John Folk-Williams has been living with depression for many years and has come to understand how to deal with it, as I have. Do you remember my blog about the dark cloud called depression that belongs to me? I walked in that cloud for five years and was passive for the first two years. Then I made a choice not to let the cloud rule the rest of my life, and so started my journey to actively push the cloud away from me for periods of time and finally permanently. But that cloud will always be a part of my life, waiting for me to let down my guard. Sometimes it is far away to the very ends of the earth; sometimes it draws near to me, so near I can feel it; but I have not walked in the cloud for over two years. What John writes about below is what happened to me.
From Storied Mind
As I try to get used to the idea of accepting rather than fighting depression, I realize
that I start with good preparation. Although I haven’t worked with a therapist trained in any of the acceptance and mindfulness therapies, some of the principles I’ve been learning about remind me of things I have been doing for some time.
Granted I have developed these skills while holding to the very mindset about depression that these therapies counsel against. I’ve tried to fight, control, avoid and eliminate it. The alternative view is to start with the idea of accepting depression while living the life you want. Despite coming at them from the opposite direction, I’ve developed a few skills and beliefs that make the paradigm shift a little less drastic than it sounds at first.
I have learned to:
- Become active and committed to recovery instead of being the passive patient
- Redefine recovery as living well rather than eliminating symptoms
- Use mindfulness meditation and cognitive therapy to stop identifying with depression
These have helped me recover enough to live mostly untroubled by depression despite the recurrence of various symptoms. That’s a big accomplishment. It’s the sort of recovery I had hoped for, but depression remains on my mind.
I spend a lot of time trying to control the problems that do come back – especially the thinking that reminds me what a mess I am. I’m very good at turning off that noise, but it keeps coming back, along with other symptoms. At times, I’m listless or irritable or feel rage returning or stare blankly into space or get anxious about seeing anyone.
I catch myself in the midst of these tendencies, and the simple act of recognizing them keeps them at a distance. I don’t get overwhelmed. I don’t feel like I’m having a recurrence of depression. They don’t last long or keep me from doing what I want to do. These are shadows of their former selves, but controlling and getting away from them keeps drawing my attention back in their direction. I feel distracted too often from getting on with the positive side of my life. I spend more time than I like pushing them away.
I like the wording “shadows of their former selves.” This is what transformation is all about, whether with depression or anything else. As I wrote this, I remembered what C.S. Lewis wrote about the shadow land. That sounds like a topic for a future blog.