Major Depressive Disorder is experienced by each sufferer in a unique way. Yet, within this personal experience, there’s a commonality that allows us to share with each other knowing that we each “get it”.
In my case, the melancholic mood was accompanied by guilt and shame that had me questioning my worthiness. I avoided friends because I didn’t want to bring them down and avoided family because I thought I wasn’t worthy of their love. I manufactured excuse after excuse to be alone and felt guilty for doing it. In time, the guilt, shame, and unworthiness had me feeling that I was lacking. I felt that I was less than others, especially those I cared for. This led to increased isolation which fed into the unworthiness which led to even more isolating. It created and perpetuated a downward cycle.
All the while I blamed myself, not my illness, for whatever was wrong with me. In fact, until 2014 I didn’t know I was ill. Since then, though, I’ve come to appreciate how ill I was, how irrational my thinking had become. Since then I’ve come to understand the importance of challenging the isolation. I now know that my recovery depends upon it. I also know that I’m not able to do this alone. I require support.
I’ve previously disclosed that I’m going through a depressive episode. All through it, I’ve made a point of maintaining the supports that I now have. I’ve met friends for coffee. I’ve chatted with friends online. I’ve written for Healthy Minds Canada. I’ve spoken to my psychiatrist and I’ve attended a support group. All these things have been done precisely because I don’t want to do them.
What I want is to be left alone. I want to stay inside my apartment. I want to isolate.
This desire for isolation today is less extreme than it was in 2014. My isolation was so pervasive in 2014, that I believed I had no supports. I believed that I was fully alone. Yes I had a family, but I’d failed them in the worst possible way. The depressive episode had me feeling that I was unworthy of their love. My isolation grew, the feeling of unworthiness grew, and I was led to the brink of oblivion. I survived and I awoke. I awoke to the realization that I needed help.
Knowing I needed help, yet feeling unworthy of love, I nonetheless turned to my family for support. I was reminded that I was loved. My family gave me a place to stay. That was the beginning of my recovery.
My family also introduced me to their doctor. He agreed to take me on as a patient and became my second support. The anti-depressant he prescribed helped to kick-start improved mental stability.
The recovery continued when I reached out to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) for assistance. They extended compassion and kindness to someone who could not offer these things to himself. They provided a roadmap through the maze of mental health services. Most of all, they provided a constant presence that directly challenged my lingering desire to isolate. It’s a support that I still rely upon to this day.
The CMHA directed me to individual and group counseling. The counselors treated me with the same compassion as the CMHA. In my individual counseling I was advised to write a journal. I found that writing gave me a voice, a way to describe what I was experiencing, initially to myself and then to my son. In time, the journal grew into two blogs. In them, I share my struggle and recovery with others. The group counseling gave me a different lesson. It showed me that I was not alone. It also opened the door to new friendships.
Most importantly, counseling required me to socialize and socializing is the opposite of isolating.
I received additional support. My son introduced me to Twitter. Twitter introduced me to a number of online friends who I chat with regularly. Twitter has given me another form of socializing.
Twitter also introduced me to Healthy Minds Canada. Writing for HMC has been a welcome distraction during my current depressive episode. The obligation to write, and it’s a very welcome obligation, challenges the isolation I want to engage in.
While in a depressive episode and allowing isolation, I lost. I lost love, especially love of self. I lost friends who I pushed away. I lost my voice. I lost myself. Contrast this with the effects of socializing, of being open to support. Each time I did this, I gained. I gained love. I gained professional help. I gained friends. I gained a voice. I gained a sense of self.
I know how hard it is to socialize when you are in the grips of a depressive episode. I also know how hard it is to reach out when you feel so very unworthy. But I’ve learned through experience that both of these things are possible. In my case they are also essential to my recovery. Only by being open to support have I gained the tools that I’ve previously shared in this blog: my safety plan, my wellness toolbox, my painting. Together, these tools, and much more, propel my recovery. Perhaps being open to support will propel yours.
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.