Avoiding the Speed Bumps

It has been almost a month since my last blog post, and generally when an extended period of time like this passes it either means that I’m in a very dark place, or in a relatively good space; the theory being that I either feel too low or disinterested to write anything, or conversely, I have no negative experiences or feelings to verbalise. Thankfully on this occasion I’m leaning towards the more positive end of the spectrum.

It’s also fair to say that I’ve had little time for writing over the past few weeks due to being extremely busy at work, and also a on holiday in Florida for almost two weeks. I believe the holiday was much needed, and felt like a true escape, not just from London, but also from my recent period of low and negative thinking. It also had the effect of transporting me back to simpler, more innocent times, a consequence of visiting the Disney theme parks as a family, just as I did when I was a child. While there is a danger that this bubble of safety I found myself in could lull me into a false sense of security, and merely act as a form of avoidance, thankfully some of the positive effects of the holiday have still lingered within me. Although the pessimist inside me insists this won’t last forever, and is merely a respite rather than a recovery.

Despite this relatively settled state of mind, it’s true to say that I enter the next few months with a great deal of trepidation, and a sense of impending doom which always seems a mere hairsbreadth away. This upcoming period has been a particularly difficult time for me in the past, acting as a catalyst for downward spirals of depression, and even though I can recognise this chain of events, it does not always mean I can can prevent it from happening. Whilst I am undoubtedly a huge fan of Christmas, it has always orchestrated extremely low feelings within, and it’s not always apparent why. Perhaps as this article suggests, “Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more”. Christmas is a period of celebrations, festivities and catching up with friends and family, and therefore perhaps its the presence of other people basking in apparent happiness, friendship and general joviality, which in turn precipitates feelings of loneliness, envy and deep critical self-reflection. Essentially the microcosm of Christmas fixates upon and exaggerates all of the emotions and anxieties within a 6 week period, and ensures that the shackles of depression cannot easily be broken free from.

It’s also true to state that the presence of my birthday a mere 2 weeks prior to Christmas adds measurably to the melting pot of emotions. It too acts as a time to reflect upon life gone by, mistakes made, relationships not yet achieved, and as each year passes this becomes more and more pronounced. With this year being my 30th birthday, I have a constant fear that this milestone will be the hardest yet. In many ways a birthday is worse than Christmas, as its the day in which you are the sole focus, as opposed to the global celebration of Christmas. So if no one turns up to your birthday, or you feel isolated and alone, its impossible to push away thoughts such as “nobody likes me”, “why can’t I be more liked?”, “why can’t I have the life of another person?” or “why have I not achieved x, y or z by this age?”. It also pressurises you to compare yourself with other people. Why does John Smith have a wife, a child, his own house and a purpose in his life at age 30, and yet I live on my own and have nothing compared the things he has achieved? Of course the mindset of a depressed person will conveniently forget all of the things that it has that John Smith doesn’t, as well as preemptively assuming that John Smith is happy inside, when in fact there is no way of telling if this is true.

It feels a shame to start this blog with positive thoughts, and end up writing about a purely negative mindset. Unfortunately its this way of thinking that a depressed persons mind forces upon its victim, and I am also being realistic based upon my own experiences, as well as being brutally honest, something which I vowed to do when I started this blog. As always I want nothing more than to be proven wrong, and if I come out of this next few months intact then I will feel it has been a huge achievement. Inevitably it helps that I’m on a steady road at this moment in time, as that can only help me in the long run. However, it’s the speed bumps later down the road that I’m worried about, as I don’t know if I have the strength to swerve past them, and am instead destined to collide head on with them, unable to prevent the devastation that will follow.

 

 

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Reflections

To get to my office from the main reception you must traipse down a corridor that is flanked by mirrors on all sides. Most people surreptitiously glance in the mirror as they walk by to check whether their hair is in pristine condition, or whether that annoying spot that emerged in the morning has been successfully hidden away. For myself, I try not to glance sideways as I’m afraid what I will see. It’s not so much my physical appearance (although admittedly I have always had nothing but disgust for that), but more the fact that it causes me to visualise who I have become, and to analyse my life, including where I have come from and where I’m going. In the fleeting moment I gaze upon my reflection I don’t merely see myself as I am now, but instead I’m forced to rocket through the years from childhood to the present, the snapshots berating me for for how much of my life I have wasted,  and taunting me for how much of it the demon inside has taken. I don’t see a young face looking back full of promise, but rather a tired face looking back full of regret.

I’m in one of my dips at the moment, which frustratingly has come so soon on the back of my last one. Usually I get a few months respite at the very least. It’s kind of like quicksand, the more you struggle to get out, the deeper you sink. For example, socialising or going out somewhere only leads to further feelings of low mood as you inevitably see what you perceive that others have (relationships, friends, hope, happiness) and the unavoidable comparison with your life proves too much. So what am I supposed to do, just shut myself away for ever in order to avoid these things? No that won’t work either as that will merely create a blanket of isolation that would smother me, and simply serve to ratify to myself the idea that people don’t care about me. What are you supposed to do when you reach a fork in the road with the option to go left or right, when you know that which ever path you take it will lead you to the same outcome?

I saw a quote that said “If you are searching for that one person who will change your life… take a look in the mirror”. I think that epitomises the difficulties of depression. A mirror doesn’t just reflect back an image or reality, it offers up a perception based upon your own insecurities and fears. You chose what you see, and how you interpret it, depending upon your own internal thoughts and feelings. For me now I can only see the negatives, the missed chances, the defeated moments, and the lack of optimism. The face morphs into my younger self and leads to a yearning to go back to a time where pain was less intense, and a positive future still seemed within reach. Looking back is much easier than looking forward. The key is not to change the image that the mirror reflects, but rather to change your way of looking at it.

So perhaps that’s why it is so difficult for me to pull myself from the quicksand; there are just too many reminders out there which trigger feelings of regret, envy, sadness and a inconsolable anger at the existence of the beast inside.  Afterall, people themselves also represent mirrors, as you see reflected in them the person you want to be, and it merely reiterates your own weaknesses and failings. The ultimate goal for me, and a far greater aspiration that wealth or success, is to be able to face myself in the mirror without turning away in disgust. However, if that day should ever come, then I fear an old man will be peering back at me, as it seems that such an achievement would take a lifetime. Or more.