Rethinking my Depression

I’ve been wrestling with depression on and off for years now. It’s not a welcome addition to life, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to manage it – CBT, counselling, talking to the doctor… I’ve managed to stay away from anti-depressants. I’ve also put in time trying to understand it, working on the theory that if I grasp what causes it, I can reduce if not eliminate the problem. A significant part of what went into making me ill came from outside, a consequence of the behaviour and actions of others. I had no control over that, and attempting to step away brought me several years of hard struggle, which made things worse.

However, this stuff from outside is a contributing factor, not the whole story. I observe that depression for me is a direct consequence of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion. Sometimes just the one, often a combination. It’s what happens when there’s simply nothing left to push with, and I keep trying to push anyway. I think depression, for me, is a manifestation of my body saying ‘no, just not possible, we are stopping now.’ If the only way to make me stop is to put me on the floor… well, sometimes I end up on the floor. Finding I am down, I then feel useless, powerless, vulnerable, incapable and of course the inspiration dries up too. That makes me feel worse, creating an emotional pressure that keeps me down for longer.

I tend to assume that I should be able to keep going. I should be able to work and keep house/boat and be a full time parent, wife, lover, author, Druid, volunteer and do everything that needs doing. The ‘what needs doing’ is vast beyond anything I could do, there’s a whole world out there. I am a finite being who has spent a good decade refusing to recognise that simple, critical fact. I don’t have infinite supplies of energy. I cannot take an infinite amount of emotional battering. I cannot run my mind at fever pitch forever. When my body gets close to its limits, the answer is not to always try and push further. Maybe that’s worth doing sometimes, but not, I am concluding, every time. Every day.

I was very, very ill over Christmas. I think I had pneumonia. It took me several days of trying to get on as normal with a desperately ill body, increasingly struggling to breathe, before I admitted that I couldn’t cope. That’s normal for me. Often I do push through but there comes a time when if you keep trying to do that, it can really, actually kill you. It’s that whole being a finite entity thing again.

I’m going to try and rethink my depression – not as failure and shortcoming or proof of inadequacy, but as a simple, biological response to running on empty. If I feel depressed, I need to slow down and be gentle with me until I feel better, not try to keep running anyway. I’ve mostly moved away from situations where there is any external whip cracking, and the emotional pressure from outside is passably low at the moment. I can try to keep it that way, but life does what it does. If I allowed myself a bit more slack in the system to begin with, I wouldn’t be so exposed when unexpected things come in from outside. I’d have more resilience. I am going to be less tolerant of external pressures and demands, too.

Underneath this I think there’s an issue of how I value myself and how, as a consequence, I have permitted others to treat me. I had a lot of help with the under valuing, but I can step away from that and rethink. I do not have to be bound by the opinions of a vocal minority with questionable motives. I have no doubt that I will on occasion push to my limits and beyond, there are times when it’s called for and it makes sense, but it’s not a viable way of life. Other people finding me inadequate should not be the only factor here. I need to accept that if I do as much as I can sustain, that should be good enough most of the time, and if it isn’t, I’m not the only person who can shoulder responsibility. While I value myself only in terms of usefulness and achievement, I can’t actually look after myself properly. I wouldn’t ask this of anyone else, so why am I doing it to myself?

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Rethinking my Depression

  • Violet Hour Muse

    This article written an Aussie might help shine a light into darkened recesses.
    http://www.jungcircle.com/depression.html

  • Argenta

    Dear Nimue,
    this has been an onoging struggle in my life recently as well, and the reason I lost touch. It starded small, and then one day I was so overwhelmed that I could barely stand up on my own two feet and, for the first time in my life, drag myself to a shrink. I am on meds presently, mostly because I’m a single parent of two very young kids who cannot cope with my meltdowns, and trying to find adequate therapy. I’m also trying to learn as much as I can about depression from online sources, and journaling about the experience. So, ummm… nothing really clever to say. Just a hug, and I really, really know what it’s like. I hope we are going to manage, and continue our path, wherever it takes us. Good luck!

  • spindleberry

    Hi Nimue, I came across your blog through Druidry (OBOD) and reading your book ‘Druidry and Meditation’ which I love.
    I am sorry you get depression and as a fellow sufferer I can empathise (I am OK at the moment) What you say about rethinking your depression seems to be about listening to it and what it is trying to tell you, kind of honouring it, and I really believe that is a wise thing to do.
    I have followed the blog of a fellow sufferer: http://poshyarn.co.uk/blog/?cat=43, it is sometimes really helpful to read of other peoples’ struggles with how depression affects their lives and she writes very well about it. The bits about her insights into her illness are interspersed with stuff about the wool that she sells as a business but if you click on keywords at the bottom of her posts you will find the relevant ones.
    Best wishes
    Vicky

  • Jo

    Dear Nimue,
    You go girl!
    All power to you and much love,
    Jo

  • corvusrouge

    One of the most important steps for anyone is an acknowledgement of their physical limitations. These change with age and circumstances, but much like the rest of life, they are constantly changing. A key skill is learning to ride the (current) wave of life. This can be done by modifying behaviours and expectations to better harness the available wave. Use the energy that is available at this time and instead of trying to stand up to it and shape it to your current expectations, much like a surfer on a riptide, divert that energy to your benefits. You never know where this can lead you and I speak as one who has found this to be true in my life. Well done you for working this through to your current understanding.

  • Suzanne Thomas

    Well said lovely. Listen to your heart and your body, the world can wait. It’s a lesson I am learning too.

    Illness is our body telling us “enough” however it manifests. in the end, physical illness will stop us in our tracks, but it tries first with emotional and mental. When we are physically ill, we have time to stop and look at why. Atchooooooo! see its doing it to me too!

  • Terra Maple Forester

    That describes my experience too — depression comes when I’m trying to do too much, and tells me to slow down and nurture myself. There’s a gap between the limits of what my body can do, and what I want to do.

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