Is the one that we fight with ourselves. Every day. We all look for help, in one way or another but, essentially, only we have control over the way that we view the World and our own lives. Often the way that we speak to ourselves i.e. our own thoughts, have far more impact on our emotions than the words spoken or the actions taken by others.
My battle was with depression and I suffered with it and, more importantly, because of it for about 15 years. It started with, of all things, an appendectomy which resulted in a hospital stay for a few days and then a week recuperating at home…….and that was where I stayed for the next year, too anxious to go out. I saw psychiatrists and psychologists, I spoke to my friends and family and anyone else who would listen, effectively I talked about myself for about a year. It seemed strange to me, even at the time, that all of this analysing and navel gazing wasn’t actually changing anything, if anything it was making it worse. The more I turned my problems over and over in my mind, the worse they became and so I turned to pills, Prozac to be precise.
The medication helped insomuch as I didn’t have the terrible lows that had driven me to contemplate suicide but I also didn’t get any ‘highs’, never really felt happy or full of life. This carried on for a long time and the people that loved and worried about me were incredibly caring, they pampered me, walked on egg shells around me and made me feel the way that I had always wanted to feel: special. Depression, something wholly negative had given me, in my mind, something wholly positive. It’s something that I’ve only realised in the last couple of years and it’s a hard thing to admit but there is something addictive about being sad because of the reactions that it brings out in other people namely sympathy and understanding. Of course, the problem with that is that it doesn’t last, after a while anyone close to me got fed up with it and wanted to know why I couldn’t pull myself together and why I was feeling sorry for myself all the time.
This wasn’t what I wanted, why were people being so mean all of a sudden? Couldn’t they see I was suffering? Where was all the sympathy that made me feel so special? I was hurt and then angry and, as a result, I fell into a pattern of behaviour that made things even worse. I started to push people away; if someone was nice to me and let me drone on about all my problems, after a while I would turn on them and be cruel in some of the things I said – thinking back I think I was, subconsciously, hurting them before they could hurt me.
I don’t think I realised that I was becoming a complete bitch, I mean I must have known on some level, I’m not stupid by any means, but I think I saw it as a defense mechanism against the cruelty of others. Do you know what? It was funny, the more I pushed people away the less friends I had – how strange is that! That’s with hindsight, at the time it was just evidence that I’d been right about people all along – none of them really cared about me. This in turn justified my feelings of rejection and the inevitable sadness that went along with it. I was sad and no-one cared which meant I was more sad and pushed people away even further.
Two things happened to change all that: I was given a wake up call by my doctor and I met my future husband. The doctor basically showed me that I had two paths in front of me – stronger and stronger medication that would ultimately leave me zombie-like and emotionless (I should add here that that was my impression and not necessarily the reality) or I could chose to take back my life from depression and live it. I didn’t need depression any more because I had found the thing I’d always craved: love and I couldn’t face travelling down the other path, further into misery and sadness, because, quite honestly, it frightened me. I had had a glimpse of a place so dark, so lonely and terrifying that I couldn’t and wouldn’t take another step towards it….
As a result, I stopped taking any medication and I did everything I could to turn my life around. I stopped moping and started motivating myself into action. I listened to all 12, I think it was, of Tony Robbins self-help CD’s and I did what he instructed to the letter. Lo and behold, everything changed because I changed, who would have credited it! A few years later I went to two of his seminars in London, the first time with my friend and the second time with my husband and, guess what, ALL our lives changed….for the better. We were given the right pair of glasses to view the world through – they weren’t rose tinted and they weren’t dark and sombre shades either, they were perfectly, beautifully, CLEAR. We all learned that, whatever happens in life, it’s how you view it and process it in your own mind that will make the difference – your experiences are based on your perceptions…..
I didn’t know it at the time but I would need all this wisdom that helped me live such a happy and fulfilled life for more than 10 years….
Eight months before our 10th wedding anniversary, my husband was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. We drew on all that we’d learned over the years and we were utterly determined to stay positive and fight this thing until we beat it. We had both heard stories of people who had beaten cancer with the right foods and the right mental attitude and we were the two most determined fuckers you could ever wish to meet! Sadly, despite all our best efforts (I say ours, my husband was the strongest person I’ve ever met and he never gave up) he lost his battle.
Afterwards I shut myself off from happiness and pleasure and I grieved and I worked. I spent hours in my office trying to find some semblance of my ‘normal’ life and, the rest of the time I sat at home and I cried; bitter, endless, heartbroken sobs. You could say that I had gone back to depression but, although the symptoms were similar, the cause was very, very different. Again, I thought about suicide but the one time I came close to it something stopped me; I was once again at that fork in the road and I chose the same path that I’d chosen before – life.
It wasn’t so easy this time for obvious reasons but I couldn’t go back to a life of depression whatever happened. I still have ‘bad’ days when I despair of ever regaining the happiness that I felt when my husband was alive (it’s almost like being back on Prozac again) but I don’t give up. I didn’t spend all those months watching him struggle to keep his grip on his life to just throw mine away. I’m still sad, I still cry but, even on the very fork of that crossroads I will still not follow the path that I know has no turnings and no way back.
Instead I look for inspiration, I look for pleasure in small things and I try never to ask myself the question ‘why is life so terrible’; it isn’t it’s a wonderful gift and I know that it won’t last forever. I choose not to be depressed, I chose life……..
We all need love so I’m sending mine to you. Lisa x