Eternal Sunshine of the Depressed Mind
Posted by dirkgently1066
7th Sep 2017

In a discussion at work recently, the question was posed; if you could go back to any point in your life, when would it be? Or, to put it another way, when were you happiest?

An intriguing question to be sure and lots of potential answers.

2014 maybe. Having left therapy, this was the year I returned to work. This was the year I found my feet having been swept away by the tide of self judgement. This was the year my son was born. And yet this was the year my Dad died, a sadness that continues to echo. No, not 2014.

2011 then. The year the girls were born. Never had I known such joy. And yet these were the years when the extent of my anxiety went undiagnosed, paving the way for the slow descent into the pits of depression I would soon find myself. No, not 2011.

2008? The year I got married, the single happiest day of my life. The year I embraced change and started a new role. But this would also be the start of a two year period of self judgement and erosion of confidence as I convinced myself I was incapable. And also the year that my depression would manifest and the year that I sought treatment, beginning my relationship with antidepressants. No, not 2011.

2002 then? Two blokes. A detatched house. A crate of beer. A World Cup. Does it get any better? And yet underneath it all, an eternal singleness, an unrequited love, an internal loneliness and a search for belonging that would find no end. No, not 2002.

What about 1996? What a year for gaming as the Playstation is launched! Plus I head off for University, the summer beforehand stretched out before me, the world my oyster. And yet…the summer would begin the feelings that would come to manifest, the overwhelming sense of unattractiveness, that girlfriends were meant for others and not for me, feeling out of place, depression beginning to extend its icy tentacles, attempts to keep it at bay with alcohol only feeding the cycle of melancholy and reclusiveness that would come to define my later years. No, not 1996.

So where and when? To my surprise the answer was right here and right now.

Oh, life isn’t perfect. Parenting is hard. It is a constant balancing act of trying to be teacher and carer whilst holding to your own sense of self.

And work isn’t perfect either. Goodness knows I am far from living the dream, browsing LinkedIn for old colleagues an exercise in self recrimination of those I used to work with now striding relentlessly forward whilst I stand still.

And all the while I combat the duel-wielded swords of depression and anxiety. I left The Priory behind 4 years ago and yet the Black Dog still barks whilst his fire-breathing Red Dragon buddy skulks noisily in the corner, a two-pronged assault from which I will likely never truly escape.

But despite it all, I am happy. The lessons I learned at the Priory reinforce themselves in my mind each day. I have come to understand the underlying concepts of CBT, the fundamental link that exists between how I think, how I feel and how I act. I have come to understand that my anxieties are a fear of what may come, driven not by events but by my reaction to them and that depression lurks in that dangerous place where we dwell on the past. Fundamentally, I have learned to accept that it is not the world that needs to change, it is me.

It is a mantra I repeat often because I hold it true; life is a journey. And the best part of this journey is that I am in control of where it goes. Sometimes I make a wrong turn but then hey, I’m not the greatest driver. But that’s okay too. In the end it doesn’t matter where I go or how long it takes to get there. It doesn’t even really matter if I get there at all.

All that matters is that I’ve learned to enjoy the ride.

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