Personal Lesson #2: "Ultimately, it is up to me to scratch and climb and claw my way out of this hole."

(These are lessons I've learned that have helped me through. I'm not a trained counselor or psychologist. Just lessons from my own journey...)

When I was in the deepest, darkest points in my life-long battle with depression I kept hoping for something magic to happen, to just make it go away, to fix it. (And sometimes I still do). But the brutal reality is that there is no one else, no external savior, no magic spell. I must somehow claw my way out of this hole on my own. I must CHOOSE to claw my way out -- I must refuse to live down there... I must find a way out... or at least find a way up to some ledge... where there is a bit more light, and I can breath, and can see just a bit further.

It is not my fault. It is not fair. Other people, other situations, other forces put me here. Other people don't need to work so hard. It SUCKS... utterly, royally, totally SUCKS!!! But ultimately none of that matters. There is just me and what I choose to do about it.

And fortunately there ARE things to do. These three things made the difference between my surviving and not:

1) I sought out counseling. A counselor didn't fix everything, but they did give me a sense that I was not in it alone. They did give me some desperately needed validation. And they provided a critical reality check. Because let's face it, if you are in the depths of depression it is difficult to think clearly or to see the world accurately.

2) I started medications. Taking an SSRI gave me my first glimpse that it was possible to simply feel "OK". SSRI's don't make you "happy" -- that's a grave misunderstanding by popular culture. They simply lift the heavy, heavy burden of grief... so that you can simply feel OK. And what an amazing revelation that is. They don't lift it totally or permanently, at least they did not for me, but they do lift it just enough to get by.

3) I started exercising even when I didn't feel like it. And I discovered that exercise is an incredibly powerful tool against depression. When I am in the worst of it, exercise can break the stranglehold. It's not easy though... when you are at the bottom the last thing you can imagine doing is picking your body up and making it move. But it is essential to do so... the worse you feel, the more you need to do it.

This was my essential survival kit: counseling, medication, and exercise.

And I do liken it to a survival situation -- a life or death struggle. Like being caught in the mountains in a blizzard. You need shelter, heat, food to survive. If you are in a blizzard it will take ALL of your energy and ALL of your determination to get those three things. It will be difficult and the mother of all "pains in the butt". But if you do not do these things, you will die.

Being in the deepest, darkest place of depression is like that. It will take all your energy and determination to get the things you need: counseling, medication, exercise. And it will take time. But it is a case of survival -- you must CHOOSE to survive, to do the seemingly impossible tasks of moving forward and doing these things. You must REFUSE to stay in the hole... and take advantage of every possible resource to claw your way out of it.

You CAN do these things... it is incredible what the human spirit is capable of. But you must CHOOSE to do them, even when it seems the hardest. And then you have to KEEP doing them. It won't make you happy or make life easy, but it will make you simply "OK", most of the time... which I've found is just enough.


gwyon gwyon
1 Response Aug 20, 2014

Great advice, thank you