“It’s ok to feel what you feel.”
In all of my life years, I’m almost 43, that was one the most helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind things I’ve ever heard. I’m eternally grateful to the person who helped me wake up from my darkness. In that moment, I felt heard. Finally, I’d been given permission to feel and start the process to heal from ‘My Depression’. If you’d like to read more about depression and what it is, click here.
It was a light bulb moment. It was something I’d never heard or thought before. Until that point and from childhood, I’d been conditioned to convey strength. On the inside, turmoil was wreaking havoc. It became a long-term coping mechanism. In the beginning, this was necessary for survival. Over time, and into my adulthood, it developed into an unhelpful behavioural pattern.
Back then (in my early 30s), a culmination of life events triggered lost memories. I started to remember things. The fuel for my depression. I became aware of details. Suddenly, I realised what wasn’t ok and what wasn’t right. More specifically, the trauma of abandonment, neglect and emotional abuse. The bullying and physical abuse that that meant.
Whilst suffering with depression as a child, I was a self-starter. I learnt to look after myself. I had to. I cooked. I cleaned the house and did ironing. I took myself to School and I did my homework without being asked or told. I maintained the gardens and I looked after several neighbours’ gardens to earn some pocket money. From the outside looking in, I was a model child. I looked like I was coping. It was my ‘norm’ and accordingly, I learnt to cope. I hid my angst, sorrow and sadness. No one knew what I was really feeling or what was going on.
From then, and after several bouts of depression, which culminated in my late 30s, I began to heal. It was as if everything hit me all at once. The past and present; deeply intertwined. I felt helpless. I felt hopeless. I felt lonely. I couldn’t make the most basic of decisions; from when and what to eat, to whether or not I could get up or go to work. Surprisingly, I wanted to live even though I felt like I couldn’t.
Therapy – 7 letters
In my early teens, I asked my GP for help. I started some ‘listening’ style counselling and anti-depressants. At that time, neither helped. With hindsight, I realised that trial and error, persistence and a strong desire to live and get better, enabled me to keep going. What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another.
Since then, I’ve had therapy several times. Despite being historically bad at asking for help, it’s the one area I’ve consistently tried and tested. This 7-letter word; ‘therapy’ enabled me to discover and repair myself. I learnt to love myself. I learnt that it’s ok to feel. I learnt skills and tools that have prepared me in case depression’s dark door opens again. Therapy, when right for you, can make all the difference.
The type of therapy, together with your commitment and self-awareness as much as the relationship you build with your therapist, define what you can and will achieve. With any therapeutic intervention, the relationship between therapist and client cannot be underestimated. A therapist can have an abundance of qualifications and years’ experience, but lack the rapport and people skills to facilitate positive change.
No one can do this for you. You need to be ready to ask for and accept help. You need to be willing and able to challenge yourself. It needs to come from within. Then, you can facilitate change and learn new, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind coping mechanisms. What once served you well, may now need to change.
The noise called help
By ‘noise’ I mean unsolicited advice. People like to give advice. Often, when we haven’t even asked for it. This isn’t to say that the intent isn’t good. It may stem from an uncomfortableness or an awkwardness about what to say or do. It may be due to a lack of understanding or capacity to empathise in a way that is helpful, inspiring and kind.
With depression, not everyone understands or appreciates what it feels like to be depressed. That’s ok. We can all think we know best, but this is based on our own individual and unique view of the world. We have our own life experiences. Our own way of doing and dealing with everything. A part of me is thankful that not everyone does. It’s not a nice place to be.
Generally, I like to believe that there is good in everyone and people want to help. It’s not always the case and sometimes, people lack the life experience and communication and listening skills to help in a way that is helpful. I’ve learnt to accept that and to educate, when necessary and helpful to do so. Equally, I’ve learnt that not everyone is capable of understanding, helping or being there. That is ok to.
Good mental health
Each year, it is estimated that 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health condition (such as anxiety and depression). In our modern world, this isn’t helped by financial and social pressures. In particular, social expected norms of how we are expected to look, feel and behave. What we see in the media, the advances in technology and specifically, smartphones and social media. This has brought online bullying and social stereotypes to the extreme. With the younger generations enduring new pressures.
In more recent times, and to varying degrees, organisations have well-being programmes, mental health policies and support. Not all are so fortunate, but it helps reduce stigma and it demonstrates a commitment, albeit in some cases, a tick box exercise.
I remain hopeful and I’m an advocate for good mental health, whether through the support I’ve sought and accepted or through the paths I’ve taken, rightly and wrongly. It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to do what’s right for you. It’s ok not to listen to advice that is based on someone else’s opinion and assumptions. You know yourself better than anyone else. “It’s ok to feel what you feel.” Please remember that you’re not alone.