Sunday, 4 December 2011

The truth about depression

Many times since i started this blog I have debated whether I would ever find the right time to write this post, but several things this morning have made me recognise that if I wait for the perfect occasion, it may never come.

Lately I have felt more than usually depressed and this weekend reached a low which I recognise from many years ago.

If someone tells you they are feeling depressed, or 'a bit down', or that Winter is dark and depressing, all these things may well be true, but they are not real depression.

When you feel yourself on the descending spiral steps leading down into total blackness, when misery is the state of mind in which you wake to greet the day (assuming that you have slept), and when nothing anyone says touches you in any way, then you are in the opening throes of true depression.

There can be a million triggers, or sometimes just one.  It can creep up on you when you think your are reasonably comfortable emotionally and knock your feet from under you.

You might find yourself in tears for no discernible reason, the feeling of being absolutely alone and friendless, no-one to talk to or more importantly to listen to you may be overwhelming.

You may feel suicidal and start to cast around for ways in which to accomplish your exit.

None of these things are 'over the top', or culled from some piece of romantic fiction, they are statements of fact.  Yes I am speaking from experience and yes the signs are there to be seen by a truly observant eye.

The facetious comments made by the despicable Jeremy Clarkson simply highlighted for me attitude of the disinterested and ignorant.

While for some, organisations like  'The Samaritans', may have a role to play in "talking down" someone in the uncertain stages of this state of mind,  for others the depression is too deep, the grip too strong to enable them to speak to anyone.

Yesterday I felt as low as at almost any time in my life and was very aware that somehow a way of climbing out of the pit was necessary before it became too difficult even to attempt.

After a night awake,  to get ready for church was nearly impossible, but, knowing it might just make the difference I did so,

The church was empty when I arrived, decorated for Christmas and looking beautiful and I hated it.  Felt like howling aloud but hearing footsteps quickly started to 'robe up'.  As more people arrived, and we had the choir run-through I thought, "I know the anthem better than I thought".

A tiny, tiny glimmer of satisfaction, but enough to get me through the service to half-way.

Then we sang a hymn which to my amazement, our lovely choir coach didn't know.  She said so, and I immediately revved up my voice a few notches and sang with more than usual gusto.  The feeling of satisfaction grew.

After the service, the woman whose husband has just died came to talk to us about the music she would like for his funeral later this week and suddenly I felt such warmth  and love for her that every other consideration vanished.

Reflecting on the huge lift in mood I realised that most basic of all lessons, that when we forget ourselves and put ourselves in other's shoes, however briefly, we are at our best, and that if there is any kind of antidote for depression it may have to to with divorcing ourselves from self-obsession.

Had the sleeping tablets or whatever been to hand when rock-bottom was reached, there may have been no way of coming back.

On a grim, but lighter note, I once read "The trouble with suicide is it plays havoc with your career prospects".


  1. Ray, I'm so sorry that you've been battling with depression again. Two of my sisters suffer from bi-polar disorder, so I'm aware (secondhand, so to speak) how hard coping with depression can be. I'm glad that your singing and your concern for the new widow conspired to lift you at least partially out of the dark place you've been in and even more glad that you have had the courage to blog about it.

    As it happens yours is the second post about depression I've read this morning. Another blogging friend, Ayak, at

    also suffers from chronic depression and wrote a very honest post about it. It may just help, perhaps, to know that you aren't alone in what can be so lonely an illness.

  2. I have experienced this sort of depression on rare occasions in my life, usually on the heels of something very difficult. I recognize the black hole and the cold therein.

    The Psalmist David (and others, like Job or Jeremiah) knew depression well. I have yet to read where he ever recovered from it, but there's many a place I can discern his having endured through it. Psalm 38 describes it so well. It sounds like you have that same endurance.

    I love your antidote, too. It's true: the moment we focus on another is the moment depression loosens it's grip.

    Thank you, and may comfort settle in to warm the cold places.


  3. Good Sunday Ray, I'm happy that God spoke to you through tiny acts of living, that pierced the darkness! Several times in my life I have been at this low ebb, where the blackness of depression sent me spiraling downward. The worst was two months after Don died, I wanted to be with him and one night I was sitting up in bed clutching the covers, knowing that if I did not keep this contact with something real I would would either die or be in a psych ward by morning. God helped me make it through the night and the next morning I told my son and DIL that I needed help. I've always been so independent and private, never really telling people who I was deep inside. The doctor listened through my tears and anguish...and while I never wanted to be dependent on anything or anybody, I now take medication. I have never regretted the decision to do so...I have no idea how many days I have left in my life, I did not want to spend them constantly fighting with the "self-obsession" in the dark corners of my brain...thank you for sharing your post, I hope someone will read it and find the path away from total despair!

  4. I'm with you Ray.

    The funny thing is, blogging in the midst of this, is part of what makes this such a powerful and perceptive and honest and true-to-life and yes; even hopeful, blog post.

    One thought I cling on to with all my life, is that it will pass. Even though I don't believe it at the time; it will.

    Thanks for sharing; it's not easy to do.

  5. Hi. I decided to have a look at your blog and this post in particular. By coincidence I too have posted about my long term battle with depression today. I only know you have been talking about it because I had a visit from one of your commenters and she gave me the link.

    I recognise, and empathise, with every word you say.

    It's a desperately hard struggle at times isn't it? One which only fellow sufferers truly understand.

    Sending you a virtual hug which I hope helps a tiny bit xx

  6. May I commend to you a little book called "Depressive illness - The curse of the strong" by Tim Cantopher. It is part of the Overcoming Common Problems series published by Sheldon Press. The ISBN is 0-85969-896-3, priced at £7.99

    Also, and I hope you have a good GP to whom you are able to talk? It makes such a difference, especially if one can be given enough time. If CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is offered if has proved most helpful to some.

    I write as I know some one who used this booklet, undertook a course of CBT, took, but no longer needs medication, but who at one time, contemplated ending their life, a decision that would have devastated the other half, children and community. This person was so ashamed of depression, did not wish anyone to know, whereas I would say you wouldn't feel like that if it were a broken leg.

    So, how brave of you to share your illness with us all, after all we share news about physical illness and depression is no different.

  7. This is a very brave post Ray and I thank you for it. The only experience I have had of depression was of the very short term natal variety and that was bad enough.....I am really sorry you struggle with this. It is as much a handicap as any other.....well done for sharing it...and make the most of small markers sent by God.....if you let them they lift us into a bother place thats better than the one were in!
    Most of your posts are so cheerful and good natured that I know you already know this.... so my prayers go with you...xx

  8. This is a very brave post Ray and I thank you for it.......God does send us reminders in times of depression but I know its hard sometimes to find them! My own brush with depression was of the anti natal variety and it was fairly short lived...but it gave me enough insight to know just how hard it is to cope with....
    My prayers go with

  9. Hi Ray,
    I am so sorry you have been feeling this way and hope your mood continues to lift. I've just blogged myself about my experiences with depression - these gloomy winter months do bring it to mind. I think you are right to get out and do things - that is enormously helpful I always find. God bless you at this moment.

  10. Prayers for you in earnest, dear friend

  11. Perpetua, Thanks for the link to Ayak.

    Kathleen, Thankyou for your good wishes.

    Theanne, It was good of you to share your experience, thanks.

    Stuart, I know just what you mean about not believing it will get better, but, it does.

  12. Ayak Hi, I will read your post when the mood is lighter, thankyou for the hug

    Pixie Mum Thankyou for the recommendations.

    Jean, Comments and prayers gratefully accepted.

    Sue and David Thankyou for your concern and prayers.

  13. To all those who took the time to comment, I am grateful. Any contact is welcome at present, it makes for a little light in the darkness.

    I have always refused to have counselling or medication, and will continue to do so, though I know it does work for some people.

    Since the cloud can disperse as easily as it descends I can only hope this one will be a brief visit.

  14. Depression is a deceptive beast, as at its heart, when firmly in its grip, it colours our view of both the past, present and furture, giving rise to the lie that we have always been depressed and always will be.

    And the result of that, of course, is hopelessness and despair.

    ps I take enough medication every day to kill a small pony :)

    pps You are doing absolutely all the right things by the way, I wish I were as good as you!

  15. Stuart, I have no illusions at all as to my ability to 'fight' depression. I just reach point zero and hope that this will not be the time when there is nowhere to escape to.
    It takes immense energy to force myself to act but as you will know, the effort has to be made.

  16. I can't add anything that hasn't already been said ,Ray, just sending a hug. Praying always. Jenni

  17. Thanks Jenni, both for the prayers and the hug.

  18. I have only just caught up with Google Reader and all the blogs I like. Like Jenni I just want to give you a big Hug. I cant know want you must feel like, I have been very 'down' but turning it back to me helps no one , so just sending you my love and prayers.
    I do however VERY STRONGLY believe that for 'those who love the Lord, nothing is impossible'(Mark 9). xxx

  19. Dear Margaret, thankyou. I do so hope you're right.

  20. Dear Ray,
    I am concerned for you.

    I, too, have struggled with suicide. Planning it and beginning to execute it and then life intervened in the form of a phone call from a friend. But mostly depression is about feeling absolutely cut off from all vitality and all friendship. I am so glad that you were able, as you said, to let go of self-obsession. But that is so hard to do when one is so exhausted from struggling with depression.

    I do take a medication and have for thirty-five years. It's an anti-psychotic drug because I have some psychotic tendencies. I know that it has kept me alive and has made it possible for me to embrace life again and accept the fullness it has offered me. Please believe, if you can, that I am holding you in the light of Oneness.


  21. Thankyou for your concern Dee, it is appreciated.

    My brush with suicide was in 1970, I took a massive overdose of sleeping pills and tranquillizers swilled down with a bottle of gin.
    Without going into any detail, let it suffice to say I was unconscious for a week and lost some of my memory for ever, but the only really lasting affect was to put me off pills for life.
    The circumstances which lead to the attempt were too painful for open disclosure and could never happen again, but I have also learned that it is not easy to kill a strong healthy human being.
    The idea of suicide is always there like a dark shadow in the background, but I am, I think, a very strong character and I don't believe I'd ever get that far down the well again.

  22. This is by far your most important post so far, and I know people will have been reading it without commenting and realising they are not alone, they are cared about and that extreme measures neednt be taken.

    I am praying specifically that you ask the Holy Spirit to do that which defines Him 'fill you to overflowing with a sense of His Comforting Presence'xxx

  23. Bless you Margaret. Thanks for the reassurance.
    I did question the wisdom of posting this, it is after all pretty revealing, but this time of year is particularly 'busy' with those who resort to taking their own lives.
    I do know of course, that each of us has different resources and varying levels of strength, but I also believe that God will supply a 'crutch' to lean on if we ask him.

  24. Ray, this is a moving post and thank you for providing an insight into what depression feels like. I am tempted to call you a 'fighter' of life's hardships but I don't want to infer that some people suffering from depression aren't strong. Prayers for you.

  25. Thanks Jane, I think most people are more resilient than they know. Being put to the test can either provide you with the necessary armour, or finish you off. It's a fine line.

  26. Margaret Kiora has just told me about your blog . I 'm not really sure what brought me to a dark place, probably marriage breakup but I just wanted to say that there are lots of us out there who understand to some measure.I have a loving family and a loving Christian family that walk thro these times with me. However , I do live on my own . One thing I was told is that its a time to be KIND to yourself .Another : in the 23rd Psalm ... He MAKES me lie down IN PLEASANT pastures to RESTORE . He is a good shepherd. Think of the verses like " He carries His lambs close to his heart" He rejoices over you with singing, He will never leave you nor forsake you. The thing is to put yourself in those safe arms and let Him love you , carry you, watch over you . The good shepherd puts his hand on the sheeps back ,sometimes and pushes it down to rest and then , when rested ,remember , He will restore you . My son used to say to me that I may be in a dark tunnel , but I always come out of it again. Also , if people know, then they can do little things like ringing up to see if you are up . See how many things you have done in the day as positive ,not concentrating on the things you haven't got done. Close friends got me to the doctor a few years ago. I was terrified of going on medication again but they prayed that I would be given "something kind and gentle for my system " . That was the very words the doctor used as she wrote the script !!! You see , God cares about every detail of our lives. She also said : Be patient . A few weeks ago I knew that it was a good idea to go back on the medication again for a short while , so I 'm trying again to be kind to myself and not rush full tilt into every day . One set of footprints again !! x

  27. Hello Spruce.
    Thanks for the comment, I appreciate you're taking the time to do so.
    It is difficult to think of being kind to myself since at least half of my problem is a deep-seated self-hatred.
    I am trying to learn to give my problems to God.

    It doesn't come naturally.

  28. Well Ray, Thats the best person to give it all to. You are very brave to be so frank and so do you mind if I 'm frank too. He's the best person to heal all that stuff settled inside you . He been on my case for years ! Little by little , he gets us sorted but the best good news is that He loves you and cherishes you and you are a person of worth to Him . Let him come in and make a start on changing all that . x

  29. I have been where you have been. If you need to talk email me.

  30. I am late seeing this post - well done for sharing it and for telling us how things can slowly get better. Will be thinking of you. Every Blessing

  31. Hi Freda, your comments are always welcome, early or late.
    Things appear to be on an even keel again now.
    Long may it last.

  32. Ray, I'm late to the conversation, but I admire your unflinching honesty here even as I am concerned about you.

    I had a professor who wrote a book called "Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose." At first I didn't understand what that meant. But eventually I came to understand. Some of us need to practice forgetting ourselves, perhaps as a spiritual discipline, because in the end it is what will save us. It is the thing that opens us to hope and love of neighbor and of self.

    And how wonderful that you continue to be able to use your musical ability, knowledge and history through which to minister to others.

  33. Oh Penny, you make me feel ashamed of myself.
    It is easy to write about my problems but far more difficult to put into daily practice what I know to be the best way forward.
    Thankyou for your cyber support. Much appreciated.

  34. I think most of us have great difficulty putting into practice what we know to be the best way forward!