The climb; Step 1; Acknowledgement, Admittance and Acceptance
Part 2 of the climb, my personal journey through depression. starting with that all important first step.
Welcome to the second part of my article The Climb and all important first step of my personal journey through depression. This step has three all important elements to it. I have put them together as I felt that you cannot fully embrace one without the other; you cannot admit something without first the acknowledgement of the action and/or emotion and you cannot accept help or a problems existence without acknowledging and admitting it is there in the first place.
Again I am not a professional, so this is just my personal opinion formed by my own personal experience. some may agree, some may not but either way it gets a conversation going about mental illness and how it affects people in different ways for different reasons; and hopefully my story will help someone else see the light at the end of a very dark and lonely place.
As with any illness, physical or mental, the start of the first step is to recognise and acknowledge that there is something wrong; that you are ill or that at least something isn’t right with your behaviours and emotions and then admitting it to yourself that something isn’t right.
Easier said than done right? Well when you're as independent, self-reliant, and as stubborn as I was, (and still am to a certain extent), acknowledging that you are struggling with your emotions, and with circumstances of life, be it past, present or both, seems quite a tall order, especially when you're very good at talking yourself into denial; self- talk such as get a grip, stop feeling sorry for yourself, get over it, I am stronger and better than this; But it isn't just yourself that convinces you there’s nothing wrong it is also the people closest to you sometimes that also feeds that attitude, albeit with the best of intentions.
Part of acknowledging your emotions and behaviours is talking to those closest to you, such as friends and family, to get their opinion on how you're feeling. in my experience it was a wave of, "you should be over it by now" "what have you got to be depressed about;”, “it’s just a phase"; stop being so negative all the time". There’s nothing worse than having those that you rely on for support hearing what you are saying but not actually listening to what it is you're going through or feeling, It gives you a sense of feeling like you really are on your own; it stops you from talking because you just feel like everything they are saying is true, that it’s a phase you'll get over it and there’s people worse of out there then you and then you start to clam up; you stop talking about it and you retreat into your own emotional war arguing with yourself on a daily basis just so you can hide what really is going on to the outside world to make them and yourself believe that what they are saying is true.
It feeds the belief that no-one understands, and that is true to some extent. As is human nature we have expectations of others, rightly or wrongly is open to debate but we do expect those who know us well, or who we think and presume to know us well, to understand us in relation to the way we behave and think and react to things, but the truth is, unless you have been through similar circumstances you can never really truly understand what someone else is going through, or has been through, or how it has and may still be affecting them; but I digress; getting back to my point of acknowledgement, those very same people that are feeding you these words of what they think will "pull you out" of your "phase" are also the same people noticing the changes in your behaviour and emotional state and bringing to your attention that you have "not been your usual self" , or what they understand to be your usual self; They have been noticing that maybe you have become more emotional, more snappy, more easily irritated, impatient or frustrated, more withdrawn, or maybe they have noticed you going the opposite way and you have become more eccentric, more social, drinking more, to try and hide or overcompensate for the sadness and emptiness you feel.
As with everything mental illness can display itself in many ways and in my opinion, there is no textbook profile where one size fits all, the foundations and basics may be generic but after that mental illness is very much an individual set of complicated and personal elements, and no matter what life throws at you even those that seem the strongest of people mentally have limits.
It takes the strongest of people to also acknowledge and admit that there is something wrong and accept that they need help with sorting all that mental fog mess and confusion out, and I say this because that’s how I see my depression; I don’t see it as an illness or a weakness in fact I don’t see it as a negative at all. I see it as I see my computer.
Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't and when it doesn't then I know it’s time for what is termed technologically as a defragmentation and c-drive clean. in other words I need a mental clear -out, rest and reboot, but sometimes what is in my head is so overwhelming I need help sorting it all out from prioritising to deleting and trashing the rubbish, but also to help understand myself better, because if you don’t understand why you’re feeling the way you are or behaving the way you are, how can you expect anyone else to try and understand and support you? Again it’s about that recognition and acknowledgement, whether it be recognising and acknowledging that past and present circumstances have been the foundation of your depression as it has with my journey, or whether it is another form of depression or mental illness.
I cannot stress enough how important acknowledgment and admittance is to taking the first step to your own understanding of not only the condition and how it came to be, but also of yourself and why you react to things the way that you do and then admitting that you need help, but to put both feet on that first step of your climb you need to accept help and accept that it’s all become too overwhelming for you to sift through it on your own.
Asking for help and accepting the help was the hardest thing I ever felt I had to do, it made me feel vulnerable; If I couldn’t trust those around me how on earth could I trust a total stranger? How could they possibly understand me or my circumstances when no-one else could? That was the key; I didn't realise it at the time but being that stranger was the best thing; The fact they didn’t know me meant they couldn't judge me; I didn't know whether they had been through similar circumstances or not but again that was the key; there was no well I went through this and I did it this way or I had a similar thing, and this is what I did. or why didn't you do this or say that.
Finally after years of negative life experiences teaching me to react and behave and think about myself in negative ways and never having any positive life lessons, or at least very few that didn't outweigh the bad, someone actually listened, understood and validated that everything I had been through, and everything I had felt and was feeling, was justified and validated. I wasn't crazy, I wasn't being a drama queen, I wasn't over exaggerating; I was actually permitted to feel and think the way I did because that was what life and how life had taught me to react be.
Life had thrown at me some horrible life experiences from bullying in childhood all the way through adult hood in educational settings and workplaces, to being attacked in my teens and not being able to talk about it, to being privately and publicly humiliated in one way or another, to being let down by a government system that made me, (in my eyes ), feel like I failed as a parent, to being in an abusive relationship, and so many other events.
I didn't choose things to happen to me. Life made me feel the way I did because as a child I was unable to understand or know how to deal with the circumstance’s life had given to me. I didn't know how to fight back and deal with all the different emotions and pain I was experiencing which meant I was ill-equipped to be able to deal with those same , and in some cases even more complicated emotions in adulthood.
All I knew how to do was to either hide, constantly be on the defensive or try to please people so hard in order to make them not want to be negative towards me which of course didn’t work. Everything I thought bad against myself that made me feel worthless, sad, defenceless, hopeless; it was all learnt behaviour; behaviour that life and people that crossed my path in life had taught me, imagine at 12 years old faking tears at a relatives funeral because you believed that was what was expected of you even though you're not understanding what death is or how to deal with it because you had never been told, or being lured away from your home and being physically beaten by a gang of girls, going to the only place you needed to feel safe bruised and bloody only to be made to feel useless and weak for being too scared to fight back, to name just a couple of examples of experiences.
When I acknowledged that everything had caught up with me and I couldn't carry the burden of it all anymore, and I admitted that to myself and accepted I needed help to understand the why's and the wherefores in order to get better, that was the first step to understanding myself and the first step to learning a different way to react to negative life experiences, because how can you choose positive change over negative reactions when you have never been taught or shown a better way to see or be?
I accept that my depression will always be a part of me, but I was brave enough and strong enough to take this first step despite my fears, vulnerability and trust issues. It was the first step I needed to make to ensure that from that day to this, and for a better future, I would be in control of my depression instead of the depression being in control of me. It was this determination that became the start of taking the second step of The Climb; Cognitive change, which I will discuss in part three of The climb.
Again remember I am not a professional, this is just my personal experience of how I have come to learn to deal with my circumstantial depression. if you feel that you or anyone you know have any of the symptoms, I experienced that I laid out in the first part to this article or any other symptoms of mental illness which you can research yourself please start a conversation, see your GP, remember the first step is always the hardest; acknowledge admit and accept.