One of the lasting effects of Major Depressive Disorder is a lack of self-esteem that lingers even as you recover. The illness places you in a Black place where relentless self-abuse is the norm. In time, you accept this abuse as being your due because you are, as the illness tells you, unworthy. You tell yourself this again and again and again. You accept this thought, this poisonous thought, as truth because the Black is the entirety of your world and its thoughts are the entirety of your thoughts. That they were just thoughts, that they were lies, is beyond your comprehension. They are perceived to be truth, accepted as truth, and a habit of self-doubt and self-abuse is established. Like all habits, it is so very easy to fall back into its patterns when you least expect it.
I found myself falling into this habit very recently. I was having a morning shower and then, without any warning, I found myself doubting my worth. However, merely pointing the finger at habit feels unsatisfying. There is more at play than that.
Consider the recent change in my life. For the first time since my suicide attempt, I’m living on my own. Additionally, there’s a lull in my counselling and group participations (caused by the administrative delay of the move). In these circumstances having some doubt about my ability to cope, some doubt about my ability to live on my own, seems to be quite natural. What caused me concern, though, was that behind this natural fear I could feel the influence of the Black and my fear threatened to became something more.
The habit of self doubt and self abuse, like the Black, lingers on the periphery of my thoughts, waiting for the opportunity to insinuate itself into my day and poison the good the day contains. It waits to tell me I’ve wasted the day, the hour, the moment. It waits to tell me I’m a drain on society, a disappointment to my family and a failure as a father. It waits to replant the seeds of self-doubt, waiting for them to take root and spread like a weed and grow the next episode of Black. It’s a lie that is both familiar and repugnant. It’s a lie that’s comfortable camouflaging itself as truth.
And on that day for a few moments, the lie made itself heard and the habit of self doubt was momentarily awakened.
It didn’t take root. To my surprise, and relief, in that briefest moment of doubt the fruits of all of my work since September 2, 2014 kicked in and I was reminded of something that’s so easily overlooked – it’s okay to have doubts, it’s okay to have fears. These things are perfectly natural and having them can be a sign of recovery. What isn’t okay is to allow natural fears and doubts to grow into unhealthy self-abuse.
I reminded myself that my fear of living alone was natural in the circumstances. More importantly, I reminded myself that the existence of this fear could only happen because of all of the work behind my recovery, all of the small but significant successes the work has helped me achieve. There’s the success of finding the telephone number for the CMHA; the success of dialing that number and speaking to a CMHA worker – both very small successes, but so significant given that they took place mere days after my suicide attempt. There’s the success of seeking, finding and participating in counselling, both one-on-one and group, and actively engaging with counselors and fellow group members. There’s the success of the move itself, the search for and finding a new home, the packing, the organizing of a moving van, the physical move itself and the resulting unpacking. A series of small logistical steps that add up to a significant and stressful life-change. My first success, the trivial act of finding a telephone number, initiated a series of events that led to my now living on my own.
And that day in the shower I learned of another success – that all of the time and effort to recover has worked, it has changed my thinking and given me a tool to keep the lie, and the Black, at bay. For that I am extremely grateful.
The moral in this tale – EVERY success is important! Every success, no matter how seemingly trivial it may be, is important for each success rebuts the lie, diminishes it, banishes it to the periphery of thought. I can be – YOU can be – successful. We can be – no, WE ARE – WORTHY.
About John Dickson
A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.