I think it’s fair to say that I have had a tendency toward the melancholy in my life. Just recently, I wrote about how when I was depressed, I didn’t want to get “better”; I felt that happiness would be fake somehow.
What I didn’t really mention was the fact that I didn’t begin to recover until I made a conscious choice to do so. I’m not attempting to trivialise what an absolutely horrible illness depression is; it’s nasty and horrid and many people never find their way out. I was lucky that the medication I was on eventually got me to a position where I was able to make the decision.
I think there comes a point in depression where you sort of cling to it, because you’re scared of what else is out there. After several months of living in a sort of self imposed limbo, the not wanting to get better was almost replaced by a fear of recovery: what if I try, and find that I can’t go back? Or what if I go back, but then six months later this happens again? Is it worth the effort of recovery, if it will only be a fleeting glimpse of normality?
Eventually, an entirely unfamiliar voice in my head said: look, you can’t just stay like this indefinitely. Either get on and kill yourself, or get better. Just like Andy says in The Shawshank Redemption:
I decided I’d rather have another go at life, than give up.
It’s not like the minute I decided that, I was suddenly skipping down the street singing; it took time and there were setbacks. But nothing happened until I decided to just get on with my life.
Recovering from depression is hard work, and there is no step-by-step plan that someone can put in front of you and say, here is how you get better. We all have to figure it out for ourselves, because everyone’s depression is slightly different.
Medication did not relieve me of my depression; it acted like an inflatable mat below me, gradually lifting me out of a deep, dark pit until I was at the point where I was able to make the decision whether I wanted to get better.
It took more than one stab at getting my medication right; it took a higher dose than they originally prescribed. For some people, it will take more or less or different medication. I also believe that the supplements I added to my daily routine – many of which I still take today – made a massive difference. But the biggest change came from me.
There are two points to be made here.
Firstly: you can have all the help and support (and medication and sectioning and enforced counseling) in the world, but until you make a conscious decision to help yourself, nothing much can change.
Secondly: if you have a friend or family member who is depressed, it often feels like your help and support are ineffectual and unappreciated. You can’t do it for them; you can’t make the decision for them. But being there while they struggle to make that decision themselves does make a difference, even if they can’t find the words to tell you so.
It can be absolutely infuriating to watch someone struggling through depression; it can feel like they are wilfully clinging to their illness and not making an effort to recover. They may well be; that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve support and understanding.