I came to realise that depression was not my enemy but my friend. I don’t say this lightly. I know the damage it does to people and the lives it has wrecked and is wrecking so I am only talking for myself. How can you say something that nearly killed you was your friend? The best coaches I have ever dealt with are those that tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. You mightn’t like it at the time but after or maybe years later, you know they were right. I believe depression is a message from a part of your being to tell you something in your life isn’t right and you need to look at it. It forced me to stop and seek within for answers and that is where they are. It encouraged me to look at my inner life and free myself from the things that were preventing me from expressing my full being. The poet David Whyte says ‘the soul would much rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone else’s’.
This is an ongoing process. I am still far from living a fully, authentic life but I am very comfortable now in my own skin. Once or twice a year, especially when I fall into old habits, my ‘friend’ pays me a visit. I don’t push him away or ignore him. I sit with him in a chair in a quiet room and allow him to come. I sit with the feeling. Sometimes I cry, other times I smile at how accurate his message is. He might stay for an hour, he might stay for a day. He gives his message and moves on. He reminds me to stay true to myself and keep in touch with my real self. A popular quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is ‘a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step’. A correct translation of the original Chinese though is ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet’. Lao Tzu believed that action was something that arose naturally from stillness. When you can sit and be with yourself, it is a wonderful gift and real and authentic action flows from it.
Many, many people are living lives of quiet misery. I get calls from people on the phone and to my house because people in my area will know my story. Sometimes it is for themselves, other times it is asking if I would talk to another person. I’m not a doctor or a therapist and anyone I talk to in distress, I always encourage them to go to both but people find it easier at first to talk to someone who has been in their shoes. It is incredible the amount of people it affects. Depression affects all types of people, young and old, working and not working, wealthy and poor.
For those people who are currently gripped by depression, either experiencing it or are supporting or living with someone with it, I hope my story helps. There is no situation that is without hope, there is no person that can’t overcome their present difficulties. For those that are suffering silently, there is help out there and you are definitely not alone. Everything you need to succeed is already within you and you have all the answers to your own issues. A good therapist will facilitate that process. My mother always says ‘a man’s courage is his greatest asset’. It is an act of courage and strength, not weakness, to admit you are struggling. It is an act of courage to seek help. It is an act of courage to face up to your problems.
An old saying goes ‘there is a safety in being hidden, but a tragedy never to be found’. You are too precious and important to your family, your friends, your community, to yourself, to stay hidden. In the history of the world and for the rest of time, there will never again be another you. You are a once off, completely unique. The real you awaits within to be found but to get there requires a journey inwards . A boat is at its safest when it is in the harbour but that’s not what it was built to do. We are the same. Your journey in will unearth buried truths and unspoken fears. A new strength will emerge to help you to head into the choppy waters of your painful past. Eventually you will discover a place of peace within yourself, a place that encourages you to head out into the world and live your life fully. The world will no longer be a frightening place to live in for you.
The most important thing is to take the first step. Please take it.
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