By the time I ended up at the doctors for help, I was in a hole so deep I don’t think I ever could’ve climbed out. My family all but dragged me kicking and screaming, desperately clinging to my ignorant refusal to accept the word into my life and onto my medical file. I had self-helped to the point of self sabotage over the course of God knows how many years, and everyone but me could see that it wasn’t getting any better. I was on a downward slope, and while I managed to cling on to a few tree stumps and reeds on the way down, it wasn’t enough to stop the eventual death waiting for me at the foot of the mountain.
Depression. *thunder crash.* The word itself comes with its own darkness, except it’s not darkness, really. It’s more like a vacuum. Anyone who’s been there knows what I’m talking about. Depression doesn’t suppress the light in your life, it sucks all trace of light out of a room, leaving total blackness where it dared to encroach on it’s territory.
From the point that you become medicated, you also become a target for equal parts sympathy and misunderstanding.
“Yeah it’s hard, ain’t it? But you’ve got so much to live for haven’t you? Snap out of it you silly sod.”
Before we continue, I want to first point out that I was very rarely ‘sad.’ Depression is not sadness. It’s not ‘oh no I dropped my last cookie and now I’ll be hungry all afternoon.’ It’s not walking around all day plotting your own suicide, either. It’s more of a misalignment of thoughts and purpose. A ‘what’s the point?’ in everything you do.
You can go through your day and experience amazing things. You can laugh with your friends, smile with your family, tuck your kids in bed and kiss your wife, but still when alone time comes, the darkness hits.
Whats the point? You’re worthless. You’re useless. You’ll never not feel like this. You’ll never be anything more than what you are. You’re born, you pay bills, you die, that’s it. They’re better off without you. You’re better off without you.
The voice of depression is quiet and convincing. It’s sneaky. It will creep into everything you do and infect your inner thoughts, gaining in strength each time you give it permission. Of course, permission doesn’t come consciously or willingly. It’s voice comes smooth as silk to start with, convincing, cunning, chipping away at your psyche bit by bit.
Before long, we recognise that we are depressed, but not before going through all the motions first. We’re not depressed, we’re realistic, right? And we’ll be okay, we just need some rest and a teeny bit of alone time to breath. We’re just stressed and in a bad mood right now, it’ll pass. These are the first lies we tell ourselves. The first outward signs that something is wrong. Here we have two choices. Accept it and get help immediately, or get online and see how to improve alone. Of course, we always choose the latter.
Overnight we become self-help gurus and life coaches. We become psychologists and raging advocates for fitness, health, and positive energy. We write out an intense ‘Turn My Life Around’ routine, filled to the brim with workouts, meditation, yoga, strict sleep/wake times, green tea, meals prepped in advance, hollywood level hygiene, volunteering, and all the rest of it. Everything on this list has a positive effect on humans, whether depressed or not, and we dedicate ourselves to doing all of it every day for the best chance in eradicating the parasite that has taken up residence inside our minds. But it’s quite a lot of new stuff, so we’ll start tomorrow. Clean slate.
Actually, I got a pretty rough night sleep last night, and 5am is not the time to be going for a run when I didn’t drop off ’til 1:30. You know, now its Wednesday, so I may as well start next monday.
Perhaps by monday morning you do in fact feel ready to start this regimen. You get up bright and early after a good night sleep, and you feel like you’ve become a multi-millionaire lifestyle blogger overnight. You get your run in, your workout, the perfect breakfast, and go on to live the best, most productive day you’ve had in a long time. And maybe you maintain this with varying levels of success, for a couple of weeks.
Then the thoughts start to come again, and before you recognise they’ve been working on you the whole time, they’re convincing. Depression was just biding it’s time, letting you have your way for a while. But you know you’re never gonna get better. You know you’re never gonna improve. And it’s not like you’re ever gonna be in great shape like those instagram models, so what’s the point in all this working out?
Of course, this track takes us nowhere but back to bed. Try as we might, there’s no arguing with the silver-tongued voice of the black demon once he’s dug his claws in to our minds. There is only one true weapon we can take up against him once he’s seized control: medication.
Self-help, and all the positive lifestyle changes mentioned above, are excellent additions to anybody’s life. But it’s also a dangerous trap we can all too easily fall into. Medical attention should come first, HAS to come first, before trying to self-help our way to healthy minds. It’s impossible to implement all the changes we want to make at once. It’s impossible to repair our chemical imbalances, our deep-rooted negative mindsets, with positive action alone. Insistence on trying is merely self-denial, and often only results in a yo-yo effect where the highs and lows get a little lower each time, slowly chipping away at our character.
If you take anything away from today’s post, let it be the courage to seek medical attention right away. You don’t need to suffer anymore, and you certainly don’t need to give up, or put on hold, any part of your life to be properly medicated. After a couple of weeks, when your serotonin inhibiters kick in and you’re enhancing your life through positive action and a newfound energy, you’ll thank yourself. Trust me.
Drop your thoughts and experiences with depression in the comments, and share this post with your friends and loved ones to help raise awareness in an issue that effects 1 in 6 of us. No one should suffer any longer than they need to.
Find out how to slowly and healthily use self-help to improve your mental health in the next article in this series: 3 easy techniques to help deal with depression.