Blog 2: Managing Depression Part 1

Hi.  My name is Jim Sheehy.  This is reallyhuman.ie and this blog is about managing depression Part 1.

I call depression one of my difficult and eccentric friends.  ‘Difficult’ because it is black, grimy and seemingly never-ending.  I call it ‘Eccentric’ because it has many ways of introducing itself that are called ‘triggers’.  These triggers are about loss: of status, of finance, of relationship, of meaning and purpose.  Eccentric also because it is unpredictable as to its arrival and presence.  So, I have to be on guard when it creeps up without warning.  Depression is a ‘friend’ because it forms me as a person, knows every nook and cranny of my vulnerability and resilience, shapes the way I see things, how I act, feel and think.  Strangely, it’s not all bad news because depression, when you flip the coin, also provides the material for tremendous creativity and expression.  So many artists and performers have depression as part of their make-up. 

My relationship with depression started at 18.  As a teenager, I had tried, and mostly succeeded, to excel as a footballer and student.  I didn’t know that my obsession with trying to be the best was a fruitless effort to fill the aching hole that was forming in the pit of my stomach.  The trigger, or my first introduction to depression, was paradoxically meant to be a huge boost to my self-esteem and status.  So there we were, my class graduating from second-level education and hearing announced publicly our list of honours in various academic subjects.  There I was, top of the class, with my bunch of outstanding results.  And then, simultaneously, a felt awareness of anti-climax, utter irrelevance – my act was over at the end of difficult teenage struggle– and what began were 6 months of clinical depression that swamped my feeling, thinking and bodily worlds. 

Some people describe depression as losing hope: Hope disappears in myself (that’s it over, what’s the point!), in my future (no job, no getting better, I’m stuck in this mood), in my world (as in my home and community).  Something at 18 that was said to me really helped.  The therapist said, ’Jim you think and feel that this depression is never going to end.  But I’m telling you – your depression has walls and an end-point.  Depression has boundaries’.  That was good to hear, even though I only half-believed it at the time because I trusted this woman. 

People like imaging their depression: ‘the black dog’, ‘the swamp’, ‘the fog’, ‘the hole’.  Because I was numb and dumb in expressing verbally what was going on inside of me, I used to journal and I’d find myself drawing Chinese mandarins, cobra snakes and God knows what else - I let the marker just spontaneously and without intention scrawl something on the page.  Then, and only then, would I write a few key words around the drawing – expletives, pleadings, bargaining, confusion, an odd tumbled-up poem or plaintive song composition. Physically, I would walk cliff-edges and plan suicide – of course being my tragic-romantic self I planned a ‘Thelma and Louise’ scene where I fly over the edge in a speeding car!  A wee bit embarrassed as I write that – ouch! And isn’t that depression, where we are outside of ourselves as in a movie looking down at our ’fragmented, overwhelmed mess that is occupying my body’ – the body that struggles to dress and shower while life’s obligations seem impossible, even laughably irrelevant.

Where was the source of my depression?  Usually there’s a mixture of genetics where it’s in the family and also environmental stuff from our experience in the home and community.  My Dad, I suspect, had to manage depression so he worked 6 very long days a week to focus on providing for a large family.  He had lost his brother and sister when very young, had an absent Dad and struggled daily with poverty.  As an adult, he lived for Sunday afternoons when he’d load his brood into the Estate Van and head for the countryside in Wicklow, to rippling streams and flowing mountains.  Here is where he regulated and soothed the emptiness he hid so well from his adoring children.  So, I inherited this gene of depression.  And then, because I was a highly sensitive child, I allowed the Church to utterly freak me out in the zone of sexual development.  When I think back, we teenagers in the 1970s had to enter this dark confessional and report masturbation as ‘self-abuse!’.  Wow, isn’t that a way to make a child feel and think negatively.

Death and grief were a big part of my ‘emptiness within’.  My oldest sister, Margaret, who had reared me, left for England when I was 8 and I missed her immensely.  Shortly after that, my beautiful sister, Breda, died suddenly at 18 and I am 12.  Worse still, I had annoyed her the night before by being my being loud and uncaring so my little boy-head was full of guilt: ‘Did I make her medical condition even worse and cause her death?’ 

So, as I finish this part of managing depression, perhaps you might appreciate the journey of anyone you know who lives with this condition.  When in the depths, we depressed beings are not easy to live with.  I hope my sharing might allow us the compassion to be positive and honest in realising we are really human and that’s okay. 

Presentations on the 4 zones are also available on video and podcast through the website – see www.reallyhuman.ie

 If you enjoy the material, please get the word out there among those you care for.  You can contact me with comment or suggestion via Facebook at Jim Sheehy Therapy and on Twitter @jimsheehy2017

Take care,

Clarifying Disclaimer:  While the material I am presenting is well-researched and suitable for the general population, I believe each person’s issues and needs are unique.  I encourage you to seek medical and/or therapeutic support if you struggle with an issue or condition that negatively and seriously impacts your life.

All material in Jim Sheehy Therapy as presented in video, blog and podcast form is copyright and may only be redistributed with permission of author.

 

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Jim Sheehy M.Ed. MIACP
Leitir
Kilcar
Co Donegal 
F94 WV99

087 2137922

jsheehy@hotmail.co.uk

 

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