Major Depressive Disorder eats away at your self-esteem. The illness seizes upon your every frailty, self-doubt and fear, amplifies it and then uses it against you. All the while you are left searching within yourself for the cause. When you fail to find one, you add this failure to the self-doubt and growing self-abuse, eliciting the downward spiral.
Logically, you know that much of the self-abuse is without merit. Or at least that is how it seems in the beginning. But as the self-denigration continues, you add again and again to your self-doubt. Logic loses its sway and you fall into an emotional black hole.
This is the situation in which I currently find myself. I live in a new apartment. I have a steady, albeit modest, income. I have made great strides in coping with my mental illness, sharing my insights in blogs and tweets. Yet, despite these many positives, and I do see them, I am experiencing ideations. A lapse in vigilance opened the door for Major Depressive Disorder to make itself known, and the darkest of dark thoughts were quick to follow.
In these dark thoughts, I started to compare my situation to that of others. It is so very easy to find people who are in a worse circumstance. More ammunition for the self-doubt and self-abuse. More fuel for the recurrent ideations.
But it was not the return of ideations that caught my attention. Despite their bleakness, ideations were not new to me and did not shock me. No, it was when I found myself finding reasons not to paint that I knew I was in trouble. I knew then that another depressive episode was under way.
My response has been very different. In the past I would hide myself away and sink deeper into the abyss. Now I chose a different path.
While I did stop painting, tweeting and writing on my own blogs, I continued to share through posts for Healthy Minds Canada. I disclosed in a recent post that I was revisiting the basics of my recovery. I turned to the books and tools I used at the beginning of my recovery. Additionally, I kept in touch with online friends and new friends I met through support groups. Finally, I reached out to my support team for help.
By taking these actions, I affected the downward spiral. I do not yet know if it has been halted or only slowed. Time will provide the answer to that question.
I believe that there is one additional activity that is playing a significant positive role in my current struggle.
This activity is gratitude, specifically, my ongoing ability to perceive and experience it. I cannot understate the benefit that I receive from cultivating gratitude in my thoughts. I know that so long as I keep experiencing gratitude, the depressive episode and ideations can be overcome. I know that meditating on gratitude repels the bleakness of the dark thoughts. With each meditation I sense that the ideations have been altered and that they approach my thoughts with reduced frequency. For this, I am grateful.
My exploration of gratitude goes further than thinking about it and meditating upon it. I keep a gratitude journal. In it I write three things for which I am grateful. As I write these three things, I try to relive the experiences. I am reminded of the positives of my day, positives that the depressive episode would prefer to hide. By writing the events down, I record a history that is real. This reality can be contrasted with that of the depressive episode. That history is entirely within my head, and is unreal. For this, I am also grateful.
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.