Tuesday 12 August 2014

Depression Kills But It Is Not Here To Kill Us

‘In a dark time, the eye begins to see’ Theodore Roethke

The real lives of those we know, need and love dwell far beyond their faces that are visible to the naked eye. For many, their authentic selves and truth are hidden behind a layer of masks, masks wisely and unconsciously created by each individual in response to the environments and outer worlds they inhabit. Each person is the sole inhabitant and silent witness to their own inner worlds and the dream that dwells within the heart of each human being is to be able to remove their masks and live and express their own truths and authentic self.

The poet David Whyte says "The soul would much rather fail at it's own life than to succeed at someone else's". As long as we continue to create the environments where this dream cannot become a reality, we will continue to have people choosing to end their own lives. 
In Ireland, we need to draw aside the veils of illusion and see what the reality conceals. Officially, nearly 800 people on the island of Ireland ended their lives through suicide last year. From speaking with nearly every agency and type of person involved in this area over the last 12 months, all would unofficially estimate the figure to be much higher and well beyond a thousand. 
Based on the fact that men are more like to end their life through suicide, the focus for the most part over the last couple of years has been on the emotional distress that men are enduring. Research shows that the rate of parasuicide, where someone tries to end their life but doesn't succeed, is three to one in favour of females. Over 60,000 people are admitted to A&E departments each year with self harming injuries and the majority of these are females, thus shattering the myth that our females are more effective at dealing with or experiencing less emotional distress than their male counterparts.

What of the countless thousands that are living lives of silent misery and quiet desperation. Maya Angelou, the American poet, once wrote "There is no greater agony than the bearing of an untold story within you". Many of these people live an unnecessary daily existence of pain and suffering because of their fear of sharing their ‘untold story’ of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self harming and so on. Their fear arises from the ever present dark and omnipresent stigma that surrounds emotional wellbeing issues.
The renowned British medical journal 'The Lancet' recently published research which highlighted the fact that 'depression is the leading cause of dis-ability in Ireland'. The World Health Organisation says that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability for human beings worldwide and the number one reason for absenteeism in the workplace. Our country, Government, educational bodies, medical institutions, sporting organisations, workplaces and communities need to draw back the veils of illusion and see what the reality conceals.
A person doesn’t ever want to end their life but they do want to end the horrific pain and suffering that permeates every part of their being when experiencing depression. The ability to give and receive love at this time is quenched from the strength of the blackness within, the consequences of your actions if you decide to end your pain permanently and the effect it will have on those around doesn't enter your thoughts as they can’t weave their way through the heavy clouds that seem to have an endless depth of darkness that engulf and surround your mind.
Suicide is a permanent ending of pain and an eternal architect of pain. It is pure and utter carnage that reverberates throughout individuals, families and communities that lose a loved one through suicide. If a picture could be taken to capture the devastation that saturates the inner worlds of these people, it might resemble the images of chaos and destruction in the aftermath of a bomb explosion in a busy street. It's been my experience through meeting many left bereft by suicide that the human psyche can come to terms, in time, with the death of a loved one through natural causes but it has immense difficulty finding peace with the loss of a loved one through suicide.
I heard a psychologist recently say "we must declare a war on depression". I'm thankful he was never my therapist and I would have deep concern for the people that are clients of his. The weapon we most need in the exploration of depression is understanding. The Polish physicist Marie Curie once said "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less". 
And now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less. We owe it to the lives and memory of Robin Williams, of Galway hurler Niall Donohue, of Fine Gael TD Shane McEntee. We owe it to the thousands more we have lost to suicide and continue to lose each day (3000 a day worldwide) whose graves are scattered across our nation, young, old and in between. We owe it to those people that are never, ever spoken about, the many who fail to succeed in ending their lives but whose bodies and brains are permanently damaged for the remainder of their and their families lives.

We owe it to the bereaved who ask daily 'why?' and may never get an answer, we owe it to the silent sufferers, we owe it to the people who consistently and courageously seek support and search for meaning and hope but are still engulfed in darkness, we owe it to our Mothers and Fathers, sons and daughters, Grandmothers and Grandfathers, friends and neighbours, we owe it to our children yet unborn to deepen our understanding of depression, to deepen our understanding of suicide but more than anything, to deepen our understanding of ourselves.
A human existence is the most complex story of all, the endless flow of thoughts in our mind, the hidden world of the unconscious, our dreams, fantasies and imagination. We need to encourage the befriending of this beautiful complexity. As a species, we have explored the deepest and highest parts of our Earth, we have travelled vast distances to other planets but we have disastrously neglected our inner worlds.

We need to go on a deeper voyage within, exploring the inner vastness and caverns of our minds, hearts and souls. The task of true knowing is slow and at times gruelling but must be pursued and encouraged by individuals and subsequently society. It's the road less travelled but the one that will make all the difference and perhaps the answers we seek to our deepest questions are contained within the silent depths of these new frontiers and unchartered territories.
There are many hidden agendas in the area of mental health and emotional wellbeing that are operating to deepen our insecurities and fears and persuade us to be hopeless in the face of depression.

Depression kills but it is my belief that it is not here to kill us. The journey to wellness requires time and patience and is full of difficult but rich and liberating learning. There is no one path, each person has to begin and create their own but the giving of support (not advice unless requested), compassion and unconditional love on this journey from others is as important as the gift of your next breath. It's impossible to walk that path on your own. No one can walk another person's path for them but they can certainly walk it with them. We can and we need to walk it with each other.

 I have encountered a myriad of situations, both in my own and through meeting and sharing that journey with many, many others, to say that there is no such thing as a hopeless person or hopeless situation.
We have this incredible capacity as human beings to endure, adapt and grow through the challenges that life throws at us and to be able to find meaning in our wrenching pain and suffering. Finding the courage to begin the journey, discovering meaning in your depression and coaxing harmony and clarity from the chaos of your inner worlds is only one aspect of the journey. For some, the bigger challenge can arrive when that meaning reveals itself for it will ask you to emerge in to your outer worlds that we all share and be true and real to yourself and to others in living out your own unique, human existence.   
 I don't believe in the word 'recovery' when I think of depression or my journey through what was a decade of internal horror and suffering as a teenager and young man with panic attacks, depression, self harming and the most damaging of all, believing my worth and value as a human being was determined by the opinions of others and my achievements or failures in school or on the sports field.

The word recovery suggests you return to a previous state of wellness or being. For me, that is not the true purpose of depression. Depression forced me down a path, a path I initially feared, which led me to witnessing the powerful freedom that flourishes within when I drew aside my own veils of illusion and began to see the world and myself anew from the solidity and sanctuary of my own real self, where my worth and value were determined through the authentic lens of my own eyes and where I was able to dissolve the old cages that had confined me in an unlived life and become the sculptor and not the sculpted of my life.

Individuals, communities, Governments and countries all have finite resources when it comes to money to create professional support services for people with their physical health and emotional wellbeing challenges. History and the present day has taught us that emotional wellbeing has and will remain for a long time to come a vastly underfunded, under researched and under resourced area of the health service. To blame others though is to remove accountability and the power we each possess as individuals to create real and lasting change in this aspect of life. 

The world of suicide is complex and there may appear to be no easy solutions. One thing is certain though and perhaps even simple, the fundamental need of each person to be loved and to be able to love unconditionally. As human beings, we have infinite reservoirs when it comes to kindness, compassion and love.

The Sufi poet Hafiz wrote 2,500 years ago
'Jump to your feet,
 Wave your fists,
 Threaten and warn the world.
 That your heart can no longer live,
 Without real and authentic love'.

Maybe it's as simple as that...

In the words of Auden
 "Either we love or we die"  































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  2. This blog is fantastic! you describe living with depression so acurately. I find reading your posts really inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I hope you are continuing to heal.

    May everyday be a good day!

    love n hugs


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