Courage, in particular your courage, yep that’s right we’ve all got it, as human beings it’s an ingrained attribute and strength, just as much as sadness and anger are ingrained too. No matter how small it may be, how buried within you, have no doubt that it’s there and is oh so very often overlooked, especially when facing the plague of depression, which very much likes to keep all the attention on itself.
So, it’s about time we all sat down and listened to our little warrior inside because in the continuous battle against depression and anxiety it can be your greatest ally.
Envisioning traits, emotions or an illness as something you can relate to or paint an imaginary picture of is an invaluable and empowering way of getting to grips with them instead of feeling lost and scrambling in the dark.
Back in 2015 when I was eventually, and finally, diagnosed with depression it felt like a weight was lifted and I could see an opponent in this battle, instead of running circles around my head like a crazed cockatoo in a cage trying to make sense of it all.
This is also when I decided to really call on my courage and give it the time and respect it deserved. It was at a time when I felt absolutely and utterly lost both within myself and the world. It wasn’t easy to find, but I knew it was there. I envisioned it a tiny flame flickering in the hollow darkness and it was time to fan that flame into a blazing bomb fire.
By truly acknowledging this powerful human trait I felt like I had my little flickering buddy beside me and even though I still didn’t really know what to do next, the one thing that was blatantly obvious to help start the healing was to talk. So just like the doctor had uttered the words out loud I decided the only way to really start fighting back was to talk to my friends as well as professionals. But with the wrath of depression trying to trick me into thinking I was a burden, a loser and an emotional leech to my friends it wasn’t easy and I felt like I was just draining and dragging them down with me.
I was all too aware of the much talked about mental visualisations of depression, both my own as a huge engulfing black cloud, and others portrayed publicly such as the beast, the black dog, the suffocating tidal wave. It’s very important to have a picture in your mind of what depression and anxiety look like to you, to be able to see it in some form, but all too often these are negative connotations and visions. I believe it doesn’t have to be this way.
Once I started talking, then started delving and trying to understand what was going on inside me and my own depression I felt like I was slowly edging on to a road to a better place. As much as depression constantly told me I should just lie down and die by the side of that road, by repeating to myself that courage was constantly rooting for me without question and that it had my back, by recognising and not disregarding it, it became more prominent and gained strength.
My journey began, a literal one, by giving up all I knew and taking myself and a backpack on an eight month journey around the world. Not knowing where it would lead but knowing it would give me the time to delve more than I ever had before without the daily distractions of the life I’d created, without the crutches of binge drinking and without masking everything with false bravery and a cracked smile.
So with my courageous travel buddy and a renewed and raw bravery I started to envision things differently and this was a huge turning point in my daily battle. I know full well that just carrying on each day and getting out of bed IS also courage but I truly believe we owe ourselves more than that.
Like anyone suffering, just making it through a day of mental hell is an achievement, but once you start seeing what you’re up against differently and summoning your true courage and bravery things start to change.
After a long personal journey, both geographically and mentally, I was finally able to focus on the road ahead and I now visualise my depression like this:
I see myself on a coastal highway in a bright yellow mustang, both hands on the wheel and the sea breeze blowing around me – I’ve got a skinhead so I won’t say through my hair – I picture my foot on the accelerator, in control but with one eye very much on the rear view mirror where I can see the dark tumbling cloud of depression following, which I now accept will always be there but how far back it stays is up to me. Some days it still does catch up and try engulf my boy racer with it’s draining negativity and punch, but with my clearer and much more positive vision of where I’m sat I know I can and will put my foot down and speed forward on that road to healing.
My message to anyone reading this who feels so lost they think they might never find a way out, in so much pain they can’t find the strength to get up off the floor or consumed by so much darkness they think they might never see again, know that as much as depression is weighing you down your courage is also there waiting for you to grab it’s hand to help get you ahead of this.
Courage leads to talking and decision making, which lead to clarity and a positive change. No matter how small a change, it’s a change to get you out of a dead end situation and is the start of you really fighting back.
Even when you feel you are please know that you are NEVER alone. Depression wants you to feel like that as that’s it’s power, isolation, so use your courage to reach out because there is always support. To a friend, family member, a helpline, a forum, a social media connection or your doctor.
I started this journey literally on my knees in the darkness with my life about to slip away, feeling so lost and in so much pain that I thought that might be it for me. Embracing my courage and bravery helped me take back control and kick my depression in the nuts. I changed my vision of it all and started to take back control of my life. It’s day by day and trust my it’s hard but not accepting the hand I was dealt was key.
Even as I sat down to write this blog I had the evil little f***er trying to whisper in my ear that I couldn’t do it, that it would be crap, that I wasn’t up to it and who did I think I was. That I’m not Oprah Winfrey, I’m just some messed up Irish council estate boy who couldn’t even make it through school. But by stepping back, taking a breath and realising that those negative thoughts will only bring misery I pictured myself in my mustang and didn’t let them become anything more than a fleeting whisper.
Depression and all it’s accomplices are unique and personal to each of us, they are debilitating to so many different degrees, but the one thread that runs through and almost always resonates with sufferers is that their core mission is to persuade you to exist in a miserable life, to give up and to accept the dark.
I say hell no to that, know your worth and never accept when this evil disease tries to railroad you into thinking anything less. You are never the lesser, you’re important and an absolute rock star. So ask yourself, why let it keep having the upper hand? Be braver than you thought you ever could be and try with all your might and change your own mental pictures from a negative to a positive.
Instead of seeing depression, anxiety and the rest as overbearing beasts, diminish them to the little weeds that they are and create your own colourful picture around them. None of us have anything to loose by embracing our courage and bravery, doing so saved me in every way possible.
You’ve got this, you really have, so jump on in to your own mustang and put your foot down baby!