DEPRESSION: Over the years I have learnt ways of stepping back to safety but just lately menopausal hormones have had me standing a little too close, nauseatingly close, toes over, stomach already in freefall. I’ve been repeating a mantra: It’s hormones, it’s OK, it’ll be over by the weekend. But if someone brought me a cliff, I might jump. I tried to make this a lighthearted post, but I couldn’t.
A friend made an interesting observation today – sometimes when there’s a day or a weekend, when nothing challenging has happened, when you wake up cheerful and your day is happy and anxiety free, when the black dog has stayed in its kennel, you get to thinking wow, for some people, maybe even most people, that’s an average day.
Its a rare person who gets through life without sadness, challenges and uphill struggles. These things are part of life after all. As my friend Anna Pinkerton says “happiness is NOT about being happy, (it’s) about embracing all that it is to be human.” But there’s a point when the challenges and the sadness can tip you dangerously near the edge, when stress and trauma shove you ever closer. I’ve stood on that precipice and I’ve fallen off it too.
The way I thought about depression 20 years ago was as a deep deep well, all on my own, no light, no communication, only one feeling: gut wrenching fear. And numbness. That lasted months and months, even when I was medicated.
I was lucky* to find a therapist who asked “what happened to you?”, who had some inkling of the central role trauma plays, how it shapes our responses and our ability to cope. She was able to help me understand the map I had laid out for myself, one that constantly recreated the trauma. I am very grateful for her skills and therapeutic approach. I still feel stalked by the black dog, still wake up with a sickness in the pit of my belly, but all that therapy has helped me avoid too much danger. Those hormone induced cliff edges though have reminded me just what a dangerous path I once walked.
I think I am mostly happy now. My life is full of stress and anxiety, but I have found a route that keeps me safe; the fear and loss no longer steer me. I am kind to myself, I look it in the face and say “that’s not mine, I can let it go on it’s way” and mostly it does. Today has been a good day.
*I made many sacrifices to afford her, but I realise I was more priviledged than many in being able to do that. There is a terrible, disastrous lack of free mental health services in the UK and a woeful lack of understanding of trauma in what does exist. The neglect of mental health in this country is killing people.