The Live Edit: Depression & Me

Depression. Ugh, even just typing it makes me feel knots in my stomach. That horrible D word that we have come to hear more and more over the last few years as people like myself open up about what life is like actually living with this horrendous disease that literally makes you fight your own brain every minute of every day.

I know I've suffered from depression for a long time, but it's only more recently that it's raised its ugly head even more out of the water and I've not been able to ignore it. The pounding doom feeling has gotten stronger and louder and I can't switch off for it anymore. Great right?

Depression is such a selfish bitch. There I said it. It doesn't give a fuck of who, why, when or how it strikes, but before you know it there was a knock at the door and depression and all it's little bullshit friends moved into your brain before you could even say "Teas and coffees anyone?", and before you know it, your brain has squatters and you're losing your marbles about how to get them the fuck out.

Yup. That's depression. And it's a bag of shit.

Waking up at 3:45am, lying in my bed and feeling like the whole world is going to crumble around me. Weird thoughts set in like, "What if tomorrow you decide you'll be suicidal and there's no one there to save you?" or "What if this never gets better and I'm going to be stuck my whole life with this feeling. I don't want that, who does?" or my personal favourite, "What if I can't control my brain anymore and I do something stupid?". Yeah, it can make you think some dark shit dude.

But here's the thing with depression, yeah it's a dick, it's selfish, it's very uncomfortable to live with, but it is beatable. Something I wish I'd known a few days ago when the world was crumbling round about me (it wasn't, it just felt like it was) and I couldn't pull myself out of the depressive hole that I kept digging.

Depression is a sickness. Just like if you get the stomach flu, you'd take a few days off until you are better. Well, depression is just like that, it's a sickness of the mind. So why aren't we prescribing some well-earned sympathies and a few days of rest to sort out your cranium? Because we aren't talking about it enough. We aren't being real about it enough.

It's vile to talk about. Even just writing this I feel the knots in my stomach get tighter and the feeling of doom get louder, but I know it's a story that has to be told. I'm not embarrassed by my depression. But it ain't no fluffy puppy that is all smiles and rainbows, that's for sure. It's an uncomfortable experience to talk about it, even just opening up to my friends and my loved ones that I felt depressed and low was really sickening, but the feeling after it was as close to euphoric as I could get. Relief, freedom, crying with happiness, it was all there. And it's kind of here now as I'm writing this, I'm deciding to not let it hold me captive in my own mind. It's got its damn eviction notice and I'm going in it get it out!

I read a book a few days ago that put me in a new perspective about my depression, anxiety and my intrusive, unwanted thoughts. It was written by a comedian, a monk and a neuroscientist (I'll leave it in the links below if you are interested), and boy oh boy was it enlightening and educational.

Now if you are anything like me, with an addictive personality, you have to know the why's, where's and how's of why something is happening. But when the part that you're trying to find out about controls your whole body, it's a little daunting. Now I don't have no PhD, but I'm about to drop a big knowledge bomb right here, you ready?

"Your thoughts do not define you. You are more than your thoughts."

 What? But I thought I was a worthless person earlier. I thought I was heading for my doom. I thought this will never go away.

Yeah, you are more than that. These are nothing more than what they are on the tin, thoughts. Stupid thoughts that feel like the world is taking over, but really shouldn't be given more of an "ok, that was weird" and move on.

I know that seems hard to do. But it can be done, I promise. Depression is like an addiction, it feeds off your willpower. It drains you until you become dependent on it, and you don't even know it's happening, which is the scary part. Before you know it, it's there and it's big and all you want is freedom. Which is sadly where a lot of people decide to end their own lives. I've been there myself and the comforting thing to know is that you are not what you think, and it will get better. But the hardest step right now is finding your get up and go. Your Mojo. Your reason for living. We all have a purpose on this earth, all of us, even you reading this, you have a purpose. There is no reason to give up. There is no good reason to end it all. There is a hope. It is not easy, trust me, but there is a better way of living than just giving up.

I still suffer from depression. Heck, the last few days have been like hell for me, feeling like I've taken two steps back on my progress. I've felt myself slip back into my old ways and it's been harder to pull myself out of it. But I'm learning not to beat myself up about it. It's a journey. There will be times where you feel like you've not made any progress, and there will be times where you skip down the road knowing you've come a long way. It's all about the journey.

What is helping me right now is learning mindfulness. Which you've probably heard before if you've looked for help with depression. And you've probably wondered what on earth is it and why is it so effective. Well for me it's like training my brain to have a well-earned recess from the chaos. Mindfulness teaches you how to separate your thoughts from reality and how to stop the thoughts from growing legs and taking over.

My journey is at the point where I've accepted I have a problem and I'm actively doing what I can, be it therapy, mindfulness, research etc, to find my solution to getting rid of depression. For me, I've found that mindfulness does help, but you have to be strict with it. Some days it works and other days you're left scrambling because it doesn't, but at that point, you haven't mastered mindfulness, so keep going. It will click one day.

My favourite technique is when you get a thought in your head that you don't want or is causing you distress, put it in a bubble like you know the cartoon speech bubbles? Stick it in one of them, and as soon as you've done that imagine you have a pin or just use your finger and pop that bubble and see that thought disappear. It sounds ridiculous, but by god does it help.

I've also found along this journey that not only can depression be something that is like an addiction, it can also be worse when combined with OCD. Not the kind where you're turning off a light switch 1000 times a day, the kind where you have these thoughts in your brain and you obsess over them until they tear you up inside. Your brain gets stuck in a loop and each time that loop goes around, you sink further into a depression because you can't break said loop. It's vile, and it's what I suffer with.

But actually finding out this was a thing helped me further establish that I am not my thoughts. I am more than my thoughts. And I WILL beat this.

If there is anything to take comfort from it is this, literally millions of people suffer from depression regardless if they open up about it or not. Some you'd be surprised at. People you look up to, your idols have all at one point suffered from this, I guarantee you. You are not alone in this fight. So many people have overcome it, and are here to help you fight yours. I know it can be so gut-wrenchingly scary, you feel like there is no way out, but there is, and it's not suicide, it's not ignoring it, and it's certainly not pretending you are okay. You have to fight this fight head-on, turn around and face your biggest fear. Oh, my days is it hard, I can't even begin to describe how hard it is, but it is doable, so many people like you have felt like this. So many people like you have overcome it. It's more common than you think it is. But there are so many reasons for beating it. And I know it doesn't feel like it now but it will go away someday and you will be able to live your life without it. It just takes time.

The best quote I read during all of this was explaining that if you keep running away from the monster that is chasing you, you'll run forever and it will eventually catch you, but if you turn around and scream in its face it will stop in its tracks and will run away from you.

And the first step to beating that monster is telling someone. Don't suffer it alone. Don't let it eat you up inside. There are people there to help you. People want to see you do well, they want to see you get better. You just have to be brave and take the first step to beat it.

So what came we take away from this? Well, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we are all in it together and we all want to beat it. We know that the first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem and talking to someone, the next step is putting in a plan to get better. We know that the road may be bumpy ahead but we know that we have a purpose and a reason to live, we know that we have help at every bump and there's always someone to guide us over the next hurdle.

We know that we can beat this. We know that we are stronger than our thoughts. We know that we are loved.

If you are in need of any help urgently please call the Samaritans number on 116 123.

Here is a list of books that I found helpful:

Overcoming thoughts book - here
Ruby Wax - How to Be Human - here

Also, please persist with your doctor to find a good CBT therapist. Even if you have to change doctor, you will get there.

And if you need to talk to someone who has been through it, send me a message, you are not alone in this fight.