As a creative soul and a deep thinker I often analyse things. Success for instance, getting “there” as they put it, was a place I always thought I wanted to get to, a destination that in my mind would bring me happiness.
That happiness was a perceived happiness brought to me by all the things that this life and its influences taught my mind to believe were the things that would make me feel happy but my unhappiness lay deeper than I thought.
As a woman of my era conditioned slightly by the generations of the happy picture of the perfect house wife and mother I believed that part of my inner sadness was related to that end not being met and would often dwell on the feeling of emptiness that this void in my life held.
I was in an alone place, I was living in a small box of a rented room in a gloomy basement of an old tenement building with no central heating and drafty windows. I had been knocked down and down by circumstances, time after time, and was just treading water. It felt like nobody around me wanted to help, nobody understood, and I didn’t understand myself either, I didn’t know why I felt like this, so hopeless, helpless, lost and alone. I had always been someone who helped others readily and had ended up surrounded by many people who needed help, living close to the urban street life in London miles away from the life I had been brought up with.
Because I had the appearance on the outside of a much happier and healthier soul it made things even harder. I was generally a master of disguise and managed to put a brave face on many situations and be strong for other people, but never for myself. When I went to my doctors to try to explain how I was feeling it was almost brushed aside like it was nothing, that someone that looked like me couldn’t possibly be feeling as low as I professed. I had to ask to be referred for counselling, and I was denied this assistance through my GP, their assessment concluded that I did not fit the criteria for such treatment even though I mentioned I had had suicidal thoughts on many occasions. This experience made me feel even more hopeless about what to do to try to feel like “normal” people, like people I observed every day, going to work, going about their business, doing things, that at that time I just couldn’t do.
I would often compare myself to people, my sisters, my mum, observe their ease at coping with stuff, and then look at myself in dismay. It did not help that often the attitude of people closest to me was to blame me for the way I was feeling, saying it was my life choices that had brought me there, and make me feel like things were somehow my fault.
I did not ask to be the soul I was, I did not warrant the bullying I suffered at school, I did not choose to have low self esteem from an early age, it was other people that had caused this, but once inflicted with this affliction, you are just left to cope with life the best you can, sometimes oblivious that you are damaged to some extent until things happen that trigger deeper depressions and deeper self loathing. These triggers come like a vicious cycle that you obliviously invite to your life because it is what you know or have been taught by life’s circumstances and the spirals can continue to take you down unless you find a way to fight your way out of the whirlpool.
I began reading books on psychology, philosophy, on human behaviour, self help books, anything that could help me understand why I was feeling the way I was feeling and something of this world that gave me little sense of belonging. This was something I was discouraged from doing by my family with comments like “why don’t you just read some normal books, why have you got to read all these deep books…” I wondered why I was not being encouraged to educate myself about such things. Not long after that I was handed a small copy of the poem by Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse…
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
I did not find the receipt of such a poem helpful, or understanding, or particularly kind. I did not understand the meaning behind it. Understanding the process of how nature and nurture play their part in who we are is paramount to being able to forgive yourself for not being perfect and forgive your parents also, and their parents and the cycles of teaching that prevailed before us that played a part that gave rise to our current ills.
I did go through a period where I blamed my parents and people for certain things, I blamed the bullies that hit me at school, I blamed my life’s circumstances, I blamed the boyfriends I had chosen, I blamed and got angry. I was angry that I had because I could see how all these thing had prevented me believing in myself and becoming the best I could be. I had so much going for me, but all that was useless without self belief, inner confidence and self esteem, which were sadly lacking, and with this lacking the “choices” I had made were all affected and caused me to invite further misery and pain into my life that then led to the negative internal dialogues and fears that I had come accustomed to suffering and the depressions that went with this.
I spent years of my life almost pursuing men and trying to be what I thought they wanted me to be, trying too hard to make a man love me and in that process losing myself piece by piece till there was almost nothing left of my soul and I had nothing left to give. Along that path I also became a DJ, subconsciously trying to find some way to feel that people loved me, all the while not realising that I did not love myself.
It is only with the hindsight of my healing experience that I can now see and make sense of all this, as they say, when you are in the forest, you can’t see the wood for the trees. At some point I was able to recognise that over many years I had suffered from depression and anxiety in varying degrees and forms but never understood it. I think the recognition and understanding only came when I finally managed to get a short session of counselling though a women’s health centre. It was there that I finally found someone I could talk to that told me I was not alone and that the feelings and symptoms I had been experiencing were common to these dis-eases. This 12 week course just opened the can of worms; the worms still had to be dealt with one at a time after that! There was no after care, contingency plan offered, or support, I was left pretty much to my own devices and felt abandoned by the system and had no choice but to just keep trying to find a way to feel better.
There was nobody there to guide me, to give me hope, to tell me it was going to be okay one day and that I could definitely feel better every day and that I had to go through a process until those days come when everything seems to feel better, lighter and happier. The days when you do WANT to get out of bed in the morning, you do WANT to wake up from the dream because reality is now tipping the balance to be okay. You feel you have more energy, your motivation to do things starts to improve and everyday no longer feels like a chore you don’t want to do. I used to watch other people and just wonder why they seemed so fine and I wasn’t, why they were not finding the same difficulty as I was and with that came the feeling that I was inadequate and somehow lacking, not good enough, broken, which in turn added to the misery I was in and the feelings of helplessness and frustration. I didn’t know if it would ever be possible for me to feel like that, but I do now, so can offer the hope that I never had to anyone who is on a similar journey.
I have the personality of a problem solver with a curious and intelligent mind and something inside me did not accept that simply taking some pills would be the answer. I have spent years working on myself, clearing out emotional baggage, educating myself, reading piles of spiritual, religious and self help books, all in pursuit of that once illusive happiness and peace I wanted to feel inside.
When I thought about things that I felt were lacking in my life, these were things that made me feel low and helped to hold me in that place of depression. Then there was the helplessness, hopelessness, sometimes lack of understanding from medical professions, family members, friends, and the isolation that the vicious circle of it all brings. Most of those things have not changed but my perspective and attitude has.
Looking back now, I don’t think there is any one solution I can offer from my experience if you are someone that does suffer from depressions and anxieties. Each person has a different journey of cause and effect and there is no definite time scale for improvements. However, I can say that it is possible to dig your way out of the hole with determination and work. It is never one thing that makes you feel better, it is a combination of things. The one thing I can offer is the hope and a success story that I never had to relate my own experience to at the time.
For me, it was finding one thing I was passionate about where I could express myself, music. Combined with reading and studying a lot to gain greater understanding of myself and the world around me, much peace can be found in really knowing yourself. I made many sacrifices, learnt to become more selfish, learnt to love spending time with me, avoided things that I knew were no good for me, even if all my friends were still doing them and took up challenges of goals, such as marathons to run.
It takes time to get to KNOW YOURSELF and your own personal demons or the things that hold you down and back from enjoying the fullness your life can be. We often know what these things are but choose to close our eyes to them. The quicker you get real with yourself the better though because nobody else is going to do it for you. This is where the discipline comes in, do the things that are better for you and avoid the things that aren’t as much as you can. Soon you will develop new habits and find things that were once a chore and you never thought you would like, actually just becoming a way of life to you. It actually only takes a month or so to develop or lose a habit, habits are just habits, they can be anything, they can be healthy or not healthy for us, we all have a choice which ones we form and get used to on a daily or regular basis.
I can say to any of you out there that YOU CAN FEEL BETTER, you will come across loads of tests, challenges, battles of your mind, wits and wills, you will cry, you will want to scream at times, you will have to CHANGE, be willing to change and learn two key things, DISCIPLINE and PATIENCE. Patience is paramount because there is no set time that you will get “there”, you just have to stay on the road to recovery and be determined to stay on it until you reach that destination, but just know from my experience that there is hope and it is worth it once you get “there”…and once you get there, you cannot get complacent, you have to keep yourself there or even better strive for even more, and a higher “there” because by then you will feel like doing that!