Thursday, 18 November 2010

The answer is in your own hands

In the last month I've been on a journey; had to wrestle with my conscience, convictions and beliefs. I have been quite depressed about not having a magic wand for people who have likewise suffered from depression. Time and time again I found myself returning to one of my original blogs about only being responsible for our own feelings. We cannot command, control or govern how others respond or react. The answer truly is in our own hands.

The trouble with any form of depression is that one of two things tends to happen. We either withdraw which worries others who care for us, or we set about seeking a rescuer - usually in the wrong places. We can become demanding, aggressive and angry in our desire for attention, sympathy, understanding and compassion as a result of our heightened sense of desperation. It can be a harrowing ordeal for all concerned. Never forget though that there are always concerned people about who want us to overcome the dark chasms of the moods we experience.

Four actions to take when the black clouds gather
1. Find an appropriate outlet for the emotions - this might be stamping out a frustration on a long walk, bashing clay, writing down your feelings, sloshing paint, kicking a football. All things you can do privately to expel the worst of the intense feelings so you are better equipped to communicate lucidly and clearly with others about what is troubling you.

2. Seek a professional to talk to who will properly understand your symptoms and who has been trained to handle them. They are also bound by confidentiality so your darkest thoughts have an outlet. These are often thoughts you really don't want to share with those you care about. Not talking to a professional gives emotions room to fester and grow out of all realistic proportion. Talking to untrained people can often result in a response you may find unhelpful, patronizing, or even confusing and this will only heighten feelings of desperation and frustration.

3. Accept that our bodies are physiological entities which sometimes malfunction. All life forms are made up of atoms which combine in miraculous ways to form cells which in their turn produce the myriad of life forms we see all about us. Sometimes cells combine that cause damage and harm or cause illness - from flu to cancer and AIDs. It's no one's fault that this happens. It is never your fault that you become ill from whatever cause, but we all have a choice in what we do about it when it happens.

Ask yourself "do you want to be ill?" If the answer is no, then go to your doctor. Ask yourself "do you want to be depressed?" If the answer is no, then go to your doctor.

Fortunately we are now living in a time when there are increasingly better forms of medical help. Although some forms of mental illness require medication that subdues us to give us time to heal, most treatments involve and encourage you to continue to function. There are more and more options for prescription drugs to assist as well as a range of different therapies. If we have no qualms about taking an aspirin for a headache, why do we have them for depression and mental illness? And as the decades roll by prescription drugs are improving all the time and likewise so are the therapies.

Mental illnesses may not be as tangible to decipher, do not have a definable group of cells to neatly cut away and discard, but thankfully medical teams are making progress all the time in finding ways to alleviate the worst. Like the history of cancer treatments, some conditions are more easily combated than others; but all conditions are receiving attention in the hope of cures. We are, by seeking out medical teams very much at the forefront of helping that along and no longer as guinea pigs, but increasingly as sentient and respected people who are driving progress forward.

4. Challenge yourself. All too easily we can slip into a self-fulfilling prophesy by saying "I'm always depressed at this time of year." Imagine instead what it would be like not to be. What things can you do to diminish or eradicate that possibility? Think of things that make you happy, that motivate you, that you enjoy and plan and pack your life full of them.

It follows that if we are ultimately responsible for our own feelings, there can be no rescuers. We have to do it for ourselves. That's not to say there aren't plenty of people who will be more than happy to be supportive in whatever way they can including friends, family and work colleagues. What they cannot do is take on our thoughts and feelings and wave a magic wand to change them. In reality, would you really like it if they could? What if they came along and wiped away all the good stuff?

Certain types of mental illness manifest in the belief that that is something that really is happening to them. If you are not suffering from those symptoms, don't point yourself down that road. If you are a sufferer from those conditions (psychosis and schizoid disorders can have these symptoms) be brave and take the plunge to trust the medics and confide in them. It may be the hardest thing you've ever done, but what's the alternative? A full take over of who you really are?

Most of all buy into the idea of better things being possible regardless of how wretched your situation may be or feel; believe you deserve better, fight for it. Believe you are worth it. I believe you are - high time you did.

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