Here is a piece from Max McKelly about her experiences with depression. The original can be found HERE.
The Joy of Depression
The title of this piece actually sticks in my throat. It makes me feel a bit nauseous, as if I am being disloyal to anyone who is in the dark mire of depression, by talking about the one thing that is absolutely missing from the nightmare. Joy.
However, anyone who has recovered from depression will immediately see the truth in the title. To those of you who are still in it, please read this article anyway, and all I can pray for you is this: that it will plant a seed of hope in your hearts, during your darkest moments; that the tunnel does come to an end, and when you find your perspective returning to you again, the joy comes flooding in.
Recovering from depression is undoubtedly a journey, and one that I would never have wished on my worst enemy, until I looked back on it one day from a stable place. I saw that the person I was could never have achieved the things that I am achieving now. I was so full of self-doubt before, that I felt I did not deserve to realise my gifts. I would TRY, however. I would get these bursts of energy and focus that would last anywhere from 3 days to 3 months, but inevitably, the enthusiasm would always fizzle out, and I would always fail in my endeavours to use my talents. I didn’t understand why, and there is the real possibility that this lack of understanding coupled with the lack of self-love, was a contributing factor to the depression.
Either way, during the grey days, I had no bursts of energy. No focus. If anything, all my energy and focus went into getting the children through the day and pretending to be a happy mommy for their sakes. At the end of the day, my husband would walk in, and I would collapse on the couch, unable to even kiss him hullo or ask about his day; just wanting to be allowed to go to sleep when the children did. He would bath them, put them to bed, cook dinner, and comfort me. I am so grateful that I landed me a good one, but I can only imagine what he thought of his life and choices over this period. And his strength and gentle ministrations often added to my feelings of uselessness and self-doubt.
A friend and I recently compared notes about the techniques that we used to improve our moods during this time. Both of us had come up with a list of things that were likely to lift our spirits on days when things were particularly bad, which was thankfully not every day. It was remarkable to have this conversation, and to see that we had individually arrived at the same problem management techniques. It was one of those conversations that vilifies your experience, because your lovely new perspective helps you to see that it is an experience shared all over the world.
Just in case you are in a place where you need some ideas, here was my list.
Things that make me happy:
· Asking my mum to babysit at least once a week so I can go for a coffee and read the WHOLE paper
· Yoga twice a week (I found a gym with a crèche) or any exercise that produces some happy endorphins
· Llindt 70% chocolate (one block at night – see next point)
· Losing a bit of weight
· Growing a veggie garden
· Having a nap with my 3 year old son (and him asking me to rub his back)
· Brushing my 1 year olds new golden curls
· Writing stories
The first 5 points I built into my weekly routine. When I was feeling that kind of tidal wave of sadness coming towards me, I would look at the other 5 points and do one of them.
Anyway, I digress because what my friend said was the trigger for this particular epiphany.
She said: “Being sadder these last few years has also made me happier.”
This is the heart of it, you see. The joy in the depression.
While this can sometimes only truly be understood with hindsight, or from a place of emotional stability, maybe this will be your epiphany. This is what she meant: when you need to fix yourself, you are forced to look into the mirror and answer a few questions:
· What are the triggers that make me spin into particularly dark places, be it loud irrational rage, or quiet deep sadness?
· What are the gifts that I have, that I was BORN with, that bring me back onto a more even keel?
· How can I best use these gifts to rebalance my mind?
And by looking in the mirror, and finding your gifts that come naturally to you and help you to feel satisfied, somewhere along the way, you find yourself. Even in the middle of depression, you see your strengths and the self-doubt starts to drift away. And afterwards, when you are able to look back, you can see the journey quite clearly, and be grateful for it.
So even in your darkest hour, it can be such a joy to see that you are, in fact, awesome.