Someone said to me recently,
“I think I’m suffering from some sort of weird depression.”
I was intrigued by the use of the word “weird” because, when they described how they were feeling it just sounded like depression, nothing weird about it.
When you look up the definition of depression in a dictionary, you find something along the lines of “severe despondency,” “extreme dejection,” or “long slump,” but the word that never comes up is, “disconnection”.
In my experience, both personally and professionally, it is the feeling of being set apart from the world and oneself that is the most painfully bewildering aspect of depression.
You can see all of the people and interests that once brought joy and sustenance but it is as if they exist in another world impossible to reach.
The more disconnected you feel from what you love the less energy you have to keep trying to connect, and the less you connect the more emotionally isolated and loveless you become.
I think often about the moments of illumination that, while never making an explosive difference, over time built into a compelling and irresistible belief that I was going to be OK.
One such exchange came in a session with a therapist after I’d sat making a crude clay effigy of my parents arguing across the kitchen table.
I might have been identifying the roots of my sadness and anxiety back to a childhood long gone but I was transferring that same fear of rejection and abandonment into a painful present.
“You’re too comfortable, Graham,” my therapist said.
It may seem unlikely but there is a compelling feeling of safety in constantly reliving a state that you already know even if it is debilitating, destructive and agonising. Ask any addict.
The person with the “weird” depression told me of their sadness at no longer feeling the urge to make the music which had always been such a source of enjoyment.
I thought about the guitar I used to look at propped up in the corner gathering dust and how I’d will myself to pick it up but simply couldn’t and how aggravated I became at my inadequacy.
This reminded me of something else I learned about overcoming depression, although I can’t remember how or where.
I wrote it in a notebook.
“I have to accept myself as I am before I can have any hope of changing.”
I probably kept it as an affirmation but what it became was a premonition.
This, beyond almost all else, was one of the hardest blocks to shift on the way to emotional recovery.
Every sinew is bent out of shape attempting to make ourselves “good enough” to deserve the self-love we so desperately need rather than recognising that love is the foundation of success and not the reward for it.
It always seemed odd that at my lowest point, I couldn’t find the inspiration to write words or play music. Isn’t great art born from emotional pain?
Like mining for gold, when you feel happy, balanced and emotionally wealthy there is no need to dig for more, but when you feel so low you don’t know where to put yourself you can’t find the strength to pick up a shovel.
It’s not sufficient for someone else to hold you upright be they family, lover, friend or therapist. Only the approval of yourself will be enough.
In my emotional wilderness, I wanted continuously to be alone and outside but even when I was, the relief was fleeting.
Cutting the grass for the second time this week I sat afterwards on the step watching a seagull circle the church spire.
Hearing its call I was transported back to a time many years ago I took off for a week by the sea, believing that a period of solitude and reflection would help.
Mostly I reflected on my misery and loneliness, unable to get along with the only person I had thought to take with me.
Clients sometimes ask me. “How is it possible to love yourself?”
I don’t have the answers for anyone else, although I recognise the pain of not knowing.
I’m not even sure I can describe how I got there, although I know it involves my thinking often of the little boy who was oddly left out of the clay model of the warring parents at the kitchen table, but who never now needs to wonder if he is going to be OK because I frequently assure him that he is.