be to lose it all, and at times thought that was what was about to happen, partly because of my own volatility which seemed so difficult to control. What I wrote wasn’t always taken how I had hoped it would be – a friend commented recently that what we say and write isn’t always understood how we intend it (if it is heard at all) – and we are all guilty of that. So I’m attempting here to be honest and open about how I felt through the past 8-9 months, but it may be that some of you will interpret in a different way to how I mean it. But then I’m sure there’s validity and use to other interpretations as well.
All the time I was conscious of climbing up – sometimes with a struggle, sometimes more easily (From Darkness into Light). There were even moments when I felt as if I was flying free again, usually when I was singing or running. And ultimately, eventually, I feel I have come back out into the daylight. There is still much that I need to sort out, but at least my head and my emotions are in the right place to do so and I have more energy to push forward with the things I really want to do.
And my main feeling as I conclude this piece of writing? Relief. Relief that I am out of the turbulent, troubling place that I spent those months in. Relief that I don’t wake up wishing that it wasn’t another day and that I could stay in bed; relief that I don’t drive along wishing someone would drive into me so I could just escape for a bit; relief that I feel as though I can handle life.
Thank You to all the friends who stood by me and supported me, whether in big ways or small, through those agonising months; and to the strangers whose comments or blogposts have inspired me, perhaps without them even knowing it.
I found this on the internet. I have cut it drastically and edited it slightly, but I feel this expresses ‘transformation’ and emotional development well, for all of us:
There comes a time in your life when you finally get it…when in the midst of all your fears, angst and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out: ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on. You realize that it is time to stop hoping and waiting for happiness to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that there aren’t always fairytale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you. Then a sense of serenity is born of acceptance, and you find your real source of power and strength.
You stop blaming others for the things that were done to you or weren’t done for you, or indeed stop taking all the blame yourself. You learn how to say ‘I was wrong’ as well as ‘actually I did my very best’ – and to forgive people for their own human frailties. You learn to build bridges instead of walls and about the healing power of love as it is expressed through a kind word, a warm smile or a friendly gesture. At the same time you eliminate any relationships that are hurtful or fail to uplift and edify you. You stop working so hard at smoothing things over and setting your needs aside. You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK and that it is your right to want or expect certain things, and you learn the importance of communicating your needs with confidence and grace.
And you make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting and to stay open to every wonderful opportunity and exciting possibility. Finally, with courage and faith in your heart you take a stand, you take a deep breath and you begin to design the life YOU want to live as best as you can.
Thank you to Sonny Carroll for writing an inspiring piece which captures this journey of the spirit.