Friday, June 14, 2013

Don't be discouraged

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn't a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply "snap out" of. Depression is a chronic illness that usually requires long-term treatment, like diabetes or high blood pressure. But don't get discouraged.                 The Mayo Clinic 

I live with depression. I live with it like you might live with a coloured rock constantly in your pocket, or a strange and lumpy weight hanging from a string around your neck.

I have lived with the illness for so long. Most of my life. Over the years I have wished it away; I have ignored it; I have felt panicked by it. I have judged myself—felt so terrible for falling so low, for being so pitifully "weak" as to be so sad.

In the past I believed that voice in my ear, the one that said everyone else had this living thing in the bag. "Look around you!" it sneered, "no-one else is lost like you! Everyone else is coping fine! Everyone is clean and shiny and full of pluck and vigour! You're the only one curled in the bathroom wanting to die!"

Ah. Every time I think about it, I think how exhausting it has been.

Getting sick with clinical depression is awful. It feels so terrible you'd never wish it on another living being. What kind of mean trick is this? Not wanting to live when the world is wild with beauty. Finding your whole self raw and whole days unbearable when your kids are literally dancing and singing in the exact space you are in—that's some bizarre torture right there.

What's hard is there's also a weird comfort to bleakness like that. It's just so familiar. Depression becomes your old blanket, your worn groove; it's the loose tooth you fiddle with your tongue, the addiction that soothes you, the only path you know.

Many times I have treated it. And many times, after I stopped being acutely sad, acutely anxious, acutely wishing to not be alive—I forgot, over time, to keep taking care of myself. Forgot to keep exercising, seeing counsellors, seeking the sun, talking, being mindful, sleeping, eating well, taking medicines (herbal or otherwise), exercising, exercising, exercising. So inevitably, I got sick again. Just as sick as before, the old groove rising up, the familiar rut coming to claim me.

But not this time.

The dark can't take you if you see it coming. It sounds too simple, but after all these years… you see, I know it so well now, treated it for so long…It's impossible to miss. 

These days, right when I see it coming is when the fight begins.

Oh, yeah, depression?

I see you standing there, saying you know me best, hissing like some dude selling sorrow from the pockets of your trenchcoat.

I see you.

Who do you think you are, sidling out of the alleyway peddling your old wares, smiling that toothy smile?

Don't you realise?

I see you.

And I'm not afraid of you.

Right here is the moment I kick myself fiercely into gear.

I go to yoga—it's only my second time. I twist my body into wild and improbable shapes next to the bendy young things. They can fold themselves into origami swans but that's okay—I may be the strangest swan anyone's ever seen, but I'm there.

I let myself cry in front of my counsellor because I'm really tired, and a bit overwhelmed, and because it's not weak to weep. And I speak to friends about some recent insomnia and they give advice and I see my naturopath and together we do some tweaking until I'm sleeping again. 

I go to the doctor and renew my mental health plan, just as I have year after year after year. I sit there speaking plainly, unashamed of recent bleak moments, because at least I am sitting here, damnit,  talking and treating this. As I always have. 

And I talk to my husband 'til midnight, and we sift through the stuff and plan days I can exercise regularly, days I can stick to. We figure what we need to do to keep me well.

It's a sign of strength to recognise when you're beginning to slide into sickness and to tell the people who matter.

It's strength to say depression is an illness, just like so many others. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

It's strength to say, Hey, I deserve to be well; I choose the new groove, the fresh path, that bright way of seeing…

even with the coloured rock in my pocket, or the strangely-shaped weight at my neck.

Those are just rocks and things. They don't define who I am.


  1. Such beautiful and strong positive sentiment Helena. I know your struggles too and know it is hard to stay on track and avoid those grooves. I love your analogy of the misery pusher - it can be so helpful to visualise these emotions - thank you for the image. Lou xx

  2. It is so definitely a sign of strength. I am glad you are taking care of yourself. You have such beauty in your words and such a beautiful way about you.

    Thank you for your honesty here and for trying to show people what depression is like. it's not something you do or a reaction to something, clinical depression is just like, as you said, high blood pressure.

    I think we are sort of in a similar place. Have you had a chance to read my post from last night?

  3. Sending a huge hug to you across the miles. Yes, it is a sign of strength, wisdom and courage. You are amazing and such a bright light in our world! Thank you for taking care of yourself and seeking support for all you need and deserve. Abundant love to you!! -Sharon D.

  4. Helena it is NOT who you are. You are a beautiful and strong and a wonderful Mother and a wonderful wife and a writer who's words inspire me every time I read them. I love you taking a proactive stand and kicking this thing in the butt. I am here, in Alabama, cheering you on. Love you much!

  5. Wow, Helena. Your words are powerful, and they come from a powerful place in your heart. Holding you in my thoughts and praying for you as you wisely care for yourself. I've not been taking the best care lately, so this is inspiring. (Why is it so hard to regularly exercise? I LIKE to exercise!)

  6. Dear Helena, Your words brought to my mind a book that I have called "The Diamond in your Pocket" by Gangaji. It is a beautiful and wise book that points towards the treasure that is in your pocket right now, the pocket of your heart. The heart that is the core of your being. The diamond in your pocket is the absolute sweetness of your own true nature. I would be happy to lend it to you if you wish to read it. Love Freya.

  7. Thank you for this. I am in this place right now and am just acknowledging it for the first time. It's so good to know that I am not alone.

  8. Helena, I felt so encouraged by the note you left on my post yesterday (my thoughts on my experience are my current equivalent of your novel, maybe? with me every thought...) and it urged me to get caught up here, and I just want to tell you- you are so courageous and strong to be confronting this every single day, not to be hiding away from it, waiting for it to disappear and you along with it. Sharing your courage, your simple strategies and reminders of how to live beside this, taking the time and energy to do that is helpful for so many of us who read this, and then share it...Thank you for making this sharing a part of what you do!

  9. Thank you all, so much, for your incredible comments here. It feels amazing to "hear" your supportive and kind voices, to be part of your lives as you are part of mine. It means so much, and I'm so grateful. Thank you.

  10. Hi Helena. I haven't been by in a has taken me in different directions. So good to see you still fighting the good fight, for yourself first, your family and us, your readers. Strength and light and love to you.

  11. Hi Helena, thanks for sharing your story. Your honesty, bravery and defiance in the face of this illness are inspiring. There are messages for all of us here about self-care - I'm physically very rundown at the moment and need to take time to heal. See you soon, Toni. xx


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.