This isn’t easy to write. But I’ve promised an open and honest relationship, to lead by example. So it’s only right I share the personal challenge I’ve been facing.
Up until recently, I’d been surfing the electrochemical wave of energised neurons as they vigorously fired through the synapses of my brain. My mind felt free and abundant with ideas and exciting prospects for the future. My imagination vividly presented me bright, lifelike visualisations. An unconditional zest for being alive powered me forwards with purpose.
My energy — all that makes me “me” — flowed beyond my physical body, meeting the energy that makes everything “everything,” connecting me with the rest of the world, and beyond.
Then depression struck.
I don’t know why it surprises me, I’ve been here many times. But try as I might, it returns. And with it the reverse of what I’d experienced moments before. Zest replaced by numbness. Forward motion replaced by a sinking sensation.
Those neurons, they slowed as they attempted to fight their way through the thick grey sludge of a weary brain. My energy returned from distant stars and compressed into the confines of flesh and bone. “Me” no longer connected with “everything,” creating a bubble, leaving me isolated, stuck in the mud of the mind. My imagination now a perpetual loop of sepia-tinted memories, encasing me in a nostalgic amber of better times.
I’d been meditating. Eating well. Exercising regularly. Avoiding alcohol. Practicing mindfulness. Journaling. Taking multivitamins and Omega-3. Bathing in ultra-bright artificial light. I’d been studying the human mind, training for the time when I can hopefully help others.
But it doesn’t matter. There’s a simple truth about depression: no matter how much you prepare, no matter how much you know, or how self-aware you are, depression can strike. No matter your status in life, how happy you seem, how much money you have in the bank, how healthy your body or how healthy your relationships, depression can strike. No matter how you eat, sleep, rave or repeat, depression can strike.
Depression is a defect of the very core. It’s the extinguishing of the sun that nourishes the body’s solar system. Yet I can still laugh at jokes, appear happy, appear motivated. For those without first hand experience, this can be a strange concept. Planets continue to orbit an extinguished sun.
In my experience, depression doesn’t really strike. Striking is filled with energy. But depression is the opposite. Putting aside beliefs or scientific understanding, depression dims the special element that gives us life, whatever the source or the nature of that element. It’s an anti-emotion, too numb to qualify as numb. It’s beyond emotion, beyond sadness.
We’re the architects of how we see the world. Everything outside of us is filtered by us. That’s what makes depression so consuming — life is filtered through bleakness. In the eye of the storm, it filters your future projections, your view on your relationships, your view on who you are, your view on your worth, abilities, importance.
Then comes the shame.
“FFS Ricky. Come on. Stop being stupid. You know these are self-destructive thought patterns. You know not to identify with them. You know how to be mindful. You know how to focus on sensation. You know things will change. So why are you stuck? This is your making.”
Then came the kicker.
“How will you ever become a Life Coach if you can’t manage your own emotions?”
Ouch. Way to kick me when I’m down and shit all over my dreams, brain.
But always remember these truths.
I’ve been vocal about depression and anxiety because I’m all too aware — no matter how knowledgeable or experienced you are — of its ability to deceive. I know what it’s like to feel isolated, and I remember reading other’s experiences in times of need, which reassured me. Still, it’s incredibly hard for me to be open and honest when I’m not hiding behind hindsight.
But this post isn’t intended to be negative, full of despair or hopeless. Instead, I want to throw a metaphorical life-jacket to anyone out there drowning a little. If you are in need of that life-jacket, please, please remember these crucial truths:
- You are not alone and people love you. Ignore any thoughts telling you otherwise.
- Your negative view on yourself and your world is temporarily misaligned. Do not take it seriously. It is not the truth, it is a perspective influenced by your current state.
- Be kind to yourself. Self-compassion is a massive fuck you to depression. Take the day off work, switch off, be kind to yourself.
- Reach out, talk to someone. Your brain might tell you they don’t care or they won’t listen, but see point 1.
- Start rebuilding by focusing on one or two positives. Anything. Morning coffee? A smile from a stranger? Surprise December sun? All valid.
- Keep going.
- Remember impermanence. Things will change. This too shall pass. Soon the sun will shine and the view on yourself and your world will be bright again.
A message of hope.
For our muscles to grow, first they must be damaged. Then they repair and grow stronger. What’s to say depression isn’t the brain’s equivalent of this process?
Thank God, I’m coming out the other side. Again. And you will too. Every time you do, you’ll recover quicker. You’ll return stronger.
When the sun reignites, it’ll shine brighter than before.
Depression deserves respect, but it’s not something to be defined by.
You are not depression, and neither am I.