Essay on Depression:
How To Stop Being
A Sad Elephant?!
This 'Depression essay' was in fact originally my 'stream of consciousness' answer to a query on a Health Forum. Having been affected for virtually all my life by depressive illness one way or another - it is a topic I feel reasonably 'qualified' to comment on.
Depression is an example of yet another illness that has grown to epidemic proportions in modern, developed Western society in particular. Only recently the UK news referred to the case of a pre-school girl of about 4 years old being diagnosed with depression! It's a fair bet that almost no-one exists nowadays who does not know someone affected by this illness.
Whilst mental illness generally still carries a stigma in many ways - depression, which comes in various levels of intensity and seriousness, is still sometimes a difficult issue for people to accept. Whilst everyone occasionally suffers from a brief blue-mood, or 'feels down' for a while - this may mistakenly be referred to as depression. Clinical depression, howver, is a real illness that can develop and go on for many years, and can become a dangerous condition if not recognized, accepted and treated.
This 'essay' response to a depression sufferers concerns about dealing with the process of 'getting better' - is basically a personal view from a recovering 'insider'. There is a wider range of depression information now published at Depression is OK a new website that aims to deal with various aspects of the topic of depression in hope of providing useful information for both sufferers and supporters/carers, or concerned friend or family, of depressed persons.
In response to concerns about what becoming free of depression after many years of suffering:
"I know what you mean. I lived with a depressed person for 20 years and she has gone through every type of pill and talking treatment, without ever really 'dealing' with the issues or becoming a 'non-depressed person'.
I have also, personally, suffered bouts of clinical depression over the years (since I was in my teens now to my 50th year) currently I am in the 3rd year of the latest 'bout'. But, to be fair, whilst beset by a number of serious problems at this moment I am also aware that I am almost back to being an ‘ordinary person’ again!
I completely recognize what you describe. I would only make the following personal observations. You make the comment that (quote)"However i know my depressed state so well because it is me" (unquote)...This may be partially true - what you 'know well' is the 'depressed you'. After nearly a decade it will be the 'you' that you are bound to feel comfortable with, and also some part of you will be aware that everyone you know will see you through the 'looking glass' of depression - it has become a part of your 'self definition'.
But please bear in mind that depression is an illness with a purpose. In a new website about coping with depression, I recently published and am developing, I talk about depression, itself, being 'ok' - because the 'depression' is merely a 'signal' that something in our life is not 'right'. This is simplifying things I know, but what most treatments tend to do is address the symptoms...hence a 'pill' might make you 'feel more normal’ by overwhelming the brains ability to use the 'signal' of depression to alert you to the need for what may sometimes be significant change. Masking the underlying problem by the use of chemistry is a popular way for allopathic medicine to help people to cope with depression. I personally do not think that, in the long-run this really helps us address what we need to do.
Pills can, perhaps, be a necessary 'evil' when we are depressed, because they can take the 'edge off' the feelings that make us depressed. They can help us to feel 'comfortably numb', which can shut-off the 'noise' that otherwise stops us from sleeping, or interacting properly with the world. Indeed lack of deep rest is a key component in the spiral into depression - so in something like helping with this symptom of depression this pills can be of value, and I will admit that I have found them so.
What I feel though, to get back to the point of the quote from your own posting, is that the 'you' you currently see is the 'depressed you', and the you you are afraid to see is the 'non-depressed you' (I nearly said - 'normal' you...but in reality both 'yous' are normal! It is just that your 'self' is trying to tell you that you need to 'change' something in order to feel 'non-depressed', when it 'conjures up' depression as a ‘messenger’).
I found some value in 'talking therapies' as I began this latest journey through the valley of depression, and I suppose the timing was right for me to be faced with certain realities. I realized that in order to deal with the root-cause of my depression I had to make some radical, terribly painful, and immensely difficult changes in my life. The last year (of three) has been a gradual resurfacing, a feeling of restoration to normalcy, with a renewed ability to begin to cope. The progress is still a bit 'faltering' and I still have the 'two steps forward one back' syndrome quite regularly. I think it is important NOT to expect the use of any chemical regime to make things all-right, I also think that you must appreciate that recovery from depression is never a simple linear improvement, but a bumpy road - that often throws up the challenging question of 'Am I really getting better?'. Some days it certainly feels like this may not be the case, but gradually more days come by that provide the alternative, positive conclusion that things are indeed getting better...At least, this is my experience even though, as I say, 'externally' things are notionally much bleaker than a few years ago – I am feeling much better about life, the Universe and everything!
So...and I am sorry for rambling on...I would say that IF you feel taking Librium is a positive thing to do, then you, like many others may well find that it provides a platform from which your view of the world may be more confident, optimistic and stable.
But, on a cautionary note, my belief is (as I say) that we become depressed for a 'purpose'. In a world where 'Man' has almost lost all his 'natural instincts' and usually hands over the decision making process about his health to 'others' (whose abilities to make sound decisions for every individual is EXTREMELY limited)...we can miss the point: that is that depression is the 'conscious' manifestation of the 'subconscious' or 'unconscious' mind trying to make us face up to the realities of the need to change things in our lives. Finding the 'key' to the changes we need to make, recognizing and taking appropriate action, can be expected to be scary, painful, and difficult...This alone can be enough for many depressives to 'refuse' to see the solution to their depression, preferring rather to stay in their 'cocoon of depression' wrapped in the 'cotton wool' of chemistry! …Chemistry that reduces their ability to 'feel' anything completely.
People who suffer from depression are ofetn 'too sensitive' to the world around them; too 'fearful' of causing upset, offence, disappointment to others; too prone to taking the 'weight of the world and his neighbour' on their own shoulders; and they are also prone not to be FAIR to themselves. They end 'crippling' their own 'self' and finding that the 'straightjacket' or 'cage' they have created for themselves becomes the uncomfortable but familiar room within which they exist. They begin to live like an elephant in an 'old fashioned' zoo, so cooped up, that it spends all day distractedly stalking back and forwards, repetitively going through the same actions - sinking into a pit of gloom, despondency (and, yes, depression).
Whilst the Elephant cannot 'make the decision' to change its circumstances, humans almost all, at least to some extent, can. We as individuals may feel that we may not have had all the 'chances' in life we might like; we may not have been blessed with all the skills or qualities we admire; we may well have made 'choices' that have led us into a 'cage' of our own making, a watershed, from which there 'seems' no escape; we may have a 'lifestyle' that undermines our wellbeing, made up of routines, habits, and other repetitive behaviour that it 'seems' is impossible to change. But in reality, many of the things that add up to making us who we are at the moment, can be changed...BUT not until they have been recognized, accepted, and a determination (including the setting of goals) has been made about how, where and who we want to be! This is a mighty challenge - and for many it seems easier to become/remain that 'professional psychiatric patient' that you refer to. For whilst we continue to seek an ear that listens, and a a pill or potion that soothes, we can 'feel as if we are doing something' about our illness - yet all the time we are really not doing what is really needed to alleviate the continuing 'signal’ our 'psyche' is trying to send us.
Sometimes, the problems that may be central to our depression are as plain as the nose on our face. However, our depression is borne out of the stinging realization, and the 'stubborn refusal to accept', that we MUST do something about those things to 'move on'. If you are like me you maybe do not like 'being told what to do' by anyone...and this can extend to your own ‘inner voice’.
When we cannot make things change without having to 'go through' the catharsis of pain, guilt, stress, (and maybe above all) emotion that deep and real personal change usually seems to require - our natural 'resentment' can lead us to use the only defence left open to us - which is the refusal to accept the things that need to be tackled...and the choice of a 'life as a sad elephant’.
Chemicals therefore, may provide a crutch that, for you as a person could enable you to 'function' more capably in the 'real world'. As you seem to recognize - it is not the issue of choosing this crutch, but the fear of leaving the room that you have created for yourself, that is the real issue.
Whichever route you take I wish you good luck. I also hope that, like me, you decide to seek to solve the root problems that cause the symptoms of depression, and then to experience the slow, and sometimes arduous journey back up to the plane of 'non-depression' - your alternative, and ultimately, more rewarding, and real, other 'normal world' (no matter how scary it seems just now!)."
If you've made it through this depression article - then you may be wondering how come it is featured on "Go Natural and Organic" website?
Well to address this briefly I think it is appropriate to say that amongst a number of changes alluded to in the essay itself (some of which were painful and difficult) I recognized a need to undertake a radical overhaul of my general lifestyle as part of the process of trying to recuperate from the depression itself.
It had become clear to me that I had 'slipped into' a rather destructive pattern of habitual behaviour was just one part of those factors that made up the depression I was suffering.
The choice to try and reduce my own daily exposure to many synthetic chemicals, to adopt a cleaner greener lifestyle has undoubtedly played an important role in helping me to overcome the current cycle of depression that I had subsided into over many years.
Adopting more natural and organic products has not only had a positive physical impact, but an important psychological one too. The fact that I had had long term problems with IBS, blamed on the stresses with which I was not dealing effectively by my GP's and consultants, also led me to seek some sort of self-help therapy.
In this respect - rebuilding a healthy digestive system through using a certified organic probiotic supplement has also played a part in lifting the curtain of gloom that enveloped me. Long term unresolved, and largely unexplained illness can play a major part in a encouraging the occurrence of depression. Given that experts reckon that 80% of the population may be suffering from impaired digestion as a result of typical Western dietary habits may even be more important as a contributing factor in the current epidemic of depression than may yet be acknowledged widely!
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