Imagine a disease that not only hurts—excruciatingly–but which also takes complete command of our navigational system —- how we think and feel. . Tragically, like a child lost in the night we completely loose our bearings . We do not know where to go or what to do . We are in something we do not know how to get out of nor correct .Our perspectives become jaded. Our will is muzzled. Our imagination becomes dark and our capacity to love and be loved is muted. Within this disease ,life-long relationships with people and activities become blighted and blunted. Friends quit calling as does our desire. Anything we knew and now know about ourselves is eclipsed with the absolute certainty that we do not like it . Those who knew us don’t really know us anymore. We have, essentially, become someone else. This is what depression looks like and feels like on the inside .
How this happens is often a mystery to the sufferer. Perhaps a lingering heartache, or some other adversity that’s beyond our capacity to manage sets it into motion . Like flood waters creeping , discontent slips through and beneath the gates of our awareness, slowly and unquestionably filling us up and crippling our capacity to generate anything but dark meaning . Social interaction becomes painful . The lights of vitality dim. Sleep and retreat become our new and sole desires . This process of internal flooding continues until the boundary between disease and individual is lost . No longer is this someone suffering an illness but this is a new and emphatically unhappy individual . Few maladies are so thorough or metaphysically so strategic. Few pathologies so mysterious to the sufferer .Once possessed, an individual becomes an agent of the disease itself, manufacturing the thoughts and feelings that perpetuate the illness: the sufferer becomes a veritable factory of discontent. This is a serious disease with serious consequences. Life becomes something to endure — it looks and feels like a prison .
I have spent many decades within the grasp of this illness. Though I am mostly free of it now, I still occasionally experience the dark, silent flooding and find myself full of everything except that which will make me better. I know only too well just how painful this space is and how shallow my hope when I am there . I physically feel the sensations in my stomach: it feels like a deep dull ache beneath my diaphragm, pushing up and pulling nausea with it. I become incapable of clean, linear thought and am bombarded with the intense awareness of my discomfort. I cannot fathom its end, nor do I believe I have the mental ability to know what measures might help me sail through. When lost within the clutches of this disease, I have had the intense displeasure of being in a room full of people and feeling so desperately alone that I thought I would not be able to withstand another second. They were unaware of the storm raging within me . I could not share it. It was mine. I felt alone, and was certain I would be forever.
My first episode was at age 11 when my mother died and I had convinced myself that I was directly responsible for her death . I can remember actively pushing down the emotions swelling within me as I learned the tragic news . To compound things my best childhood friend simply vanished after my mother’s death, unable as he was to deal with the very same loss that was turning my life upside down. With one stroke of incredibly bad luck I had lost a mother and my best friend on the very same day This was my first taste of real loneliness . I can remember wondering where everyone had gone .
Into my early teens I managed to feel my way on top again, and stayed there until my home environment deteriorated enough that I crumbled once more. This time I went in deep, and without the buoyancy of boyhood to help me, the dive seemed unstoppable . Friends found it harder and harder to penetrate my solitude until at some point they just quit trying . Herein lies the cruellest aspect of this disease: the experience we so desperately yearn for and require to become free again is lost to us . Like wooden arrows deflecting off steel armour, the warmth and friendly intentions of friends and loved ones are not able to make their mark. Inside this armour life is lonely, painful and constant. Such are the ways of depression.
To another , a sufferer will appear distant , unfriendly , odd , socially clumsy or aloof, often invoking our distrust . This unfortunate behaviour thickens the sufferer’s armour, making social interaction more perilous and dissatisfying- .The sufferer seeks compassion, yet is unable to evoke it. I am reminded of this cruel dynamic from my own experience and when I think of some of the insensitive posts I have seen recently in social media about the death of Robin Williams . Williams suffered his illness as many of us do—as privately as possible—and when the idea of continuing became unbearable, he hung himself with a nylon belt in his own home. Many have openly criticized this remarkable man for his hypocrisy — a man suffering on the inside and a gifted actor and comic on the outside. Even people I know who also suffer from depression have been very critical of Williams’ suicide. What does this tell us about ourselves ?
Self-hatred is easy when consumed by a continual bombardment of toxic sensations and thoughts. When we see ourselves in a photograph or view our refection in a mirror we often experience revulsion . There are no smiles there to win us over and no beauty to celebrate Our focus is always on that part of ourselves we do not like . Over the course of a day we are bludgeoned by self-destructive thoughts and negative emotions concerning our world and ourselves … and all of this complements of our very own brain. If we experience the tiniest bit of relief, we are instantly reminded that it will only be temporary . “Brace yourself — this ain’t over yet!” When I am healthy it seems so illogical that my mind would turn against me, but in the throws of the disease it is precisely what I expect .
Paradoxically there is also utility in my depression . I am abdicated from the responsibility of having to make difficult decisions or having to act . I no longer have to agonize over what I want for it is conveniently just all too much ! I do not have to feel my vulnerability in reaching out to others . I have one tool, one method of coping that I can apply universally and I am charmed by the simplicity of this and …..
There is one more thing ! It has come to my awareness — grudgingly I confess — that I have an underlying addiction to this disease . The dark dramas and emotional storms bring with them a level of intensity and a certain twisted satisfaction that is just about impossible to replicate in an ordinary domesticated life. Yes, there is wildness and adventure in living on the dark side ! Like a violent video game, there are battles of life and death and of day and night but unlike any game ,here the battles are experienced completely internally . They are felt in the guts . They are real ! There are deep and scary lows and –- if and when the depression breaks — wonderful and euphoric highs. There is a wonderful shining edge, and some of us love to walk there. It seems ridiculous, but here’s the hard truth: even though I am keenly aware of how destructive this illness has been to my life, there are times still when I am seduced by its song , not just because I have sailed this sea before and it is familiar, but because a part of me actually wants to be there!
Depression is complex and it is powerful . It lives only subjectively inhabiting the inner most rooms of our hearts and minds resisting objective explanations and antidotes . It cannot be easily cut out or zapped for it has attached itself strategically to the very mechanisms within us by which we make things matter ! . Within depression we have the experience of being lost . Imagine someone who is lost —-completely lost . They do not know where to go and what to do ; they are just there . They feel the chill of real loneliness deep within them . Their only companions are their own thoughts and emotions and these , without exception, are fully and utterly against them . They are full of pain . Their world appears cruel and unfair to them . They dislike themselves and believe that others do as well . When others reach out to them they are truly unable to receive . Love and connection become something to steer away from for it is far too painful and laborious . They do not know why their life is so hard .
Imagine if this was you !
Barry Jonas Samson
Live Deeply Play Big !!!