Thursday, 26 April 2012 10:00


Written by
image of Depression

1 in 3 to 1 in 5 of you will know what depression is (the figures vary) because you live with it, or you have experienced it and found a way through and out the other side. If you have never been depressed then, trust me, you cannot know what it is like. And no, the sufferer cannot just snap out of it.

So maybe you have what is known as dysthymia. If so, your world has been grey and overcast for a long time, perhaps as long as you can remember. Maybe you have a feeling of irritation simmering away just below the surface: sandpaper under your skin, which sometimes blows up into a destructive rage. This can impact on relationships, of course, and maybe you have lost one or more to this often inappropriately placed fury.

Maybe you can’t sleep, or wake at 3am when your thoughts go round and round, reliving the past, worrying about the present or the future, worrying about not being able to sleep. Maybe you sleep too much – it’s all you want to do, day and night. Maybe your thoughts go round and round anyway, always focused on the negative, like a cow chewing its cud and never finding a way to swallow and choose another mouthful.

Your appetite is affected. You eat lots for comfort or out of boredom, or you can’t bear the thought of food. Your weight fluctuates. You seem to pick up all sorts of bugs because your immune system is depressed. This is a whole body illness, not just a problem of the mind.

Many experience a much deeper depression that takes over life and leads to serious sequelae. Some may experience psychotic symptoms and be very ill indeed, requiring immediate intervention if they are to survive. For them and for others who suffer from this pervasive illness, life can no longer seem worth living. This mental and emotional pain can no longer be borne.

If this is you, I counsel you strongly to go to a doctor today. There is no time to be lost. You may need medication while you address deeper issues with a counselor or therapist. Lots of people resist the idea of medication: it still carries such a stigma and an aura of fear, and some find it doesn’t help. If you are one of these last, it’s worth working with your doctor or asking for a referral to a psychiatrist to try and find the medication that suits you. There are a number of medications out there now. If you have very serious symptoms, then you may need to be admitted to hospital while a way is found to help you. It can seem like an appalling idea, but later, when you are well, you will be grateful for the gift of life that you have won.

Depression can be a watershed in your life. It may be a way of telling yourself unconsciously and painfully that things have got to change and old wounds have got to be mourned and healed. If you seek help, it may be the first time in your life that you have allowed yourself to do so. And this is the beginning of creative change. Depression can be seen as the chaos that gives birth to something new, something wonderful. Many of the old creation stories tell that out of chaos came order, a new world. This is not an easy journey. It requires courage and perseverance. Often it requires a companion, someone who will accompany you into the dark and sit with you in your pain. But there is a good chance that if you attend to the weaving of your life in this way, one day your face will lift and you will feel upon it the light of the dawn.

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