Tag Archives: depression

Depression kills

Depression and suicide have recently touched the family of a good friend. Robin William’s tragic death this week showed that severe depression affects even people who you might think are better able to get help either due to their fame, connections or bank balance.

Depression can affect everyone.

I used to think people who committed suicide were incredibly selfish, only thinking about themselves and not caring about the aftermath left behind. Perhaps being a minister’s daughter I saw more of the aftermath of death (in general) on families left behind a bit more than the average person. But more probably it was because I couldn’t empathise with depression sufferers.

Now when I hear someone make a ‘selfish’ comment, I just think that person has (luckily) never suffered serious depression.

After Sofia died, I came dangerously close to the precipice. How close, is something I don’t like to think about now; it’s better to focus on the fact that it’s now very very far away on the distant horizon.

Severe depression doesn’t just envelop you, it smothers you. Smothers to the point where it won’t let anything else in. It won’t let you think about anything else. Or anybody else. It’s like a cancer eating away at your whole being.

On top of that is the debilitating sense of no longer having control. You feel hopeless, helpless and overwhelmed. The depression is in control, not you. This is a Catch-22 –  you don’t see how you can regain control and it’s difficult to believe how anything can change the situation.

Even if you do manage some positive changes your low self esteem will make you excessively self-critical. It’s too easy to put a negative spin on things, belittle your achievements or even put it down to luck. You might not even feel worthy of getting better.

Thoughts of suicide can arise when your future seems even worse than your awful present; you feel that life is simply not worth living. But going back to the loss of control, there’s also unfortunately a ‘positive’ feeling to suicidal thoughts. Deciding to take your own life is an act you DO have control over and from this perspective sadly I can understand why some people choose it.

Returning to Robin Williams, here was a man who gave so much laughter and joy to others while he was battling severe depression. In his daughter’s moving words, “one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh.” But where were HIS clowns?

These thoughts are just from my personal experience of suffering from depression and PTSD.

For help or someone to talk to –
USA: http://www.samaritansusa.org/
Australia: https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Or Google ‘suicide help line’.


Effective visualisation

I’ve gotten back to using visualisation. In the past I’d used this technique to improve my music performances and much later, leading up to Sofia’s birth, to calm my fears and feel more confident about labour. No doubt it was a normal response for me to stop using visualisation after Sofia died.

But I’ve come back to the technique and am now using it to feel less stressed. I never considered using it as a relaxation method before, just believing it was helping me to improve my performance and boost my confidence. Yet I’ve discovered it relaxes me very quickly and easily.

I visualise myself floating in the sea at a marvellous real beach in my homeland. The water is crystal clear and calm, there’s the slightest of breezes cooling the warm air and I hear the occasional bird cry. As I visualise floating, my body being supported by the water, I feel lighter; the delicate movement of the water in my mind relaxes all my limbs.

A few minutes of initial deep breathing helps my visualisation be more effective more quickly. It’s understandable that the more relaxed I am to start with, the easier it is to relax even more.

I also use a keyword to help trigger or guide my mind and body to the visualisation. I use the name of the beach, but really the word could be anything. It’s very effective, even helping me to enjoy some moments of relaxation while standing up on the train going to work (I allow my body to be swayed by the movement of the train and imagine the swaying movement as waves). Roberto knows my keyword and has said it to me when I’ve seemed stressed.

Visualisation is another tool to help with stress and depression, and it doesn’t have to only be a solitary way to healing.

Looking through different eyes

It’s difficult to realise when you’re suffering from depression just how much it’s affecting you at the time. The world closes in on you and it’s almost impossible to take a step out of yourself to see what’s happening. I can only see myself clearly when I’ve come through a bad period. It can still surprise me how low I must have been but didn’t fully realise it at the time.

Depression is a rollercoaster ride and sometimes just the ups and downs are enough to make me lose my way and become disorientated. Thankfully the more ups and downs I have, the easier it is to just allow myself to go with the flow. I’ve been down so much that being there no longer scares me – I know I’ll be able to pick myself up again.

My favourite painter also suffered from depression, taking his own life at the age of 66. Rothko’s later works were much darker and more dramatic than his earlier ones, yet I never saw depression in them. Instead I was drawn in, mesmerised in an almost meditative way, enclosed within the painting itself, not merely viewing the image on its surface.

One of my favourite things to do in London has always been to sit in Tate Modern’s Rothko Room, soaking up the dark burgundies in the darkened room. The summer I was managing English courses, a stressful and tiring job, I was grateful to be able to nip out, cross the road, run into the Tate Modern and sit in the Rothko Room for a few peaceful moments to recharge my battery.

I looked forward to seeing the large Rothko exhibition Tate Modern had at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. I expected the paintings to soothe my damaged soul, for it to be a relaxing and peaceful experience.

This time, though, I felt I was looking at his art through his eyes, his depressed eyes. And it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Instead of feeling drawn in, I felt I was being sucked in, trapped within each painting. It disturbed me and I wondered why other people didn’t seem to be having the same reaction.

Whereas once I lingered over each canvas, savouring every new depth of colour I came across, I now felt I could barely look at them. The last room of the exhibition had his last major series; I could merely glance at them as I walked through. They all had a white margin around the edge of the canvas framing the painting, but for me it was a sharply defined edge that imprisoned the viewer. Rothko’s previous works had colour going to the edge, extending beyond the canvas, but this was like being trapped inside his depressed mind, his world closing in on mine.

“The fact that people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions.. the people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when painting them. And if you say you are moved only by their color relationships then you miss the point.”

~ Mark Rothko (1903-1970)