The first memories I have of feelings of depression, the hopelessness and worthlessness was when I was six years old. They may have been there earlier but I definitely remember feeling it at six which was a full 30 years ago. Since then depression has been a regular and sometimes less regular visitor.
Back in the 80s people weren’t terribly interested in their children and depression in children was literally unheard of so it was not picked up until I was 12 and showed incredibly obvious signs. I was sent to a child psychotherapist which I hated and did literally nothing and I never really got on top of my depression until I was in my mid-twenties when I worked with an NLP therapist who changed the way I viewed the world. The work I did with him literally changed my life. Even now, 10 years later, I can have depressive episodes which can be debilitating but I can usually spot the signs and know what I need to do to help myself through the process.
I used to think of myself as weak, that I didn’t have courage and wasn’t ever brave. I look back at my life now and find that laughable, I am one of the bravest, most courageous people I know but that’s depression for you. It distorts your reality until you see what it is the depression wants you to see.
I love this meme. In a bid to feel brave I challenged so much and never wondered or cared whether I would fly because depression would always be worrying away in the background, never letting me truly live my life. After the NLP therapy I made incredible friendships, had 2 fabulous children, a great career and now I find myself aged 36 feeling like I’m beginning life all over again. I’m aware that depression will never fully leave me and some days I won’t want to face the world and on other days you’d never know that there was anything lurking in my past or background.
It still feels a shock though when I hear others refer to me as brave or to give myself a break. The other day my lovely friend Lisa mentioned me in her podcast (about change) saying that I was incredibly brave to leave an abusive marriage and start life all over again. I never viewed it as bravery, just something that had to be done so that the four of us (my husband included) could go on to lead happier, healthier lives. It also makes me feel a bit of a fraud to be referred to as brave as I have an amazing sister whom I couldn’t have done any of this without. She has not only supported me throughout life (not just this life change) but during this challenging, transitional time I have felt that she has breathed for me when I’ve needed her to.
I have 3 friends with their own incredible stories that I was thinking of tonight:
1 – My cousin. I have mentioned her in my blogs before. She is 11 years younger than me and I feel so privileged to have watched her grow up into the person she has come to be today. All her life she has faced adversity with tricky family circumstances which never really resolved. She lost her mother (my aunt) when she was 16, having nursed her through vicious cancer for years and today after putting herself through higher education whilst working, she is travelling and working the other side of the world and still finds time to message every day and have an optimistic view on life. Her incredible attitude is so inspiring (and refreshing) and I could never tire of spending time with her and learning from her.
2 – Twenty years ago one of my closest friends broke his back and was told he’d be in a wheelchair for life. Safe to say if anyone was going to prove the professionals wrong, it was him and within 2 years he was walking again. Tonight I was remembering the time he turned up at the pub in his wheelchair with crutches on the back of it. He confessed that he had started to learn to walk and I insisted he showed me. He was really ratty and pissed off with me, didn’t want the attention but I had that invincibility that most 16 year olds feel and insisted. I remember watching him shuffle his feet a few paces and felt so proud of him. In the last 20 years he has literally gone on to climb mountains and even though he suffers a load of back pain and stuff from his injury, never lets it stop him.
3 – The aforementioned lovely friend, Lisa who, two years ago had her world turned upside down when her third child was diagnosed with Leukaemia. She has always had an amazing ‘can do’ approach, taking time to explain process and procedures, even keeping a blog for us to keep up to date. I told her recently how incredible I thought she was at handling it and she claimed that it was ‘enforced bravery’, that she had to just get on with it. My personal thoughts are that there’s nothing enforced about it – she is literally superwoman. Or more accurately, SuperMum – you can follow her here.
^^^ This! When I look at all our stories (my sister’s included) I think how far we have all come in our adult lives. The difficult choices we have made. How much we have leant on each other and the one thing I think we all have in common is that we have all asked for help when we needed it. In doing so, it didn’t make us weak. It made us courageous.