I truly believe that our state of mind is our real wealth as supposed to our health being our wealth. I have seen people very ill with an amazing positive attitude and healthy disposition and people who are healthy that are angry, irritated and negative. I’m saying this as someone who lives with cancer and how I can handle my life when feeling fantastic and how when I went through depression I was in hell.
Our state of mind is everything and that’s why I have spent the last number of years studying personal development human philology and self care. I have read literally hundreds of books by amazing authors on how to understand our mind set and quite frankly any book that would help me understand or save me from the black solitary hole where those of us who experience depression can live for days without anyone even realising it.
My first bout of depression was when I was a teenager. Maybe it wasn’t depression, maybe it was just teenage hormones and all I needed was a kick in the ass! But I remember my Dad not answering me when I said goodnight and I ” thought” he didn’t care about me anymore and my brother putting his hands between my head and the wall as I banged it in frustration and upset that no one , not even my beloved family understood me . I remember my Dad saying” do you need s doctor “when all I needed was him and my mother to put their arms around me and listen. This is not a bashing on my dear beloved parents, it was a different time and I knew they loved me but I was a very emotional and am an emotional and tactile person so I felt isolated even though I had a wonderful loving family. Hugs and cuddles and “I love you” weren’t really the way in those days. Having clothing, and a hot meal and help with homework were the way of showing they cared. I have to say as my parents got older the hugs and “I love yous” did become normal in our home but only because my older siblings who had children expressed cuddles and cosy words to their kids in front of my parents and their natural love of their family came through.
I’m grateful to have wonderful memories and a happy childhood but again I had an experience close to sexual abuse at the age of nine that I’d hidden in my subconscious for years until counselling brought it to the surface. I’ve discovered since through sharing my story in safe environments with other women that they too who are my age group had similar experiences but couldn’t relate them due to shame and embarrassment. In my young teen age life and into my twenties I didn’t think much of myself. On the surface I was the life and soul of the party and everyone’s friend especially the lads! I’d lots of men friends but never too many boy friends’s as that was for the good looking slim girls! I always say that the reason I got cancer in my breast was because I called my boobs “witches boobs” and one of them got offended. I truly believe we need to have a positive relationship with our bodies to maintain perfect health.
I was always a deep thinker even as a small child and I worried when my parents went out in the evening for fear they wouldn’t come back. Depression to me is when we believe our irrational thinking , our negative thinking and it leads us to FEELING deeply sad ,lonely , ashamed , fearful , resentful , embarrassed , angry ,and completely immobilised and stuck . Since that teen age experience I’ve experienced bouts of depression. After the birth of my first child when she was about sixteen months old I had another very sad episode. The feeling that I was failing as a mother. I didn’t want to be at home all day with her and I felt terribly guilty as I witnessed other Mums at mother and toddler groups etc who seemed to lap every second up with their kids. Even their conversations in nappy rash or sleep issues bored the pants off me. I had an amazing baby who slept 12 hours a night and was no trouble. I loved bathing and feeding her and reading stories to her and bringing her for walks but I longed for more in my life. I wanted to have a career that mattered to me and that would work with being a mother. But the guilt I felt was so immobilising I began to even resent the time with my child and what began as a joy became a necessity and a chore. I felt exhausted and lonely and hated myself. When eventually I went looking for help the doctor I attended proceeded to write a prescription for anti depressants while answering the phone as I began to pour my tale of woe. I got so angry I pulled the phone from its socket, tore the prescription up and walked out of his surgery. It was the first time I felt powerful and in control.
I realised I’d hit rock bottom but also knew how to get back on top. It was so empowering. I knew I needed to share my irrational feelings and speak to someone who understood. I found a councillor but only need one meeting as I was my own Councillor! I began to photograph my baby and loving it and knew the answer was to begin working as a photographer again specialising in child portraiture so I could work around bring with my child and enjoying quality time. I was a new woman as my new career flourished and my time with my daughter became magical. The next bout of depression happened years later after my first cancer diagnosis. When I was first diagnosed I handled it all beautifully and was about to launch my photography career in Ireland. ( I lived in England for ten years so that’s where my career began ) my work saved my life yet again as did my massive interest and lots of studying personal development and human physiology .
My endless reading of books written by Susan Jeffers and Wayne Dyer helped me cope with cancer and ultimately return to excellent health after treatment. However my depression ironically came about after being told I was cancer free. My doctor explained it was a delayed reaction. He described it as imaging when cancer strikes it’s like a bull is chasing you and you run for your life but when you eventually get over the fence (cancer free) you have time to consider what you have actually been through and fear returns with ongoing questions. I was deeply depressed and ashamed of being so because I was cancer free. I felt ashamed all the time as I was blessed to have a loving husband and beautiful kids, a home and great career. That’s the terrible thing about depression. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with your circumstances all be it difficult circumstances can bring on depression eg lack of money , marriage problems , loss of a loved one can lead to depression but our negative state of mind is the real culprit . You begin to believe your thinking. This brings on negativity, resentment, anger and leads to a dreadful journey down a deep hole where nothing seems to bring light into it. We however can hide our misery from those around us by robotically getting on with everyday tasks. But in the dark of night when alone the reality of our sadness hits. All the usual joys of life, like a sunshine day, giggles from your child, a comedy programme just don’t seem to be able to permeate the lethargy, lack of interest in living life.
When loved ones or friends begin to see there is a problem , their natural reaction is to offer help and suggestions like going for a walk or talking things through when all you want is them to stay away and leave you alone . It can be a nightmare time and we often don’t even trust in our faith to save us. However thankfully a glimmer of hope appears when you least expect it. Something you hear or something someone does miraculously brings you out of your quagmire of misery even if it’s just for a minute. But that glimmer of hope or light maybe prompts a simple positive thought. A thought that has you realise you may just be able to take a simple action to help you take a tiny step out of the hole and bring you up a little towards the light. It can be all it takes to save you from yourself and realise your better stronger, empowering self is just waiting to help you take another step and another until you finally see the light. For me, my emergence came for a simple act of kindness from a friend who came to visit me. She didn’t ask permission to visit (not that she needed to!). She quietly and calmly walked into our home, came down to my bedroom and slipped her hand in mine and asked me “what can we do today to make you feel better. I’m here and can lie beside you and hold your hand.” It was the first time someone didn’t try to FIX me or make suggestions. It was that loving presence from a friend. My amazing husband and family were all too familiar and almost annoying as the only made me more aware of how I was failing as a wife, mother, and sibling. While my friend chose to be there for me despite her own challenges. It meant more than I can describe. I realised I had such hatred for myself at that time , and the “pain body” as Eckhart Tolle describes in his very informative and useful books was awake and taking over my mind .
I had to find my way back. I watched my beautiful daughters and husband and knew they loved me unconditionally. Even as this miserable excuse for a woman (my thoughts of me) they loved me. “If they felt as I did how I would feel” I asked myself. The answer was obvious. I would love and nurture them and reassure them how much they matter to me. I would be heartbroken if my daughters felt so bad about themselves. I always felt so deeply upset about others I knew had taken their lives and wanted so badly to not have others feel the pain. Yet I was doing it to myself. I began to slowly be aware of how much I was loved and realised I needed to confirm to myself that somehow I must be deserving of such love even though I didn’t believe it . But gradually by getting out of my head and into my heart (as the great song goes!) I saw myself as those that cared about me saw me. I went out and made people feel good just by being kind and that exercise made me feel fantastic.
I loved people more than I loved myself but by being with people and making any small contribution to helping them feel better I too was feeling better. I realised I had a great purpose in life. This purpose would help me heal both physically and mentally. I realised it’s not all about me ! It’s about how I can serve others and help them through pain and challenges and by doing so I’m helping myself and loving myself as I knew I deserved the love . We all do, whether we are changing the world for the better or just nurturing ourselves so we can contribute to a better world. I’m in a wonderful place now and I know if the pain of depression raises its ugly head I have the strength, and tools to handle it. The first and most important one is … I’m a child of God and he has me here to embrace life and love myself and others and until he chooses to take me home I’ll live my life enjoying every single moment .
“Live life as if you will die tonight; dream like you will live forever” James Dean.
You never know how many dreams will come through.