I was chopping up some sweet onions in the kitchen, prepping dinner with some peppy tracks by the Corrs playing in the background when my phone suddenly buzzed. A message from my buddy Tim:
How’s it going, Jay?
I replied typing with my pinky finger afraid to get onion juice on my new phone: Good…makin’ dinner. Taking it easy tonight.
Tim replied: Housewarming party. My place. Next weekend.
I cracked a smile: Sweet. Will be there!
Tim: Great! Watcha been up to lately?
Me: …been feeling a little off the last month. Depression’s been creeping up again.
Tim: Depression, still???
I hesitated before replying and rode out the wave of irritability I felt inside of me. My friend Tim’s a great guy and one of my best friends I’ve known for well over twenty years. He’s a great family man and always willing to lend a hand but I felt annoyed by how his last text sounded despite the fact that I knew he meant no harm.
Yes, depression….STILL. Depression isn’t like a pimple where it goes away and usually doesn’t reappear in the same spot again. Depression isn’t like a broken bone which after it’s healed, it has a very low likelihood of breaking again.
Depression isn’t something that can be summed up easily in one sentence. Just ask anyone who’s experienced depression, it’s so much more than not having energy to do things. It’s also about:
- Experiencing mood swings.
- Not understanding entirely the why’s.
- Having unclear answers as to what to do next.
- Seeing things with little interest.
- Lacking motivation.
- Feeling numb.
- The conflict between desiring isolation but longing for company.
- Seeing the bigger picture and feeling goalless.
- Feeling lonely and not having anyone who can completely understand you.
- Doing all the regular everyday things still and have people not even realize it!
- And so much more.
Having depression is also about navigating yourself through your ever-changing life. It is a powerful feeling that some may not entirely understand. Depression can stem from a wide variety of reasons:
- Trauma (ie sudden loss of a loved one in your life.)
- Childhood abuse and neglect.
- Being bullied.
- Divorce of your parents.
- Witnessing domestic violence.
- Family history.
- Moving to a different city or country.
Depression can also be traced back to the womb. Studies have shown that if your mother experienced depression or was going through a great deal of stress while carrying you, there’s a likelihood that you can carry that depression with you well afterwards. (Read this interesting article, “Undoing the Harm of Childhood Trauma and Adversity” which explores the correlation in healing between a child and his/her parents.)
IS THERE ANY HOPE?
Whatever wounds you carry, or whatever scars have been etched into your memory, there is always hope as long as you can make the conscious effort. And that effort must come from you to do something different and make change happen. If doing the same things brings you back to the same feelings of depression, then why continue doing the same things? Doesn’t it make sense to try something new and different?
Sure, I agree that trying something else is uncomfortable and freakishly scary. You might even say, “there’s no point”, just to hide behind the truth that you’re probably afraid of change, like so many others including myself. I totally get it. But logic dictates that if we don’t get off the never ending merry-go-round, nothing new and better can ever truly happen.
The healing journey is much like a spiral staircase….just like it is pictured here:
Imagine yourself standing near the bottom of the staircase.
At the very bottom of the staircase are your battle wounds in life: the abuse, the pain, the hurt, the fear, the trauma, the shit that you never wanted but life gave to you anyways.
From where you’re standing, you can see the pain and feel it still.
But along the way, you pick up tools in life to deal with the past: counseling, therapy, group/family/peer support, medication, meditation, breathing, self-awareness, workshops, reading, and the list goes on. Click here to learn more tools to manage your mental health.
With every tool you learn and get better at with practice, you climb up this spiral staircase. When you look down, you can still see your pain, but it’s now from a different perspective. You’re stronger now, with more tools to support you. The pain is still there, but your coping strategies have improved.
Over time, you pick up more tools and learn more about yourself and your past, and continue climbing up that spiral staircase, higher and higher. Now you’re quite high up on that spiral and from time to time, you can still see the pain that’s on the bottom floor. You might even feel it still at times, but now you’re looking at it from another vantage point and can re-frame your past with a stronger sense of acceptance and recovery.
Does the spiral staircase ever end? That’s up to you to decide. In my humble opinion, the answer is no. The scars and the wounds will always be there (on the bottom floor), but the goal is to collect and learn as many ways as you can in your life to help you climb up that staircase so that you can see the past pain from a different set of lens that can’t hurt you the way it used to. You develop empathy, compassion and work towards a place of peace.
Some might call this a journey.
As for my friend Tim, I gently replied, “Yes, still. Depression comes and goes and even behind my biggest smiles, I still sometimes feel depressed.”
I hope that helped him understand more about me and my depression. As for my journey, I’m still climbing up. Some days slower than others, but depression stemmed from our past can get even the very best of us, and I’m not afraid to stand tall and bravely share that with you.
Mental Illness Awareness Week is from October 1-7, 2018. Support your community’s mental health organizations by raising awareness. Feel free to share about a mental health group in your community below in the comments!
To learn more about the Canadian Mental Health Association, click here.
Jason – Author of Living with the Dragon – Healing 15 000 Days of Abuse and Shame.