The Cycle of Thoughts and Feelings

Thoughts and feelings are at the very heart of Depression. The simple fact is that the thoughts we have can influence the feelings we experience, and vice versa. It’s a viscous cycle, and the cyclical nature of the illness ensures that once you are in the cycle, it is very difficult to break free. Thoughts can often pop into your head from seemingly out of nowhere, and of their own volition. Frequently however, these introspections are provoked by associations arising from what we see or hear around us. Photos, friends, people in the street, a piece of music, or a particular building can all conjure up thoughts, and consequently feelings, which are both unwanted and damaging. This can happen to all of us, although I would suggest that those with a depressive disorder will experience them in a far greater frequency.

Memories can be very significant stimuli in depression, and can be triggered by a wide variety of occurrences. For example, the other day I walked past a previous flat I had lived in, for the first time in about 3 years. This induced painful memories of the difficulties I was going through when I resided there, and the dark place that I found myself in. For the brief time the building was in my eye line it reignited the anxiety I had all those years ago, and the effect this had upon me took some time to wear off. Just as they say a smell of cooking can take you back to your family kitchen when you were a kid, this visual reminder conjured up all kinds on unwanted sensations and anxieties. On another occasion, I walked past someone in the street who looked remarkably like a person from a few years ago who I had a bad experience with, and this generated the same feelings of anger, sadness and frustration that I had felt at the time. It acted as a kind of portal, which transported me back to 3 years ago and bestowed upon me the exact emotions I had experienced during that period.

It can work the other way too. A certain image or stimulus may conjure up memories of a happy event, and illicit a smile and feeling of warmth, as though you are living through that event once again. The problem stems from the fact that the effects of positive memories wear off extremely quickly, whereas the effects of negative ones can linger for many hours or even days.

When a particular issue or source of anxiety is at it’s height, I often focus upon those things that will justify and confirm my beliefs about it, rather than seeking out those truths that may offer a counter argument. For example, if I get self conscious or low about my appearance I will ‘notice’ people who in my mind are ‘more attractive’, ‘normal looking’, and consequently to my prejudiced perception ‘happy’. This will then feed my exiting beliefs and anxieties, and prolong the cycle of mental unrest. It becomes impossible to see the things that would offer a counter to these beliefs, as you cannot help becoming blind to them. Depression could be described as like a special pair of glasses that allow you to see the negative things, but blinds you to all of the positives.

It seems to me that a need for support from other people is inevitable, and paramount as a facilitation to help you try and overcome this. Not so much for reassurance, as that can have detrimental consequences and potentially lead to a heavy reliance on reassurance before you can even function at all (another cyclical process). But just having other people who are not wearing the ‘depression glasses’ can encourage you to open your eyes and see things for what they really are. My illness (among other factors) has prevented me from ever having a girlfriend, and that has always been a huge roadblock to getting to where I want to be, and consequently has promoted deep levels sadness and frustration, as well as an inevitable elevation of that part of my ‘desired life’ to a near mythic unobtainable feat. This is not merely because ‘you want what you don’t have’, but because of the knowledge that whilst it wouldn’t necessarily solve everything, it would mean that I would no longer have to do things alone, and would enable me to express my emotions in a positive way towards another person (love, happiness) rather than a negative one (anxiety, fear, stress, resentment). Plus it’s its just too damn appealing to be with someone who loves you for who you are, and for which you can reciprocate.

Obviously thoughts and feelings aren’t going to go away, and nor should they, as they are what makes us who we are. The goal however, is to be in a position where you are in control of your thoughts and feelings, rather than them being in control of you. It feels as though mine do not only control me, but in fact own me, and dictate every step of my life. If there is a way to take back this ownership, then that must be what I, and indeed everyone, should aspire to.

Trapped In The Mind Prison

I stared at the blank screen of my computer tonight for about 30 minutes, the blinking cursor acting as some sort of hypnotic device sending me into a mindless stupor. I couldn’t think what to write, a combination of the way I’m feeling, mixed with the desire to avoid repeating myself and appearing like a broken record. But at the end of the day, depression is predictable in its repetitiveness, and like the changing of the seasons, it follows the same warning signs, same patterns and same resulting feelings and emotions.

Only a few blog posts ago I was quietly optimistic about exercise potentially proving to be a help, and yet since that blog I haven’t been to the gym once, a result of the time restraints of returning to work, as well as a lack of energy or motivation which is symptomatic of the illness. This epitomises the way that little nuggets of hope tend to be offered, and yet they ultimately fall by the wayside, disregarded and discarded, the fleeting glimmer of positivity a long forgotten memory. Even in a single day there can be a momentary thunderbolt of manic positivity, which can almost instantly be distinguished as the negative thoughts force their way in, and infest the mind at a frightening speed. In some ways these rollercoaster days are worse than a solid day of low mood, as you have no idea where you stand.

The aftereffects of a horrible weekend have followed me into the new week, and the feelings latch on to me as I try and drag myself free. After spending a significant amount of money on going to a friends wedding in Wales, I felt so bad on the Saturday morning when I woke up that I had to get the train straight back home, missing the wedding and the rest of my trip in Wales. At the time the money didn’t seem important, I just had to escape and avoid suffocating in the feelings that were overwhelming me. Added to that was the guilt, self loathing and sense of weakness which followed. How can you explain to someone why you had to leave, how could anyone be expected to understand. Especially when I don’t even truly understand myself. It’s impossible to grasp the necessity for escape unless you have experienced it for yourself.

Another frustrating reality is how an image or experience can provoke different thoughts and emotions depending how you are feeling at the time. For example if chatting with a friend who describes how they are going out with their boyfriend/girlfriend at the weekend, or about a holiday with friends that they have booked, the reaction to this can depend upon your current state of mind.  If you are in a good place then this has little effect upon the mind, and you are able to engage perfectly well in the conversation. However, when already feeling low this simple act can produce only negative thoughts and feelings, such as ‘I will never be happy myself’ or ‘no one will ever love me’. It’s like the chicken or the egg scenario. Does the conversation/experience trigger the low mood, or does the low mood trigger a negative reaction to the conversation/experience? The depressed and anxious mind is busier than Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon, and you cannot prevent negative thinking or constant mental examination and stimulation.

There’s not a lot than I can do about this, as I can’t shut myself away from all of the causes of depression or anxiety, as even if I found myself in a locked room, my mind would still be my dutiful passenger, never allowing me to switch off or power down my thoughts. I sometimes wish that the mind had a ctrl-alt-del function and I could shut down my thoughts and just be able to exist in blissful ignorance, even if just for a short while. Sleep is the closest thing that comes to that, but the problem with sleep (when it comes) is that it provides only a fleeting leave of absence from the prison cell that is the mind, and once the 7 or 8 hours of oblivion are over, you wake up and are still locked behind bars, and still encased in your mental cell. Whereas in the past I have hoped that it may only be a short sentence that I have been handed, it now truly feels like a life sentence has been afforded me.

Fighting The Fog

It’s been a month since my last blog post, mainly due to the fact I have been having a markedly difficult time and consequently have possessed very little energy or motivation to write anything, and no inspiration to formulate any coherent thoughts. After having been off work for almost 3 weeks it has been an incredibly frustrating period, although sadly something which I am all too familiar with. As my most recent blog posts made apparent, I had been heading down a steep slope for some time, and the inevitably that the ‘Black Dog’s’ clutches would eventually pull me fully down was perhaps obvious for all to see. When it gets particularly bad I have no mental or physical energy left to deal with the day to day, and it’s increasingly challenging to be around people, as I so desperately want to be part of their lives, but am unable to. It probably didn’t help that my weekly counseling sessions that I had been having for the last 10 months had come to an end, and so it felt like there was no outlet or support base for me within London, which probably instigated the implosion (obviously my family were supportive from back home).

One of the most commonly asked questions is ‘what was the trigger’ and most of the time there isn’t a noticeable one. It causes me great frustration that I’m unable to put my finger on what initially sets off an episode, because how can you fix something when you don’t know what is broken? Sadly one of depression’s key features is that often it rears its ugly head without warning, and completely out of the blue. This can be because the thoughts or feelings that precipitate it are so unconscious and so deeply ingrained that without deep psychological analysis it’s very difficult to recognise them. It’s pertinent to note that depression is also caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain (a reduction in serotonin levels) and therefore this ensures that the mood levels are so unpredictable, and prone to fluctuation. Of course there are big life events that people experience (bereavement, loss of job, breakup of relationship) that are very obvious triggers, but for me 95% of the time the black fog comes without warning, and there is very rarely any sunshine to burn out the heavy mist that envelopes me.

I started reading an interesting book on depression and mindfulness (before my motivation even for that deserted me) which posited an interesting theory regarding one aspect of depression, stating: “depression forges a connection in the brain between sad mood and negative thoughts, so that even normal sadness can reawaken major negative thoughts.” (The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams , John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn)

So for example if the loss of a loved one caused a great sadness, then when we feel a sense of heartache again, even years later, then these original memories are reawakened, causing a further spiral down into depression. Or if we felt a particular sense of sadness caused by loneliness during childhood, then even a passing sadness in later life can trigger those feelings of inadequacy or isolation from the past. We may not even be aware that it is a thinking pattern from the past that is causing the current feelings. This quote from the book efficiently details the theory:

“This is why we can react so negatively to unhappiness: our experience is not one simply of sadness, but is colored powerfully by reawakened feelings of deficiency or inadequacy. What may make these reactivated thinking patterns most damaging is that we often don’t realize they are memories at all. We feel not good enough now without being aware that it is a thinking pattern from the past that is evoking the feeling.”

I’m not sure how these insights can really help me, as being aware they exist doesn’t alter the illness’ effect, just like explaining to someone why they have a headache doesn’t make the headache go away. And similarly, just because I can recognise these connections between memories and emotions doesn’t mean it can help me, as depression doesn’t allow for awareness to be a combatant against the illness. Most of the time I can recognise that I shouldn’t be thinking or feeling certain things, but that doesn’t make them go away, it only leads to further frustration at the fact that I can observe and diagnose them without this ability having any positive effect on my wellbeing. But I suppose that learning more about the illness can only be a good thing, and education can only ever be a positive weapon, as I have tried to petition through this blog.

I feel a very slight improvement upon how I was feeling a few weeks ago as I’ve had time to let the noise in my head settle down and time to reflect and recharge, although it hasn’t alleviated completely, and a medication change has left me feeling listless, bereft of energy and with an increasing foggy mind. My sense of loneliness has continued throughout as I’ve had no communication over the last few weeks (outside of family) which has let me feeling incredibly isolated, despondent and just plain sad, and only serves to confirm the conscious or subconscious ingrained beliefs that exist within. And if Mark Williams in his book is correct, these thoughts and feelings may have subconsciously conjured up thought patterns from earlier in my life. For a long time I have felt ‘why would anyone want to be friends or in a relationship with someone like myself, with the difficulties that the depression presents’? I can recognise that this is a typical negative thought pattern associated with the illness, but as the years go by these thoughts intensify in validity, making me feel that my imprint on other people is at best insignificant, at worst completely absent.

Despite a slight improvement over the last few weeks (although devastatingly slow for my liking) , I’m continually aware that it won’t be the last time I feel like this, and that it’s always lurking just below the surface. This reality is both disheartening and  heartbreaking, and leads to a desperate hope that once the fogs lifts, it does not descend again for a very long time.

Social Media and Mental Health: Part 2

In my blog post from last week I surmised that social media and blogging are exceptionally helpful for those suffering from a mental illness, due to the fact that they can facilitate the ability to open up to friends/colleagues/family etc. They also can act as an information source for suffers and non-sufferers alike, and can help deliver the crucial message that nobody with depression or anxiety is alone, and it is remarkably easy to reach out to others in a similar situation. However, Adrian posted a pertinent comment in reply to my blog:

“This seems like it was a great article. I personally tend to focus on the negative aspects of social media, namely how using it sometimes makes me feel isolated or else compare my life unfavorably to others, but I think it’s mainly Facebook that makes me feel that way. It’s a good point that using social media to express feelings of anxiety and depression outside of your real-life social circle (like Instagram, Twitter, and Yik Yak) can be a positive outlet. Thanks for this post!”

He touched upon a very relevant and significant point, and one which I had intended to focus upon in a future blog post, but it seems sensible to address it now. The benefits and strengths of social media, namely acting as a global platform and communication source,  are also its downfall, and how it can lead to the triggering of depressive episodes, or making existing periods of low mood significantly worse. Certain images or posts can precipitate low mood, such as seeing photos of contemporaries from school who are getting married/having children (leading to thoughts like ‘will that ever happen to me’), or fellow facebookers smiling, having fun, going on holidays with friends etc. These can be triggers in ‘real life’ which proliferate feelings of sadness, desperation, hopelessness and self doubt, and with the rise of social media, shutting yourself away can no longer provide an escape from these factors. One of the features of depression is the necessity to self analyse yourself and make comparisons with other people, and the prevalence of social media (in particular Facebook and Instagram) ensures that this is done on a much larger scale.

Personally, I find social media less of a trigger when I’m feeling stable, however it can have a powerful effect on my mood if I’m already in a bad place. For example, if I’m thinking thoughts such as ‘I don’t have friends/am not in peoples thoughts’, or if I’m frustrated by my anxiety preventing me from going and and doing activities that I want to do, then seeing a photo of a group of friends doing an activity together or on a night out can inevitably lead me to feeling extremely down and demoralised. It provokes feelings of unfounded jealousy, inadequacy and longing. It confirms predetermined falsehoods, and helps foster the incorrect but deeply believed thoughts and feelings about myself, my predictions of how others view me, and also  my prospects (or lack of) for the future.

Another negative impact of social media is an issue I have touched upon in previous posts, and concerns the eruption of nostalgic feelings when viewing images from the past. Seeing a photo of myself as a child is a trigger to negative though processes, including the inevitable questioning of everything that has happened from that point to the present moment, as well as a deep yearning to go back to that time when wide eyed innocence took the place of todays anguish, anxiety, regret and fear. Of course, I look at these memories through rose tinted glasses, as undoubtedly there were worries, concerns and anxieties that existed to me back then, but the power of hindsight and backward reflection, in relation to depression, is that you have no control of what the mind decides to focus upon. For me I see an idealised presentation of what my life was, which evokes a real desire to go back to that moment, and that time in my life, rather than where I find myself now at the end of my twenties.

Social Media therefore is both a positive means for expression, but also a proven trigger for many of the negative aspects of mental illness. It is a both a blessing and a curse, and the key is to learn how to utilise its positive aspects and negate its negative. Social Media essentially is a digital representation of real life, where the words that hurt are written rather than spoken, the stimuli that evoke memories are pictorial rather than anecdotal, and the way to reach out to others is through taps on a keyboard rather than whispers down the phone. Times changes, but sadly the negative and destructive mindset doesn’t. It’s just a case of trying to use social media for its positive enabling abilities, and shielding yourself from its unnerving capacity to break your resolve.

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Social Media and Mental Health

Whilst browsing the BBC news website, the following article caught my eye: ‘How social media helped me deal with my mental illness’ Before I had even read the article I predicted that it was going to be of particular interest to me, although I didn’t foresee how abundantly relatable it would prove. At the heart of it is an analysis of how important social media can be in dealing with mental illness, and how it can give a voice to people who are otherwise unable to express their thoughts or feelings. I won’t go into the article in too much depth, as I’d encourage you to read it through in your own time, but I did want to pick up on a couple of particular points that really struck me.

Sophie Hawker’s case study was particularly pertinent as I saw a reflection of myself within her words. For her social media was both a valuable information portal, and also an irreplaceable way of expressing herself. From my own personal experience of writing this blog, and its subsequent sharing through social media, I can attest that it has proven to be the most effective and advantageous way of expressing how I’m feeling, and allowing others an insight into my state of mind. Composing my thoughts on here also ensures that it becomes less of an issue talking about it with other people as they are already aware of how I’m feeling, and what struggles I’m going through. As Sophie perfectly puts it: “It gave me the confidence to talk about it in real life because I’d already practised talking about it online. I’d learnt more about it too, so I felt I could explain it to people a bit more.”

Sophie also touches upon another significant point when she discloses that “I found people of a similar age with similar interests who had experienced it at a similar time in their lives and that was really beneficial.” I’ve been surprised and gratified with the number of comments I’ve received from people in a similar situation to myself, and its especially rewarding when people declare that its a relief to read about someone who reflects their own circumstances. I’ve been especially touched by comments from contributors stating that my words have helped them in some way, and that makes me feel incredibly proud. Social media really causes you to be aware, more than any other time in the past, of how many people suffer from mental illness, and how you are not even remotely alone, even though you may think you are. It gives an outlet which 15-20 years ago would never have been possible, and I’m perturbed by how people with mental health issues were able to connect with other people in similar situations in ‘pre-internet’ days, and consequently I wonder at how many people slipped under the radar (perhaps fatally) through lack of an outlet the like of which exists today.

Madelaine also expresses similar beliefs, stating that “it was easier on social media to talk about it. There would be times at university when I would feel anxious and I wouldn’t tell my friends but I would tweet. I’d feel more confident saying it there.” If social media allows people to open up when they otherwise would not be able to, then it can only be a positive endeavor, and it not only benefits the individual, but is also a great way to educate those friends, family, colleagues etc about the illness, and provides a much more informative alternative to merely browsing an NHS Direct article. This is about real people and real lives.

Finally, I wanted to touch upon the responses people gave in the article to the question of what aspect of mental health they wanted to talk about (through the app Yik Yak). Here are some of the responses presented:

Mental health
Yik Yak
People with depression and anxeity
Mental health in schools
For me these responses epitomise how social media can play a huge part in mental health education and therapy, as they facilitate in making sufferers fundamentally aware that there are thousands of people in the same boat, and that you unequivocally posses a way to connect with them. It’s staggering how many times I read blogs, articles, or even those 4 quotes above and think ‘thats exactly how I feel’. I could have written each of those 4 statements, and that really is the main point of this article. Whilst social media gets a bad reputation for trolling, bullying or pointless posts, it’s much more satisfying to focus on the positives and the real influence it can have by allowing people like myself, or Sophie, or Madelaine, to finally be able to open up. As Daniel Holland says “You think you’re alone with these things. The ability to be able to discuss this with other people online is a big deal. It’s letting people know they aren’t alone.”
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Sunday Night Reflections

This weekend has not been a good one, and in fact has been the worst that I’ve had in a while. Whilst for the majority of the week the weekend is the holy grail which seems like a glorious mirage when imagined on a sleepy Monday morning commute to work. And yet by Sunday evening the mirage has been replaced by a desolate wasteland, and my feelings of positivity have morphed into resentment and dejection. Often I find myself looking at the clock on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and thinking ‘how is it only 2 o’clock’ or ‘I wish it was 7pm as I could then have a shower, eat, watch TV and then go to bed.’ It’s bad enough having these thoughts on a weekday, but to experience them at the weekend feels tantamount to treason, as these should be the days that you look back at on Monday morning with a great sense of accomplishment and nostalgia. Instead its merely another case of time slipping by, and the mantra of ‘living life to the full’ being so far from the truth that it would be laughable, if only it wasn’t so heartbreaking.

This weekend’s lack of fulfillment, and the consequent feelings of frustration and melancholia, was enhanced by the extreme exhaustion that I felt, significantly more severe than it has been for many months. Both Saturday and Sunday afternoon I had best part of 90 minute naps, and also went to bed early on Friday and Saturday night, and yet the utterly debilitating lethargy that coursed through my body ensured that even if I had wanted to do something with my time, I physically wouldn’t have been able to. On Saturday afternoon I tried to sit in the park and read, but had to call it quits after 30 minutes as I was so fatigued that I could barely read the words on the page. In fact all weekend I probably spent a total of 2 hours outside of my flat, and therefore the sense of isolation and frustration were at maximum levels come Sunday afternoon.

It didn’t help that the weather was glorious on Sunday, because you can get away with locking yourself away on a cold winters day, but in the summer months it just leads to headaches and more lethargy. It’s one of the reasons I dislike the summer months so much, and why I have a kind of reverse seasonal affective disorder, which actually affects about 10% of SAD sufferers. I can only hazard a guess at why this is. Possibly it’s the crippling lethargy caused by the warm and humid weather, which amplifies an already anxiety induced weariness. Or it could be that the longer days means there is essentially more time to fill, and thus its highlighted to me even more clearly that I achieve very little in my personal life. Or it could be that the warm weather and school holidays inevitably leads to people/families/partners etc enjoying happy moments together, which augments my own sense of loneliness, and need for human relationships. The short, cold, dark winter days can mask these truths, and the bleakness that manifests in those months acts as a kind of bandage, covering up a wound and allowing you to temporarily mask the cause of it.

In the past I was optimistic enough to make plans for weekends or evenings, or life in general, even though predictably I would cancel them or not gain any sense of enjoyment from them. Now though, I don’t posses the self belief or hope to even do that, and accept that getting through each day is the only achievement I will be able to have, or the closest thing to success. I’ve mentioned numerous times the cyclical nature of depression, and my weeks tend to epitomise this model. As the week progresses there is universal excitement of the approaching weekend, which everyone experiences in unison. But then almost as soon as 5pm on Friday hits, there is the reemergence of the anxiety, depression, tiredness, and all sense of joy at the prospect of the weekend evaporates. I don’t have the physical or mental energy to do anything with my time, but the lack of activities and engagement then precipitates a disintegration of the already diminished stamina. It’s a cycle that I‘m unsure how to break free of. As I sit here writing this I feel utterly drained, unrefreshed, and categorically dejected. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that I’m feeling these things, or the fact that I’m resigned to them never changing. The lack of hope, and admittance of defeat, is perhaps the greatest tragedy.

Check out this blog post from My Anxiety Companion which helpfully voices some of the thoughts and feelings that anxiety can represent: http://www.myanxietycompanion.com/blog/13-things-anxiety-sufferers-need-you-to-understand

The Marathon of Life

Sometimes I feel I’m going nowhere
Sometimes I’m sure I never will
She said it’s ‘cos I’m always moving
I never notice ‘cos I never stand still

Sometimes I feel like I’m falling
Falling fast and falling free
She said my darling you’re not falling
Always looked like you were flying to me

© Passenger 2014

“How was your weekend, did you get up to much?” “Yes it was good, I went out for drinks on Friday night, brunch with friends on Saturday and then out to the theatre in the evening, and on Sunday a walk in the park and lunch on the Thames. How about you James?” “Umm…mine was ok thanks, didn’t do much”. That’s pretty much an accurate Monday morning conversation, one which has an inevitability about it despite my determination for it to be to the contrary. By the time the weekend rolls round I am so exhausted that all I yearn for is rest, catching up with sleep, and shutting myself away. This exhaustion is almost certainly caused by a number of factors: broken/little sleep, early starts for work, mental fatigue caused by anxiety, and could also be the resulting symptom of the medication I take. All in all, by Friday evening my energy reserves are totally spent, and my mind and body is running on empty.

In the short term a weekend of doing very little is not only a relief, but also a necessity, because anything other than that would mean by Monday morning the internal battery would still be dead. However, come Sunday night the frustration, regret, disconsolateness and anxiety sets in. I’ve wasted another weekend, failing to achieve anything, or gain any pleasure or enjoyment from supposed recreation time. These regrets are in a sense a metaphor for the regrets in my life: missed opportunities, unfulfilled ambitions and failed potential.

Approaching a milestone this year (I’m currently 29) is frightening, not for the number itself, but more so as an indicator of all the time that has elapsed previously, and how the path of my life has turned out. Of course the depression induced pessimism ensures I don’t contemplate the positive moments and the achievements that I have been gifted, or the incredible people I have met, but instead I dwell upon where I should be now in my life, and all the things I have not achieved on a personal level. My anger and frustration is aimed predominantly at the ‘Black Dog’ that has held me back, and the probable truth that I was too weak to resist it. I guess approaching this years age milestone also makes me reminisce about how at 20 years old I naively thought I could beat this illness of the mind; time was on my side, and I had everything ahead of me. Now that hope seems a lifetime ago, and in its place is hopelessness, and none of the optimism I felt all of those years ago. Could I have done anything differently? I’m not sure.

It’s why I find it so difficult to look at pictures of myself as a child:

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It feels as though I’m looking at a different person, an undefined child on a landscape of possibilities. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, and in those eyes I can see a perception of hope, expectations, bright eyed innocence, and all the promise of fulfillment still ahead. When I look in the mirror now I see the same eyes looking back at me, but they are tired, and filled with sadness, resignation, and most worryingly, defeat. I question whether I could have made alternative choices all those years ago to forge a different path, but I feel this is being unfairly harsh on myself, as the depression would have taken hold regardless. People will tell me that nothing can be done about the past, and its the present and future where things can be changed, and they are quite accurate in this hypothesis. The complication to this theory is that I can’t see that potential for change, and even if it were possible, I can’t clear my head of all that has gone before, and all the things I should have experienced and achieved by now. This becomes more difficult the older I get. I’d liken the passing of time and its relationship to depression as that of running a marathon; the first few miles are pretty easy, and you feel confident and full of energy, believing wholeheartedly that as you move further along you will become stronger and stronger. But the more miles you run, the harder it becomes, the finish line seems to get further and further away, and your confidence in making it dwindles by the wayside. You have been weakened. As each mile (or year) goes by, it becomes easier to look back, than it is to look forward, ensuring a sense of being trapped in a tidal wave of conflicting emotions.

As Mental Health Awareness Week ends, I realise I need to focus on this years topic of maintaining and building relationships, because running this particular marathon is too difficult to do alone. It’s been encouraging to see people opening up and highlighting the importance of mental health in these last 7 days, and as I said in my previous post, its vital that this doesn’t end now that the week is over. Opening up isn’t necessarily going to help me solve my problems, but if it can inspire or help others to give voice to their own experiences and issues, then I will be very proud of that, and it will be an achievement that will stay with me for some time. No one should ever feel alone. In this day of the internet, social networking and global platforms no one is ever truly alone. The hardest part is realising this, and finding the courage to admit your thoughts and feelings both to yourself, and those around you.